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's reputation has increased since his death, with thematic repackagings of his signature music often becoming best-sellers.
Duke 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.
Simply put, Ellington transcends boundaries and fills the world with a treasure trove of music that renews itself through every generation of
fans and music-lovers. He 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 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".
Duke Ellington was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1966. He was later awarded several other prizes, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, and the Legion of Honor by France in 1973, the highest civilian honors in each country. 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."