... she died on April 3, 1990 when she was 66 years-old.
Sarah Lois Vaughan was born in Newark, New Jersey. Her father, Asbury "Rat Fool" Vaughan, was a carpenter by trade and played guitar and piano. Her mother, Ada, sang in the church choir. Sarah began piano lessons at the age of seven, sang in the church choir and occasionally played piano for rehearsals and services.
Vaughan developed an early love for popular music from listening to records and the radio. In the 1930s, Newark had a very active live music scene and Vaughan frequently saw local and touring bands. By her mid-teens, Vaughan began venturing into Newark's night clubs and performing as a pianist and, occasionally, singer, most notably at the Piccadilly Club and the Newark Airport USO.
Vaughan transferred to Newark Arts High School, which opened in 1931 as the first arts "magnet" high school in the U.S. Vaughan dropped out of high school during her junior year to concentrate more fully on music. Around this time, Vaughan and her friends also began venturing across the Hudson River into New York City to hear big bands at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
Vaughan was frequently accompanied by a friend, Doris Robinson, on her trips into New York City. Sometime in the fall of 1942 (when Sarah was 18 years old), Vaughan suggested that Robinson enter the Apollo Amateur Night contest. Vaughan played piano accompaniment for Robinson, who won second prize. Vaughan later decided to go back and compete herself as a singer. Vaughan sang "Body and Soul" and won. The prize, was US$10 and the promise of a week's engagement at the Apollo. In the spring of 1943 she returned to the Apollo and opened for Ella Fitzgerald.
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Sometime during her week of performances at the Apollo, Vaughan was introduced to bandleader and pianist Earl Hines. After a brief tryout at the Apollo, Hines officially replaced his existing female singer with Vaughan on April 4, 1943.
Vaughan spent the remainder of 1943 and part of 1944 touring the country with the Earl Hines big band that also featured baritone Billy Eckstine. Band pianist John Malachi is credited with giving Vaughan the moniker "Sassy," a nickname that matched her personality.
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.
Vaughan began her solo career in 1945 by freelancing in clubs on New York's 52nd Street. In May 1945, Vaughan recorded "Lover Man" for the Guild label. 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.
While at Cafe Society an integrated club in New York's Sheridan Square, Vaughan became friends with trumpeter George Treadwell. He became her manager, musical director, and later, her first husband. Many of Vaughan's 1946 Musicraft recordings became quite well-known among jazz aficionados and critics, including "If You Could See Me Now," "Don't Blame Me," "I've Got a Crush on You," "Everything I Have Is Yours" and "Body and Soul."
Vaughan's recording success for Musicraft continued through 1947 and 1948. Her recording of "Tenderly" became an unexpected pop hit in late 1947. Her December 27, 1947, recording of "It's Magic" found chart success in early 1948 as did her later recording that year of "Nature Boy." Her chart successes continued with the charting of "Black Coffee" in the summer of 1949.
Through 1953, Vaughan recorded mostly 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", "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 also achieved substantial critical acclaim. She won Esquire magazine's New Star Award for 1947 as well as awards from Down Beat magazine continuously from 1947 through 1952, and from Metronome magazine from 1948 through 1953.
In 1989, Vaughan's health began to decline. While performing 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. She died on April 3, 1990, a week after her 66th birthday.
Among her many honors, The National Endowment for the Arts bestowed upon her its "highest honor in jazz," the NEA Jazz Masters Award, in 1989.
Also, recordings of 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 that have "qualitative or historical significance."