Duke : a life of Duke Ellington

by Terry Teachout

Hardcover, 2013




New York : Gotham Books, 2013.


An account of the public and private lives of the eminent jazz artist covers his slave heritage, the musical talent that inspired some 1,700 compositions, and his relationships with numerous lovers.

User reviews

LibraryThing member mimal
bookshelves: published-2013, spring-2014, biography, music, nonfiction, north-americas, fraudio, palate-cleanser, history, under-100-ratings
Read from February 23 to March 06, 2014

Read by Peter Francis James
Unabridged edition 2013 | 17 hours and 43 minutes

A major new biography of Duke Ellington from the acclaimed author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong.

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Description: Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth century - and an impenetrably enigmatic personality whom no one, not even his closest friends, claimed to understand. The grandson of a slave, he dropped out of high school to become one of the world's most famous musicians, a showman of incomparable suavity who was as comfortable in Carnegie Hall as in the nightclubs where he honed his style. He wrote some fifteen hundred compositions, many of which, like "Mood Indigo" and "Sophisticated Lady," remain beloved standards, and he sought inspiration in an endless string of transient lovers, concealing his inner self behind a smiling mask of flowery language and ironic charm. As the biographer of Louis Armstrong, Terry Teachout is uniquely qualified to tell the story of the public and private lives of Duke Ellington. Duke peels away countless layers of Ellington's evasion and public deception to tell the unvarnished truth about the creative genius who inspired Miles Davis to say, "All the musicians should get together one certain day and get down on their knees and thank Duke."

Does anyone else remember the Jazz Club se(le)ctions within the Fast Show? You do? NICE!

Black, Brown and Beige - D.Ellington.

Ellington doesn't seem to have been a very nice man, but that said, why should we worry over whether he was affable or not. We do not have to personally like our authors, artists or peers, instead we judge the work that they produce.

Teachout is masterful here, showcasing the exciting history of black music in America. Well worth the read, or in my case, the listen.

50 Ellington songs


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LibraryThing member namfos
I really enjoyed this terrific biography of Duke. Teachout has done an excellent job of synthesizing what's known about Ellington's life into a very compelling story. The last paragraph of the book is apt: "Everyone knows him—yet no one knows him. That was the way he wanted it. 'To the very end, he made sure he left nothing behind that would let people know the real Duke Ellington,' Norman Granz said. But he had: He left behind his music, the only mistress to whom he told everything and was always true."… (more)
LibraryThing member BooksForDinner
I appreciate Teachout and how much work went into this, but just liked it, didn't love it. Obviously a tremendous work of scholarship however. I don't think that Ellington comes off in a particularly good light, in fact he seems like not too great of a guy in many ways. That of course doesn't make this book bad or good, just an observation. Some of the writing style I didn't care for that much, like making (very) long lists of the places he toured in passages or that type of thing. Also, while the reader of this book did an excellent job with this narration, it was produced poorly. Again and again there were obvious edits, including many instances where the narrator obviously went back into the studio to rerecord passages. These re-recorded passages too often didn't match up with the main narration in tone/, volume, excitement, you name it.… (more)



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