Duke Ellington (1899–1974)

Born:

29th April 1899 in Washington DC, USA.

Duke Ellington’s grave in New York

Died:

24th May 1974 in New York, New York, USA.

Buried:

Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York, New York, USA.

Some famous piecess:
  • It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing). (See the videos below.)
  • Mood Indigo.
  • Sophisticated Lady.
  • In a Sentimental Mood.
  • Take the ‘A’ Train. (This one was written by Billy Strayhorn.)
  • Plus many more.
Some great albums:
  • Early Ellington (1927–1934).
  • Duke Ellington 1935–36.
  • The Indispensible, Vols 5/6 (1940) and Vols 7/8 (1941).
  • Sophisticated Lady (1941–1946).
  • At Newport (1956).
  • Such Sweet Thunder (1956–1957).
  • Duke Ellington and John Coltrane (1962).
  • The Far East Suite (Special Mix) (1966).
  • Plus many more!
Some interesting facts:
  • He was one of the greatest jazz artists ever!
  • He wrote and played great jazz for about 50 years!
  • He was one of the greatest jazz artists of the swing era (1930s–early 1940s). [Swing jazz uses big bands and has a strong beat. It is often very fast as well.]
  • His real first name was Edward.
  • He was a piano player.
  • He was a true composer. Many jazz artists do not actually write much music themselves. Duke Ellington was different. He wrote loads of music!
  • He didn’t just write jazz. He also wrote film music, popular music, religious music, and even some music that could be called classical.
  • He led an orchestra from 1923 until 1974. This orchestra is still going today and is called the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
  • In the later 1950s and 1960s he made recording with many other great jazz artists, such as Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Count Basie and Louis Armstrong.
  • He was very charming and polite.
  • He was very loyal to the musicians who worked for him. He also wrote his music to make each of his musicians sound as good as they possibly could.
  • Over 12,000 people went to his funeral.
  • His last words were, “Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered.”
Official Website

Here is a video of Duke Ellington and his orchestra playing several pieces. One of the pieces is It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got that Swing). This starts at 2.53 on the video. By the way, Duke Ellington is the one playing the piano.

Duke Ellington and his orchestra playing
‘It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got that Swing)’ and other songs

Compare this with a video a modern jazz group playing It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got that Swing).

A modern jazz group playing ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got that Swing)’

Picture credits:
  1. Duke Ellington. This photograph is of Duke Ellington at the Hurricane Club, New York in May 1943. It was taken by Gordon Parks and is in the public domain. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
  2. Duke Ellington’s grave in New York. This photograph was taken on 23rd October 2008 by the user Anthony22 on Wikipedia. This image is free to use providing one credits the photographer. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
Video credits:
  1. Duke Ellington and his orchestra. Duke Elington et son orchestre, It Don’t Mean a Thing.
  2. It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing – Mike Flaherty’s Dixieland Direct Jazz Band. Mike Flaherty’s Dixieland Direct Jazz Band live at the Kennedy Center featuring: Henning Hoehne, Bob Boguslaw, Dallas Smith and Mike Flaherty. http://www.dixielanddirect.com. There is more information about this one on the video’s YouTube page.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 hey 5th October 2012

thank you this really helped me with my homework :’) x

2 Denayia 30th November 2012

thanks for the help!!!!!!! 🙂

3 Denayia 30th November 2012

Thanks for the help!!!!! *life-saver*

4 joey 12th December 2012

hey that was very cool thx

5 Duke Ellington 15th January 2013

Wow this really helpful

6 rodtiek woods 28th January 2013

thank you -_-!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!help me lot

7 Niky 29th January 2013

Thank you, my hw is now done.;)

8 Karoline 11th February 2013

Thank you so much, this really helped me with my essay about Duke and his life time, especially that it was in ABC format so I had to write a few sentences.

9 Sydney 9th April 2013

Thanks that helped me so much with my music project and I will get a hundred percent I was going to do it with a partner but I figured I have enough info so I can do it also your last few words are amazing love you duke

10 Kitty 23rd September 2013

Thank you so much this really helped

11 kalelbarker 13th January 2014

WOW this is very usefull and also interesting i wonder if i could be like him someday.

12 mia 3rd February 2014

heeeyyyyy good website

13 Zaria 17th March 2014

thnx this really helped me with my project for school

14 victoria 28th March 2014

thanks it help me with class work

15 teacherlady 24th January 2015

This helped me set up a classroom project where my students will be researching, summarizing, and taking notes on information about jazz artists! Second grade in Mississippi is going to have so much fun learning about Duke this week!

16 anonymous 17th February 2015

thx help me with fun facts on a BIG project!

17 sammy 6th March 2015

this is a big help

18 Thanks 2nd June 2015

thanks! this is really going to help me with my jazz assignment

19 Fredbear 29th September 2016

My teacher loves it so much thanks

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