"Duke" Ellington, an African-American composer, pianist, and leader of a jazz orchestra, was born on April 29, 1899, in Washington, D.C. His parents James Edward and Daisy Ellington were both pianists. By the age of seven, he was taking piano lessons. Ellington was an important figure during the Harlem Renaissance and was recognized as one of the greatest jazz composers of all time.
His career spanned over 50 years; he gave over 20,000 performances throughout the world. He composed over 3,000 songs and somewhere in the early 1940s, he began a nearly 30-year collaboration with composer-arranger-pianist Billy Strayhorn. Ellington earned 14 Grammy awards from 1959 to 2000, three of which were posthumous.
Ellington was married to Edna Thompson and they had a son together. On May 24, 1974, at the age of 75, Ellington died in New York City. His funeral was held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in West Harlem and attended by over 12,000 people. Ella Fitzgerald spoke for many when she said, "It's a very sad day... A genius has passed."