Great Encounters #47: When Ella Fitzgerald chose not to meet Pablo Picasso

December 15th, 2016


“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition describes the time Ella Fitzgerald chose to pass on an opportunity to meet Pablo Picasso.




  Ella Fitzgerald


      Pablo Picasso                                                                                               


In his biography of jazz impresario Norman Granz, Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice, author Tad Hershorn writes briefly about a meeting that never took place between Ella Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso. 

 Granz  was a major collector of art and a friend of Picasso’s, who, according to Picasso biographer John Richardson “liked jazz, or more accurately, he liked the idea of jazz.”  Hershorn writes that Richardson “must have appreciated Granz’s style and the glamour of show business attached to him,” although Hershorn disputes that notion, writing that “Granz recalled that Picasso knew of his activities as a promoter only in the broad sense.”  In a taped conversation that Hershorn quotes from in his book, Granz said that Picasso “knew who was a world championship boxer, and he kept up with everything, and watched television, but there were certain things he didn’t care about.”

According to Hershorn, “Someone who shared this indifference to celebrity was Ella Fitzgerald, who turned aside an invitation to meet Picasso at teatime when she had a day off in Juan-les-Pins.  ‘I’m busy.  I’m darning my stockings, and I have some other things I’m sewing, so I can’t go.’”  When told of this, Picasso, according to Hershorn, “roared with laughter” and reacted by saying “That’s great…Now I really want to meet her!”  Hershorn concludes by writing that “Granz added that Picasso had never seen so much as a photograph of Fitzgerald when he did a well-known sketch of her on a blank page of an art catalog on March 28, 1970, which Granz soon gave her.  ‘He had no idea what she looked like,’ Granz said.  ‘But in his own genius way, the picture was perfect.’”





Post inspired by the book Norman Granz:  The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice, by Tad Hershorn











Ella Fitzgerald and Norman Granz, 1964



Pablo Picasso and Granz, late 1960’s








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2 comments on “Great Encounters #47: When Ella Fitzgerald chose not to meet Pablo Picasso”

  1. A terrific article: Ella was the most and the best with her forever-young voice that skipped along easily, effortlessly. Picasso and his art: always fascinating …

  2. A terrific article: Ella was the most and the best with her forever-young voice that skipped along easily, effortlessly. Picasso and his art: always fascinating …

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In This Issue

This issue features a roundtable discussion about how the world of religion may have impacted the creative lives of Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; three new podcasts from Bob Hecht; new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently released jazz recordings, and lots more.

Short Fiction

"The Wailing Wall" -- a short story by Justin Short


Three prominent religious scholars -- Wallace Best, Tracy Fessenden and M. Cooper Harriss -- join us in a conversation about how the world of religion during the life and times of Langston Hughes (pictured), Billie Holiday and Ralph Ellison helps us better comprehend the meaning of their work.


Nine poets contribute ten poems celebrating jazz in poems as unique as the music itself

Short Fiction

In celebration of our upcoming 50th Short Fiction Contest, previous contest winners (dating to 2002) reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

The Joys of Jazz

In this edition, award winning radio producer Bob Hecht tells three stories; 1) on Charlie Christian, the first superstar of jazz guitar; 2) the poet Langston Hughes’ love of jazz music, and 3) a profile of the song “Strange Fruit”

On the Turntable

25 recently released jazz tunes that are worth listening to…including Bobo Stenson; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Muriel Grossman and Rudy Royston


Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Randy Brecker and Tom Piazza are among those responding to our question, "What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940's?"


"Billie Holiday" -- a poem (with collage) by Steve Dalachinsky

Coming Soon

Thomas Brothers, Duke University professor of music and author of two essential biographies of Louis Armstrong, is interviewed about his new book, HELP! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration; also, Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell, author of An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden, in a conversation about the brilliant 20th Century artist

In the previous issue

This issue features an interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins; a collection of poetry devoted to the World War II era; and a new edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo,” in which the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940’s” is posed to Rickie Lee Jones, Chick Corea, Tom Piazza and others.

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