Edward Kennedy Ellington

The man was born Edward Kennedy Ellington; but he exists in the eyes of American culture as the Duke. He received the nickname from a childhood friend who recognized his style and debonair. That style would carry him around the country and eventually the world as one of the music world\'s most prolific composers.
His life began in Washington DC on April 29, 1899. Duke did not start up as a child prodigy; while he took piano lessons, he leaned more to sports in his formative years. His parents were strong role models who supported his interests and taught him how to be successful in life. As he grew up and made his way through high school, he developed artistic talent which would lead him to seek higher education in that field. He turned down and prestigious scholarship to Pratt Institute of Fine Art and stayed in Washington to attend Armstrong Manual Training School instead. It was during college that his interest in music took off. He was intrigued by Ragtime style pianists in Washington and would seek out Jazz piano players wherever he went. His earliest personal influence was a piano player named Harvey Brooks. Combined with his early teachers, Oliver "Doc" Perry and Louis Brown, Duke Ellington found the encouragement and skills necessary for him to go out and become successful. He left school to pursue music as a career and found some work in Washington with his first band - The Duke\'s Serenaders. They played in Washington for six years before making an important move to New York in 1923 at the advice of Jazz great Fats Waller. In that year Ellington recorded his first record and changed the band\'s name to The Washingtonians.
Radio was the big key to the foundation of Ellington\'s success in New York. It was radio which had prepared New Yorkers for his sound and once his band made connections with the major New York clubs, it was radio which made their sound a national phenomenon. The most important of the clubs which Duke Ellington played for was the Cotton Club. The combination of the national radio broadcasts that aired from the Cotton Club and the addition of Irving Mills as the bands manager launched Ellington from running a great band to being a star. His fame gave him the ability to develop his band and add in the best musicians from around the country. The Duke Ellington Orchestra began to get offers from large recording and movie studios.
His awe-inspiring success allowed Duke to have the liberty to focus on developing his musical style as well as the flow of Jazz music\'s national development. He transitioned through many styles and created innovative stylistic additions to each. He played famous clubs all over the country and the world as well as concert halls and movie sets. All along, he continued to break new ground in his masterful compositions which came to number over two thousand by the end of the bands career.
Throughout his career Ellington also held close to the values that his parents has instilled in him. He was a religious man who studied the Bible and prayed. He also was a strong opponent to racism. He once said of the racial unrest going on in America, "I don\'t believe in categories of any kind, and when you speak of problems between blacks and whites in the U.S.A. you are referring to categories again." Though unfortunately restricted by the times during which he lived, Ellington was glad to play with people of any race.
Duke played with many great Jazz musicians from a wide range of genres including Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, Miles Davis, Tony Bennett, Dizzy Guillespe, The Louis Armstrong Orchestra and Count Basie. He had the honor of performing before royalty and American Presidents and was regarded with esteem by them. In 1969, then President Richard Nixon honored Ellington with the esteemed Medal of Freedom. Nixon said of the man, "In the royalty of American music, no man swings more or stands higher than the Duke" and he referred to him as "America\'s foremost composer."
In addition to these high cultural awards, Duke Ellington received