Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American jazz composer, bandleader, and pianist. Born in Washington, D.C., Duke came to prominence as a bandleader there, and later continued his career in New York City. His ascent in the jazz world came at a time when bands, and their audiences, were segregated. Through his charisma, class, and musical brilliance he was able to help break down the barriers between the "black music", and "white music"of the time, and was one of the first musicians to garner the support of fan-bases of all races. One of the most amazing talents of Ellington, and one reason for his incredibly successful 60 year career, was his ability to straddle the line between entertainment and art. His own compositions range from music written for dance clubs, to full ballets, and many of his compositions contain elements of both. Considered by some to be the greatest American composer of all time, Ellington's music is surprisingly unknown to many of today's younger generations. Although my words alone are unlikely to convert many readers into full-time fans, I would strongly suggest listening to, and watching, some of his performances. Even if he doesn't resonate with you enough to make it onto your mp3 player, at the very least you will come away with new respect for one of the greatest artists in our nation's history. Here are a few clips to illustrate what kind of a musician/man Duke was:
Ellington and his band playing one of his hit songs, "Take the A-train."
An interview with Duke, regarding his inspiration for composing.
Duke playing one of his compositions, "The Single Petal of a Rose." One of the most beautiful pieces of music I have heard to this day.
For more information on Duke, photos, and information about the Duke Ellington Orchestra, which carries on his musical legacy: http://dukeellington.com.html
For a good biography of Duke's life and music history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_ellington
For a list of the films in which you can see Duke and his jazz band: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0254153/