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85 Duke Ellington Quotes To Get Your Groove On

Famous As: One of the Greatest Jazz Composers & Bandleader
Born On: April 29, 1899
Died On: May 24, 1974
Born In: Washington, D.C., United States
Died At Age: 75
Duke Ellington was an illustrious American pianist, bandleader of a jazz orchestra and composer whose career spanned approximately five decades. He is considered to be one of the most prolific performers and eminent jazz composers of his time. A number of his musical compositions on instruments served as benchmarks for budding artists and were later adapted in several songs. The excellence of this remarkable artist was exhibited in his classical compositions and film scores. He preferred to call his music ‘American Music’ instead of jazz. He gained popularity by the name ‘Duke’ which was given to him by his childhood friends as he was very well-behaved and gracious. Take a look at the famous quotes and sayings by Duke Ellington which have been extracted from the vast sea of his work, thoughts and life. Zoom through the quotes and thoughts by Duke Ellington that will make you tap your feet.
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The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.

The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.

Duke Ellington
I don't need time, I need a deadline.

I don't need time, I need a deadline.

Duke Ellington
There are 2 rules in life:
Number 1- Never quit
Number2- Never forget rule number 1.

There are 2 rules in life: Number 1- Never quit Number2- Never forget rule number 1.

Duke Ellington
A problem is a chance for you to do your best.

A problem is a chance for you to do your best.

Duke Ellington
I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues.

I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues.

Duke Ellington
Gray skies are just clouds passing over.

Gray skies are just clouds passing over.

Duke Ellington
Art is dangerous. It is one of the attractions: when it ceases to be dangerous you don't want it.

Art is dangerous. It is one of the attractions: when it ceases to be dangerous you don't want it.

Duke Ellington
It doesn't mean a thing if you ain't got that swing

It doesn't mean a thing if you ain't got that swing

Duke Ellington
There are two kinds of worries - those you can do something about and those you can't. Don't spend any time on the latter.

There are two kinds of worries - those you can do something about and those you can't. Don't spend any time on the latter.

Duke Ellington
My attitude is never to be satisfied, never enough, never.

My attitude is never to be satisfied, never enough, never.

Duke Ellington
By and large, jazz has always been like the kind of a man you wouldn't want your daughter to associate with.

By and large, jazz has always been like the kind of a man you wouldn't want your daughter to associate with.

Duke Ellington
Fate is being kind to me. Fate doesn't want me to be too famous too young.

Fate is being kind to me. Fate doesn't want me to be too famous too young.

Duke Ellington
Love is supreme and unconditional. Like is nice, but limited.

Love is supreme and unconditional. Like is nice, but limited.

Duke Ellington
Music is the tonal reflection of beauty.

Music is the tonal reflection of beauty.

Duke Ellington
Playing 'bop' is like playing Scrabble with all the vowels missing.

Playing 'bop' is like playing Scrabble with all the vowels missing.

Duke Ellington
You've got to find some way of saying it without saying it.

You've got to find some way of saying it without saying it.

Duke Ellington
If it sounds good, it IS good.

If it sounds good, it IS good.

Duke Ellington
Every man prays in his own language.

Every man prays in his own language.

Duke Ellington
It's like an act of murder; you play with intent to commit something.

It's like an act of murder; you play with intent to commit something.

Duke Ellington
If you have a great band with a mediocre drummer, you have a mediocre band. If you have a mediocre band with a great drummer, you have a great band!

If you have a great band with a mediocre drummer, you have a mediocre band. If you have a mediocre band with a great drummer, you have a great band!

Duke Ellington
New York is a place where the rich walk, the poor drive Cadillac's, and the beggars die of malnutrition with thousands of dollars hidden in their mattresses.

New York is a place where the rich walk, the poor drive Cadillac's, and the beggars die of malnutrition with thousands of dollars hidden in their mattresses.

Duke Ellington
Tomorrow is in the wings waiting for you to sound her entrance fanfare.

Tomorrow is in the wings waiting for you to sound her entrance fanfare.

Duke Ellington
Critics have their purposes, and they're supposed to do what they do, but sometimes they get a little carried away with what they think someone should have done, rather than concerning themselves with what they did.

Critics have their purposes, and they're supposed to do what they do, but sometimes they get a little carried away with what they think someone should have done, rather than concerning themselves with what they did.

Duke Ellington
People do not retire. They are retired by others.

People do not retire. They are retired by others.

Duke Ellington
Now I can say loudly and openly what I have been saying to myself on my knees.

Now I can say loudly and openly what I have been saying to myself on my knees.

Duke Ellington
Music is my mistress, and she plays second fiddle to no one.

Music is my mistress, and she plays second fiddle to no one.

Duke Ellington
A man is a god in ruins.

A man is a god in ruins.

Duke Ellington
There is hardly any money interest in art, and music will be there when money is gone.

There is hardly any money interest in art, and music will be there when money is gone.

Duke Ellington

The common root, of course, comes out of Africa. That's the pulse.The African pulse. It's all the way back from . . . the old slave chants and up through the blues, the jazz, and up through rock. And it's all got the African pulse.

Duke Ellington
Selfishness can be a virtue. Selfishness is essential to survival, and without survival we cannot protect those whom we love more than ourselves.

Selfishness can be a virtue. Selfishness is essential to survival, and without survival we cannot protect those whom we love more than ourselves.

Duke Ellington
What does music mean to you? What would you do without music?

What does music mean to you? What would you do without music?

Duke Ellington
Sing sweet, but put a little dirt in it.

Sing sweet, but put a little dirt in it.

Duke Ellington
Love is supreme and unconditional; like is nice but limited.

Love is supreme and unconditional; like is nice but limited.

Duke Ellington
Critics get a little carried away with what someone should have done, rather than what he did.

Critics get a little carried away with what someone should have done, rather than what he did.

Duke Ellington
I fluffed off the guy who kept requesting tunes all night, then found out he was the King's son.

I fluffed off the guy who kept requesting tunes all night, then found out he was the King's son.

Duke Ellington
There is no art when one does something without intention.

There is no art when one does something without intention.

Duke Ellington
I like any and all of my associations with music -writing, playing, and listening. We write and play from our perspective, and the audience listens from its perspective. If and when we agree, I am lucky.

I like any and all of my associations with music -writing, playing, and listening. We write and play from our perspective, and the audience listens from its perspective. If and when we agree, I am lucky.

Duke Ellington
Jazz is a good barometer of freedom.

Jazz is a good barometer of freedom.

Duke Ellington
Art is dangerous. It is one of the attractions: when it ceases to be dangerous, you don't want it.

Art is dangerous. It is one of the attractions: when it ceases to be dangerous, you don't want it.

Duke Ellington
A Satin Doll is a woman who is as pretty on the inside as she is on the outside.

A Satin Doll is a woman who is as pretty on the inside as she is on the outside.

Duke Ellington
My biggest kick in music -playing or writing- is when I have a problem. Without a problem to solve, how much interest do you take in anything?

My biggest kick in music -playing or writing- is when I have a problem. Without a problem to solve, how much interest do you take in anything?

Duke Ellington
It's like an act of murder-you play with intent to commit something.

It's like an act of murder-you play with intent to commit something.

Duke Ellington
I don't need time. What I need is a deadline!

I don't need time. What I need is a deadline!

Duke Ellington
The artist must say it without saying it.

The artist must say it without saying it.

Duke Ellington
Problems are chances for us to do our best.

Problems are chances for us to do our best.

Duke Ellington
Somehow I suspect that if Shakespeare were alive today, he might be a jazz fan himself.

Somehow I suspect that if Shakespeare were alive today, he might be a jazz fan himself.

Duke Ellington
If it sounds good and feels good, then it IS good!

If it sounds good and feels good, then it IS good!

Duke Ellington
Yet, every time God's children have thrown away fear in pursuit of honesty-trying to communicate themselves, understood or not, miracles have happened.

Yet, every time God's children have thrown away fear in pursuit of honesty-trying to communicate themselves, understood or not, miracles have happened.

Duke Ellington
There is no art without intention.

There is no art without intention.

Duke Ellington
A musical profit outweighs a financial loss.

A musical profit outweighs a financial loss.

Duke Ellington
I don’t believe in categories of any kind, and when you speak of problems between blacks and whites in the U.S.A. you are referring to categories again.

I don’t believe in categories of any kind, and when you speak of problems between blacks and whites in the U.S.A. you are referring to categories again.

Duke Ellington
Create, and be true to yourself, and depend only on your own good taste.

Create, and be true to yourself, and depend only on your own good taste.

Duke Ellington
Self-discipline, as a virtue or an acquired asset, can be invaluable to anyone.

Self-discipline, as a virtue or an acquired asset, can be invaluable to anyone.

Duke Ellington
New music? Hell, there's been no new music since Stravinsky.

New music? Hell, there's been no new music since Stravinsky.

Duke Ellington
Music is my mistress and she plays second fiddle to no one.

Music is my mistress and she plays second fiddle to no one.

Duke Ellington
It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.

Duke Ellington
Be a number one yourself. And not a number two somebody else.

Be a number one yourself. And not a number two somebody else.

Duke Ellington
Love is indescribable and unconditional. I could tell you a thousand things that it is not, but not one that it is. Either you have it or you haven't; there's no proof of it.

Love is indescribable and unconditional. I could tell you a thousand things that it is not, but not one that it is. Either you have it or you haven't; there's no proof of it.

Duke Ellington
There is nothing to keeping a band together. You simply have to have a gimmick, and the gimmick I use is to pay them money!

There is nothing to keeping a band together. You simply have to have a gimmick, and the gimmick I use is to pay them money!

Duke Ellington
Everybody in Canada seemed to listen to what they enjoyed, and nobody could tell them what to like, or what was the popular, or what was the In thing. Even today, it is very hard to brainwash a Canadian.

Everybody in Canada seemed to listen to what they enjoyed, and nobody could tell them what to like, or what was the popular, or what was the In thing. Even today, it is very hard to brainwash a Canadian.

Duke Ellington
I never had much interest in the piano until I realized that every time I played, a girl would appear on the piano bench to my left and another to my right.

I never had much interest in the piano until I realized that every time I played, a girl would appear on the piano bench to my left and another to my right.

Duke Ellington
You've got to find a way of saying it without saying it.

You've got to find a way of saying it without saying it.

Duke Ellington
Jazz today, as always in the past, is a matter of thoughtful creation, not mere unaided instinct.

Jazz today, as always in the past, is a matter of thoughtful creation, not mere unaided instinct.

Duke Ellington
Simplicity is a most complex form

Simplicity is a most complex form

Duke Ellington
The Europeans who went to Africa came back with “modern' art. What is more African than a Picasso?

The Europeans who went to Africa came back with “modern' art. What is more African than a Picasso?

Duke Ellington
A goal is a dream with a finish line.

A goal is a dream with a finish line.

Duke Ellington
Everyone prays in their own language, and there is no language that God does not understand.

Everyone prays in their own language, and there is no language that God does not understand.

Duke Ellington
You have to stop listening in categories. The music is either good or it's bad.

You have to stop listening in categories. The music is either good or it's bad.

Duke Ellington
The most important thing I look for in a musician is whether he knows how to listen.

The most important thing I look for in a musician is whether he knows how to listen.

Duke Ellington
Music, of course, is what I hear and something that I more or less live by. It's not an occupation or profession, it's a compulsion.

Music, of course, is what I hear and something that I more or less live by. It's not an occupation or profession, it's a compulsion.

Duke Ellington
There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind.

There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind.

Duke Ellington
There are 2 rules in life:
Number 1- Never quit
Number2- Never forget rule number 1.

There are 2 rules in life: Number 1- Never quit Number2- Never forget rule number 1.

Duke Ellington
On becoming more acquainted with the word of the Bible, I began to understand so much more of what I had been taught, and of what I had learned about life and about the people in mine.

On becoming more acquainted with the word of the Bible, I began to understand so much more of what I had been taught, and of what I had learned about life and about the people in mine.

Duke Ellington
You can’t write music right unless you know how the man that’ll play it plays poker.

You can’t write music right unless you know how the man that’ll play it plays poker.

Duke Ellington

Put it this way: Jazz is a good barometer of freedom... In its beginnings, the United States of America spawned certain ideals of freedom and independence through which, eventually, jazz was evolved, and the music is so free that many people say it is the only unhampered, unhindered expression of complete freedom yet produced in this country.

Duke Ellington

How can anyone expect to be understood unless he presents his thoughts with complete honesty? This situation is unfair because it asks too much of the world. In effect, we say, ' I don't dare show you what I am because I don't trust you for a minute but please love me anyway because I so need you to. And, of course, if you don't love me anyway, you're a dirty dog, just as I suspected, so I was right in the first place.' Yet, every time God's children have thrown away fear in pursuit of honesty-trying to communicate themselves, understood or not, miracles have happened.

Duke Ellington

My mother told me I was blessed, and I have always taken her word for it. Being born of - or reincarnated from - royalty is nothing Like being blessed. Royalty is inherited from another human being; blessedness comes from God.

Duke Ellington

It is becoming increasingly difficult to decide where jazz starts or where it stops, where Tin Pan Alley begins and jazz ends, or even where the borderline lies between between classical music and jazz. I feel there is no boundary line

Duke Ellington

If anybody was Mr. Jazz it was Louis Armstrong. He was the epitome of jazz and always will be. He is what I call an American standard, an American original. ... I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues. ... I don't need time, I need a deadline. ...There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind. ... Music is my mistress, and she plays second fiddle to no one.

Duke Ellington

The word [jazz] never lost its association with those New Orleans bordellos. In the 1920s I used to try to convince Fletcher Henderson that we ought to call what we were doing 'Negro music'. But it's too late for that now.

Duke Ellington

In music, as you develop a theme or musical idea, there are many points at which directions must be decided, and at any time I was in the throes of debate with myself, harmonically or melodically, I would turn to Billy Strayhorn. We would talk, and then the whole world would come into focus. The steady hand of his good judgment pointed to the clear way that was fitting for us. He was not, as he was often referred to by many, my alter ego. Billy Strayhorn was my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brainwaves in his head, and his in mine.

Duke Ellington

San Francisco is one of the great cultural plateaus of the world - one of the really urbane communities in the United States - one of the truly cosmopolitan places and for many, many years, it always has had a warm welcome for human beings from all over the world

Duke Ellington

Dancing is very important to people who play music with a beat. I think that people who don't dance, or who never did dance, don't really understand the beat... I know musicians who don't and never did dance, and they have difficulty communicating.

Duke Ellington

I began by tinkering around with some old tunes I knew. Then, just to try something different, I set to putting some music to the rhythm that I used in jerking ice-cream sodas at the Poodle Dog. I fooled around with the tune more and more until at last, lo and behold, I had completed my first piece of finished music.

Duke Ellington

There are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind ... the only yardstick by which the result should be judged is simply that of how it sounds. If it sounds good it's successful; if it doesn't it has failed.

Duke Ellington