Edward Kennedy Ellington (better known as Duke) is a famous jazz pianist and composer. He was born on April 29, 1899 in Washington, D.C., and he began taking taking piano lessons at the age of seven. Despite that, he often found himself more interested in baseball. His first job, in fact, was selling peanuts at Washington Senators baseball games.
Ellington's first composition was written in 1914, entitled "Soda Fountain Rag." At the age of fourteen, he began sneaking into a venue known as Frank Holiday's Poolroom where he developed his love for the piano. At this point in his life, he finally began to take the instrument seriously.
Duke Ellington launched his musical career in 1917; he began by painting signs during the day and playing piano at night. Throughout his lifetime, Ellington composed over 3,000 songs. When asked what inspires him to write music, he replied, "My men and my race are the inspiration of my work. I try to catch the character and mood and feeling of my people."
On May 24, 1974, Ellington died of lung cancer and pneumonia. His last words were "Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered," and he is certainly right.