Duke Ellington (1899-1974) was an American composer, pianist, and bandleader who was one of the most influential figures in the history of jazz music. He was born Edward Kennedy Ellington in Washington, D.C., and began playing piano at a young age.
Ellington’s music career began in the 1920s, when he formed his first band and began playing at clubs and dance halls in Harlem. In the 1930s, he became known for his innovative arrangements and compositions, which combined elements of jazz, swing, and orchestral music. He wrote and recorded hundreds of songs, including classics such as “Take the A Train,” “Mood Indigo,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).”
Ellington’s band, which he led for over 50 years, became known as the Duke Ellington Orchestra and was one of the most popular and influential jazz ensembles of the 20th century. The band included some of the greatest musicians of the era, such as Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams, and Billy Strayhorn.
In addition to his musical career, Ellington was also a trailblazer for civil rights. He refused to perform at segregated venues and was a vocal advocate for racial equality. In 1969, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon.
Ellington continued to perform and record music until his death in 1974. He left behind a legacy as one of the greatest composers and bandleaders in the history of jazz, and his influence can still be heard in the music of contemporary jazz musicians.
Duke Ellington Songs
Duke Ellington wrote and performed hundreds of songs throughout his career. Here are some of his most famous and enduring compositions:
- Take the A Train
- Satin Doll
- In a Sentimental Mood
- Mood Indigo
- Sophisticated Lady
- It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)
- Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
- I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)
- Black and Tan Fantasy
- Creole Love Call
- East St. Louis Toodle-oo
- C-Jam Blues
These songs are just a sample of Duke Ellington’s vast catalog, which includes many other classic and influential jazz compositions.