The archives of The Ed Sullivan Show have opened again to reveal a glorious 1968 performance by Ella Fitzgerald. The show’s official YouTube channel is now playing host to the peerless vocal stylist’s rousing version of “You’ll Have To Swing It (Mr. Paganini)” on the April 28, 1968 edition.
The clip is all the more fascinating as a window on the performer’s extraordinary career since the song, written by New York songsmith (and later Oscar-winning film maker) Sam Coslow, had already been closely associated with Fitzgerald for more than 30 years.
She first sang the number, originally titled “(If You Can’t Sing It) You’ll Have to Swing It,” in 1936, in her early years with Chick Webb and his Orchestra. It became one of her live set’s principle showcases for her scat singing. Released by Decca, it briefly featured on Billboard’s best selling song charts, then Fitzgerald included it again in the setlist for her Ella In Hollywood live album of 1961.
Among various interpretations over many decades, “You’ll Have To Swing It” was cut by such artists as the Mills Brothers, Dee Dee Bridgewater (on her 1997 tribute set Dear Ella) and by Patti Austin on her 2002 album For Ella. Austin also performed it with Natalie Cole at a 2007 tribute concert to Ella; the same year, Cole recorded it with Chaka Khan for We All Love Ella: Celebrating the First Lady of Song. Celine Dion also performed the durable piece during her residency in Las Vegas between 2011 and 2015.
A frequent visitor to The Ed Sullivan Show over many years, Fitzgerald shared time on that 1968 edition with husband and wife comedy duo Stiller & Meara (the parents of modern-day star Ben Stiller) and Irish actor and singer Richard Harris. At the time, Harris was about to enter the US charts with his definitive recording of Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park.”