Sarah Lois Vaughan (nicknamed "Sassy" and "The Divine One") (March 27, 1924, Newark, New Jersey – April 3, 1990, Los Angeles, California) was an American jazz singer, described by Scott Yanow as having "one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century".
Sarah Vaughan ranked with Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday in the very top echelon of female jazz singers. She often gave the impression that with her wide range, perfectly controlled vibrato, and wide expressive abilities, she could do anything she wanted with her voice. Sarah Vaughan's legacy as a performer and a recording artist will be very difficult to match in the future.
She was affectionately known as both "Sassy" and "The Divine One," nicknames that reflect the remarkable variety she brought to her singing. Vaughan's inimitable vocal abilities included an incredibly wide range, extraordinarily diverse tonal colours and amazing breath control, all rooted in a heartfelt passion to express herself.
Sarah Vaughan was born in Newark, N.J. in 1924. Following her mother's lead, she learned piano and organ, and by age 12 was performing in church. But Sarah's childhood ambition was to sing. When she was 18, she and a friend summoned the nerve to go to the Apollo Theatre on amateur night. Vaughan won a $10 prize and a week-long engagement at the theatre.
Billy Eckstine, the famous vocalist then with the Earl Hines band, saw her perform on her first night. Impressed, he went backstage to meet the talented teenager. Within weeks, Vaughan was singing with Eckstine and Hines in an ensemble that included alto saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pioneers of the cutting-edge musical style that became known as bebop. That experience informed Vaughan's approach, and her singing began to feature more complex rhythms, faster tempos and wider intervals. Pianist John Malachi thought the new girl's singing style was "sassy," and the name stuck.
After a year with Eckstine, Vaughan began performing on her own. Chicago DJ Dave Garroway coined the nickname "The Divine One" as he repeatedly played Vaughan's records on the air. In 1947, Vaughan was Down Beat magazine's most popular female singer.
Spurred by her own success, Vaughan accepted offers to record pop music. In the late '40s, she had hits with "It's Magic" and "Tenderly," and in the '50s she scored even bigger hits with "Make Yourself Comfortable" and her million-seller "Broken-Hearted Melody." While those triumphs were lucrative, they didn't reflect Vaughan's chief musical interests. Fortunately, the record deals also allowed her to record songs of her own choice and her creativity continued to flourish.
Vaughan's style evolved continuously throughout her career. When she immersed herself in Brazilian music, she didn't just incorporate trendy bossa nova beats into her work — she also visited the country and collaborated with some of Brazil's greatest musicians, including Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Vaughan lived to sing, and loved performing for a live audience. In October 1989, while performing at New York's Blue Note, Sarah learned that she had lung cancer. She died six months later, 46 years — to the day — after joining the Earl Hines band. Behind Sarah Vaughn's striking voice, and unique musicianship, laid a heart and soul that continue to move people all over the world.
Shortly after her death, Mel Torme summed up the feelings of all who had seen her, saying “She had the single best vocal instrument of any singer working in the popular field.” (info mainly npr.org)