America’s Greatest Composer
A wise musician once said, “The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.” This musician was a man who “said it, without sayin’ it,” who defined the world of jazz to today’s premise, and who touched a nation during a time of crisis with one song. Edward Ellington was his name, but he is known to many as the Duke.
Duke Ellington was born Edward Kennedy Ellington on April 29, 1889 in Washington, D.C. Born to James Edward Ellington and Daisy Kennedy Ellington (middle names of both parents used to create Dukes name), two middle class people who were never rich, yet never poor. As a boy, Duke loved to draw, so much so that he and his family had predicted he would go to college specializing in art. Duke especially loved working with the color blue. Unlike his parents, Duke was not interested in piano; rather he enjoyed playing “boy games”, in particular, open- lot baseball. However, fate took its course, and his mother made him take piano lessons. Being the stubborn duke that he was however, Duke showed no interest in piano, allowing his parents to discontinue his lessons merely because they could not afford to send their son to lessons in which he did not want to participate in. He realized his mistake though when he became interested in things like girls and parties, and noticed that anyone who could play music, especially the piano, was likely to be popular and be invited to parties. Yet, this time, Ellington too proud to take lessons under the authority of a teacher (telling him how to do things), began to take shortcuts, practicing scale and finger cycles. He also began finding local area player in which to learn from. A big part of this experience was Frank Holliday’s poolroom, which happened to be next door to the Howard Theater, one of the most
famous black theaters in the United States. Entertainers from the Howard Theater found it a convenient place for them to go between shows. Among these...