Duke Ellington's Legacy

''These Large Words Like 'Modern' Don't Mean Anything!''

Offstage, Duke was always courtly. But he was also a private man who rarely revealed his deepest feelings— anger, grief, exaltation.

Stanley Dance, who wrote some of the most penetrating profiles of Ellington and his musicians, told this story at Duke's funeral in 1974 at New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine:

"The first time he went to Buenos Aires, he had played his final concert and sat in the car outside the theater before going to the airport.

Duke Ellington: beyond category
Herman Leonard
Duke Ellington: beyond category

"People clutched at him through the opened windows. They were crying, thrusting gifts on him, gifts on which they hadn't even written their names. It was one of the few times I saw him moved to tears."

The day of the funeral, outside the cathedral, a black man, who had come down from Harlem, said: "I'm just here to bear witness. A man passed through and he was a giant."

But how many Americans know Duke Ellington's legacy? Do you?

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