Sunday Jazz: Happy birthday to Sarah Vaughan

Today would have been the 87th birthday of legendary jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan, born on this day in 1924 in Newark, New Jersey. Known alternately as Sailor, Sassy, and The Divine One, Vaughan got her start in music by playing piano and singing in her church choir. She dropped out of high school in her junior year to concentrate on her musical career, and in 1942/43 she won first prize during an Amateur Night performance at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater.

Sarah Vaughan’s career remained active, if not always commercially successful, throughout most of her life. Even when she was not recording she was touring extensively. She won the Grammy for Best Female Jazz Vocal Performance in 1983. In 1989 she was diagnosed with lung cancer, and she died on April 3, 1990, a week after her 66th birthday.

To remember one of the greats, here’s just a sampling of Vaughan performances throughout the years.


“Autumn Leaves” (w/Wynton Marsalis)

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

“Lover Man” (w/ Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie)

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