Beautiful New York

A Celebration of the City

The Top 100 Greatest New Yorkers — #18

Duke Ellington (1899 – 1974)


The advent of jazz in the early days of the Harlem Renaissance is almost synonymous with the rising star of the legendary composer, pianist, and bandleader, Duke Ellington. Leader of the house band at the Cotton Club during the height of the Renaissance, Ellington became famous for his “swing” style (a word he popularized in musical terms). His orchestra’s signature tune became Take the A Train by his longtime friend and writing partner Billy Strayhorn. A staple of Harlem society, Ellington lived by the A train as well, for a time on 157th Street and for a time on 106th. He also performed at the Hotel Pennsylvania’s integrated Café Rouge Ballroom and, in 1943, launched a series of annual concerts at Carnegie Hall. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery across the lane from Miles Davis.



  1. I play his & Billy’s Take the A Train everytime I’m on the NY Water Taxi. It is perfect tune for our City’s skyline when one is bobbing along in the Hudson.

  2. Judy Baker

    Where the n 106th street? I lived on 106th Street. Were we neighbors?

  3. Duke Ellington Circle and the monument by the sculptor, the late Robert Graham are at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue are there thanks to the hard work of another New York musical legend, the late, great Bobby Short. Bobby negotitiated with the city bureaucracy to get Frawley Circle renamed to honor Edward Kennedy Duke Ellington

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