Sarah Vaughan

Born March 27, 1924, in Newark, N.J., Sarah Lois Vaughan was one of the greatest jazz vocalists — a singer who could transform simple pop tunes into jazz classics. Vaughan began singing and playing organ for her church as a child. At 18 she launched a career in jazz when she won an amateur singing contest at Harlem's Apollo Theatre. By 1943 she was singing alongside bop innovators Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in Earl Hines' and Billy Eckstine's big bands. Her ability to leap through the vocal register, perfectly controlling her tone or adding vibrato, made her voice a perfect vehicle for modern jazz. From 1946 onward Vaughan toured and recorded as a solo star, balancing recording deals with EmArcy, Columbia, Roulette and Mercury. Though she made only two recordings in the 1980s, Vaughan was a top concert draw at the time of her death in 1990.