“I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues.” ~ Duke Ellington
Jazz legend Edward Kennedy Ellington (1899-1974), born on this day in Washington D.C., earned the nickname “Duke” because of his elegant clothes and style. An important American composer, pianist, and bandleader, he influenced jazz, blues, swing, and beyond. “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing,” he proclaimed in his famous song. He claimed his inspiration came from love and the sacred spirit. A visionary, he experimented with odd musical intervals and pioneered the extension of jazz pieces beyond customary choruses of 12 or 32 bars.
“My mother told me I was blessed, and I have always taken her word for it,” he explained in Music Is My Mistress (1973). “Being born of–or reincarnated from–royalty is nothing like being blessed. Royalty is inherited from another human being; blessedness comes from God.”