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Died On This Date (May 24, 1974) Duke Ellington / Jazz Icon

Posted by themusicsover on May 24, 2010

Edward “Duke” Ellington
April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974

Duke Ellington was a jazz composer, band leader and pianist who is considered by many to be the greatest jazz musician of all times. So influential he was, that many of his band members went on to become legends themselves. After learning to play the piano as a child, Ellington launched his music career in 1917 when he started gigging around his Washington DC neighborhood. By the time he was 24, he had already made at least eight records, giving him the opportunity to broaden his touring base across the US and eventually to Europe. By the ’30s and ’40s, Ellington was releasing hit after hit, including “Take The A Train,” “Mood Indigo,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “In A Sentimental Mood,” and “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If You Aint Got That Swing.” Ellington continued to tour and make records into his 70s, including the one album he made with Frank Sinatra, Francis A. & Edward K. In 1965, Ellington was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize but did not receive one. He did however, win eleven Grammy awards, receive a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and France’s Legion Of Honor Award along with countless other recognitions. Duke Ellington died of lung cancer and pneumonia on May 24, 1974. Over 12,000 people attended his funeral.

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4 Responses to “Died On This Date (May 24, 1974) Duke Ellington / Jazz Icon”

  1. yolo said

    love it doing project on him for black history yea i’m black so what

  2. Dewey said

    Duke Ellington was badass end of story.

  3. Dennis Olivares said

    He deserves ALL the esteem and compliments he’s received. Those 1939-ish recordings are the PINNACLE of musical output for big bands… with all those super-star soloists… Rex, Sam, Cootie, Juan, Sonny, Johnny, Ben, Jimmy, Harry, Barney, et al… and nobody but Artie Shaw in 1945 ever came close! DirecTV is still broadcasting their tracks around the clock on Channel 801. I hear ’em half the day long and continue to wonder HOW such GENIUS ever came about… and just as the first crack in the iceberg of racism was initiating in the Roaring 20s. The soloists played their horns with brilliance and nuance that just can’t be heard anywhere else anymore, and the Duke played the Orchestra… all those magical tunes and arrangements… yet they collectively produced a BETTER product than someone like Fletcher Henderson, who alone had just as much aggregate talent but with an obvious lack of discipline and commitment. The records tell the whole story.
    It’s not widely known, but Ellington’s was also the FIRST BAND TO MAKE A STEREO RECORDING. All the way back in 1932… got it on tape somewhere… cut 2 separate discs from separated microphones, and if you played them in sync from 2 phonographs you could get the characteristic FAT stereo sound. Some engineer in the 1990s got hold of the 2 discs and made a true 2-track tape of that Medley (digital remastering at its best!), and I was lucky enough to have been tuned-in to Rob Bamberger’s “Hot Jazz Saturday Night” to hear the world’s first-ever broadcast of that historic recording!! It was all over too fast, BUT I STILL GOT MY Hi-Dollar OFF-THE-AIR TAPE… somewhere… don’t really need it though… can still hear that magnificent performance in my head after all these years… like the rest of the Duke’s records. Now THAT’S an impression only genius can make! What would American Music’s contribution to the world be like without this great artist….

    • said

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Dennis. When I see comments like this, it gratifies me that I created a place for fans like you to do so.
      Thanks for visiting

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