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Give Duke Ellington the Pulitzer Prize He Was Denied in 1965


Picture by Louis Panassié, by way of Wikimedia Commons

Duke Ellington has been commemorated in a wide range of types: statues, murals, faculties, and even United States commemorative stamps and cash. In his lifetime he obtained a star on the Hollywood Stroll of Fame, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a Légion d’honneur. His posthumous honors even embody a Particular Pulitzer Prize awarded in 1999, the centennial 12 months of his delivery. 34 years earlier, in 1965, he’d been named for–however in the end denied–a daily Pulitzer Prize for Music, a call his appreciators are actually making an attempt to reverse.

“The jury that judged the entrants that 12 months determined to do one thing completely different,” writes jazz critic Ted Gioia. “They beneficial giving the consideration to Duke Ellington for the ‘vitality and originality of his complete productiveness’ over the course of greater than forty years.” This broke from custom in that the Pulitzer Prize for Music often honors a single work: in 1945 it went to Aaron Copland for his ballet Appalachian Spring; in 1958 it went to Samuel Barber for his opera Vanessa; in 1960 it went to Elliott Carter for his Second String Quartet.

Alas, “the Pulitzer Board refused to just accept the choice of the jury, and determined it will be higher to provide out no award, slightly than honor Duke Ellington. Two members of the three-person judging panel, Winthrop Sargeant and Robert Eyer, resigned within the aftermath.” Ellington, for his half, reacted to this unlucky growth with attribute equanimity: “Destiny is being type to me,” he informed the press. “Destiny doesn’t need me to be well-known too younger” — to which Gioia provides that “he was 66 years outdated on the time, and within the last decade of his life.”

In an effort to retroactively award Ellington his Pulitzer Prize for Music, Gioia has has launched an internet petition. If you happen to signal it, you’ll be a part of the likes of John Adams, Michael Dirda, Steve Reich, and Gene Weingarten, all Pulitzer winners themselves, in addition to different luminaries and lovers who’ve voiced their help — practically 9,000 of them as of this writing. “We assume that Pulitzers are awarded to work that qualifies as for the ages, that pushes the envelope, that implies not simply cleverness however genius,” writes the New York Occasions‘ John McWhorter. “There might be little question that Ellington’s corpus matches that definition.”

Reversing the committee resolution of 1965, Gioia writes, would improve “the status and legitimacy of the Pulitzer — and each award wants that these days, when many have grown skeptical about our main prizes.” What’s extra, “it’s the right factor for the music — as a result of each time real artistry is acknowledged it units an instance for the current technology, and lays a basis for the longer term.” In latest many years, the aesthetic vary of Pulitzer-honored music has widened significantly: McWhorter factors for instance to 2018’s winner, Kendrick Lamar’s album Rattling. It might be that, so far as Ellington is worried, it’s taken the remainder of us 57 years to meet up with him. Signal the petition right here.

Associated content material:

Such Candy Thunder: Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn’s Musical Tribute to Shakespeare (1957)

Duke Ellington’s Symphony in Black, Starring a 19-Yr-old Billie Vacation in Her First Filmed Efficiency

Deconstructing Stevie Marvel’s Ode to Jazz and His Hero Duke Ellington: A Nice Breakdown of “Sir Duke”

How Previous Faculty Information Had been Made, From Begin to End: A 1937 Video That includes Duke Ellington

Based mostly in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His tasks embody the Substack publication Books on Cities, the e-book The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by means of Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The Metropolis in Cinema. Comply with him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Fb, or on Instagram.



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