Skip to main content

Untitled

June 2024
1min read


Duke Ellington, the essayist Albert Murray has written, may well be America’s most representative composer: “Not unlike Emerson, Melville, Whitman, Twain, Hemingway, and Faulkner in literature, he has converted more of the actual texture and vitality of American life into firstrate universally appealing music than anybody else.” A major figure for more than half a century, he wrote nearly two thousand pieces of music and, as S‚bat’s drawing suggests, made fuller use of the composer’s palette than any of his contemporaries. But he was also a deeply superstitious man and this rendering contains one uncharacteristic anomaly: No Ellington palette would ever have included the color green, because, he said, it reminded him of the grass growing on his mother’s grave.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.

Donate