Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington

Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington


By (author) Terry Teachout

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  • Publisher: GOTHAM BOOKS
  • Format: Hardback | 483 pages
  • Dimensions: 160mm x 232mm x 44mm | 740g
  • Publication date: 1 April 2014
  • ISBN 10: 1592407498
  • ISBN 13: 9781592407491
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations
  • Sales rank: 199,791

Product description

A major new biography of Duke Ellington from the acclaimed author of "Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong" Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth century--and an impenetrably enigmatic personality whom no one, not even his closest friends, claimed to understand. The grandson of a slave, he dropped out of high school to become one of the world's most famous musicians, a showman of incomparable suavity who was as comfortable in Carnegie Hall as in the nightclubs where he honed his style. He wrote some fifteen hundred compositions, many of which, like "Mood Indigo" and "Sophisticated Lady," remain beloved standards, and he sought inspiration in an endless string of transient lovers, concealing his inner self behind a smiling mask of flowery language and ironic charm. As the biographer of Louis Armstrong, Terry Teachout is uniquely qualified to tell the story of the public and private lives of Duke Ellington. "Duke "peels away countless layers of Ellington's evasion and public deception to tell the unvarnished truth about the creative genius who inspired Miles Davis to say, "All the musicians should get together one certain day and get down on their knees and thank Duke."

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Author information

Terry Teachout, the drama critic at "The Wall""Street Journal," is the author of "Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong" and "Satchmo at the Waldorf," a one-man play about Armstrong's life and times. He lives in New York City.

Review quote

A Conversation with TERRY TEACHOUT, author of "DUKE " Exactly how important a composer was Duke Ellington? Ellington was the most important jazz composer of the twentieth century, and one of the greatest composers in "any" genre of music. Not only was he a major composer of purely instrumental music, but he wrote some of the century's most successful popular songs, including "Mood Indigo" and "Sophisticated Lady," many of which continue to this day to be performed and recorded. No jazz composer has left a deeper mark on world culture. What kind of a person was he in private life? Was he trustworthy? Loyal? Honest? That's a tricky question! Like many geniuses, Ellington was almost entirely self-centered, though his selfishness didn't exclude kindness and benevolence--on his own terms. But a fair number of his sidemen considered him unscrupulous, and I can't say that I blame them for feeling that way. Was Ellington as great a lover as he's said to have been? Even greater, by all accounts. Throughout his life Ellington was catnip to women, and he rarely said "no" when they invited him into their beds. I didn't even try to count his lovers--I can't count that high. Did Ellington really write all of his hit songs and instrumental compositions--or did he have unacknowledged collaborators? He had "many" unacknowledged collaborators, starting with Billy Strayhorn, his closest musical associate. He wasn't a plagiarist, but to an extent that's not generally realized or fully understood by most of his fans, Ellington created his music collectively--though he was always the "auteur," the man who made the ultimate decisions, and he was solely responsible for writing most of his major instrumental pieces. On the other hand, bits and pieces of the melodies of most of his big pop hits were written by his sidemen. To be sure, he usually gave credit where it was due, but not always, and he tried whenever possible to buy those bits and p