Black History Month: Duke Ellington

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Brittani Langland

Claiming to give America its own kind of music, Duke Ellington filled the country with jazz in the 1940’s. But what made Ellington different than most other jazz musicians? Well, Ellington used his music to serve the purpose of re-contextualizing the African-American culture, by adding meaning and purpose to his songs and lyrics.

Ellington first came on the scene in 1927 when his band made it into the Cotton Club. His band would continually play there for a few years as his name became more and more popular. Ellington would later have opportunities to play for a wide range of audiences all over the world.

He composed over 3,000 songs and performed 20,000 times in his life time. This allowed him to win 13 Grammy Awards. Ellington received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1966, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969.

In 1974, Ellington died of lung cancer, and 12,000 people attended his funeral. His popularity has gone up since his death, due to the meaning of his songs that have insides to what life was like in that era. He remains one of the most influential Jazz musicians of all time.


All photos legally used by/from AP images.

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