“The Legendary Voice of Sarah Vaughan: Exploring the Life and Music of a Jazz Icon” 

 April 23, 2023


Sarah Vaughan, also known as “Sassy” or “The Divine One,” is considered one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. Her mesmerizing voice and impeccable phrasing set a new standard for vocal jazz, inspiring generations of musicians.

In this blog post, we will explore the life and music of this jazz icon, from her humble beginnings in Newark, New Jersey, to her rise to fame and legendary performances. Let’s dive into the world of Sarah Vaughan and discover what made her voice so unforgettable.

Section 1: Early Life and Musical Journey

Sarah Vaughan was born in Newark, New Jersey, on March 27, 1924, into a musical family. Her father worked as a carpenter and her mother was a laundress who sang in the church choir. Sarah began singing at an early age and started taking piano lessons when she was just seven years old.

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Her musical journey started with singing in church and local talent shows, where she quickly gained recognition for her remarkable voice. Sarah’s family couldn’t afford to send her to music school, but her natural talent allowed her to continue to hone her skills.

Section 2: The Big Break

In 1942, Sarah Vaughan moved to New York to pursue her music career. She performed at various clubs in Harlem, including the Apollo Theater, where she won an amateur night contest.

Her performance caught the attention of Earl Hines, a famous jazz pianist, who offered her a job as his vocalist. This was Sarah’s big break, and she soon became part of Hines’ band, performing at many dance venues. It was during this time that she developed her signature style of singing, characterized by her impeccable intonation, virtuosity, and improvisation skills.

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Section 3: The Mercury Years

In 1946, Sarah Vaughan signed a contract with Mercury Records, marking the beginning of a long and successful collaboration. She recorded many hit songs, including “Lullaby of Birdland” and “It’s Magic,” which helped establish her as one of the greatest jazz singers of all time.

During her time with Mercury, Sarah Vaughan experimented with different musical styles, ranging from swing and bebop to pop and bossa nova. Her albums, such as “Sarah Vaughan in Hi-Fi” and “The Explosive Side of Sarah Vaughan,” are still regarded as some of the best recordings in jazz history.

Section 4: The Legendary Performances

Sarah Vaughan was famous for her live performances, which mesmerized audiences around the world. She performed in many legendary venues, including Carnegie Hall, the Newport Jazz Festival, and the Blue Note in New York City.

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In 1983, she gave a legendary performance at the White House for President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan, where she sang a moving rendition of “Send in the Clowns.”

Section 5: The Legacy

Sarah Vaughan’s influence on jazz music is immeasurable. Her technical prowess, incredible range, and unique interpretive skills have inspired countless musicians, including Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Krall, and Norah Jones.

She received numerous awards throughout her career, including four Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and induction into the Jazz Hall of Fame.

Section 6: Fun Facts about Sarah Vaughan

– Sarah Vaughan was known for her love of gowns and often designed her own stage outfits.
– She worked with many jazz legends, including Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie.
– Sarah Vaughan was a brilliant pianist and often accompanied herself while singing.
– Her nickname “The Divine One” was given to her by jazz critic Leonard Feather.
– Sarah’s trademark song “Misty” was originally composed as an instrumental by pianist Erroll Garner, but she added lyrics to it later.

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Section 7: FAQs

Q1: What made Sarah Vaughan’s voice so special?
A1: Sarah Vaughan had a natural ability to improvise and create phrasing that was both unique and melodic. Her vocal range was astonishing, and her ability to switch between octaves seamlessly was a hallmark of her artistry.

Q2: What were Sarah Vaughan’s most famous songs?
A2: Sarah Vaughan recorded many hit songs during her career, including “Lullaby of Birdland,” “Misty,” “Summertime,” and “Send in the Clowns.”

Q3: Did Sarah Vaughan write her own music?
A3: While she didn’t write many of her own songs, Sarah Vaughan was known for her interpretations of other people’s music. She would often add her own unique style to well-known standards, making them her own.

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Q4: What was Sarah Vaughan’s signature vocal technique?
A4: Sarah Vaughan’s vocal technique was characterized by her impeccable intonation, virtuosity, and improvisational skills. She would often sing around the melody, creating her own unique phrasing and melodic lines.

Q5: Did Sarah Vaughan perform in movies?
A5: Sarah Vaughan made a few movie appearances throughout her career, including a cameo in the film “Basin Street Revue” and a performance in the movie “Rat Race.”

Q6: Was Sarah Vaughan recognized for her contributions to jazz music?
A6: Yes, Sarah Vaughan received numerous awards throughout her career, including four Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and induction into the Jazz Hall of Fame.

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Q7: What was Sarah Vaughan’s nickname?
A7: Sarah Vaughan was known by many nicknames throughout her career, including “Sassy,” “The Divine One,” and “The Queen of Jazz.”


Sarah Vaughan’s voice was one of a kind, a unique blend of technical ability, phrasing, and creativity. Her music continues to inspire and influence new generations of musicians, and her legacy will live on forever.

To fully appreciate the genius of Sarah Vaughan, immerse yourself in her extensive catalog of recordings, watch her live performances on YouTube, and read more about her life and career. Her music is a treasure that deserves to be celebrated and cherished.

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