The Black Arts with A. Grace Lee Mims is heard Wednesdays at 10:00PM
Duke Ellington is one of the most influential figures in jazz, if not in all American music and is widely considered as one of the twentieth century's best known African American celebrities. As both a composer and a band leader Ellington is the recipient of the President’s Gold Medal under the Johnson administration in 1966 and the Medal of Freedom under the Nixon administration in 1969. He won 13 Grammy Awards and the French Legion of Honor during his lifetime. Though he was denied a Pulitzer Prize during his lifetime, he was awarded a posthumous "Special Citation" by the Pulitzer Committee in 1999, the year of the hundredth anniversary of his birth. Oh yes, and he’s also on a US Commemorative stamp issued in 1986!
Ellington influenced millions of people both around the world and at home. He gave American music its own sound for the first time. In his fifty year career, he played over 20,000 performances in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East as well as Asia.
Ellington transcends boundaries. Famed trumpet player Winton Marsalis said it best: “"His music sounds like America." Duke Ellington is best remembered for the over 3000 songs that he composed during his lifetime. His best known titles include; "It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing," "Sophisticated Lady," "Mood Indigo," “Solitude," "In a Mellotone," and "Satin Doll." The most amazing part about Ellington was that he was the most creative while he was on the road. It was during this time when he wrote his most famous piece, "Mood Indigo," which brought him world wide fame.
When asked what inspired him to write, Ellington replied, "My men and my race are the inspiration of my work. I try to catch the character and mood and feeling of my people."
He died of lung cancer and pneumonia on May 24, 1974, a month after his 75th birthday, and is buried in the Bronx, in New York City. At his funeral attended by over 12,000 people at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Ella Fitzgerald summed up the occasion, “It’s a very sad day. . .a genius has passed.”
A. Grace Lee Mims' salute to Duke Ellington on The Black Arts will be heard on Wednesday, April 29th at 10:00 pm. This special program will feature Ellington's Degas Suite (written in honor of the French Impressionist painter Edgar Degas) and some of his most popular compositions, including "Mood Indigo."
The Black Arts-National City Artist of the Month is presented with the sponsorship of National City, now a part of PNC, dedicated to supporting the communities they serve.