Duke Elington

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade February 2002

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DUKE ELLINGTON Duke Ellington?s life is the story of a man who was determined to be someone someday.

Edward Kennedy Ellington was born on April 29, 1899 in Washington, D.C. to Edward and Daisy Ellington. Edward, his parents, and sister Ruth, lived in Washington, D.C. They lived in Washington because in 1899, it was the only southern city where African Americans were treated with even a small amount of respect by whites. African Americans were allowed to have careers as barbers, porters, waiters and house workers instead of only working on plantations. Prejudice still existed, but if you were willing to work hard, you could earn a good living.

Growing up, Edward loved to play sports. Baseball was his favorite. Edward was playing baseball one day when he accidentally got hit on the head with a bat. His mother thought that baseball was too dangerous to play, so she made him take piano lessons instead.

Edward was not interested in playing the piano, so the lessons stopped. Edward didn?t start playing the piano seriously until he was in high school. He taught himself how to play, and learned the popular songs and he began to write his own songs.

Edward played so well that he was invited to play at many fancy parties. A friend thought he needed an elegant nickname to go with his new lifestyle so Edward was nicknamed ?Duke?. Duke?s free time was spent listening, watching, and learning music from older African American piano players. The music they played was ragtime and stride (a style of music created by African Americans) and jazz. Duke learned a lot about playing the piano from Oliver ?Doc? Perry. Perry?s knowledge helped Duke develop his playing, composing and arranging abilities. The training was mostly verbal, not written, so Duke never learned...