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Music is My Mistress

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  393 ratings  ·  24 reviews
”Music is my mistress, and she plays second fiddle to no one.” This is the story of Duke Ellington—the story of Jazz itself. Told in his own way, in his own words, a symphony written by the King of Jazz. His story spans and defines a half-century of modern music.This man who created over 1500 compositions was as much at home in Harlem's Cotton Club in the ‘20s as he was at ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published February 21st 1976 by Da Capo Press (first published 1973)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  393 ratings  ·  24 reviews

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Jan 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
As a huge fan of the Ellington band, and Duke's + band's incredible accomplishments while on earth this was a very engaging read. Duke verbal style, flowing and distinguished as well as generous prose is fun to read. Especially his own rendition of his early years and describing life playing music in New York in the 20's and 30's is wetly appetizing and imaginative, even when he goes over the top in his storytelling. The book is packed with charming and insightful analogies to the muse, referenc ...more
Apr 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poiché vivo in una caverna sono quasi un eremita. Ma c'è una differenza, perché ho una donna. Le amanti vanno e vengono, ma la mia donna resta. E' bella e gentile. Mi serve con umiltà. E' dinamica. Ha grazia. Se la senti parlare non credi alle tue orecchie. Ha diecimila anni ma è moderna come il domani, una donna nuova ogni giorno ed eterna come il tempo. Vivere con lei è un labirinto di ramificazioni. Aspetto trepidante ogni suo gesto.
La musica è la mia signora e non fa da secondo violino a nes
Feb 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2010, nonfiction
It's rare to find a memoir that exudes such ebullience. Even as you disagree with an opinion or acknowledge that there are obviously parts of the story not being told, the sheer joy and curiosity expressed is infectious. One of my favorite quotations from the Q&A epilogue: "Q: Based on your observations, what do you believe will lead to the downfall of mankind? A: A combination of complacency and underestimation." ...more
Asails F
Mar 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: personal, nonfiction
Used to love watching Duke and others in the morning in between the cartoons playing their songs.

I remember Duke telling the story of how the Song Take the A train was made. And then later hearing the Billy Strayhorn version. Their very close relationship was even more amazing and helped make music history.

Read this book.
Oct 22, 2009 rated it liked it
I was six years old the first time I ever touched a piano. Being the stereotypical Korean parents that they were, my parents insisted on my taking piano lessons before my feet could even touch the pedals.

Thus began my tempestuous relationship with classical music – I loved to listen to it and hated playing it. I went from being a mediocre pianist to a downright awful violinist. I certainly never blossomed into the prodigy that my parents dreamed of bragging to their friends about.

But I’ll always
Oct 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
this book started out a teeny bit rough for me. great musicians don't always forge the best literary voices. duke's voice seemed overly eager to entertain, and push the razzle dazzle...but as the story continued, he shed his dancin' shoes and got down to the business of telling the story of how it all happened...the amazing journey of one of the longest standing bands in the history of american music. after a rough start, this book was intensely satisfying. ...more
Josh  Giunta
Dec 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Duke could be the first person to write an autobiography who named each chapter after someone else and wrote more about about his peers & colleagues than of himself.

Favorite quote =
Q: 'What is your favorite composition you have written?"

Ellington: "The one I'm going to write tomorrow."
Winter Sophia Rose
Sep 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, Compelling & Insightful! I Loved It!
Dec 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful Biography from the Grand Master of Jazz. Best Bio or Auto-Bio I've ever read. ...more
Robert S
Jul 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: music, nonfiction
Duke Ellington was more than just a jazz musician, he was a musical treasure that provided joy to millions through the wonderful music he created. Even today, his music continues to inspire and be enjoyed by people from all over the globe. Jazz is just one of those universal languages that transcends any borders or barriers.

Its an unfortunate reality of the jazz genre in particular that many of its legends died young, leaving a lack of written account in their own words about their fascinating l
Sep 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in greatness of soul
In addition to being high up in the pantheon of those who have made me Proud to be an American, Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was one beautiful cat. The problem with his autobiography? Basically, it's 480 or so pages (copiously illustrated, so really about 410 pages) of Duke waxing rhapsodic about how great everybody and everything is. With absolutely no discernable narrative structure. Still, some wonderful bits throughout, so I'll probably keep it in my bedside bookcase and dip back into it ...more
david f
Aug 20, 2008 is currently reading it
A jazzy friend of mine recommended Duke Ellington's music to me and gave me this book. I began reading it, then was distracted for a while; I haven't yet picked it back up. Ellington knew his stuff, though, and the bits that I have read are down-to-earth and very personable. He might as well be sitting across from you at a coffee shop and telling you the stories himself. Though he rambles often, Ellington has moments where his odd quotes jump right off the page. ...more
Marc Davis
Aug 04, 2012 rated it liked it
I love Duke Ellington, but not this book. His music is clever and innovative and emotional. The book is just one big smiley face. That was Duke's personality. Couldn't say a bad word about anyone. But the result is all the good words about literally everybody and everything that ever happened to him are just not believable. Some good anecdotes, a few interesting mini-profiles, but mostly just bland. Exactly the opposite of his music. ...more
Eric Cecil
Feb 03, 2016 rated it liked it
I swear that at least a quarter of this book was about food and Duke's penchant for doggie bags -- that's the kinda autobio you're in for here. Soft, fluffy, self-censored, overly diplomatic, all comers praised... Still, his personality shines through, and there are some good stories and anecdotes in the mix. Enjoyed this far more than I should have. ...more
Laurel Scott
Apr 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music, biography
Duke Ellington's autobiography is a must-read for his fans. His writing is as tasty as his compositions. His descriptions of the musicians, various other people in his life, his spiritual inspirations, and his tours are wonderful. The book also has an extensive discography and other reference material. ...more
Nov 01, 2008 rated it liked it
I read this back in 8th grade and loved it. I don't remember too much about the specifics except for one passage where Duke recounts how he managed to lose something like 50 pounds. He claimed that his diet consisted of a rare steak for breakfast along with black coffee. That was all he ate each day. ...more
Emerson Cardenas
Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful dignity
Bjm Index
Jul 12, 2012 added it
Shelves: priority
Cheryl McEnaney
Mar 29, 2013 rated it liked it
A quick read, and a really interesting one.
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: music
Too much about his playing dates and not
enough about his life. To me it was
Carlo Franzblau
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Peerless composer and performer. Disapointing writer.
- -
Sep 16, 2020 rated it liked it
A collage autobiography. Short essays, 2-5 paragraph reflections on everyone he met, worked with, admired or enjoyed. Travel diaries from the later international tours. Although the bios of other musicians are frequently fascinating, the travel diaries drag and suffer hugely from being lists of facts rather than genuine anecdotes. A random 4 page history of jazz starts well before descending into a long list of names of musicians. Much of value, but far too long.
Ali Miremadi
Jan 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
An oddly assembly of thoughts, memoirs, character analysis, reflections and occasional poetry. Gracious and generous throughout. The highlights for me are around the Duke’s growth as a teenage stride pianist in Washington, and the highlight of cutting his James P Thomson at a gig.
Scott Stallings
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Dec 09, 2012
Steve Leach
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Apr 29, 2010
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Apr 23, 2019
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