Duke Ellington was one of the most important creative forces in the music of the twentieth century. His influence on classical music, popular music, and, of course, jazz, simply cannot be overstated.
He was born Edward Kennedy Ellington in Washington, D.C. on April 29, 1899, into a middle class black family. His father was a butler in a wealthy household, and he is said to have sometimes worked at White House affairs. Ellington originally had ambitions of becoming a painter, but he became interested in music in his early teens and learned James P. Johnson's "Carolina Shout" from a piano roll. Soon he was part of a small jazz band in Washington.
In 1923 he moved to New York and early in 1924 he became the leader of his band. Soon he was recording, and in 1927 Ellington's band was hired to play regularly at the Cotton Club, where he stayed for five years. Cotton Club performances were broadcast almost nightly, and by 1930 Ellington and his band were famous. And even as early as this, Ellington was beginning to be recognized as an important serious composer.
In 1931, he was invited to visit the White House, and in 1933 his band made its first European tour, a huge triumph. In the years that followed, Ellington continued to grow musically, and the quality of his band continued to improve, reaching what many consider to be a peak from 1939 through the early 1940s.
After the end of World War II, big bands went out of fashion, and, like other bands, Ellington's band suffered financially. Nevertheless, Ellington continued to keep the band…
IT DON’T MEAN A THING (IF YOU AIN’T GOT THAT SWING)
Irving Mills, Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington Music/EMI Mills Music, Inc.
Edgar De Lange, Duke Ellington, Irving Mills
Scarsdale Music Corp./EMI Mills Music, Inc./Duke Ellington Music