Back in the days (let’s guess super-early 90s) when I would walk from my apartment to Tower Records (I SAID IT WAS BACK IN THE DAYS) three times a week, the thing I was most obsessed with in that store was this gargantuan boxed set of The Complete Ella Fitzgerald Songbooks. Tucked away in the Jazz and Classical room—you had to ask to hold it!—it was sixteen discs long and had this elaborate, alluring packaging and gosh, I wanted it so, so bad.
But! I was a waiter at the time and didn’t have $350 (or whatever seemingly unattainable amount the thing was priced) so I just kept heading over to the, oh, Siouxsie and the Banshees section or whathaveyou.
Last week was Fitzgerald’s 104th birthday, and more than one person in my social media bubble linked to something Ella-related (I have weird friends, but don’t tell them I said that) and every single time I felt a pang of remorse for not buying the Complete Songbooks way back when.
So … I did! Lo, all these years later I opted for the digital version—so, without the appealing packaging—but still … it’s mine, alllll mine.
Now look. I don’t need to talk you into anything when it comes to Ella Fitzgerald. She’s either your thing or you’ve been held hostage somewhere for decades. You either love her or you’re horrible. So listening to this should be the easiest decision you’ve ever made.
Covering all the “songbooks” Fitzgerald tackled between 1956 and 1964, it can be a little intimidating to know where to begin with the set, so I just started with “All Through the Night,” which kicks off The Cole Porter Songbook, and basically played through the sixteen “discs” and 240+ songs before I came up for air.
But it doesn’t matter where you start. JUST START. Not buying it back in 1992 turned out to be the best 300-whatever dollars I never spent!