The 10 Best Duke Ellington Songs of All-Time

Duke Ellington

You can’t be a man of everything, but you can be a man of many things like Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington. Besides being one of the best jazz musicians of all time, Duke was a great pianist. Though regardless of having a musical talent from an early age, he wasn’t convinced that he would grow to be one of the great artists he turned out to be. Music was inevitably his calling.

He is a grand showman who combined sonic subtle movements, melodies, and rhythms to give his audience a great experience. If you’ve listened to this born 1899 artist’s songs, you’ll understand his phrase ‘beyond category.’ The complexity of his accessible jazz for sure will melt your heart. His last words before his demise in 1974 are a true mirror of his life and career. Duke lived music, and it’s in it that he will forever be remembered. Here are some of his greatest hits

10. I Got It Bad (That Ain’t Good)

Since its release in 1941,’ I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good’ continues to stay in power. It boasts a blend of jazz standard and pop genres. Duke was the song composer, and Paul Francis Webster, the song’s lyricist. The single also features Ivie Anderson, a jazz vocalist who is part of Ellington’s Orchestra crew. It charted on Billboard charts in 1941 & 1942, peaking at position 13. So if you’re searching for a lyric about unreciprocated love, this will make a great piece.

9. Black and Tan Fantasy

Released in 1922 is the ‘Black and Tan Fantasy.’ It is a great hit composed by Ellington with the help of Bubber Miley. The song was recorded with several labels, Victor, Brunswick, and Okeh. In 1929, it was featured in the Black and Tan film, a move that sparked its popularity to some extent. The song was inspired by Ellington’s interest to discover tones that can blend to bring out fresh and holistic effects in his jazz music.

8. Prelude to a Kiss

This 1938 single was penned by Ellington, Carl Anderson, and Cheryl Freeman. It’s among the greatest hits yet sophisticated. Some of his fellow jazz composers, like Gunther Schuller, feel like the melodies and chords in this song are aimed to gain more acceptance and popularity. Listen to this ballad, and you’ll appreciate the juicy notes and the unmatched melodies it brings out.

7. “I let a song go out of my heart” (1938)

Ellington composed the ‘I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart’ in 1938 with the help of John Redmond, Irving Mills, and Henry Nemo. The song received a wide public acceptance becoming a top hit in its year of release, peaking at position one and spending nineteen weeks on the charts. Other great artists have several renditions of this ballad, including Connee Boswell, Mildred Bailey, Benny Goodman, and Hot Lips Page.

6. Come Sunday

This track was part of Ellington’s first movement, a three-part suite entitled Black, Brown, and Beige. He wrote this piece in 1942 for his first concert that was later released in 1977, ‘The Carnegie Hall Concerts.’ But he revised this ballad in 1955, recording it as part of his 1958 album, also titled Black, Brown, and Beige. The re-recorded piece featured ‘The Queen of Gospel’ Mahalia Jackson, whose appearance considerably increased the song’s popularity.

5. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore

Initially, ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore’ was entitled ‘Never No Lament.’ This first rendition was released in 1940. The title was later changed to ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore’ and fitted new lyrics by Rob Russel in 1942. Russel’s contribution significantly contributed to this song’s success. It ranked no. 1 on the US R&B chart in 1943.

4. Mood Indigo

Here is one of the Duke Ellington songs that showcase his inventive and unconventional music style. It enjoys unusual timbre and a whole lot of inverted instrumentals. Mood Indigo was composed with the help of Barney Bigard and released in 1933 and has claimed its position to date. This song should be in your music collection if you love the Jazz standard genre. Ellington claims to have written it in 15 minutes, indicating that this creation came naturally.

3. Take the ‘A’ Train

‘Take the ‘A’ Train’ is the signature tune of Ellington and his Orchestra. After its release in 1941, the song charted on the pop chart, spending seven weeks where it peaked at number eleven. It became a favorite to many charting at position 19 two years later and spending a week on the chart. The song was penned by Billy Strayhorn, a pianist, who Ellington acknowledged as his knowledge and awareness acquaintance.

2. Caravan

First played in 1936 is the song ‘Caravan,’ one of Ellington’s greatest hits. Ellington wrote the song with the help of Juan Tizol, a jazz trombonist and composer. This exotic piece drew the attention of many musicians who covered it, including Gordon Jenkins, Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman. In addition, a film editor, Woody Allen, featured this ballad in the Alice and sweet and lowdown films.

1. It Don’t Mean a Thing – If It Ain’t Got That Swing)

Just sing, don’t mind what it means is the message on the ‘It don’t mean a thing’ lyric. Here, Ellington tells jazz fans that this kind of music is about the swing, the feel, and the attitude. Without the three, you won’t enjoy the melodies. The song was composed in 1931 and released in 1932 and has continued to fascinate many since. Sadly, Ellington’s trumpeter, Bubber Miley, didn’t live long to witness the reception of this ballad by their audience. He died the same year they released the song. Nevertheless, many artists have covered this song, including Ella Fitzgerald ad Louis Armstrong.


Duke Ellington has composed and released a number of great songs. He charted his first single when he was 27 and topped in charts for 20 years. No doubt, he had a beautiful tone and a great stage personality that is still admired today. So, if looking for an inspiring collection that’s moving, and employs a blend of great instrumentals and mellifluous tones, hark these 10 Duke Ellington songs. You can also listen to his other hits. His music has the power to melt the heart and bring tears to the eyes.

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