A Portrait of Duke Ellington by Tracy Frech

1766 words 8 pages
A Portrait of Duke Ellington By Tracy Frech

Duke Ellington is considered to be one of the greatest figures in the history of
American music. Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was born in Washington D.C. on
April 29, 1899. His parents were James Edward and Daisy Kennedy Ellington. They
raised Duke as an only child, until his sister, Ruth, was born when Duke was
sixteen years old. Duke, even as a teenager, had a great talent for music. In
the beginning of his musical life, Duke began to take a promising interest in a
new type of music that would later be called jazz. Choosing to base his career
on a new idea may not have been smart, but Duke did take this chance and in turn
became one of the most famous musicians in America.

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Duke's band was having a hard time performing in the south because of the
segregation laws not allowing blacks to eat in white restaurants or finding
accommodations that would allow blacks and whites to stay together in a half-
decent room. In 1932 Duke added a trombonist named Lawrence Brown. In the same
year, most of the other big bands were adding vocalists to their ensemble and
thus Duke felt pressured to do so too. Duke then hired a woman named Ivie
Anderson and quickly proved that he had done the right thing.

Then in 1933 his band got a chance to play in Europe. At first Duke
was very skeptical of how his music would be reacted to just because jazz
had it's roots in America and the Europeans had a very contrasting style of
music. The band managed to talk Duke into believing the idea was a good one.
The band's first stop was England. The band was amazed at how well informed
they were about their entire past. Even the Prince of Wales came to hear
the band play. At the time the prince was an amateur drummer and Sonny
Greer Showed the prince how to work the drum set and they played together
and in the end were calling each other "Sonny" and "The Wale". All the
concerts held in England were sellouts. The band then moved on to Scotland,
and then Paris, France where their music was greeted with open arms.

When Duke's band returned to America the band really began feeling the
hardship and sorrow of


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