Born on April 29, 1899, Duke Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and band leader. He was a major figure in the history of Jazz music. Duke Ellington was raised by two talented, musical parents in a middle class neighborhood of Washington, DC. He began studying piano and earned the nickname "Duke". At the age of 15, he wrote his first composition, "Soda Fountain Rag". Ellington followed his passion for ragtime and began to play professionally at age 17.
Major Contributions to the Harlem Renaissance
Duke Ellington gave American music its own sound for the first time. While these compositions guarantee his greatness, what makes Duke an iconoclastic genius, a person who destroys religious images, and an unparalleled visionary, unique in kind or quality, was his extended suites that granted him immortality. Duke used the suite format to give his jazz songs a far more empowering meaning, resonance and purpose to exalt, convert to a myth, and consider in a different context the African-American experience on a grand scale.
Citation for Contributions
Duke Ellington - Mini Bio