Composer ("It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing", "Sophisticated Lady", "Mood Indigo", "Solitude", "In a Mellotone", "Satin Doll"), pianist and conductor, holder of an honorary music degree from Wilberforce University and an LHD from Milton College, Duke Ellington led his own orchestra by 1918, and came to New York in 1923, appearing at the Cotton Club between 1927 and 1932. Making his first European tour in 1933, he followed with his annual Carnegie Hall concerts between 1943 and 1950, and then a Middle East tour (under the auspices of the State Department), including an appearance at the International Fair in Damascus in 1963. His stage scores include "Jump for Joy" and "Beggars Holiday" (Broadway). He made many records.
Joining ASCAP in 1953, his chief musical collaborators included Billy Strayhorn, Irving Mills, Mitchell Parish, Mann Curtis, Barney Bigard, Henry Nemo, Bob Russell, Don George, Lee Gaines, Paul Francis Webster, Edgar De Lange, Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams, Juan Tizol and his own son, Mercer Ellington. His other popular song and instrumental compositions include "Blind Man's Buff", "Creole Love Call", "Black and Tan Fantasy", "I Let a Song Go Out of my Heart", "Rockin' in Rhythm", "Caravan", "Pyramid", "Creole Rhapsody", "Don't Get Around Much Anymore", "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good", "I'm Beginning to See the Light", "In a Sentimental Mood", "East St. Louis Toodle-oo", "Birmingham Breakdown", "Black Beauty", "Flaming Youth", "Awful Sad", "The Duke Steps Out", "Saturday Night Function", "Old Man Blues", "Ring Dem Bells", "Drop Me Off in Harlem", "Daybreak Express", "Delta Serenade", "Reminiscing in Tempo", "In a Jam", "Clarinet Lament", "Echoes of Harlem", "Dusk on the Desert", "Lost in Meditation", "Blue Reverie", "I've Got to Be a Rug Cutter", "Please Forgive Me", "Chatterbox", "Harmony in Harlem", "If You Were in My Place", "Skronch", "Braggin' in Brass", "Blue Light", "Buffet Flat", "The Gal from Joe's", "Subtle Lament", "Old King Dooji", "Boy Meets Horn", "Stevedore's Serenade", "You Gave Me the Gate and I'm Swinging", "Grievin'", "The Sergeant Was Shy", "Tootin' Through the Roof", "Rumpus in Richmond", "Jack the Bear", "Me and You", "Flaming Sword", "Harlem Air Shaft", "Bojangles", "Portrait of Bert Williams", "Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me" (Concerto for Cootie), "Kind of Moody" (Serenade to Sweden), "Morning Glory", "Blue Goose", "Cotton Tail", "Conga Brava", "Chocolate Shake", "Rocks in My Bed", "San Juan Hill", "Crescendo in Blue", "Diminuendo in Blue", "Dusk", "C Jam Blues", "Main Stem", "I Didn't Know About You", "Just a-Sittin' and a-Rockin'", "Jazz Convulsions", "I'm Just a Lucky So and So", "The Blues", "Come Sunday", "Magenta Haze", "Just Squeeze Me", "Happy-Go-Lucky Local", "Takle Love Easy", "Tomorrow Mountain", "I'm Gonna Go Fishin'", "Money Jungle", "Prelude to a Kiss", "Jump for Joy", "I'm Checking Out, Goom-Bye", "The Mooche", "Warm Valley", "Blue Serge", "I Wish I Was Back in My Baby's Arms", "Lament for a Lost Love", "It Shouldn't Happen to a Dream", "Afro-Bosso", "In the Beginning, God" and "Christmas Surprise".
|Edna Thompson||(2 July 1918 - ?) (separated) 1 child|
Pictured on a 22¢ US commemorative postage stamp in the Performing Arts series (97th anniversary of his birth). [29 April 1986]
Charter inductee of the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame. 
Was a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, a national music fraternity.
Father of trumpeter/band leader Mercer Ellington, who assumed leadership of the Ellington band at his father's death.
Grandfather of actress/singer/dancer Mercedes Ellington.
Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. 
Pictured in silhouette in a poster for the film Black and Tan (1929) on a 42¢ USA commemorative postage stamp celebrating Vintage Black Cinema. [July 16, 2008]
Interred at Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, NY (Division 49, at Fir & Knollwood Avenues).
He was awarded the Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 6535 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
His image is part the central design on the reverse of the District of Columbia 25¢ commemorative coin issued in 2009, as part of the USA's Statehood Quarters series. He is shown seated next to a piano, and the name "DUKE ELLINGTON" is engraved in the area above the piano keys.
Ellington was celebrated in Stevie Wonder's song "Sir Duke" (from "Songs in the Key of Life" (1976)).
I'm a telephone freak, the greatest invention since peanut brittle.
[in reply to a question about how he got the scar on his face] I have four stories about it, and it depends on which you like the best. One is a taxicab accident; another is that I slipped and fell on a broken bottle; then there is a jealous woman; and last is Old Heidelberg, where they used to stand toe to toe with a saber in each hand, and slash away. The first man to step back lost the contest, no matter how many times he'd sliced the other. Take your pick.
I'm the world's worst disciplinarian. There's too much responsibility in being a leader! You have to have the dignity and authority of a leader, and that's all so heavy!
I like any and all of my associations with music: writing, playing, and listening. We write and play from our perspective, and the audience listens from its perspective. If and when we agree, I am lucky.
I am a bandleader and I am a composer.
I don't believe in categories of any kind, and when you speak of problems between blacks and whites in the USA. you are referring to categories again.
To me, bebop is like playing Scrabble with all the vowels missing.
If I'm the Duke, man, Peggy Lee is Queen.
New York is a place where the rich walk, the poor drive Cadillacs, and beggars die of malnutrition with thousands of dollars hidden in their mattresses.
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