Hard Hearted Hannah

Here’s some Ella Fitzgerald in action, from the movie Pete Kelly’s Blues, 1955. Yeah, it’s pretty evidently a lip sync job, but take what you can get. It’s a tragedy that none of the jazz greats left much of a visual trace of themselves, besides photos. But live performances just weren’t filmed in those days. Filming concerts didn’t become a big thing until the 1970’s. That’s largely due to technological limitations. In the 40’s they just didn’t have small lightweight cameras that could shoot high quality in a smoky dark club, or outdoors. Also, it probably didn’t occur to anyone that an Ella Fitzgerald performance would be a historical artifact that fans in another century would long to see, or even that Ella would still have fans in another century. Of course today it’s the opposite – everybody’s every sneeze is newsworthy nowadays. Does it cheapen an experience when everybody is filming everything? When I go to a concert and take photos, those photos have no historical worth, just because 50 other people have taken identical ones. Someone who saw Ella Fitzgerald sing at a concert where not a single picture was taken will take that experience to the grave. Does that make it more or less a valuable experience for not being documented? How do we know it even happened? How do I know if something happened in my life if I don’t document it? And is a video a better document than a still picture, or a recording?