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Sarah Vaughan Biography

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Sarah Lois Vaughan (nicknamed Sassy and The Divine One), (March 27, 1924 – April 3, 1990) was one of the greatest singers of the 20th century [1].

Sarah Vaughan was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1924. Her carpenter father was an amateur guitarist and her laundress mother was also a church vocalist.

Like Carmen McRae, she studied the piano from an early age, and before entering her teens had become an organist and a choir soloist at the Mount Zion Baptist Church. In a story reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald's discovery, at the age of eighteen, a dare from friends resulted in her entering the famed Amateur Contest at Harlem’s Apollo Theater in 1942. Her rendition of the jazz standard "Body and Soul" won her first prize. In the audience that night was the singer Billy Eckstine. Six months later, she had joined Eckstine in Earl Hines’s big band, and sang alongside Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, as well as being the bands second pianist.

Eckstine and Vaughan, having broken away from Hines's band, along with Gillespie and Parker, performed together until she went solo in 1945 (after having spent a short time with John Kirby's band).

Becoming a solo artist, she married trumpeter George Treadwell in 1947, whom she had met at the New York City nightclub, Cafe Society. Recognizing his wife's huge potential, he soon became her manager.

"Tenderly" and "It's Magic" became popular during the late 1940s, and she continued to build on her fanbase in the 1950s with songs like "Misty" and "Broken-Hearted Melody." She continued playing with some of the biggest names in the business, including Miles Davis and Jimmy Jones.

Throughout the 1950's, she recorded music in a more popular vein for Mercury Records, or more jazz-oriented material for their subsidiary label EmArcy Records.

Vaughan was well known for her vocal range, which ranged from soprano to baritone and her signature beautiful vibrato. She was musically trained from a very young age and was renowned for her talent in interpreting songs and improvising.

Like the other great singers of her generation, Vaughan became one of the key interpreters of the Great American Songbook in the 1950s and rode the Bossa nova wave in the 1960s.

In the 1970s and 1980s, her lower vocal range increased, allowing her to sing the baritone range while still being able to use her existing soprano range. She normally sang in the contralto and alto range.

Sarah Vaughan was married four times: to bandleader George Treadwell, to the American football player Clyde Atkins, to the Las Vegas restaurateur Marshall Fisher, and to the jazz trumpeter Waymon Reed; all ended in divorce. She had one daughter, Deborah "Paris" Vaughan.

Vaughan continued recording jazz and pop material on a variety of labels from the 1950s to the early 1980s. She died in 1990.

In 2004-2006, New Jersey Transit paid tribute to Miss Vaughan in the design of its new Newark Light Rail stations. Passengers stopping at any station on this line can read the lyrics to one of her signature songs, Send in the Clowns, along the edge of the station platform.
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