13 Amazing Singers Similar To Ella Fitzgerald

Written by Dan Farrant

Globally recognized as the First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald was an incredibly talented and successful singer who dominated the jazz scene for over 50 years. With a staggering 13 Grammys under her belt, it’s safe to say that she was an absolute force to be reckoned with. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore 13 amazing singers like Ella Fitzgerald, who channel their passion for jazz in captivating ways. To discover other outstanding vocalists who carry on her legacy while adding their unique touch to the genre, keep reading!

1. Frank Sinatra

Born in New Jersey, Frank Sinatra was a versatile singer and cultural icon. Known as Ol’ Blue Eyes, Sinatra had a profound impact on music and entertainment. Similar to Ella Fitzgerald, Sinatra’s career spanned several decades, and both are masterful at the interpretation of songs.

Sinatra’s rise to fame began in the 1940s as the lead vocalist of many popular big bands, notably the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. His smooth voice, impeccable phrasing, and charismatic presence won over audiences worldwide.

To this day, tracks like “My Way,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” and “New York, New York” are celebrated and enjoyed by audiences worldwide. And needless to say, Sinatra’s influence can still be heard in the performances of contemporary artists who have been inspired by his vocal style and musical legacy.

2. Billie Holiday

Hailing from Pennsylvania, Billie Holiday was a jazz and blues singer-songwriter with an enormous musical impact. In creating her music, she drew inspiration from jazz artists of the time, like Ella Fitzgerald, and developed a style that blended elements of jazz, blues, and soul.

Often referred to as Lady Day, Holiday possessed a hauntingly beautiful voice filled with raw emotion and vulnerability. Songs like “Strange Fruit,” “God Bless the Child,” and “Lover Man” showcased her incredible talent for storytelling and conveying complex emotions.

Holiday faced significant challenges throughout her life, including racial discrimination, substance abuse issues, and legal troubles. Despite these difficulties, she continued to record music that resonated with audiences around the world.

Tragically, Billie Holiday’s life was cut short when she passed away on July 17, 1959, at the age of 44. However, her legacy lives on, and her contributions to jazz and blues continue to be celebrated and cherished.

3. Louis Armstrong

The legendary Satchmo or Pops, otherwise known as Louis Armstrong, was a groundbreaking American jazz trumpeter, singer, and influential figure in the world of music.

Over the course of his career, Armstrong played a pivotal role in the development of jazz. He popularized scat singing—a vocal improvisation technique using nonsense syllables and sounds—and paved the way for future jazz vocalists to explore improvisation.

He pioneered the concept of “swing,” infusing his music with rhythmic vitality and a sense of joy. Hits like “What a Wonderful World,” “Hello, Dolly!,” and “West End Blues” showcased his immense talent and ability to connect with audiences on a deep emotional level.

Armstrong’s career spanned several decades, during which he collaborated with many notable musicians and bands, including his own ensemble, the Louis Armstrong All-Stars. He also worked with legendary figures, most notably with Ella Fitzgerald, leaving an indelible impact on the jazz community.

4. Sarah Vaughan 

Nicknamed the Divine One and Sassy, Sarah Vaughan was an immensely talented and influential vocalist from New Jersey whose impact on jazz and popular music is immeasurable.

Vaughan’s vocal abilities were nothing short of extraordinary. Her voice effortlessly spanned multiple octaves, and her incredible technique allowed her to navigate intricate melodic lines with precision and ease.

Like Ella, Vaughan excelled in improvisation and scat singing. She was adept at spontaneously creating melodic variations and scat solos, using her voice as an instrument to explore intricate and melodic patterns.

She excelled in swing, bebop, and ballads and even ventured into popular music, demonstrating her ability to make any song uniquely her own. Her interpretations of standards like “Misty,” “Lullaby of Birdland,” and “Embraceable You” became iconic and remain cherished by music lovers to this day.

5. Nat King Cole

Born in Alabama in 1919, Nat King Cole was a highly influential and beloved musician known for his smooth delivery and unparalleled talent as a pianist. Cole’s velvety baritone voice was instantly recognizable and carried an innate warmth and elegance.

Cole had numerous hits throughout his career, many of which have become timeless classics. Songs like “Unforgettable,” “The Christmas Song,” “Mona Lisa,” and “Nature Boy” are still incredibly popular to this day and considered essential parts of the American songbook.

Just like how Ella Fitzgerald encountered racial prejudice, Cole experienced the same difficulties. Yet both artists broke racial barriers and made significant contributions to the fight against racial inequality.

Sadly, lung cancer cut short Cole’s career. In 1965, he passed away at the age of 45. Nevertheless, his contributions to the art form will always be celebrated.

6. Peggy Lee

Norma Deloris Egstrom—best known as Peggy Lee—was a renowned singer, songwriter, and actress from North Dakota. Fans of Ella Fitzgerald will enjoy her sultry voice and exceptional song interpretation.

Her rich, velvety tone, combined with her impeccable phrasing and subtle nuance, made her an exceptional interpreter of songs. Hits like “Fever” and “Is That All There Is?” showcased her artistry and helped solidify her status as a true icon.

In addition to her vocal talents, Lee was also a gifted songwriter. She co-wrote several of her own songs, including the classic “I Don’t Know Enough About You.” Her songwriting skills allowed her to bring a personal touch to her repertoire and further establish her artistic identity.

Lee’s influence extends far beyond her own era. Her distinctive voice and elegant style of her singing continue to inspire and resonate with audiences today. Although she passed away in 2002, her legacy as a true musical legend lives on.

7. Diana Krall

With a voice that exudes warmth and sophistication, the esteemed Canadian singer and musician Diana Krall has enchanted audiences around the world. Her mesmerizing blend of jazz, pop, and bossa nova has established her as one of the most celebrated contemporary artists of her generation.

Born in 1964 in British Columbia, she embarked on her musical journey at a young age, demonstrating exceptional talent and a deep passion for music.

Influenced by jazz greats like Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald, she honed her skills as a pianist and vocalist, creating a distinctive style that effortlessly fuses traditional jazz with modern sensibilities.

Krall’s illustrious career has yielded a remarkable discography, like When I Look in Your Eyes in 1999, which propelled her to international stardom with its collection of romantic ballads and jazz standards.

She followed this up with two chart-topping albums, The Look of Love and The Girl in the Other Room, proving she’s a true luminary in the world of jazz.

8. Dinah Washington

Hailing from Alabama, Dinah Washington was a fantastic singer known for her powerful voice and emotional depth. Like Ella Fitzgerald, she is remembered for her cross-genre success and versatility across various genres. 

Washington’s distinct vocal style exuded passion, soulfulness, and irresistible charisma. Her rich timbre and impressive range made every performance a captivating experience. Whether she was belting out blues numbers or crooning ballads, her voice commanded attention and stirred listeners.

Throughout her career, Washington collaborated with notable artists like Brook Benton and Lionel Hampton. Her chart-topping recordings like”Baby (You’ve Got What It Takes),” “A Rockin’ Good Way (to Mess Around and Fall in Love),” and “This Bitter Earth” showcased her ability to interpret a wide range of material.

In 1993, Washington was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, acknowledging her significant contributions to music.

9. Nancy Wilson

Next, we have the talented singer from Ohio, Nancy Wilson. Born in 1937, Wilson possessed a voice that seamlessly blended jazz, pop, R&B, and soul.

Wilson’s singing style was characterized by her smooth, velvety vocals, impeccable phrasing, and heartfelt delivery. Her skills as a guitarist are incredible and, combined with her soulful voice and songwriting abilities, have earned her widespread acclaim.

Throughout her illustrious career, Wilson released numerous songs, many of which became iconic in the jazz genre. Her repertoire included memorable renditions of jazz standards, such as “Guess Who I Saw Today” and “Save Your Love for Me,” as well as soulful interpretations of popular songs like”(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am.”

Nancy Wilson’s contributions to jazz music garnered her numerous accolades and recognition, including three Grammy Awards—for the albums Turned to Blue and R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal) and the “How Glad I Am” recording.

10. Blossom Dearie

Born in 1924, Blossom Dearie graced the jazz scene with her beautiful voice and incredible artistry. The accomplished jazz singer and pianist from New York became known for her delicate and light vocal quality and graceful piano playing.

Renowned for her wit and playfulness, Blossom Dearie was a masterful interpreter of lyrics. She had a keen eye for selecting songs, whether they were jazz standards or lesser-known gems, and she breathed new life into each one with her gentle and nuanced approach.

Her repertoire included beloved tunes like “I’m Hip,” “Peel Me a Grape,” and “Someone to Watch Over Me,” among others.

Although her mainstream recognition may have been relatively modest, Blossom Dearie’s influence on the jazz world was significant. Her unique style and artistic approach continue to inspire even after her passing in 2009.

11. Anita O’Day

Hailing from Chicago, Anita O’Day was a highly influential jazz vocalist known for her vibrant voice and exciting performances. Fans of Ella Fitzgerald will instantly be drawn to her scat singing, musical prowess, and phenomenal song interpretation.

Renowned for her improvisational skills, O’Day was a true innovator in jazz. Her scat singing, filled with intricate melodies and rhythmic patterns, showcased her exceptional musicality and sense of adventure.

In a career that lasted eight decades, O’Day released numerous records that demonstrated her incredible talent. Her renditions of jazz standards, like “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Tea for Two,” and “Honeysuckle Rose,” showcased her ability to take familiar songs and make them uniquely her own.

O’Day’s contributions to jazz music earned her a place among the genre’s most celebrated vocalists. Her life was immortalized in the 2007 documentary Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer.

12. Carmen McRae

Born in 1920 in Harlem, New York City, Carmen McRae was a highly influential and talented American jazz singer, pianist, and composer. Throughout her career, which spanned five decades, she established herself as one of the most prominent vocalists in the jazz genre.

Similar to Ella Fitzgerald, McRae possessed a unique and husky voice characterized by impeccable phrasing and a deep understanding of lyrics. Her interpretive skills allowed her to breathe new life into classic standards, making each performance a captivating and personal experience.

Not only was she a remarkable singer, but McRae also showcased her musical prowess as a pianist, often accompanying herself during live performances. She also collaborated with numerous jazz legends, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie.

Over the course of her career, McRae released over 60 albums, which received critical acclaim and garnered multiple Grammy nominations, cementing her status as an artist of great caliber.

13. Lena Horne

Concluding our list is the talented New York City singer Lena Horne. She began her career as a performer at a young age, singing and dancing in the chorus line of the Cotton Club in Harlem during the 1930s.

In the 1940s, Horne signed a contract with MGM Studios, becoming one of the first African-American women to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio.

However, due to the prevalent racial discrimination of the time, her roles were often limited to glamorous but non-speaking or singing parts. Despite these obstacles, Horne persevered and used her platform to challenge racial stereotypes and advocate for change.

Known for her sultry voice and sophisticated style, Horne’s music encompassed a wide range of genres, including jazz, blues, and popular standards. Her signature songs, such as “Stormy Weather” and “The Lady Is a Tramp,” showcased her vocal prowess and became enduring classics.

Summing Up Our List Of Singers Like Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald was a generational talent that inspired countless other artists to this day. From Billie Holiday to Louis Armstrong, the singers on this list will surely remind you of Fitzgerald in their unique ways.

We hope you enjoyed our exciting collection and found some new artists to discover. If we missed any singers that should be on this list, let us know so we can add them!

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.