Duke Ellington

Modern Period

Born in United States

One of the 20th Century’s best known African American musicians, Duke Ellington was born in Washington DC where his father was a butler and sometimes worked at the White House. Both patents were pianists. A composer, pianist and the leader of his jazz orchestra for 5 decades, Ellington gave American music its own sound for the first time, helping develop the big band. He called his music American music, not jazz, and performed over 20,000 times around the world. Ellington wrote over 3,000 songs crossing all musical boundaries. He composed using the suite format to give his jazz songs more meaning and purpose in describing and exalting the African American experience. The United and States and France awarded him the highest civilian honor of both countries, the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1969) and The Legion of Honor (1973). He also received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1966.