She was known as "Sassy" for her personality and style and known as "The Divine One" for the quality and control of her once in a lifetime voice. Sarah Vaughan joins Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald as one of the early influential jazz singers...and one of the most beloved singers in jazz history. Her sound was warm and deep, yet capable of reaching great heights, often compared to the richness of an opera diva. In fact, Betty Carter once noted that Vaughan could have "gone as far as Leontyne Price" with the proper training. Fortunately, she stayed with jazz and enjoyed a nearly fifty year career.
As with many singers of her era, Vaughan grew up singing and playing piano in church. The pop sounds of 1930's radio caught her young ears and by her mid-teens, she was (illegally) performing in Newark clubs. Vaughan's early musical success began in 1942 at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem. She won the night with her version of "Body and Soul"; part of the prize was the opportunity to open for Ella Fitzgerald. As fate would have it, Vaughan's final recording was a scatting duet with Fitzgerald for Quincy Jones' 1989 release "Back On The Block." It was her only recording with Fitzgerald, bringing full circle her connection that began decades earlier when she opened for Fitzgerald at the Apollo.
Vaughan's extraordinary career yielded fifty studio albums, eight live albums, and numerous awards. She earned four Grammy Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award and in 1989, was named an NEA Jazz Master. She recorded for major labels like Decca, Columbia, and Mercury. She had exquisite musical rapport with Billy Eckstine, first working with him in Earl HInes' band, then joining Eckstine's band in 1944. From fronting larger ensembles, to her intimate trio recordings (Including "After Hours" featuring guitarist Mundell Lowe) Vaughan's command of her voice allowed her to swing fiercely and present a ballad with intense emotion. She was truly one of a kind.