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Edward Kennedy ("Duke") Ellington.

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Edward Kennedy ("Duke") Ellington was born on the 29th April 1899 in Washington DC, and is famous as a composer, bandleader, and pianist who was recognized in his lifetime as one of the greatest jazz composers and performers. Nicknamed "Duke" by a boyhood friend who admired his regal air, the name stuck and became indelibly associated with the finest creations in big band and vocal jazz. A genius for instrumental combinations, improvisation, and jazz arranging brought the world the unique "Ellington" sound that found consummate expression in works like "Mood Indigo," "Sophisticated Lady," and the symphonic suites Black, Brown, and Beige (which he subtitled "a Tone Parallel to the History of the Negro in America") and Harlem ("a Tone Parallel to Harlem"). Beginning keyboard studies at the age of seven, Ellington's earliest influences were the ragtime pianists. ...read more.


Among Ellington's many honours and awards were honorary doctorates from Howard and Yale Universities, membership in the American Institute of Arts and Letters, election as the first jazz musician member of the Royal Music Academy in Stockholm, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom Duke was from a middle class family, with his dad working as a butler Duke was set very high standards of dress and speech. Music was one of the genteel accomplishments, so Duke was sent to take piano lessons from the aptly named Mrs Clinkscales. Duke showed no promise and soon gave up. From the age of 12 Duke began sneaking into burlesque theatres and poolrooms. It was in these places that Duke first heard Ragtime, the music that was the rage of the time. ...read more.


At 19 Duke married Edna Thompson. One year later their son Mercer was born. The marriage did not last, some people say it is because of Dukes early success and his demanding lifestyle. Later in life Duke married another woman. As well as his famous music career Duke starred in some films and theatrical musicals with a high jazz content like 'Anatomy of a murder and 'Paris blues'. Midway through his life of fame he wrote an autobiography called 'music is my mistress'. Duke wrote the music to musical comedies 'Beggars opera' and 'Pousse cafe'. One of Dukes most important concerts was at carnegie hall. Dukes success was probably due to the facts he was a perfectionist and he brought jazz into the white community. He is now regarded as the most important writer in jazz. ...read more.

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