Leisure, Love, and Dreams in Depression America: Duke Ellington and Tin Pan Alley Song

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2013


Duke Ellington, Tin Pan Alley, Popular Song, 1930s

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



Scholars of the music of Duke Ellington and his orchestra have expended their most serious analytical effort on a relatively narrow body of musical works. Important studies by André Hodeir, Brian Preistley, Gunther Schuller, Mark Tucker, John Howland, and David Schiff have focused on Ellington's original compositions, from the small three-minute works designed to fill a side of a 78-rpm record, to the much longer compositions, such as 1943's Black, Brown and Beige or 1966's The Far East Suite.1 Original works were essential to the band's identity and commercial viability, and Ellington fed his orchestra an impressive stream of new music, much more so than most popular jazz dance orchestras. Still, a working band had to have a large book to cope with the enormous variety of performing situations they faced—dance halls, theater stages, nightclub shows, radio broadcasts. To do this, Ellington relied on what most commercial bands of the era relied on: adaptations and arrangements of new, commercially produced Tin Pan Alley songs.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

The Musical Quarterly, v. 96, issues 3-4, p. 339-368

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