Born on March 27th, 1924, Sarah Vaughn evolved to be one of the world’s most phenomenal jazz musicians. As a young girl, Vaughan played piano, organ and sang in church. Her singing career was jumpstarted when she won a talent contest at the Apollo Theater in 1942 by performing “Body and Soul”. Here is where she caught the attention of Billy Eckstine, who got Earl Hines to hire her to sing with his orchestra.
Soon after leaving Hine’s orchestra, Vaughan joined Eckstine’s band and was introduced to bebop artists Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Her style was inspired by their bebop jazz and the sound of their instruments. “I don’t think I ever modeled myself after a singer. I’ve more or less copied the styles of horn-tooters right from the start” (Sarah Vaughan). Vaughan showcased her new love for bebop in her single with Dizzy and Parker titled, “Lover Man”, which incorporated many core principals of bebop.
After working with John Kirby for a brief time, Vaughan left behind big bands and sprung into her solo career. With songs like, “If You Could See Me Now” (1946), and “It’s Magic” (1947) Vaughan really showcased her smooth voice, creativity and vocal range. Her voice also helped to bring out the instrumental qualities of the songs. After many other singles and a self-titled album in 1950, in 1954 Vaughan released a bebop album titled “Sarah Vaughan” which featured Clifford Brown. This album helped to bring her critical success while solidifying her skills in scat and jazz vocals. This body of work also showed how Vaughan could sing along with the horns so well and reconfigure the melodies to songs in a way that was genius.
Once the 50’s hit, Vaughan began to release more pop records and a couple jazz. She had great commercial success with songs like “Misty” (1957) and “Broken-hearted Melody” (1959), which sold over a million copies. With pop, she was able to play around with her style of singing and bring a light-hearted sound to her music. Although it was pop, Vaughan never lost her ability to incorporate true emotion into her songs. After her glory days, Vaughn remained a popular performer and often made her on renditions of Beetle’s songs and Brazilian music.
Ultimately, Sarah Vaughn was one of the most influential jazz vocalist because she let her voice and creativity speak for itself. With her unique vibrato and compelling emotion, her works were masterpieces. Her effortless voice and smooth delivery will always be something that amazes me. Vaughan went on to inspire many female vocalist, such as Anita Baker, Phoebe Snow, and Sade.
- Sarah Vaughan Sings -1951
- Hott Jazz -1953
- The Divine Sarah Sings -1954
- Tops in Pops -1955
- With John Kirby and His Orchestra -1955
- In The Land of Hi-Fi -1955
- Sarah Vaughan -1955
- Linger Awhile -1956
- Sassy -1956
- At The Blue Note -1956
- At Mister Kelly’s -1957
- Sarah Vaughan Sings George Gershwin -1957
- No Count Sarah -1958
- The Magic of Sarah Vaughan -1959
- The Divine Sarah Vaughan -1960
- After Hours -1961