Duke Ellington was one of the most important creative forces in the music of the twentieth century. His influence on classical music, popular music, and, of course, jazz, simply cannot be overstated. He was born Edward Kennedy Ellington in Washington, D.C. on April 29, 1899, into a middle class black family. His father was a butler in a wealthy household, and he is said to have sometimes worked at White House affairs. Ellington originally had ambitions of becoming a painter, but he became interested in music in his early teens and learned James P. Johnson's "Carolina Shout" from a piano roll. Soon he was part of a small jazz band in Washington. Ellington was primarily an instrumental composer, and most of his songs were originally written as instrumental pieces, with words tacked on at a later date. Nevertheless, many of them remain remarkable as songs. Among his best-known songs are "Sophisticated Lady", "I Didn't Know About You" and "Satin Doll" (1958). Duke Ellington died in New York on May 24, 1974.