Today in History–April 29–the Library of Congress features jazz great Duke Ellington, born on this date in 1899. Ellington started to play piano at age 7 and wrote his first song–Soda Fountain Rag–at age 15. By his late teens, he was earning enough money to help his parents move into a better house. Ellington’s musical versatility was astounding and not limited to jazz; he also wrote oratorios, suites, concertos, and even opera, as well as for the Broadway stage, movies, television, nightclubs, and more. Frequently working with Billy Strayhorn, Ellington created over 1,500 pieces of music — nearly 6,000, if brief musical interludes are included. Learn more about this musician and composer nonpareil by visiting the Today in History section and clicking the links below.
Choo-choo (I gotta hurry home) song by Duke Ellington (streaming audio)
Harlem rent parties (oral history transcript)
Duke Ellington stories from America’s Library
Duke Ellington Biography (PBS)
Giants of Jazz: Duke Ellington in exclusive interview from CBC’s Hot Air archive (primary source audio and video recordings and background text)