Sarah Vaughn was born on March 27, 1924. She began piano lessons at the age of seven, sang in the New Mount Zion Baptist Church choir and occasionally played piano for rehearsals and services. By her mid-teens, Sarah was performing as a pianist and singer at local nightclubs including at the Piccadilly Club and the Newark Airport USO. She left Newark Arts High School, the first “magnet” arts high school in the United States, in her junior year to pursue a music career. After winning an Apollo Theater Amateur Night contest, Sarah performed there and attracted the attention of Earl “Fatha” Hines, who hired her as his band’s vocalist in 1943. When fellow Hines’ vocalist Billy Eckstine formed his own band, Sarah soon joined them, but began a solo career in 1945.
Sarah Vaughn was one of the most critically acclaimed vocalists of her generation. Her New York Times obituary described her as a “singer who brought an operatic splendor to her performances of popular standards and jazz”. Best known to her most casual fans for her 1959 hit “Broken Hearted Melody”, she was awarded highest honor in jazz, the “NEA Jazz Masters Award”, by National Endowment for the Arts in 1989.
Sarah began working clubs in New York where she met and later married trumpeter George Treadwell, who became her manager. After recording some singles for small labels, her recording of “Tenderly” hit in late 1947. Her recording of “It’s Magic” made the charts in early 1948. Her recording of “Nature Boy” became a hit around the same time as Nat King Cole’s recording of the song.
She switched to Columbia, where she charted with “Black Coffee”. Vaughan was then steered almost exclusively to commercial pop ballads, a number of which had chart success including “That Lucky Old Sun”, and “These Things I Offer You”, among others. 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 1953, Sarah signed with Mercury records, where she recorded pop material as well as jazz for its EmArcy imprint. The hits continued on with “How Important Can It Be”, “Whatever Lola Wants”, “The Banana Boat Song”, and “Misty”. Her commercial success peaked in 1959 with “Broken Hearted Melody”. She then signed with Roulette records, a label owned by Morris Levy who also owned Birdland, a club where she often appeared. There she made albums with many jazz greats. When her contract with Roulette ended in 1963, Vaughan returned Mercury until 1969.
In 1971, after being without a recording contract for a decade, she accepted an invitation from Bob Shad, who had worked with her as producer at Mercury Records, to record for his new record label, Mainstream Records. She later recorded for both Pablo and Atlantic records with critical, but not chart, success.
Sarah Vaughan continued to delight audiences with her performances until shortly before her death on April 3, 1990. At 66 years of age was laid rest at Glendale Cemetery, Bloomfield, New Jersey
In 2010 Sarah Vaughn was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame and in 2012 she was elected into the New Jersey Hall of Fame