Sarah Vaughan Day

March 27, 1924 – April 3, 1990

A tribute to one of the greatest of all singers

Singer Sarah Vaughan was born on March 27, 1924 in Newark, New Jersey.

Vaughan (who was known to her friends as “Sassy”) sang in church as a child, had extensive piano lessons, won an amateur contest at the Apollo Theater in 1943, and was hired by Earl Hines as singer and second pianist with his big band.

Although that version of the Hines Orchestra did not record, Vaughan learned bebop from Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker who were also Hines sidemen at the time along with Billy Eckstine.

In 1944 Eckstine formed his own bebop orchestra, immediately hiring Vaughan along with Parker and Gillespie; Sassy only recorded one song (“I’ll Wait And Pray”) with the band but on her first solo record date (December 31, 1944) she had Gillespie as a sideman on several songs including the first-ever vocal version of his “A Night In Tunisia” (which was renamed “Interlude”)

Vaughan, who recorded “Lover Man” with Parker and Gillespie in 1945, spent a few months during 1945-46 with the John Kirby Sextet and then launched her solo career, recording steadily during 1946-48 for Musicraft including such memorable recordings as “If You Could See Me Now,” “Tenderly” (hers was its first vocal recording), “Everything I Have Is Yours” and “It’s Magic.”

From then on, she was a hit in the jazz world and popular with the general public, alternating commercial record dates with jazz sessions (including an album that matched her with Clifford Brown).

Sarah Vaughan had one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century with complete control over her wide range, and she never seemed to miss a note; only Ella was on her level in jazz.

Whether heard with her working trio, a big band (such as Count Basie’s) or a string orchestra, she soared above her accompaniment and was the star.

While she evolved, Sarah Vaughan never declined, staying active until shortly before she passed away from cancer in 1990.

Here is Sarah Vaughan in 1965 performing “The Shadow Of Your Smile” with her trio which includes the young Bob James on piano.


Sarah Vaughan, vocals
Bob James, piano
Herb Mickman, bass
Omar Clay, drums

-Scott Yanow