Duke Ellington: An American Legacy Essays

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Duke Ellington: An American Legacy

     Where would music be had it not been for the men that stepped before him.
The Motzarts and Beethovens, who wrote the music that today is known as the classics. These men were naturals in their own right, but these people wrote their music in the 17th and 18th century. Many people don't realize all of the changes that music had to go through between that period of music and the present day. One such musician stands alone at the top as one of the movers and innovators of the 20th century. He is Duke Ellington. Along with his band, he alone influenced millions of people both around the world and at home. He gave
American music its own sound for the first time. Winton Marsalis
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He was on his way, or was he? In 1923 he experienced failure due to financial instability(330). Most people would have given up by now but not the Duke. He kept on looking for work.
His relentless perseverance payed off. In 1924 Elmer Snowden asked Duke
Ellington to join his band and he accepted without question(Collier,45). So
Duke moved north to New York and joined the Washingtonians(46). Elmer Snowden was so impressed by his natural ability, that in 1927 he handed his band over to
Ellington(Collier,72). It was the turning point in Ellingtons life. He was now the leader of a headlining bank at the Cotton Club. "The Cotton Club--smack dab in the middle of Harlem-but Black people couldn't go there. It was for whites only," says Joe Louis(Gales,1995). Imagine the prestige of being a Black in the midst of White people. Ellington was finally rubbing shoulders the upper class.
However he was not allowed to share his talent with his own kind. His inspiration for all his wonderful compositions never were heard by them. It's like writing a love song for someone and not being allowed to share it. His feelings and ideas were never expressed to the people that meant the most to him, his people(Johnson,59). At the time his legacy was only known by the whites who went to see him perform. It wasn't until later when Blacks began to hear the
Duke's music for the first time.
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