Sarah Vaughan's remarkable range and smoky contralto voice earned her the nickname "the Divine One."
Dubbed "Sassy" for her onstage manner, she was associated with recordings of such perennial jazz and pop favorites as "Body and Soul," "It's Magic," "Misty," "I Cover the Waterfront," "Lover Man," "Here's That Rainy Day" and "Send in the Clowns."
She claimed that she never envisioned getting into show business, even when she signed up for amateur night at New York's storied Apollo Theater in 1942.
But Billy Eckstine heard her that night and recommended her to band leader Earl (Fatha) Hines, who hired her. Her career as a concert and recording star was launched.
After her debut with Hines, Miss Vaughan toured with his band for a year, working with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker and trying to imitate their trumpet and saxophone.
"I've more or less copied the styles of horn-tooters right from the start," she said.
When Eckstine formed his own band in 1944, he hired Miss Vaughan and backed her in her first recording, "I'll Wait and Pray."
"It wasn't until the early 1950s that Sassy began singing in the better spots and collected a following —like at Birdland in New York . . . and the Blue Note in Chicago, where Dave Garroway heard her, called her 'the Divine One' and promoted her on radio and TV," John Malachi, an early accompanist who nicknamed her "Sassy," once recalled in an interview.
By the 1970s she had a strong international following and won Downbeat's international critics' poll for best female singer in the world six times — 1973 and 1975-79. She sang with major symphony orchestras and for heads of state and in prestigious places like Carnegie Hall.