On this day in 1899, Duke Ellington was born in Washington, D.C.

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Duke Ellington with his orchestra playing at the White House in Washington on March 27, 1968, at a function for President Lyndon Johnson and Liberian President William V.S. Tubman and wife. (AP Photo)
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On April 29, 1899, Duke Ellington, an accomplished jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader, was born in Washington, D.C. Over a career spanning 50 years, he composed around 3,000 songs and performed worldwide.

Duke Ellington at the piano and Louis Armstrong on trumpet rehearse Leonard Feather’s “Long, Long Journey” during a session at the RCA Victor recording studio in New York, Jan. 12, 1946. (AP Photo)

Born Edward Kennedy Ellington, he began piano at age 7, and he crafted his inaugural composition, “Soda Fountain Rag,” at 15. Through the ’30s and ’40s, Ellington’s career flourished, marked by hits like “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” (1931) and “Sophisticated Lady” (1932), among others. 

Duke Ellington (right) presents a manuscript for one of his musical compositions to fellow pianist, President Harry Truman, at the White House in Washington Sept. 29, 1950. Ellington is a native of Washington. (AP Photo/John Rous)

His accolades include the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 and the Legion of Honor from France in 1973. 

Ellington passed away in 1974 at the age of 75.


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