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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!

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About The Author

DG Strong took up knitting in 2014. He lives in Nashville with his sister, her rat terrier and a hound dog named Opal. He has a blog of drawings and faintly ridiculous rambling called The Psychopedia—there are worse ways to spend your afternoon.


  • Thanks for this – and all the other musical hints you have suggested, they have opened my ears to old favourites and about to become new favourites, I just love the variety, a wonderfully eclectic mix!

  • I have the Cole porter songbook in a box somewhere. Need to go dig it out and maybe search for the rest. Thank you !

  • Doug, thank you for posting this. It is the best decision I have made to listen to it!

  • Thanks so much for this sweet song! I remember how excited I was to see and hear her perform in Tanglewood! Such a voice!!

  • That was a SEXY song, and she got away with it in a time I can imagine, wasn’t so easy to do. To me those were the old prim and proper days of music.
    Like Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered? The insinuations!
    Gosh she was the Queen of sensuality.

  • Thank you for reminding me how wonderful Ella Fitzgerald was and is. I asked Alexa to play her this morning and am listening to her as I write this. In 1960 while visiting a friend who was a Navy nurse on duty at Bethesda Navy Hospital, I attended an Ella concert in Washington. I still remember hearing her scats — wow, the magic she could do with her voice! I, too, love your posts and your recommendations and recollections. Keep them coming — please!

  • Just a reminder that the best voices don’t need back up musicians because they carry the melody with perfect pitch all on their own. So lovely.

    • I don’t think I’ve ever defined someone as ‘horrible’ because they don’t feel the same way I do about a particular singer.

  • I read your pieces and wonder if we were twins in another life! Fitzgerald is The Voice (Female Division) of the 20th Century. And as for Cole Porter…just waiting to have the next generation discover Romance. Thou swell, CP.

  • she was and still is the best singer imo. I saw her perform at the Venetian Room in San Francisco — knocked my socks off. Liza Minelli was sitting right up front and it seemed to knock off hers as well. a memorable evening — thanks you!

    • Ella Fitzgerald is a god. You and Diane above who have heard her in person – how I envy you. At the Venetian Room, with Liza Minelli in the audience: sublime.

  • The incredible Ella.
    No one sings or scats the way she did.

  • We have a vinyl boxed set of Ella with 4 double albums and 4 single albums. Nothing sounds as good as vinyl!

  • My husband and I are aficionados of all things Great American Songbook. We have every Ella album, first on CD and then electronically. And while we love Ella to bits (how about her “Porgy and Bess” with Louis?), some of her 50s albums have a huge, unnecessary pop sound behind her. For pure vocal jazz, we often turn to Rosemary Clooney, whose American Songbook albums tend to have a real jazz combo with her.

  • I have that set – got it a few years back as a holiday gift – and it’s really, really nice.

  • Lovely song! I could listen to Ella Fitzgerald all day. Her voice is like a musical instrument with its magnificent range.

  • I like to hear Ella anytime!

  • wonderful

  • Anyone with an Amazon Prime membership can listen to and/or download the entire collection on Amazon Music.

  • I miss Tower Records like you would not believe

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