Sarah Lois Vaughan (March 27, 1924 – April 3, 1990) was an American
jazz singer. She has been described by music critic
Scott Yanow as
having "one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century."
Nicknamed "Sassy" and "The Divine One", Vaughan was a four-time
Grammy Award winner, including a "Lifetime Achievement Award". The
National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Arts bestowed upon her its "highest honor
in jazz", the NEA
Jazz Masters Award, in 1989.
1 Early life
2.1 1942–43: Early career
2.2 1943–44: Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine
2.3 1945–48: Early solo career ("Tenderly")
2.4 1948–53: Stardom and the Columbia years
2.5 1954–59: Mercury years
2.6 1959–69: C.B. Atkins and Roulette Records
2.7 1970–82: Rebirth
2.8 1982–89: Late career
5 Personal life
6 Awards and nomination
6.2 Grammy Hall of Fame
9 Further reading
10 External links
Vaughan's father, Asbury "Jake" Vaughan, was a carpenter by trade and
played guitar and piano. Her mother, Ada Vaughan, was a laundress and
sang in the church choir. Jake and Ada Vaughan had migrated to
Newark, New Jersey
Newark, New Jersey from
Virginia during the First World War.
their only biological child, although in the 1960s they adopted Donna,
the child of a woman who traveled on the road with
The Vaughans lived in a house on Brunswick Street in Newark for
Sarah's entire childhood. Jake Vaughan was deeply religious, and
the family was very active in the New Mount Zion Baptist Church at 186
Sarah began piano lessons at the age of seven, sang in
the church choir and occasionally played piano for rehearsals and
Vaughan developed an early love for popular music on records and the
radio. In the 1930s, Newark had a very active live music scene and
Vaughan frequently saw local and touring bands that played in the city
at venues like the Montgomery Street Skating Rink. By her
mid-teens, Vaughan began venturing—illegally—into Newark's night
clubs and performing as a pianist and occasional singer at venues
including the Piccadilly Club and the Newark Airport.
Vaughan initially attended Newark's East Side High School, later
transferring to Newark Arts High School, which had opened in 1931
as the United States' first arts "magnet" high school. However, her
nocturnal adventures as a performer began to overwhelm her academic
pursuits and Vaughan dropped out of high school during her junior year
to concentrate on music. Around this time, Vaughan and her friends
began venturing across the
Hudson River into
New York City
New York City to hear big
bands at the
Apollo Theater in Harlem.
1942–43: Early career
Biographies of Vaughan frequently state that she was immediately
thrust into stardom after a winning amateur night performance at
Harlem's Zeus Theater. In fact, the story seems to be a bit more
complex. Vaughan was frequently accompanied by a friend, Doris
Robinson, on her trips into New York City. In the fall of 1942, by
which time she was 18 years old, Vaughan suggested that Robinson enter
Apollo Theater Amateur Night contest. Vaughan played piano
accompaniment for Robinson, who won second prize. Vaughan later
decided to go back and compete as a singer herself. She sang "Body and
Soul", and won—although the exact date of this victorious
performance is uncertain. The prize, as Vaughan recalled later to
Marian McPartland, was $10 and the promise of a week's engagement at
the Apollo. On November 20th, 1942, Vaughan returned to the Apollo to
open for Ella Fitzgerald.
During her week of performances at the Apollo, Vaughan was introduced
to bandleader and pianist Earl "Fatha" Hines, although the exact
details of that introduction are disputed. Billy Eckstine, Hines'
singer at the time, has been credited by Vaughan and others with
hearing her at the Apollo and recommending her to Hines. Hines claimed
later to have discovered her himself and offered her a job on the
spot. Regardless, after a brief tryout at the Apollo, Hines officially
replaced his current female singer with Vaughan on April 4, 1943.
1943–44: Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine
Vaughan spent the remainder of 1943 and part of 1944 touring the
country with the Earl Hines big band, which featured baritone Billy
Eckstine. Vaughan was hired as a pianist, reputedly so Hines could
hire her under the jurisdiction of the musicians' union (American
Federation of Musicians) rather than the singers union (American Guild
of Variety Artists), but after
Cliff Smalls joined the band as a
trombonist and pianist, Sarah's duties were limited exclusively to
singing. The Earl Hines band in this period is remembered as an
incubator of bebop, as it included trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie,
Charlie Parker (playing tenor rather than the alto, for
which he is remembered), and trombonist Bennie Green. Gillespie
arranged for the band, although the contemporary recording ban by the
musicians' union meant that no commercial recordings exist.
Eckstine quit the Hines band in late 1943 and formed his own big band
with Gillespie, leaving Hines to become the new band's musical
director. Parker joined Eckstine, and the band would, over the next
few years, host a startling cast of jazz talent, including Miles
Davis, Kenny Dorham, Art Blakey, Lucky Thompson, Gene Ammons, and
Dexter Gordon, among others.
Vaughan accepted Eckstine's invitation to join his new band in 1944,
giving her an opportunity to develop her musicianship with the seminal
figures in this era of jazz. Eckstine's band afforded her first
recording opportunity, a December 5, 1944 date that yielded the song
"I'll Wait and Pray" for the De Luxe label. That date led critic and
Leonard Feather to ask her to cut four sides under her own
name later that month for Continental, backed by a septet that
Dizzy Gillespie and Georgie Auld.
John Malachi is credited with giving Vaughan the moniker
"Sassy", a nickname that matched her personality. Vaughan liked it,
and the name (and its shortened variant "Sass") stuck with colleagues
and, eventually, the press. In written communications, Vaughan often
spelled it "Sassie".
Vaughan officially left the Eckstine band in late 1944 to pursue a
solo career, although she remained very close to Eckstine personally
and recorded with him frequently throughout her life.
1945–48: Early solo career ("Tenderly")
At Café Society, September 1946
Vaughan began her solo career in 1945 by freelancing in clubs on New
52nd Street such as the Three Deuces, the Famous Door, the
Downbeat and the Onyx Club. Vaughan hung around the Braddock Grill,
next to the
Apollo Theater in Harlem. On May 11, 1945, Vaughan
recorded "Lover Man" for the Guild label with a quintet featuring
Gillespie and Parker, with
Al Haig on piano,
Curly Russell on double
Sid Catlett on drums. Later that month, she went into the
studio with a slightly different and larger Gillespie/Parker
aggregation and recorded three more sides.
After being invited by violinist
Stuff Smith to record the song "Time
and Again" in October, Vaughan was offered a contract to record for
the Musicraft label by owner Albert Marx, although she would not begin
recording as a leader for Musicraft until May 7, 1946. In the
intervening time, Vaughan made a handful of recordings for the Crown
and Gotham labels and began performing regularly at Café Society
Downtown, an integrated club in New York's Sheridan Square.
While at Café Society, Vaughan became friends with trumpeter George
Treadwell. Treadwell became Vaughan's manager and she ultimately
delegated to him most of the musical director responsibilities for her
recording sessions, leaving her free to focus almost entirely on
singing. Over the next few years, Treadwell made changes in Vaughan's
stage appearance. Aside from a new wardrobe and hair style, Vaughan
had her teeth capped, eliminating a gap between her two front teeth.
Many of Vaughan's 1946 Musicraft recordings became quite well known
among jazz aficionados and critics, including "If You Could See Me
Now" (written and arranged by Tadd Dameron), "Don't Blame Me", "I've
Got a Crush on You", "Everything I Have Is Yours" and "Body and Soul".
With Vaughan and Treadwell's professional relationship on solid
footing, the couple married on September 16, 1946.
Vaughan's recording success for Musicraft continued through 1947 and
1948. Her recording of "Tenderly"—she was proud to be the first to
have recorded that
Jazz standard—became an unexpected pop hit in
late 1947. Her December 27, 1947, recording of "It's Magic" (from the
Doris Day film Romance on the High Seas) found chart success in early
1948. Her recording of "Nature Boy" from April 8, 1948, became a hit
around the time the better-known
Nat King Cole
Nat King Cole version was released.
Because of a second recording ban imposed by the musicians' union,
"Nature Boy" was recorded with an a cappella choir as the only
accompaniment, adding an ethereal air to a song with a vaguely
mystical lyric and melody.
1948–53: Stardom and the Columbia years
The musicians' union ban pushed Musicraft to the brink of bankruptcy,
and Vaughan used the missed royalty payments as an opportunity to sign
with the larger Columbia record label. Following the settling of the
legal issues, her chart successes continued with the charting of
"Black Coffee" in the summer of 1949. During her tenure at Columbia
through 1953, Vaughan was steered almost exclusively to commercial pop
ballads, a number of which had chart success: "That Lucky Old Sun",
"Make Believe (You Are Glad When You're Sorry)", "I'm Crazy to Love
You", "Our Very Own", "I Love the Guy", "Thinking of You" (with
pianist Bud Powell), "I Cried for You", "These Things I Offer You",
"Vanity", "I Ran All the Way Home", "Saint or Sinner", "My Tormented
Heart", and "Time", among others.
Vaughan achieved substantial critical acclaim. She won Esquire
magazine's New Star Award for 1947 as well as awards from Down Beat
magazine continually from 1947–1952, and from Metronome magazine
from 1948–1953. A handful of critics disliked her singing for its
being "over-stylized", reflecting the heated controversies of the time
over the new musical trends of the late '40s. However, the critical
reception of the young singer was generally positive.
Recording and critical success led to numerous performing
opportunities, with Vaughan packing clubs around the country almost
continuously throughout the years of the late 1940s and early 1950s.
In the summer of 1949, Vaughan made her first appearance with a
symphony orchestra in a benefit for the Philadelphia Orchestra
entitled "100 Men and a Girl." Around this time, Chicago disk jockey
Dave Garroway coined a second nickname for her—"The Divine
One"—that would follow her throughout her career. One of her early
television appearances was on DuMont's variety show Stars on Parade
(1953–54), in which she sang "My Funny Valentine" and "Linger
In 1949, with their finances improving, Vaughan and Treadwell
purchased a three-story house on 21 Avon Avenue in Newark, occupying
the top floor during their increasingly rare off-hours at home and
relocating Vaughan's parents to the lower two floors. However,
business pressures and personality conflicts led to a cooling in
Treadwell and Vaughan's relationship. Treadwell hired a road manager
to handle Vaughan's touring needs, and opened a management office in
Manhattan so he could work with clients in addition to Vaughan.
Vaughan's relationship with
Columbia Records also soured as she became
dissatisfied with the commercial material she was required to record
and the lackluster financial success of her records. A set of small
group sides recorded in 1950 with
Miles Davis and
Bennie Green are
among the best of her career[according to whom?], but they were
atypical of her Columbia output.
In 1949, Vaughan had a radio program, Songs by
Sarah Vaughan, on WMGM
in New York City. The 15-minute shows were broadcast in the evenings
Wednesdays through Sundays from The Clique Club, described as
"rendezvous of the be-bop crowd." She was backed by Oscar
Pettiford (bass), Kenny Clark (drums), and George Shearing
1954–59: Mercury years
Vaughan in 1955
In 1953, Treadwell negotiated a unique contract for Vaughan with
Mercury Records. She would record commercial material for the Mercury
label and more jazz-oriented material for its subsidiary EmArcy.
Vaughan was paired with producer
Bob Shad and their excellent working
relationship yielded strong commercial and artistic success. Her debut
Mercury recording session took place in February 1954 and she stayed
with the label through 1959. After a stint at
Roulette Records (1960
to 1963), Vaughan returned to Mercury from 1964 to 1967.
Vaughan's commercial success at Mercury began with the 1954 hit, "Make
Yourself Comfortable", recorded in the fall of 1954, and continued
with a succession of hits, including: "How Important Can It Be" (with
Count Basie), "Whatever Lola Wants", "The Banana Boat Song", "You
Ought to Have A Wife" and "Misty". Her commercial success peaked in
1959 with "Broken Hearted Melody", a song she considered to be
"corny", but, nonetheless, became her first gold record, and a
regular part of her concert repertoire for years to come. Vaughan was
Billy Eckstine for a series of duet recordings in 1957
that yielded the hit "Passing Strangers". Vaughan's commercial
recordings were handled by a number of different arrangers and
Hugo Peretti and Hal Mooney.
The jazz "track" of her recording career proceeded apace, backed
either by her working trio or various combinations of stellar jazz
players. One of her own favorite albums was a 1954 sextet date that
included Clifford Brown.
In the latter half of the 1950s she followed a schedule of almost
non-stop touring, with many famous jazz musicians. She was featured at
the first Newport
Jazz Festival in the summer of 1954 and starred in
subsequent editions of that festival at Newport and in New York City
for the remainder of her life. In the fall of 1954, she performed at
Carnegie Hall with the
Count Basie Orchestra on a bill that also
included Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker,
Lester Young and the Modern
Jazz Quartet. That fall, she again toured Europe successfully before
embarking on a "Big Show" U.S. tour, a grueling succession of
start-studded one-nighters that included Count Basie, George Shearing,
Erroll Garner and Jimmy Rushing. At the 1955 New York
Jazz Festival on
Randalls Island, Vaughan shared the bill with the Dave Brubeck
quartet, Horace Silver, Jimmy Smith, and the Johnny Richards
Although the professional relationship between Vaughan and Treadwell
was quite successful through the 1950s, their personal relationship
finally reached a breaking point and she filed for a divorce in 1958.
Vaughan had entirely delegated financial matters to Treadwell, and
despite significant income figures reported through the 1950s, at the
settlement Treadwell said that only $16,000 remained. The couple
evenly divided the amount and their personal assets, terminating their
1959–69: C.B. Atkins and Roulette Records
The exit of Treadwell from Vaughan's life was precipitated by the
entry of Clyde "C.B." Atkins, a man of uncertain background whom she
had met in Chicago and married on September 4, 1959. Although Atkins
had no experience in artist management or music, Vaughan wished to
have a mixed professional and personal relationship like the one she
had with Treadwell. She made Atkins her personal manager, although she
was still feeling the sting of the problems she had with Treadwell and
initially kept a slightly closer eye on Atkins. Vaughan and Atkins
moved into a house in Englewood, New Jersey.
When Vaughan's contract with
Mercury Records ended in late 1959, she
immediately signed on with Roulette Records, a small label owned by
Morris Levy, who was one of the backers of New York's Birdland, where
she frequently appeared. Roulette's roster also included Count Basie,
Joe Williams, Dinah Washington, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and
Vaughan began recording for Roulette in April 1960, making a string of
strong large ensemble albums arranged and/or conducted by Billy May,
Jimmy Jones, Joe Reisman, Quincy Jones, Benny Carter, Lalo Schifrin,
and Gerald Wilson. She had some pop chart success in 1960 with
"Serenata" on Roulette and a couple of residual tracks from her
Mercury contract, "Eternally" and "You're My Baby". She made a pair of
intimate vocal/guitar/double bass albums of jazz standards: After
Hours (1961) with guitarist
Mundell Lowe and double bassist George
Sarah + 2
Sarah + 2 (1962) with guitarist
Barney Kessel and double
bassist Joe Comfort.
In 1961 Vaughn and Atkins adopted a daughter, Deborah Lois Atkins,
known professionally as Paris Vaughan. However, the relationship with
Atkins proved difficult and violent so, following a series of
incidents, she filed for divorce in November 1963. She turned to two
friends to help sort out the financial affairs of the marriage: club
owner John "Preacher" Wells, a childhood acquaintance, and Clyde
"Pumpkin" Golden, Jr. Wells and Golden found that Atkins' gambling and
profligate spending had put Vaughan around $150,000 in debt. The
Englewood house was ultimately seized by the IRS for nonpayment of
taxes. Vaughan retained custody of their child and Golden essentially
took Atkins' place as Vaughan's manager and lover for the remainder of
Around the time of her second divorce, she became disenchanted with
Roulette Records. Roulette' finances were even more deceptive and
opaque than usual in the record business and its recording artists
often had little to show for their efforts other than some excellent
records. When her contract with Roulette ended in 1963, Vaughan
returned to the more familiar confines of Mercury Records. In the
summer of 1963, Vaughan went to Denmark with producer
Quincy Jones to
record four days of live performances with her trio, Sassy Swings the
Tivoli, an excellent example of her live show from this period. The
following year, she made her first appearance at the White House, for
The Tivoli recording would be the brightest moment of her second stint
with Mercury. Changing demographics and tastes in the 1960s left jazz
artists with shrinking audiences and inappropriate material. While
Vaughan retained a following large and loyal enough to maintain her
performing career, the quality and quantity of her recorded output
dwindled even as her voice darkened and her skill remained
undiminished. At the conclusion of her Mercury deal in 1967, she was
left without a recording contract for the remainder of the decade.
In 1969, Vaughan terminated her professional relationship with Golden
and relocated to the West Coast, settling first into a house near
Benedict Canyon in Los Angeles and then into what would end up being
her final home in Hidden Hills.
This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this
section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material
may be challenged and removed. (May 2013) (Learn how and when to
remove this template message)
Dizzy Gillespie and
Sarah Vaughan perform at the
White House for a
State Dinner in honor of the Shah of Iran on November 15, 1977.
Vaughan met Marshall Fisher after a 1970 performance at a casino in
Las Vegas and Fisher soon fell into the familiar dual role as
Vaughan's lover and manager. Fisher was another man of uncertain
background with no musical or entertainment business experience but,
unlike some of her earlier associates, he was a genuine fan devoted to
furthering her career.
The 1970s heralded a rebirth in Vaughan's recording activity. In 1971,
Bob Shad, who had worked with her as producer at Mercury Records,
asked her to record for his new record label, Mainstream Records.
Ernie Wilkins arranged and conducted her first
A Time in My Life
A Time in My Life in November 1971. In April 1972,
Vaughan recorded a collection of ballads written, arranged and
conducted by Michel Legrand. Arrangers Legrand, Peter Matz, Jack
Allyn Ferguson teamed up for Vaughan's third Mainstream
album, Feelin' Good. Vaughan recorded Live in Japan, a live album in
Tokyo with her trio in September 1973.
During her sessions with Legrand,
Bob Shad presented "Send in the
Stephen Sondheim song from the Broadway musical A Little
Night Music, to Vaughan for consideration. The song would become her
signature, replacing the chestnut "Tenderly" that had been with her
from the beginning of her solo career.
Unfortunately, Vaughan's relationship with Mainstream soured in 1974,
allegedly in a conflict precipitated by Fisher over an album cover
photograph and/or unpaid royalties. This left Vaughan
without a recording contract for three years.
In December 1974, Vaughan played a private concert for the United
Gerald Ford and French president Giscard d'Estaing
during their summit on Martinique. In 1974, conductor Michael Tilson
Thomas asked Vaughan to participate in an all-Gershwin show he was
planning for a guest appearance with the
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic at
the Hollywood Bowl. The arrangements were by
Marty Paich and the
orchestra would be augmented by established jazz artists Dave Grusin
on piano, Ray Brown on double bass, drummer
Shelly Manne and
saxophonists Bill Perkins and Pete Christlieb. The concert was a
success and Thomas and Vaughan repeated the performance with Thomas'
home orchestra in Buffalo, New York, followed by appearances in 1975
and 1976 with other symphony orchestras in the United States. These
performances fulfilled a long-held interest by Vaughan in working with
orchestras and she made performances without Thomas for the remainder
of the decade.
In 1977, Tom Guy, a young filmmaker and public TV producer, followed
Vaughan around on tour, interviewing numerous artists speaking about
her and capturing both concert and behind-the-scenes footage. The
resulting sixteen hours of footage was pared down into an
hour-and-a-half documentary, Listen to the Sun, that aired on
September 21, 1978, on
New Jersey Public Television, but was never
In 1977, Norman Granz, who was also Ella Fitzgerald's manager, signed
Vaughan to his
Pablo Records label. Vaughan had not had a recording
contract for three years, although she had recorded a 1977 album of
Beatles songs with contemporary pop arrangements for Atlantic Records
that was eventually released in 1981. Vaughan's first Pablo release
was I Love Brazil!, recorded with an all-star cast of Brazilian
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro in the fall of 1977. It garnered a Grammy
1977 saw the release of the Godley & Creme album Consequences, on
which Vaughan sang "Lost Weekend", one of the few tracks to achieve
popularity outside of the album.
The Pablo contract resulted in a total of seven albums: a second and
equally wondrous Brazilian record, Copacabana (1979), again recorded
in Rio de Janeiro, How Long Has This Been Going On? (1978) with a
quartet consisting of pianist Oscar Peterson, guitarist Joe Pass,
bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Louis Bellson; two Duke Ellington
Songbook albums (1979);
Send in the Clowns (1981) with the Count Basie
orchestra playing arrangements primarily by Sammy Nestico; and Crazy
and Mixed Up (1982), another quartet album featuring Sir Roland Hanna,
piano, Joe Pass, guitar, Andy Simpkins, bass, and Harold Jones, drums.
Vaughan and Waymond Reed divorced in 1981.
Sarah Vaughan and
Billy Eckstine at Monterey
Jazz Festival in 1981
1982–89: Late career
Vaughan remained active as a performer during the 1980s and began
receiving awards for her contribution to American music and status as
elder stateswoman of jazz. In the summer of 1980 Vaughan received a
52nd Street outside the
CBS Building (Black Rock)
commemorating the jazz clubs she had once frequented on "Swing Street"
and which had long since been replaced with office buildings. A
performance of her symphonic Gershwin program with the New Jersey
Symphony in 1980 was broadcast on
PBS and won her an
Emmy Award the
next year for "Individual Achievement,
Special Class." She was
reunited in 1982 with Tilson Thomas for a modified version of the
Gershwin program, played again by the
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic but
this time in its home hall, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion; the CBS
recording of the concert, Gershwin Live!, won a Grammy for Best Jazz
Vocal Performance, Female, and has become something of a classic
itself. In 1985 Vaughan received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,
and in 1988 she was inducted into the American
Jazz Hall of Fame.
Following the end of her contract with
Pablo Records in 1982, Vaughan
only committed herself to a limited number of studio recordings. She
made a guest appearance in 1984 on Barry Manilow's 2:00 AM Paradise
Cafe, an album of original pastiche compositions that featured a
number of established jazz artists. In 1984, Vaughan participated in
one of the more unusual projects of her career, The Planet is Alive,
Let It Live a symphonic piece composed by Tito Fontana and Sante
Palumbo on Italian translations of Polish poems by Karol Wojtyla, by
then better known as Pope John Paul II. The recording was made in
Germany with an English translation by writer
Gene Lees and was
released by Lees on his own private label after the recording was
turned down by the major labels. In 1986, Vaughan sang two songs,
"Happy Talk" and "Bali Ha'i", in the role of Bloody Mary on an
otherwise stiff studio recording by opera stars
Kiri Te Kanawa
Kiri Te Kanawa and
José Carreras of the score of the Broadway musical South Pacific,
while sitting on the studio floor.
Vaughan's final complete album was Brazilian Romance, produced and
Sérgio Mendes and recorded primarily in the early part of
1987 in New York and Detroit. In 1988, Vaughan contributed vocals to
an album of Christmas carols recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Utah Symphony Orchestra
Utah Symphony Orchestra and sold in Hallmark Cards stores. In
1989, Quincy Jones' album
Back on the Block
Back on the Block featured Vaughan in a
brief scatting duet with Ella Fitzgerald. This was Vaughan's final
studio recording and, fittingly, it was Vaughan's only formal studio
recording with Fitzgerald in a career that had begun 46 years earlier
opening for Fitzgerald at the Apollo.
Vaughan is featured in a number of video recordings from the 1980s.
Sarah Vaughan Live from Monterey was taped in 1983 or 1984 and
featured her working trio with guest soloists. Sass and Brass was
taped in 1986 in
New Orleans and features her working trio with guest
Dizzy Gillespie and Maynard Ferguson. Sarah
The Divine One
The Divine One was featured in the
American Masters series on
PBS. Also in 1986, on Independence Day in a program
PBS she performed with the National Symphony
Orchestra, conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich, in a medley of songs
composed by George Gershwin
She was given the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical
Achievement, UCLA Spring Sing.
In 1989, Vaughan's health began to decline, although she rarely
revealed any hints in her performances. She canceled a series of
engagements in Europe in 1989 citing the need to seek treatment for
arthritis in the hand, although she was able to complete a later
series of performances in Japan. During a run at New York's Blue Note
Jazz Club in 1989, Vaughan received a diagnosis of lung cancer and was
too ill to finish the final day of what would turn out to be her final
series of public performances.
Vaughan returned to her home in
California to begin chemotherapy and
spent her final months alternating stays in the hospital and at home.
Vaughan grew weary of the struggle and demanded to be taken home,
where she died on the evening of April 3, 1990, while watching a
television movie featuring her daughter, a week after her 66th
Vaughan's funeral was held at the new location of Mount Zion Baptist
Church, 208 Broadway in Newark, New Jersey, with the same congregation
she grew up in. Following the ceremony, a horse-drawn carriage
transported her body to its final resting place in Glendale Cemetery,
Bloomfield in New Jersey.
Parallels have been drawn between Vaughan's voice and that of opera
Betty Carter said that with training Vaughan
could have "...gone as far as Leontyne Price." Bob James,
Vaughan's musical director in the 1960s said that "...the instrument
was there. But the knowledge, the legitimacy of that whole world were
not for her...But if the aria were in Sarah's range she could bring
something to it that a classically trained singer could not."
In a chapter devoted to Vaughan in his book Visions of
Gary Giddins described Vaughan as the "...ageless voice of
modern jazz – of giddy postwar virtuosity, biting wit and fearless
caprice". He concluded by saying that "No matter how closely we
dissect the particulars of her talent...we must inevitably end up
contemplating in silent awe the most phenomenal of her attributes, the
one she was handed at birth, the voice that happens once in a
lifetime, perhaps once in several lifetimes."
Her voice had wings: luscious and tensile, disciplined and nuanced, it
was as thick as cognac, yet soared off the beaten path like an
instrumental solo...that her voice was a four-octave muscle of
infinite flexibility made her disarming shtick all the more ironic"
– Gary Giddins
New York Times
New York Times obituary described her as a "singer who
brought an operatic splendor to her performances of popular standards
and jazz." Fellow jazz singer
Mel Tormé said that Vaughan had
"...the single best vocal instrument of any singer working in the
popular field." Her ability was envied by
Frank Sinatra who said that
"Sassy is so good now that when I listen to her I want to cut my
wrists with a dull razor." The
New York Times
New York Times critic John S.
Wilson said in 1957 that Vaughan possessed "what may well be the
finest voice ever applied to jazz." Age hardly affected Vaughan's
voice. Her voice was still close to its peak until shortly before
her death at the age of 66. Late in life Vaughan retained a "youthful
suppleness and remarkably luscious timbre", she was still capable of
the projection of coloratura passages described as "delicate and
Vaughan had a large vocal range of soprano through a female baritone,
exceptional body, volume, a variety of vocal textures, and superb and
highly personal vocal control. Her ear and sense of pitch were just
about perfect, and there were no difficult intervals.
In her later years her voice was described as a "burnished contralto"
and as her voice deepened with age her lower register was described as
having "shades from a gruff baritone into a rich, juicy
contralto". Her use of her contralto register was likened to
"dipping into a deep, mysterious well to scoop up a trove of buried
riches." Musicologist Henry Pleasants noted that "Vaughan who
sings easily down to a contralto low D, ascends to a pure and accurate
[soprano] high C."
Vaughan's vibrato was described as "an ornament of uniquely flexible
size, shape and duration," a vibrato described as "voluptuous" and
"heavy" Vaughan was accomplished in her ability to "fray" or
"bend" notes at the extremities of her vocal range. It was noted
in a 1972 performance of
Leslie Bricusse and Lionel Bart's "Where Is
Love?" that "In mid-tune she began twisting the song, swinging from
the incredible cello tones of her bottom register, skyrocketing to the
wispy pianissimos of her top."
Vaughan would use a handheld microphone in live performance, using its
placement as part of her performance. Her various placings of the
microphone would allow her to complement her volume and vocal texture,
often holding the microphone at arms length and moving it to alter her
Vaughan would frequently use the song "Send in the Clowns" to
demonstrate her vocal abilities in live performance, it was described
as a "three-octave tour de force of semi-improvisational pyrotechnics
in which the jazz, pop and operatic sides of her musical personality
came together and found complete expression" by the New York
Singers directly influenced by Vaughan have included Phoebe Snow,
Anita Baker, Sade and Rickie Lee Jones. Singers
Carmen McRae and
Dianne Reeves both recorded tribute albums to Vaughan following her
death; Sarah: Dedicated to You (1991) and The Calling: Celebrating
Sarah Vaughan (2001) respectively.
Though usually considered a "jazz singer", Vaughan avoided classifying
herself as one. Vaughan discussed the term in a 1982 interview for
I don't know why people call me a jazz singer, though I guess people
associate me with jazz because I was raised in it, from way back. I'm
not putting jazz down, but I'm not a jazz singer...I've recorded all
kinds of music, but (to them) I'm either a jazz singer or a blues
singer. I can't sing a blues – just a right-out blues – but I can
put the blues in whatever I sing. I might sing 'Send In the Clowns'
and I might stick a little bluesy part in it, or any song. What I want
to do, music-wise, is all kinds of music that I like, and I like all
kinds of music.
Vaughan was married three times: to
George Treadwell (1946–1958),
Clyde Atkins (1958–1961) and
Waymon Reed (1978–1981). Unable to
bear children, Vaughan adopted a baby girl (Debra Lois) in 1961. Debra
worked in the 1980s and 1990s as an actress under the name Paris
Vaughan. Paris is married to former NHL forward Russ Courtnall.
In 1977, Vaughan ended her personal and professional relationship with
Marshall Fisher. Although Fisher is occasionally referenced as
Vaughan's third husband, they were never legally married. Vaughan
began a relationship with Waymon Reed, a trumpet player 16 years her
junior who was playing with the
Count Basie band. Reed joined her
working trio as a musical director and trumpet player and became her
third husband in 1978.
Sarah Vaughan was a member of the
Zeta Phi Beta
Zeta Phi Beta sorority.
Awards and nomination
In 1978, Vaughan was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from
Berklee College of Music. 
New Jersey Transit paid tribute to Miss Vaughan in the
design of its new
Newark Light Rail
Newark Light Rail stations. Passengers stopping at
any station on this line can read the lyric to one of her signature
songs, "Send in the Clowns", along the edge of the station platform.
On March 27, 2003, initiated by Susie M. Butler, the cities of San
Francisco and Berkeley, California, signed a proclamation making March
Sarah Lois Vaughan Day" in their respective cities.
In 2012, Vaughan was iinducted into the
New Jersey Hall of Fame.
Grammy Hall of Fame
Sarah Vaughan were inducted into the Grammy Hall of
Fame, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor
recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and have
"qualitative or historical significance."
Grammy Hall of Fame
Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown
"If You Could See Me Now"
Sarah Vaughan discography
Sarah Vaughan at AllMusic
Sarah Vaughan, 'Divine One' Of
Jazz Singing, Is Dead at 66", The
New York Times, April 6, 1990.
^ "Entertainment Awards Database". theenvelope.latimes.com. November
11, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
Jazz Masters 1989, National Endowment for the Arts.
^ Gates, Cornell The African-American Century: How Black Americans
Have Shaped Our Country ISBN 0684864150, page 229
^ a b c d Gourse, Leslie, Sassy: The Life of
Sarah Vaughan, Da Capo
Press, 1994. ISBN 0-306-80578-2.
^ Haynes, Elaine (2017). Queen of Bebop: The Musical Lives of Sarah
Vaughan. New York: Ecco. pp. 29–32.
^ Gourse, Leslie (2009-08-05). Sassy: The Life Of
Sarah Vaughan. Da
Capo Press, Incorporated. ISBN 9780786751143.
^ Said by
Sarah Vaughan herself in her introduction to singing
"Tenderly" Live in Sweden in 1958 (on Youtube).
^ a b "Songs by
Sarah Vaughan". Billboard. January 22, 1949.
p. 9. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The
Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London:
Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 120. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
^ Gourse 1994, "Sassy: The Life of
Sarah Vaughan", p. 106. Retrieved
October 24, 2009.
^ "Turner Classic Movies Database".
^ "Student Alumni Association UCLA Alumni". Uclalumni.net. Retrieved
November 3, 2011.
^ Scaduto, Anthony. "A Final Farewell To
Sarah Vaughan", Newsday,
April 10, 1990. Retrieved July 18, 2011. "Two white horses, bedecked
with black plumes over their ears, pulled the hearse a little over
three miles to Glendale Cemetery in nearby Bloomfield."
Sarah Vaughan at Find a Grave
^ Ian Carr; Digby Fairweather; Brian Priestley (2004). The Rough Guide
to Jazz. Rough Guides. pp. 147–. ISBN 978-1-84353-256-9.
Retrieved August 6, 2013.
^ Gourse 2001, p. 246.
^ a b
Gary Giddins (May 18, 2000). Visions of Jazz: The First Century.
Oxford University Press. pp. 307–. ISBN 978-0-19-513241-0.
Retrieved August 6, 2013.
^ a b c d e f g Holden, Stephen (April 5, 1990). "
'Divine One' Of
Jazz Singing, Is Dead at 66". The New York Times.
^ a b Thompson, Thomas (June 16, 1972). "Almost nobody's as classy as
Sassy". Life. p. 27–. ISSN 0024-3019.
^ a b c d e Martin Williams (November 11, 1992). The
Oxford University Press. pp. 211–. ISBN 978-0-19-536017-2.
Retrieved August 6, 2013.
^ Holden, Stephen (June 21, 1987). "
Sarah Vaughan At Carnegie". The
New York Times. p. 52.
^ Holden, Stephen (July 3, 1988). "
Sarah Vaughan, at
Carnegie, Shows Grace in Adversity". The New York Times.
^ Pleasants, H. (1985), The Great American Popular Singers, Simon and
^ Damon J. Phillips (July 21, 2013). Shaping Jazz: Cities, Labels, and
the Global Emergence of an Art Form. Princeton University Press.
p. 150. ISBN 1-4008-4648-X.
^ "Paris Vaughan". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved August 9,
^ "ΖΦΒ Heritage :: Notable Zetas". Zphib1920.org. Archived
from the original on January 9, 2012. Retrieved November 1,
^ "The Newark Star Ledger".
^ "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame". GRAMMY.org. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
Gourse, Leslie (1993). Sassy – The Life of
Sarah Vaughan. London:
Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 978-1-851584-130.
Profile at PBS's American Masters
Sarah Vaughan performs "Perdido" on Rhythm and Blues Revue in 1955
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown
In the Land of Hi-Fi
Sarah Vaughan and
Billy Eckstine Sing the Best of Irving Berlin
Sarah Vaughan Sings George Gershwin
Sarah Vaughan Sings Broadway: Great Songs from Hit Shows
No Count Sarah
Vaughan and Violins
Close to You
The Divine One
The Explosive Side of
You're Mine You
Sarah + 2
Sarah Sings Soulfully
Sweet 'n' Sassy
Sarah Slightly Classical
Vaughan with Voices
Pop Artistry of
The Lonely Hours
Sarah Vaughan Sings the Mancini Songbook
The New Scene
It's a Man's World
Sassy Swings Again
A Time in My Life
Sarah Vaughan with Michel Legrand
Send in the Clowns
I Love Brazil!
How Long Has This Been Going On?
The Duke Ellington Songbook, Vol. 1
The Duke Ellington Songbook, Vol. 2
Songs of the Beatles
Send in the Clowns
Crazy and Mixed Up
The Planet Is Alive...Let it Live!
At Mister Kelly's
After Hours at the London House
Sassy Swings the Tivoli
Live in Japan
Sarah Vaughan with the Jimmy Rowles Quintet
Ronnie Scott's Presents
Sarah Vaughan Live
One Night Stand – The Town Hall Concert 1947
In the City of Lights
Linger Awhile: Live at Newport and More
Divine Lady of Song
Sarah Vaughan in Hi-Fi
Other album appearances
2:00 AM Paradise Cafe
Back on the Block
That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day)"
"Thinking of You"
"How Important Can It Be?"
"Whatever Lola Wants"
"The Banana Boat Song"
"Broken Hearted Melody"
"A Lover's Concerto"
"Autumn in New York"
"Body and Soul"
"Dancing in the Dark"
"Don't Blame Me"
"Everything I Have Is Yours"
"I've Got a Crush on You"
"If You Could See Me Now"
"Moonlight in Vermont"
"My Funny Valentine"
"Send in the Clowns"
"Someone to Watch Over Me"
The Calling: Celebrating
Sarah: Dedicated to You
Unmarked Van: A Tribute to
Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a
Variety or Music Program
Perry Como /
Dinah Shore (1959)
Harry Belafonte (1960)
Fred Astaire (1961)
Carol Burnett (1962)
Carol Burnett (1963)
Danny Kaye (1964)
Art Carney (1967)
Art Carney /
Pat Paulsen (1968)
Arte Johnson /
Harvey Korman (1969)
Harvey Korman (1971)
Harvey Korman (1972)
Tim Conway (1973)
Harvey Korman /
Brenda Vaccaro (1974)
Jack Albertson /
Cloris Leachman (1975)
Chevy Chase /
Vicki Lawrence (1976)
Tim Conway /
Rita Moreno (1977)
Tim Conway /
Gilda Radner (1978)
Sarah Vaughan (1981)
Nell Carter /
André De Shields
André De Shields (1982)
Leontyne Price (1983)
Cloris Leachman (1984)
George Hearn (1985)
Whitney Houston (1986)
Robin Williams (1987)
Robin Williams (1988)
Linda Ronstadt (1989)
Tracey Ullman (1990)
Billy Crystal (1991)
Bette Midler (1992)
Dana Carvey (1993)
Tracey Ullman (1994)
Barbra Streisand (1995)
Tony Bennett (1996)
Bette Midler (1997)
Billy Crystal (1998)
John Leguizamo (1999)
Eddie Izzard (2000)
Barbra Streisand (2001)
Wayne Brady (2003)
Elaine Stritch (2004)
Hugh Jackman (2005)
Barry Manilow (2006)
Tony Bennett (2007)
Don Rickles (2008)
ISNI: 0000 0000 8180 2574
BNF: cb13900777n (data)