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The Life of Duke Ellington: An American Original

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 24, 2024 3:00 am

The Life of Duke Ellington: An American Original

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 24, 2024 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, some believe he was the most important composer of the 20th century, in or out of jazz. Terry Teachout, one of America's best culture writers and author of Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, tells the story of the jazz legend, his music, his struggles, his triumphs and so much more.

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Avoid reprobated by law. See terms and conditions 18 plus. This is Lee Habib and this is our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. And we love to tell stories about history, particularly the intersection of art and culture. Many music critics believe Duke Ellington was one of the most important composers in and out of jazz. An artistic giant of the 20th century, his story is more than a musical journey.

It is a story about race, culture, and art, and a walk through the 20th century. Here to tell this remarkable story is the late Wall Street Journal culture critic and author Terry Teachout, whose book Duke, A Life of Duke Ellington, may be one of the finest biographies I've ever read. And we're telling this story because on this day in history, Duke Ellington died in 1974. Duke Ellington was born in 1899 in our nation's capital, and both the timing of his birth and location impacted his life greatly.

Here is Terry Teachout. Washington D.C. and Ellington's childhood and youth was one of the most ruthlessly segregated cities in America. It was, you might say, the northern tip of the deep south. But it had a large, healthy, prosperous black middle class, a black bourgeoisie at the same time. That is what defines the Washington of Ellington's youth and the neighborhood he grew up in, U Street. It was a place where you lived, if you could afford to, and in the alley, if you couldn't afford to, where every kind of black person, well-to-do and poor, striving and desperate, they were all thrown together. But it was a society that, in its own class divisions, mirrored the class divisions of the white world. There was a racial caste system among blacks.

It had to do with economics. It also had to do with skin color. And Duke Ellington came from light-skinned parents, and this put them several rungs up the ladder. So you had a society of strivers, but you also had a society of people who were very self-conscious about their place in class.

It might have looked on from the outside. Ellington's father was considered pretty far up on the ladder of success because he was the butler of a white doctor. And so he acquired class identity and a patina of elegance from this very affiliation. This is something that Malcolm X talks about in his autobiography.

I was quite struck by that. And it's something, I think, that Ellington himself may have had equivocal feelings about. On the one hand, he was himself very class-conscious, and he was a person who was inclined for his black friends to be people with white skin. At the same time, though, he believed deeply in the self-improvement ethos of the black bourgeoisie. That is why he was determined to make something of himself, something important. His mother had told him right from the beginning of his life, you are gifted, you are special, you are going to do remarkable things, and Ellington never doubted her.

She was dead serious about it, and Freud said that a boy who has the absolute approval of his mother is destined for success. If that's true, Duke Ellington had the pedigree going in. Most great talents have mentors that inspire them, and Ellington's muse was a musician named Harvey Brooks.

Harvey Brooks was, I believe, based in Philadelphia. He was a late-ragtime, early-stride pianist. He's not well-remembered today because he didn't make very many recordings. But he did make piano rolls. Ellington heard one early on.

And he'd never heard that kind of playing before. Being from a family of the black bourgeoisie, Ellington was not the sort of person who was likely to grow up hearing ragtime or that kind of popular music that was going around at the time. When he heard Harvey Brooks playing rags, he was stunned by how exciting the music was and how personal, how individual it was. That was really what pushed the button that made Ellington want to be a musician. He had originally intended to be an artist, a commercial artist, and he had real talent in that area. But when he heard this kind of music and realized that you could go out on a bandstand, play music like that, people would hear it and know it was you and that women would flock around the bandstand because they found that very sexy. That was what interested him. And of course he discovered very quickly that it wasn't just a matter of his being interested. He also had innate talent for it. And it was Harvey Brooks who started him down that line. So much so that Ellington actually sought him out a couple of years later. And Brooks showed him some of the tricks of the trade. Usually you become interested in music because you hear it and it's beautiful. You become transported by it and then you start to think, well, maybe I could do that.

Maybe I can make that. But with Ellington, it seems to have been the actual act of performance, of getting his hands on the keyboard and hearing the kind of music he wanted to play that excited him. He'd taken a few piano lessons as a child from a woman named, believe it or not, Clinkscales. We had to track that down in the census records, but it's absolutely true. But they didn't stick with him because she wasn't teaching him what he wanted to hear. Then came the race riots in Washington, D.C., which would alter the course of Ellington's life. The race riots of 1919 had an overwhelming effect on Washington, D.C. They were violent. They were shocking. They caused a lot of black people to realize just how fragile their lives were.

And it seems impossible that they wouldn't have had that kind of effect on Ellington. He had already been hearing musicians from outside Washington. He knew there was more to the music that interested him, the music that excited him, than he was hearing in Washington. And he must also have realized that if you wanted to get somewhere, if you wanted to be more than just a famous local musician, at this point in the history of jazz, you were going to have to come to New York. And you've been listening to the late, great Terry Teachout tell the heartbreaking story of Duke Ellington, and it will get increasingly heartbreaking as you listen to it, and also triumphal. You are special, you are gifted, and you will do remarkable things, his mother said.

And to have those words spoken over you, what an advantage in life. When we come back, more of the remarkable story of Duke Ellington as told by Terry Teachout, here on Our American Stories. This is Lee Habib, and this is Our American Stories. And all of our history stories are brought to us by our generous sponsors, including Hillsdale College, where students go to learn all the things that are beautiful in life, and all the things that matter in life. If you can't get to Hillsdale, Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses. Go to hillsdale.edu.

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They're movies, they're scenes and TV shows. We have this idea of what they were like. But the cliche was true. The country was completely turned inside out by prohibition and the resulting lawlessness that stemmed from it. By the sense of personal freedom that people wanted and sought, especially men coming back from the First World War, coming back from Europe.

You remember the song, How You Gonna Keep Them Down on the Farm after they've seen Paree. Well, that was what the Roaring Twenties meant to people. They wanted a larger life, one that had fewer restrictions, fewer limitations. They wanted excitement.

Many of them wanted city life and the things that only a city can provide. It is in cities that jazz came to be because they had dance halls and they had cabarets and they had bars and they had gangsters who wanted music to be played while they were selling their illegal liquor. It was just a word, ferment.

I don't mean the pun. There was a tremendous cultural ferment going along right then. Not just in music, but in every form of art.

If you weren't stimulated by that, then there was nothing in you to be stimulated. Ellington was stimulated to the highest degree by this freedom. He believed in the appearance of respectability, but he also wanted to lead a wider, freer life. The Twenties were the best time in the world, maybe in the history of America, to have been able to do that.

Ellington was indeed at the right place and the right time doing the right thing. And no one place in particular played more of a role in shaping Ellington's life than the Cotton Club in New York. Well, it was quite a joint and it was produced by racial segregation. In Harlem, there were a number of clubs that did not admit blacks. They were entertainers, they were waiters, they were part of the staff, but they couldn't come in as customers. They were places where white people from downtown who had money to burn came up to entertain themselves, to discover this new exotic music called jazz. The Cotton Club was probably the best known of these places.

Decorated in the style of a plantation, what a horrible irony. And its floor shows were accompanied by jazz, so they needed really good bands. And it was a mobbed up joint, not at all surprisingly.

Only Madden ran it. Although, by all accounts, the mobsters treated the musicians and the chorus girls with great respect. To have gotten that gig was a big deal for Ellington, not just because it was a high profile gig, but because suddenly he was playing every night at a club where his band had to supply a lot of music.

Not just songs, not just original pieces, but music for dancing, music for floor shows. Suddenly, Duke Ellington had to produce. He was on the spot. And the Cotton Club took what he produced and made it known to New Yorkers with money who talked about it. And of the highest importance, he broadcast on network radio from there.

It was one of the biggest breaks of his life when CBS installed a broadcast wire to the Cotton Club in 1929. He'd been making records for some time. He was known to jazz aficionados. But suddenly, all you had to do to hear Duke Ellington at his very best was turn your radio on at night, and there he was. It was what made him, in a single stroke, a national figure.

And a black national figure. There had not been black bands with this kind of exposure on network radio. Remember, too, this is in 1929, when suddenly there's no money. It's the Great Depression. People can't afford to buy records.

But you could afford to listen to the radio because it didn't cost anything. That was what made Ellington a star. And then came Ellington's music and how he made it. It turns out Ellington didn't compose like other composers.

He was a compiler of deeds and ideas with a great facility to make something out of nothing. And he didn't always give his collaborators credit. To put it in the nastiest possible way, Duke Ellington was a credit hog.

Classical composers sit down, write a piece, they bring it to the concert hall and the orchestra rehearses and they play it. Ellington couldn't write that way because he didn't have the technical grounding that you get from classical training. In the early years, he also had a band full of people, some of whom were very poor sight readers, and Ellington himself was not a good sight reader. In the early years, he would create pieces of music right there on the bandstand in the rehearsal hall.

And of course you could do that. That's what jazz is like. It's very much an improvised music. But Ellington had an interesting deficiency. He had an extraordinarily good ear for harmony, for rhythm, but he wasn't good at writing singable melodies.

When you're leading a dance band, and to a great extent your success is reliant on pieces in song form that can become hits, it can become an impediment to your writing. On the other hand, he had put together a band full of hand-picked musicians picked by him. He was with them every night, every day, on the road at the Cotton Club, and they were constantly improvising. And some of them, Johnny Hodgers in particular, were extraordinarily good at making up melodies and melodic fragments, and Ellington was listening. What he liked to do best was, if you played a snatch melody that he liked, he'd buy it from you for cash on the spot. And of course what he was buying was the total rights to this. Jazz musicians don't tend to think ahead about this kind of thing, you know? They play it, they toss it off, they've got a million of them. If Duke likes this piece, he'll buy it.

Okay, fine, I'll take 25 bucks for it. And then he turns it into a song, and not infrequently the song would become a hit. And unless the musician had been very shrewd about retaining rights, all of the proceeds from that hit went to Ellington. And then there was In a Sentimental Mood, his classic, a song among many he was known by. It turns out there was the Ellington version of how that song came to be, and then there was the reality. He loved to tell these stories, not just about In a Sentimental Mood, but about many of the songs that he wrote. He had these little vignettes about what the songs meant, or how they got written. Memory serves, he claimed to have written it when he had a woman sitting, two different women, one sitting on either end of the piano bench with him. And he wrote that song on the spot to get over with both of the ladies.

That's a lovely tale. He's not beyond it, but he left out the most important part, which is that the melody of the song came from somebody else. It came from Otto Hardwick, the lead saxophone player of the band. So if he was composing that song on the spot to get over with the two ladies, he was composing it with somebody else's tune. That's a very characteristic form of Ellingtonian obfuscation, I would say. He didn't like to talk about this aspect of his compositional process, and you can see why.

There's a certain kind of genius who wants you to think that he does everything equally well. Ellington was that kind of genius. Ellington was a man of many, many talents, but he was also a man of many secrets. Ellington was leading the life of a voluptuary. He was leading a life that would have scandalized many people had they heard about it.

He certainly wanted to keep his compositional process secret because there were aspects of it that were trade secrets and there were other aspects of it that I think he would have found embarrassing, the fact that he was much more a collaborative artist than he cared for the public to realize. When you get into the habit of keeping secrets, whether you're an artist or a spy, it's something that can really spread throughout every aspect of your personality, and I think that's what it was with Duke. And you've been listening to the late Terry Teachout, telling the story of Duke Ellington. When we come back, more of this remarkable story here on Our American Stories. I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years, I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why, and what it all means. Follow The Global Story from the BBC wherever you listen to podcasts. So what are you waiting for? Start streaming at play.xumo.com or download from the app and Google Play stores today.

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Also available in grapefruit and lavender scents at a nearby retail store. And we continue with our American stories and the life of Duke Ellington is chronicled in the terrific book Duke, A Life of Duke Ellington by the late Terry Teachout. A two week trip to London at the Palladium would change how Ellington viewed himself and his music.

The reaction by the audience was that powerful and that positive. Ellington was fairly famous by the time he went to London. But he was famous in a way that a black man would be famous in America in the 30s, a way that is somewhat limited. The whole racial caste system in this country meant that he was not seen as an artist, but as an entertainer, even though he saw himself as an artist.

There was a ceiling that he always bumped up against in this country. So he goes over to London and suddenly, very suddenly, that opening night suddenly, he completely overwhelms an audience that has never heard his band live. They've never heard anything like this. There had been some jazz played in Europe before that time. Louis Armstrong had played it. But the Ellington band was, I think, peculiarly well designed to appeal to an unusually wide range of critics and aficionados in London at that time. Because it was a kind of orchestra that played not just improvised solos, but compositions.

So you had a whole lot of classical musicians of real distinction over there who heard that band and who insisted when they wrote about it that it was in its way equivalent to the best classical music that was coming out of America. That was a very, very big thing for a black man to hear and to be told at that time. This was a man who was going from gig to gig in private cars on a train, which sounds very fancy when I say it, but he did that because you couldn't get a hotel in the South if you were black. And suddenly he goes to London and he's being treated like a kind of prince, like the genius that he was, and he is also able to stay in the best hotels. It thrilled him. Ellington said this to a friend about staying at a luxury hotel in England. You know, I love this place.

I don't know if you realize this, but I have the utmost difficulty staying in a hotel like this in the United States. A heartbreaking thing for a man of his stature and talent to say. Can't you hear him saying that in the elegant, urbane voice of his, and he's trying to say it with a wry smile, but he's kidding on the square. He means it. He means it. No matter how gifted you are, you need praise.

No matter how gifted you are, you need to be complimented, you need success, you need people to tell you what you're doing is worthwhile. And if you're a black man in America in the 30s, you need a lot of that because you're dealing with a whole lot of evil and foolishness. And he goes over there and this happens to him.

And he comes back with his account full of the coin of praise. He lived off that for a very long time. And then came the masking, the masking that African-Americans know and that Ellington understood because it was such a big part of his life, a survival mechanism. Ellington spoke to conceal himself. I think one of the things that he didn't want people to see was the hurt. He wanted them to feel that he was above such things. Wouldn't you, if you were somebody like Duke Ellington, you'd been raised by him, you'd been raised by your mother to believe in the doctrine of Ellingtonian exceptionalism. And you go out in the world and you start to have great success and people write magazine articles about you.

But you go down south and they treat you the same way that they treat every other person who has a black skin. You know that hurts. Of course he concealed it. He had to conceal it. He concealed it behind the mask of urbanity.

He didn't want people to know that they got his goat. After World War II, the big band scene had lost a lot of steam and Ellington's career did too. But one concert in 1956 changed all of that.

The Newport Jazz Festival. If you like stories, this is one of the best of all possible Ellington stories, what happened in 1956. The Ellington band had gone through this protracted decline.

It had lost important personnel, things had become increasingly difficult. But Ellington started to get a handle on things in 1956. Time magazine noticed this and they got interested in maybe doing a big story about Ellington, maybe doing a comeback story that would go on the cover.

But you don't get on the cover of Time back then unless you had a news hook. This is where Ellington got very, very lucky. The Newport Jazz Festival had become a big deal in American jazz. George Wein was the man who put it together and he was quite reluctant to bring Ellington in. Because although he admired Ellington, everybody in jazz did, he thought that Ellington was kind of yesterday's news. So a deal was struck between Wein and George Avakian, the great record producer at Columbia and Ellington. Ellington agreed to compose a new composition that would be named after the festival, the Newport Jazz Festival Suite.

And Columbia agrees to record it live at the 1956 festival. So the deal was struck and the Ellington band was full of extremely temperamental people in as much of an understatement as it's possible to make. Almost half the band didn't show up for the rehearsal. They were very bad about rehearsing pieces.

Ellington was very bad about getting pieces written on time so that they could be rehearsed. So they come in for this gig and everybody knows it's a big deal. It's a huge deal. Ellington's reputation could rest on this. And the temperamental gentleman of the Ellington band foul up the rehearsal.

Everybody is really anxious about this. And they go on that night. They play the Newport Jazz Festival Suite and it's all right, but it wasn't anything great. George Wayne, no doubt, is sitting in his seat thinking, oh boy, did I make a mistake. And at this point, Duke Ellington dealt himself a handful of aces. He had a tenor saxophone player in the band named Paul Gonzales. Not a refined player, but boy could he blow. And he really liked to blow the blues.

So he calls diminuendo and crescendo. Kicks it off and suddenly the band is shifted into high gear. Gonzales comes down front and he plays 27 straight choruses of the blues. And the crowd goes not just wild, but they were dancing. They were yelling and screaming. And Ellington's up there playing piano.

He knows that he's got this going. The rhythm section is blazing. And the phrase, they stopped the show, is often used in exaggeration in my business as a theater critic. But believe me, they stopped that show. They stopped it cold.

They stopped it so cold that they couldn't get any other group on and that they had to bring Johnny Hodges on to play one of his specialties, a slow blues, just to calm everybody down. So Time magazine, they're in ecstasy. Suddenly they realize they've got a story and they put Duke Ellington on the cover. Which in 1956 was the biggest possible deal for any artist in terms of public recognition. And for the rest of the 50s and well into the 60s, the Ellington band lived off the publicity and the boost in their reputation that came from this amazing gig and opportunity that they came within inches of letting slip through their fingers.

And by the way, that Gonzales solo is considered the greatest saxophone solo of all time by many critics and some even call it the greatest solo of all time of any kind. When we come back, more of the story of Duke Ellington here on Our American Stories. I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years, I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why and what it all means. Follow The Global Story from the BBC wherever you listen to podcasts. So what are you waiting for? Start streaming at play.xumo.com or download from the app and Google Play stores today.

All you can stream with Zumo Play. Are you tired of your scented cleaning products smelling and cleaning like meh? Then it's time for an upgrade with the power of Clorox Scentiva. With an uplifting scent that smells like coconut, Clorox Scentiva gives you powerful clean like Clorox, but a feeling like being transported to a tropical island retreat. Imagine putting your phone on Do Not Disturb, tuning out all the constant, just the feeling of warm sand in between your toes and a fruity drink in your hand. The ones with the little umbrella.

Refresh your home to feel like an all-inclusive vacation by getting Clorox Scentiva, also available in grapefruit and lavender scents at a nearby retail store. And we return to Our American Stories and our final segment of our story on The Duke. Duke Ellington, that is.

Telling the story is, once again, the late, great Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout. When we last left off, Terry was telling us about how Ellington had revived his band from the brink of extinction at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island with an astounding performance of Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue. After that, you'd think awards and accolades would come, in particular one that Ellington coveted. Ellington was always hoping one day that he would win the Pulitzer Prize for the Arts. It turns out that it was something that haunted Ellington. The Pulitzer Prize was originally organized to recognize classical composers. It doesn't have to be given in any given year, and in 1965, the Music Panel decided that there had been no piece of classical music, no individual piece that was worthy of the prize. They decided instead to recommend to the Board that Ellington be presented with a special citation for long-term achievement.

The Board dismissed this idea, and two of the members of the Music Panel resigned in protest and talked to the press. Now, Ellington handled himself with colossal elegance. He was on the road, he was actually down in Kentucky, and a reporter said, Do you have any comment? And Ellington said, and again imagine this in that urbane voice of his, he said, Fate's being kind to me.

Fate doesn't want me to be too famous, too young. Well, that's all very well and good, but in fact, it just cut him to the quick. Because, remember, this is Ellington, he grew up on U Street, he believes devoutly in respectability, he wants recognition for what he is, not just for himself, but for the race, but for the music that he plays, and the bolters mattered, to some extent they still matter, but in 1965 the Board hi-hats him. He doesn't deserve the award, and he was outraged. He spoke more candidly about this in an interview with Nat Hentoff, very frankly in fact, and he talked about the lack of respect that had been shown to him, that had been shown to Jazz by this award not being given to him. He was angry, but he was angry because it hurt.

This was something that, especially in the 60s, when, remember, rock has become big in the 60s, and the energy that Ellington got from the firing of the afterburners in 1956 is now starting to dispel. He had all sorts of reasons for wanting that kind of recognition that being the first Jazz musician to win a Pulitzer Prize would have brought him, and he didn't get it. I don't think he ever quite got over that.

It's not the sort of thing that a man like Duke Ellington would have gotten over. And it's just too damn bad, because, you know, he was bigger than any prize. He was bigger than any award, but he was human. He was only human.

You can only take so much hurt, and that got him. It got him where he lived. But Ellington did receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, which offered real consolation to the Duke. It helped because of the way in which it was given. The Presidential Medal of Freedom, as the name of the award indicates, is given by the President of the United States.

He can give it to whoever he wants to. Richard Nixon was President in 1969. He wasn't a jazz buff, but he actually did like music and knew something about it.

And he had assistants in his office who knew a lot about it. And it was thought that, for whatever reason, it was thought that giving Ellington the Medal of Freedom in 1969 was not only something that he deserved, but something that would be, shall we say, politic. It was also Duke Ellington's 70th birthday. And so they got the idea to put together an all-star band of the biggest names in jazz to play for Duke Ellington's birthday party at the White House, at which time he would be awarded the Medal of Freedom. Now that is a big deal. And no matter what your politics are, and there were a lot of people who hated Richard Nixon in 1969, just as there are now, but he was the President. And this was a very big deal.

A very big deal. Ellington accepted with the utmost delight. They had the most amazing party. Richard Nixon actually played Happy Birthday for Duke on piano that night, and they jammed all night long. All lives come to an end, and Ellington's did too, but the legacy he left behind was extraordinary. He was dying, and he got sick at a time when the money was running out. He had always been a man who believed quite passionately in maintaining his self-image. He was enormously generous, although always on his own terms. Musicians who had been in the band and left it, he would continue to pay them for years and years afterwards. I mean, he was a complicated man, but there was a good man in there somewhere. Ultimately, he had poured everything into the band, and again, as had been the case right after World War II, the cake started to dry up. Rock and roll was here to stay. It got harder and harder to book the Ellington band, and Ellington was worn out. You can see it in photographs, in video and film of him during that period. You can just see him starting to run down.

It's so sad, and of course what it was was cancer. He played for as long as he could. He performed as long as it was possible to perform. By this time, Mercer Ellington, his son, was out there with the band, and Duke knew what he had.

Nobody was trying to hide it from him. And to see film of those last appearances, there was a TV tribute that Quincy Jones produced, and you can see film of Ellington. He looks old.

He looks old and tired and sad. And then it was all gone. Then it was all gone. And even though the band had not been at its best for several years before that, even though Ellington's own compositional gifts had declined, when he was gone, everybody realized what we'd lost. Like most of the geniuses I've known, his highest priority was his work. He wanted to be able to do the work every day, to show up for the gig, to write music. And he was willing to subordinate anything and anybody to that. And as a result, when you go back and look at his life, you cannot help but be struck by how unattractive certain acts are. He was an opportunist. He was unscrupulous. I don't know that he was a man I would have wanted to work for. But if you worked for him, you were working for a genius, and a genius whose gifts included the gift of being able to make everybody who played with him sound better.

Maybe even better than they were. A gift of being able to take the little fragments of melody that they tossed off and turn them into compositions that people still sing 50 and 60 and 70 years later. He was a giant. That is exactly what he was.

And I don't know that we fully appreciate giants until after we lose them. Ellington was still famous at the end of his life, certainly. He's important in the way that a great composer is important.

But he made records from the mid-twenties all the way down to the time of his death. And it is the most extraordinary, varied, imaginative, personal body of work ever left behind by a jazz musician. He is as great a composer in his way as any of our great classical composers as Aaron Copland was. Copland, who by the way, very much admired him. And he was a great personality.

Somebody that, whether you come away from reading about him, liking him or disliking him, it's more likely to be a combination of those things. You are, above all, fascinated by him. He is, aside from being a great artist, the most endlessly fascinating personality in the history of jazz. And a terrific job on the production and the storytelling and editing by Monty Montgomery. And a special thanks to the late Terry Teachout for sharing his time with us.

And we'll play this piece at least once or twice a year forever. Because it tells us so much about life, especially being an African-American musician, at the time that he was. And that mask he put on, I keep thinking about that masking.

And as Terry said, he concealed his pain with the mask of urbanity. And imagine playing in the Cotton Club as a black man, in a black neighborhood, and not allowing his wife to come in and sit and watch. And Terry Teachout was right. We can't appreciate giants until their past. And Duke Ellington was a giant. A complicated and brilliant giant.

The story of Duke Ellington, who died on this day in history in 1974, here on Our American Stories. From BBC Radio 4, Britain's biggest paranormal podcast is going on a road trip. I thought in that moment, oh my God, we've summoned something from this board. This is Uncanny USA. He says, somebody's in the house, and I screamed. Listen to Uncanny USA wherever you get your BBC podcasts, if you dare.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-24 04:27:04 / 2024-05-24 04:43:47 / 17

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