Duke Ellington

What is music to you? What would you be without music? Music is everything. Nature is music (cicadas in the tropical night). The sea is music, the wind is music. The rain drumming on the roof and the storm raging in the sky are music. Music is the oldest entity. The scope of music is immense and infinite. It is the ‘esperanto’ of the world. (Duke Ellington)

Duke Ellington influenced millions of people both around the world and at home. He gave American music its own sound for the first time. In his fifty year career, he played over 20,000 performances in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East as well as Asia.

1899-04-29 04:29:46

Duke Ellington is Born

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and jazz-orchestra leader. His career spanned over more than 50 years.

1899-04-30 04:29:46


Click "more" to view photos of Duke Ellington throughout his life.

1914-05-31 10:32:53


Ragtime is a musical genre that enjoyed its peak popularity between 1897 and 1918.

1914-06-01 04:29:46

Duke Ellington's Early Life

In the summer of 1914, Duke Ellington wrote his first composition, Soda Fountain Rag.

1914-06-01 04:29:46

What is a Soda Jerk?

In the summer of 1914, Duke Ellington worked as a soda jerk at the Poodle Dog Cafe.

1914-07-02 20:38:19

Duke Ellington Marries

At the age of 19, Duke Ellington married his high school sweetheart, Edna Thompson.

1927-12-04 04:29:46

Cotton Club

The Cotton Club was a night club located in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. It operated from 1923-1940, most notably during Prohibition

1927-12-04 04:29:46

The Cotton Club (1984 Film)

A crime-drama centered on the Harlem jazz club during the 1930's.

1927-12-05 04:29:46

Duke Ellington as a Leader

"The Most important thing I look for in a musician is whether he knows how to listen."

1931-08-12 04:29:46

It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)

It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing) is a 1931 composition by Duke Ellington, with lyrics by Irving Mills, now accepted as a jazz standard.

1931-08-13 04:29:46

It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Aint Got That Swing)

Compare the Sarah Vaughn Remix to the original... which do you prefer? Why?

1933-06-01 00:58:07

European Tour

Despite his fear of the ocean, in 1933 Duke Ellington took his band on its first European tour.

1934-06-01 16:43:58

Into the Swing Era

Bolstered by their successes abroad, Ellington and his musicians resumed the strenuous schedule of a big band in the thirties: traveling to one-nighters across the United States, appearing in hotels, theaters, dance halls, and nightclubs, making radio broadcasts, and recording in studios from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles.

1939-07-17 06:59:15

Billy Strayhorn

Billy Strayhorn, originally hired as a lyricist, began his association with Ellington in 1939.

1941-01-15 04:29:46

Take the "A" train

"Take the 'A' Train" is a jazz standard by Billy Strayhorn that was the signature tune of the Duke Ellington orchestra.

1942-04-29 04:29:46

C Jam Blues Play Along

Chord Changes for C Jam Blues (12 Bar Blues Progression)

1942-04-29 05:17:10

C Jam Blues

C Jam Blues" is a jazz standard composed in 1942 by Duke Ellington.

1943-01-23 17:22:51

The MIddle Years

Black, Brown and Beige is a jazz symphony written by Duke Ellington for his first concert at Carnegie Hall, on January 23, 1943. Ellington introduced it at Carnegie Hall as "a tone parallel to the history of the Negro in America." It was Ellington's longest and most ambitious composition.

1949-05-24 04:29:46

The Later Years

The 1940's are often considered to be Duke Ellington's golden years.

1965-10-03 08:41:38

Religious Music

In the last decade of his life, Duke Ellington wrote three Sacred Concerts: 1965 - A Concert of Sacred Music 1968 - Second Sacred Concert 1973 - Third Sacred Concert

1974-05-24 04:29:46

Duke Ellington Dies

Duke Ellington died from lung caner and pneumonia on May 24, 1974, a month after his 75th birthday.

1974-05-24 04:29:46

Ellington Tributes

Duke Ellington lived long enough to hear himself named among the best composers and since his death he has been credited as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. On February 24, 2009, the United States Mint launched a new coin featuring Duke Ellington, making him the first African American to appear by himself on a circulating U.S. coin. He appears on the reverse "tails" side of the District of Columbia quarter, celebrating his birthplace in the District of Columbia. Ellington is depicted on the quarter seated at a piano, sheet music in hand, along with the inscription "Justice for All," which is the District's motto.

1974-05-25 15:13:36

Additional Resources

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Duke Ellington

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