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Duke Ellington Essay

1795 words - 7 pages

An American LegacyWhere would music be had it not been for the men that stepped before him. The Motzarts and Beethovens, who wrote the music that today is known as the classics. These men were naturals in their own right, but these people wrote their music in the 17th and 18th century. Many people don't realize all of the changes that music had to go through between that period of music and the present day. One such musician stands alone at the top as one of the movers and innovators of the 20th century. He is Duke Ellington. Along with his band, he alone influenced millions of people both around the world and at home. He gave American music its own sound for the first time. Winton Marsalis said it best when he said 'His music sounds like America.' (Hajdu,72). These days you can find his name on over 1500 CS's(Illistated Encyclopedia of Jazz,254). Duke's legacy will live on for generations to come.Duke Ellington was born Edward Kennedy Ellington, April 29, 1899 in Washington D.C(The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz,330). His father at the time was employed as a butler yet always wanted the best for Duke. At the young age of seven Ellington took up the piano, because his father had always wanted him to become an artist(330). But how was Duke to become an artist in a time when blacks weren't given the same rights as everyone else. They went to separate schools. They were forced to the back of the bus and to use separate bathrooms. If Duke were to become some one he had much to come over.One thing that we do know is that Duke was always looking for attention and dignity. There are even stories of how he would announce from the top of the stairs in the morning that he was coming down and demand that his parents applaud(Collier,9). Also when his cousins would come over he would stand on the front porch as they arrived and make them curtsy in front of him(9). Of course they didn't like that but they played along(10). From the beginning Duke Ellington wanted to be remembered by generations to come, That would be difficult being the son of a butler and black(The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz,330); in a time when Negroes had many obstacles including the racism that plagued the United States.About ten years after he started to play piano, he made his professional debut. It was nothing glitzy just a pub in uptown(330). Back in Ellington's time black performers had to enter through back doors. He was on his way, or was he? In 1923 he experienced failure due to financial instability(330). Most people would have given up by now but not the Duke. He kept on looking for work. His relentless perseverance payed off. In 1924 Elmer Snowden asked Duke Ellington to join his band and he accepted without question(Collier,45). So Duke moved north to New York and joined the Washingtonians(46). Elmer Snowden was so impressed by his natural ability, that in 1927 he handed his band over to Ellington(Collier,72). It was the turning point in Ellingtons life. He was now the leader...

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