Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington

One of the most infuential Jazz musicians of the 1920's

Biography & Impact

Duke was born on April 28, 1899 in Washington, D.C.. As a child, he was interested in art and athletics, although he took piano lessons. He wasn't interested in music until he heard live pianists play at a local concert and was inspired to take piano lessons more seriously. Ellington began playing solos while still in high school. In 1923 he moved to New York and joined a group that would later become The Washingtonians. After gaining the attention of the owner New York's most famous jazz clubs, the Cotton Club, and was invited to play there regularly. Ellington played at the Cotton Club for more than ten years. Duke played music and recorded albums up until his death in 1974. Duke Ellington was one of the first people to play jazz music, which became the anthem of the 1920's. Many people today consider Duke Ellington to be the father of Jazz music.

Duke Ellington Quotes

"Gray skies are just clouds passing over."

- Duke Ellington


"A problem is a chance for you to do your best."

- Duke Ellington


"You've got to find some way of saying it without saying it."

- Duke Ellington

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

Video Questions

1. What is the timbre of this piece?


2. What is your favorite part in this song?

Duke's Awards

1966: the President's Gold Metal

1969: the Medal of Freedom

1973: the French Legion of Honor

1986: a United States Commemorative stamp was designed with Duke's face on it

1999: the Pulitzer Prize

Duke recieved 13 Grammy awards in his lifetime, including the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1966