Ellington married his high school sweetheart, Edna Thompson (d.1967), on July 2, 1918, when he was 19. Shortly after their marriage, on March 11, 1919 Edna gave birth to their only son, Mercer Kennedy Ellington. Ellington was joined in New York City by his wife and son in the late twenties, but the couple soon permanently separated. Mercer played trumpet and piano, led his own band and worked as his father’s business manager.
Ellington died on May 24, 1974 of complications from lung cancer and pneumonia, a few weeks after his 75th birthday. His last words were, “Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered.”. At his funeral, Ella Fitzgerald summed up the occasion, “It’s a very sad day. A genius has passed.”.
Following Duke’s death, his son Mercer took over leadership of the orchestra continuing until his own death in 1996. This group continued to release albums long after Ellington’s death. Mercer’s children continue a connection with their grandfather’s work.
Take the “A” Train
I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)
Black and Tan Fantasy
Do Nothin’ till You Hear from Me
Creole Love Call