In celebration of Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, (1899-1974)
Sundown, breakfast, do the show,
do all the calls for now, somehow
you know youâ€™ll never make
things right, so finish the chart
and hope your ink dries thrice
before the band gets up on it, at it.
Who are you that you came to lead
this existence, conducting orchestras
in an orchid life far more tulip
than turnip, Mr. Franz Liszt,
you of a century so horrific even
its demons still run for cover?
Truly you did love us madly,
blowing continuous kisses in song
form, something for every voice
youâ€™ve chosen and picked clean
for inspiration, ideas that flow
as bluely as history unredacted.
In mind youâ€™ve acted it all out,
all of it, leaving just enough room
for one stray horn to wander in and
overwhelm the world you staged.
Then, after the program, the signings,
the chit-chat, slow dinner, wee hours,
youâ€™re back at the keyboard, fast
at home, writing and writing and
writing and writing (playing and playing
and listening and listening) until
long songs float out of your heart.
You, who hired an iron-private train
to haul the band from South to North and
back again, you always knew the score.
– Al Young
Â© 2013 by Al Young
The Duke Ellington Orchestra, circa 1939