Billy Strayhorn and William “Duke” Ellington got the writing credit on this one. When it became a hit as an instrumental, Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics, though it’s unclear if perhaps Strayhorn alone wrote it. Some time after its instrumental version became a hit, Johnny Mercer wrote lyrics. Legend Ella Fitzgerald, who had a relatively pop sound, would go on to record it herself — which is perhaps strange due to its unconventional chord progression. See if you can pick out the progression, also known as the Montgomery-Ward bridge: Vm7, I7, IV, IV, VIm7, II7, IIm7, V7.
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an American composer, pianist and bandleader of jazz orchestras. He led his orchestra from 1923 until his death, his career spanning over 50 years.
Born in Washington, D.C., Ellington was based in New York City from the mid-1920s onward, and gained a national profile through his orchestra’s appearances at the Cotton Club in Harlem. In the 1930s, his orchestra toured in Europe. Though widely considered to have been a pivotal figure in the history of jazz, Ellington embraced the phrase “beyond category” as a liberating principle, and referred to his music as part of the more general category of American Music, rather than to a musical genre such as jazz.
After 1941, Ellington collaborated with composer-arranger-pianist Billy Strayhorn, whom he called his writing and arranging companion. With Strayhorn, he composed many extended compositions, or suites, as well as additional short pieces.
A jazz standard was born.