made her mark as the vocalist with her brother Buddy Johnson
's big band during the '40s and '50s, and that is the context where she really shines. Her later solo sides for Mercury are pale imitations of her work with the band. Although many of Ella
's hits are uptempo (e.g., "I Don't Want Nobody"), it is on ballads and torchy blues that she really brings it together. In fact, her earliest work for Decca during the mid-'40s (much of which has not been reissued) is uncannily good. At her best, Ella
sounds pouty, vulnerable, and very sexy. Like so much of her life, it was no affectation. The comparison to Billie Holiday
is inevitable, but Ella
was her own singer. Ella Johnson
passed away February 16, 2004, in New York City.