Toronto’s Ori Dagan wins Grand Prize at John Lennon Songwriting Contest with “Going That Counts (For Ella)”

Award-winning jazz singer-songwriter Ori Dagan has captivated audiences with his distinctive bass-baritone voice and forward-thinking musical style. With a career that has earned acclaim both locally and internationally, Dagan now unveils his latest musical gem, “Going That Counts,” a heartfelt tribute to the legendary Ella Fitzgerald. The single is now available for streaming and download on all major platforms, and last month was honoured with the Grand Prize at the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. The song remains in competition, up for the Lennon prize which will be determined by a public vote in the spring of 2024.

Inspired by Ella Fitzgerald’s legacy and her enduring words of wisdom, “Going That Counts” encapsulates the strength and resilience of an iconic artist who overcame adversity to become one of the most beloved jazz masters of all time. The song’s lyrics and soulful melody pay homage to Ella’s extraordinary journey and her dedication to her craft.

In Ori Dagan’s own words, “The song ‘Going That Counts (For Ella)’ was inspired by my heroine Ella Fitzgerald, who was quoted as saying ‘It isn’t where you come from, it’s where you’re going that counts.’ Ella’s rare gift and her dedication to it set her apart from all other singers. It feels so special for me to be recognized with this John Lennon Songwriting Award for this particular song because it feels like I am honouring Ella, and that feels right. She truly is the reason I sing this music.”

“This song has actually been a number of years in the making,” recalls Dagan. “Back in 2014 when I got together with pianist Scott Metcalfe to arrange my single “Clap on the 2 and the 4”, we started writing this tune together based on Ella’s famous quote. Scott is an absolute gem of a musician – the chorus was pretty much written in an afternoon – but the lyrics of the verses just wouldn’t come so the tune was shelved. A good half-decade later, in 2019 I was workshopping tunes for “Click Right Here” at Blair Packham’s SongStudio workshop and this tune was reborn.

“In recent years, the Toronto jazz scene has been blessed by the unique talent and inspiring dedication of vocalist Donovan Locke. You can hear him singing every Sunday night at The Cameron House with Doghouse Orchestra, an amazing showcase for his astonishing musical range. Possessing an intense tone to his vocals as well as sensational rhythm, I knew this was the guy for “Going That Counts (For Ella)”. Recording with Donovan was quite the experience, and I’m honoured that he was part of this recording and now this award-winning song.”

With a career marked by creativity and innovation, Ori Dagan’s 2022 release “Click Right Here” showcased his skill as a lyricist, offering a darkly humorous commentary on life in the digital age. Dagan’s work has garnered praise from critics and audiences alike, solidifying him as a unique storyteller in the world of jazz music. “Going That Counts” is a testament to Dagan’s ability to blend tradition and contemporary themes, delivering a musical experience that resonates with listeners of all generations.