SONG: Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)
ARTIST: Ella Fitzgerald
Listen to it here:
Let’s Do it (Let’s Fall in Love) was written by Cole Porter in 1928 for his Broadway musical Paris and originally sung by Irene Bordoni. The song was the first in what became a trademark writing style of Porter’s, known as one of his ‘list songs’. It’s full of pairings, double entendres, events; each verse covering a different category. The song was also seen as pioneering the thought of sex for pleasure in song form, due to the implications of what ‘it’ means. The song has seen many covers and different verses through the years and has been featured in movies and shows.
Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born April 25, 1917 in Newport News, Virginia. Her family moved to Yonkers, New York where Fitzgerald enjoyed dancing and attended church. When her mother passed away when Ella was 15, she and her stepfather moved to Harlem. Ella’s grades began to slip and she worked as a lookout at a bordello until the police caught up with her and she was placed in an orphanage in the Bronx, and then to a reformatory school in Hudson. Fitzgerald took to singing on the streets of Harlem and won the Apollo’s famous Amateur Night, having sung “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection”. Although she won a week’s worth of performances at the Apollo as part of her prize, it was never given to her due to her disheveled appearance. She was asked to join Chick Webb’s band and became popular with audiences and fellow musicians alike at the Savoy Ballroom. Her first hit was her 1938 version of the nursery rhyme “A-Tisket A-Tasket”. Fitzgerald began performing with the likes of Benny Goodman, the Ink Spots, Louis Jordan and recording with Decca records. With the swing style of jazz on the outs and bebop coming in, Fitzgerald changed her vocal style to suit it and was heavily influenced by Dizzy Gillespie, incorporating scat singing as a major part of her performance.
In the 1950s Fitzgerald left Decca for Verve. She had stated that she felt cornered by bebop as that was all she sang, until Verve’s creator and her manager Norman Granz produced her record Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook (released in 1956), which Fitzgerald said was a turning point in her life. She went on to record other Songbooks, including those of George Gershwin and Duke Ellington. The late 1950s and into the 1960s saw Fitzgerald touring prolifically and saw her leave Verve (which had been sold to MGM and declined to renew her contract) for Atlantic, Capitol and Reprise where she moved away from jazz and into Christmas music, hymns, soul and even some western-influenced music. Her voice made a noted decline in the 1970s, with her last recording in 1991. Ella suffered from diabetes and its complications and she passed from a stroke on June 15, 1996. Ella’s legacy as a musician and civil rights activist (the NAACP noted that she used her talent and voice to break barriers) cannot be overstated, as there are countless tributes to her that cross the broad musical spectrum.
Ella Fitzgerald was the first Black woman to win a Grammy.
The original first verse used not one, not 2, but three horrendous racial slurs.
Marilyn Monroe helped advance Ella’s career. Monroe wanted Fitzgerald booked at the Mocambo night club, but the owner was reluctant due to Fitzgerald being Black. Monroe said if Fitzgerald was booked, Monroe would occupy a table at the front every night. Fitzgerald noted “After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again”.
I was all ready to go off about how incredible Ella’s voice is and how she was wildly influential in so many avenues during her lifetime and continues to be. I was going to pontificate about how Cole Porter is a brilliant songwriter and how each one of his songs encapsulates a perfect little story, a slice of life. I was going to write about how brilliantly this buoyant, charismatic voice and this cheeky, subtle wink of a love song come together to make a recording of absolute sublimity – but I don’t feel like this is it. The song itself – it’s a cute song, a sweet little number, probably the epitome of an American Songbook standard. Fun little simple lyrics, although some of the lyrics regarding different countries might come off dated. My issue with Ella’s version of the song is that I think either the tempo is too slow, or the melody hovers around one note for most of the song. If I were an alien and this was the first Ella Fitzgerald song I had ever heard, I wouldn’t think she’s as amazing as she actually is. No, Ella doesn’t need virtuosic passages and embellishments to show the brilliance of her voice, but I feel like this version of this song doesn’t show me anything. You can tell it’s Ella, but for a cheeky song and for a chanteuse who did cheeky so well, this one doesn’t come together for me. Disappointing.
This is the first recording/song that I know intimately because I had this CD growing up and listened to it a LOT. I still love Cole Porter and Ella Fitzgerald, and the cheekiness that often comes out of this duo. Having said that, this has never been my favourite Cole Porter tune, or my favourite Ella song. It doesn’t really display her voice to the extent that it could, though it does show her humorous side which is nice. I also think that the melody is not super inventive. But, it’s a cheeky song about “love” with clever lyrics. I think the recording is really nice. You can hear the bass nice and clearly, the drums are the right amount of ricky-ticky jazz, and the piano is tinkling away. I do feel like sometimes the piano is a little overly busy, but it might be because Ella’s chosen to play this one so straight. So, finally, Ella’s voice. I know there’s the criticism that she can’t do dark or sad, which is true, she stays fairly light-hearted in her song choices, but even with that criticism, she is phenomenal. Her range (which you don’t hear here) is incredible, her flexibility (also not on display here), and her tone are beautiful. I wish it was a different song, even from the same album!
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song:
Joan Jett. You know, punk rock.
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