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She grew up poor, and was homeless for a year before she got her big break in a talent contest at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. While still a teenager, she became the vocalist for the Chick Webb band, where she sang such hits as "A-Tisket, A-Tasket." She matured into perhaps the most gifted jazz singer of all, excelling in bop-flavored scat singing , in ballads, and in recorded collections of the songs of America's greatest composers. Even though she's gone, she's still called "The First Lady of Song," and her recordings show that the title was well-earned. Her childhood was a nightmare, but in her teens she found that she could sing, and she made her first recordings when she was 18 with a group that included Benny Goodman.