Duke Ellington

Although he didn't like to classify his music, Duke Ellington had one of the world's best jazz orchestras for 50 years. He was a composer, bandleader, pianist, and singer.

Duke Ellington Beyond Category!

Born Edward Kennedy Ellington, on April 29, 1899, Duke Ellington grew up with a close-knit family in Washington, D.C. As a child, his passion was baseball, though his parents instilled in him a love of music and of religion. His friend nicknamed him "Duke" because he acted like one, in both his mannerisms and dress. In high school, inspired by James P. Johnson and other pianists, he decided to be a musician, after previous plans to study art. By 1920, he had a sextet band, which grew larger. Duke Ellington was a good bandleader and treated his group well, who reciprocated with their loyalty. After highs and lows in his career, and a diagnosis of cancer, Duke Ellington died on May 24, 1974.

Duke Ellington was born and raised in Washington, D.C. He was going to study art at the Pratt Institute of Brooklyn, New York before he became a bandleader/composer/pianist.

Duke Ellington's most famous compositions are:


Mood Indigo

It Don't Mean a Thing


Sophisticated Lady

Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me

Satin Doll


Just to name a few.

This is a clip of "Soda Fountain Rag". Ellington composed it at the age of 15, inspired by his job as a soda jerk. This would be the first of the over 5000 pieces Duke Ellington composed and co-composed during his lifetime.

Mood Indigo was Duke Ellington's first big hit. It was originally recorded in 1930. This is a record of a collaboration with Louis Armstrong.


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