How Marilyn Monroe changed Ella Fitzgerald’s life

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Jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald’s voice is recognized by millions around the world. But few know about her career-defining friendship with Marilyn Monroe, to whom Fitzgerald said she “owe a real debt.”

During the ‘50s, one of the most popular venues was Mocambo in Hollywood. Fitzgerald was not allowed to play at Mocambo because of her race. Then, one of her biggest fans made a telephone call that quite possibly changed the path of her career for good. Here, she tells the story of how Marilyn Monroe changed her life:

I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt … she personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild.

“The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman – a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

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