Duke Ellington

Edward Kennedy Ellington

A problem is your chance to do your best. ~Duke Ellington

Biography and Contribution to American Culture

Edward Kennedy Ellington, later to be known as the world famous "Duke" Ellington, was born on April 29, 1899, in Washington, D.C and died at the age 75 on May 24, 1974 in his adopted hometown of New York City. As a young boy, Duke Ellington's parents pushed him into music. At the age of seven he discovered his true love, the piano. He was given his nickname, Duke, by his piano instructor, who was amazed at what a gentleman Edward was. At age 15, Duke wrote his first song, "Soda Fountain Rag," while working as a soda jerk. He was also a talented artist and got an art scholarship, but turned down the scholarship in order to follow his passion in music. Duke started playing professionally at the age of 17. At the age of 19 Duke married his high school girlfriend, Edna Thompson and they had one child. Early in his career Duke was in a sextet which later grew into a ten piece ensemble. As his success grew, Duke moved from Washington, DC to Harlem, New York where he became the band leader of the world famous Cotton Club. Thanks to his work at the Cotton Club, Duke Ellington is known as an important leader of the Harlem Renaissance, the most significant African American Cultural movement of the 20th century. Over his long career Duke accumulated nine Grammy awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1966, and he even received twelve Grammy Awards and a Special Pulitzer Prize after he passed away. Duke was also awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom, recognizing his lifetime contributions to American Culture and society. When Duke Ellington passed away in 1974, 12,000 people attended his funeral.

It Don't Mean a Thing (If it Ain't got that Swing)

This song is one of his most famous songs ever. it was released in 1932, still early in his career. This was the song where he started to separate from the pack of ordinary musicians to the the great musicians. It got so famous because it was one in a kind for its time. Three years later a bunch of these songs popped up it was known as the swing era.


Duke Ellington - It don't mean a thing (1943) - YouTube2 by Reziro

It Don't Mean a Thing (If it Ain't got that Swing) Lyrics

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing
It don't mean a thing all you got to do is sing
It makes no difference if it's sweet or hot
Just keep that rhythm giving everything you got
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

Carlos Pita 2

Stevie Wonder - Isn't She Lovely by Carlos Pita 2

Modern Comparison

A present day artist that resembles Duke Ellington in many ways is Stevie Wonder. Both Ellington and Wonder were groundbreaking African American musicians who played the piano. Both Ellington and Wonder were child prodigies, with Stevie Wonder getting signed to his first record contract at age 11. Both Duke Ellington and Stevie Wonder were recipients of Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards. Another thing they both have in common is they both were known by stage names. Stevie Wonder's real name was Stevland Hardaway Morris.