Duke.. Duke…. Duke Ellington?!!

When thinking about jazz, people sometimes tend to just think of the sound of the music rather than the musician who created it. However you CANNOT disregard one of the best Jazz Musicians in History!!

Ladies and Gentlemen... One of the greatest musicians...  Mr. Duke Ellington!!!

Early Life

Edward Kennedy Ellington was born April 29, 1899, in Washington, D.C. and was raised by two talented, musical parents in a middle-class neighborhood of Washington D.C.

At the age of seven, he began studying piano and earned the nickname "Duke" for his gentleman ways. Ellington's talent was special during this era. Not many young men took the time to learn an instrument as intricate as piano. Not only was Ellington a piano player, he was a full artistic musician. Eight years later, at the age of 15 Ellington created his first ragtime composition "Soda Fountain Rag." Soda Fountain Rag was inspired by his position as a Soda Jerk for employment.
Being as though Ellington was young, talented, AND BLACK, his abilities mainstreamed his talent and earned him the opportunity to an art scholarship to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Ellington followed his passion for ragtime and began to play professionally at age 17.

Entrance to Jazz

Although Duke Ellington's first composition submitted to the genre of ragtime, Ellington later developed to be a huge figure in the history of jazz music. His career spanned more than half a century, during which time he composed thousands of songs for stage, screen and contemporary songbook. Some of his most popular songs included "It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing," "Sophisticated Lady," "Prelude to a Kiss," "Solitude," and "Satin Doll."

When asked what inspired him to write, Ellington replied, "My men and my race are the inspiration of my work. I try to catch the character and mood and feeling of my people". Duke Ellington's most famous compositions set the bar for generations of jazz, pop, theatre and soundtrack composers to come. From 1943's Black, Brown and Beige to 1972's The Uwis Suite, Duke Ellington used the suite composition format to give his jazz creations a more empowering meaning, resonance and purpose. This purpose was to exalt, mythologize and re-contextualize the African-American experience on a grand scale.
Ellington was partial to giving brief verbal accounts of the moods his songs captured. Reading those accounts is like looking deep into the background of an old painting and noticing the lost and almost unaccountable details that gives its character. ''The memory of things gone,'' Ellington once said, ''is important to a jazz musician,'' and the stories he sometimes told about his songs are the record of those things gone. What is gone returns with its pulse kicking, when Ellington's music plays and the music itself still carries Jazz music forward today.


Duke Ellington was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1966. He was later awarded several other prizes, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, and the Legion of Honor by France in 1973, the highest civilian honors in each country. He died of lung cancer and pneumonia on May 24, 1974, a month after his 75th birthday, and is buried in the Bronx, in New York City. At his funeral attendedby over 12,000 people at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Ella Fitzgerald summed up the occasion, "It's a very sad day...A genius has passed."He created one of the most distinctive ensemble sounds in Western music and continued to play what he called "American Music" until shortly before his death in 1974.

"The wise musicians are those who pay what they can master" -Duke Ellington

"By and large, jazz has always been like the kind of a man you wouldn't want your daughter to associate with."
- Duke Ellington

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