Duke Ellington, George Clinton, and Tupac Shakur are the famous American composers and singers of different decades. These artists were famous for their best-selling music and are loved by millions of fans around the world.
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was born on April 29, 1899, in the West End neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Both of his parents were pianists; they played parlor songs and operatic arias. Ellington was interested in playing piano since his childhood. He started his piano classes at the age of seven and wrote his 1st composition “Soda Fountain Rag” in 1914 when he was working as a soda jerk at the Poodle Dog Cafe. At the age of fourteen, he visited the poolroom and heard the play of pianist. When he listened to the pianist, his love for the music ignited and he began to take music seriously. Ellington started to listen, watch and imitate the pianists from Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Atlantic City. With the help of professional pianists, he learned to read music. After a period of time, he started to work as a freelance sign-painter from 1917. In order to change his life he moved out of his house and started to play the piano at different events. In late 1917 he formed his first group “The Duke’s Serenaders”. After forming his group he played piano in Washington, D.C., and Virginia. In a few years, he became a famous pianist and a pivotal figure of Jazz music. Duke Ellington had an independent mind. And embraced himself by the phrase “beyond category”. His music is referred to as the category of “American Music”. Ellington was based in New York City from the mid-1920s and got a national profile through his orchestra’s appearance in the Cotton Club. He made a tour to Europe during the 1930s, which made his group more popular all over the world. Some of the members of Ellington’s orchestra, such as saxophonist Johnny Hodges are still famous for their great performance. Many members of the orchestra group remained together for several decades. Ellington often composed his music in a three-minute 78 rpm record format, which is famous for style and individuality. He composed elegant music for famous singers and bands, such as “Concerto for Cootie”, trumpeter, “jeep’s Blues” Hodges, etc.
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Ellington worked with various famous artists in different periods of his career. His thousands of compositions became famous as the largest personal jazz legacy. Also, he recorded various music and songs written by his bandsmen, for instance, Juan Tizol’s “Perdido” and “Caravan”, which initiated Spanish tinge to big-band jazz. After 1941, he joined his works with composer-pianist-arranger Billy Stryhorn, whom he called his writing and arranging a partner. He composed many extended compositions with Strayhorn. During his working life, Ellington recorded for most of the American companies and appeared in several films and composed stage musicals.
In the modern world, Ellington is considered as the pillar of Jazz music and orchestra. His reputation increased after his death and he was awarded Pulitzer Prize in 1999. Ellington composed music till the very last days of his life. Notwithstanding he is considered as the giant among the giants of jazz music (“Duke Ellington Biography”).
George Clinton is an eminent American artist. He is a famous singer, music producer, songwriter and bandleader and the principal architect of P-Funk. Clinton was the leader of the bands Funkadelic and Parliament. He started his solo career in 1981 and soon recognized as the foremost innovator of funk music with Sly Stone and James Brown.
Clinton was born on July 22, 1941, in Kannapolis, North Carolina and grew up in New Jersey. Currently, he is living in Tallahssee. He formed his doo-wop group when he was a teenager. During the 1960s he was a staff songwriter for Motown. In the initial stages, he faced different commercial failures. However, his band achieved success in the 70s by the name of Funkadellic and Parliament. These two bands combined the music of Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, and Cream by exploring different technology, sounds, and lyricism. Parliament-Funkadelic and Clinton diverse music during the 70s with more than 40 R&B hit singles and three platinum albums. After starting his solo career, he gave serious efforts to the music world. Also, he is famous for recording various albums of incredible artists including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bootsy Collins and others.
Clinton was one of the most famous artists of the 1980s. He recorded several nominal albums during that period including Loopzilla, Atomic Dog, R&B Skeletons in the Closet, Last Dance, and Nubian Nut, etc. His live album “Mothership Connection” is one of the remarkable works of the 1980s. In this period, Clinton’s career was marred by various legal problems due to the copyright issues and complex royalty, especially with Bridgeport Music. In 1985 he was recruited to sign the album “Freaky Styley” of “Red Hot Chili Peppers”. In the initial stage, the album was not a commercial success, but after a few years, 500,000 copies were sold.
In the early 1990s, he tried to develop his skills in a different way and began sampling his songs. Many rappers cited him as an influence. He is considered one of the most sampled musicians of the world. In 1994 he contributed various tracks on Primal Scream’s studio. In 1997 he appeared in Cartoon Network show “space Ghost Coast to Coast”. Clinton displayed his influence in rap and hip hop world. He worked with rapper Tupac Shakur in the famous song “Can’t C Me”. In 2003 he founded a record label “The C Kunspyruhzy”. He had a cameo appearance in the second season of the famous American serial “How I Met Your Mother.” He appeared on the Snoop Dogg’s “The Blue Carpet Treatment” album in 2007. He also judged the 5th Annual Independent Music Awards competition and was awarded himself with the Urban Icon Award in 2009. In the same year, he was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Currently, he is connected with various charities and development works of the United States and still is popular for his funk music (“Parliament-Funkadelic Biography”).
Tupac Shakur was one of the most famous rappers of The United States. He started his career as a backup dancer, roadie and MC for hip hop group. His stage name was 2Pac, though the performer was also briefly popular as Makaveli. Shakur sold old seventy-five million albums worldwide till 2010, which made him one of the best selling artists of the world. MTV has ranked him number two on the list of the greatest MCs of all time. One of his albums “All Eyez on Me” is the worldwide best seller of all time.
Shakur was born in 1971, in New York City. His parents were active members of the Black Panther Party, New York in the late 1960s and 1970s. Shakur spent his early years with people with criminal backgrounds. His family was also related to crimes. His godfather was convicted of murdering a school teacher and his stepfather, Mutulu was the most wanted man of FBI for four years.
At the age of twelve, Shakur performed in a play in Apollo Theater and became interested in stage shows. In high school, he studied acting, jazz, poetry, and ballet. He won many rap competitions at school and was considered as the best rapper in his school. He had a good sense of humor, the ability to mix with various crowds and superior rapping skills. His professional entertainment career started in the early 1990s when his song “Same song” was released. Later he released his first solo album, “2Pacalypse Now”. The album was highly criticized by different critics and it generated significant controversy.
Currently, Shakur is the inspiration source for various famous singers including Eminem, Nas, Talib Kweli, and The Game. His second album “Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.” was released in February 1993. The second album got more popularity than the first one. In the same year, he formed a group “Thug Life”. The group released their first album “Thug Life: Volume 1”, which became a great hit. The song “How Long Will They Mourn Me?” is the greatest hits from the album. In 1995 he released his album’s first single “Dear Mama” along with the track “Old School”. The album became the most successful single. His second single “So many Tears” released after a few months and had got the same attention from the audience as the previous one.
In 1996, the fourth studio album of 2Pac, “All Eyez on Me” was released and recognized as one of the crowning achievements of the rap music world. In his career, 2Pac was a vocal participant in “East Coast- West Coast hip hop rivalry”, where he became involved in conflicts with other rappers, record-label staff members and producers. On September 7, 1996, the rapper was killed in a gang-related shooting (Makaveli).
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Compare and Contrast
Duke Ellington, George Clinton, and Tupac Shakur are the famous artists of different decades. However, all of them are connected from a different point of view, for instance, all of them belong to the African-American ethnic background and they became famous for their unique kinds of music. All of them are famous for their songs, music, composition, production, and records.
However, these artists represent different fields of music with Duke Ellington performing with orchestra jazz, George Clinton performing funk music and Tupac Shakur being rap and hip-hop singer.
However, George Clinton and Tupac worked together on the song “Can’t C Me”, which proves that both artists had similar tastes of music. Both of the singers composed various songs, whose lyrics are quite similar by nature that describes the problems and obstacles of African-American society.
It is remarkable that George Clinton and Tupac started their careers as leaders or members of a band and then created their identity by recording their debut solo albums. Both of the artists have similar choices and considered the pivotal figures of the music world. The three artists made a great contribution to the general category of “American music”. For instance, Duke Ellington added higher values of jazz music through his works; George Clinton developed jazz music into another level and named it funk music. He inducted Rock Roll Hall of Fame, which was developed in future decades as blues and R&B music.
Yet, we can easily identify some differences between these artists. For instance, Ellington preferred to perform stage shows as a pianist and he did his job by performing orchestral jazz and swing, while Clinton preferred to develop his skills by following a completely new era of music, which he named as funk music, whereas, Shakur attracted his audience by developing rap and hip hop kind of music.
The outfits of the three artists vary accordingly. For instance, Duke Ellington mostly preferred to wear typical party wear costumes in his stage shows. Most of the time, he used to wear different suits in orchestra performance; Clinton liked to wear different colorful clothes of unique styles outlining his individuality, such as traditional African clothes. 2Pac used to wear a simple t-shirt and jeans in his concerts. His body was covered with tattoos, which demonstrated various pains of human life. Hence, the outfits of the three performers highlight different identities.
If we consider the early lives of George Clinton and Tupac, then we can notice some similarities about their lifestyles. Both of them were raised in a poor underdeveloped neighborhood, which made them more interested in their society. For instance, George Clinton worked in a barbershop and Tupac Shakur was brought up in a neighborhood where most of the people were convicted for serious crimes. Moreover, Duke Ellington had a different life in his early days comparing to George Clinton and Tupac, he was raised by parents who helped him a lot to develop his skills.
One of the notable similarities between Duke Ellington and Tupac Shakur is that both of them were quite interested in the piano. Although, Shakur was more famous as a rapper. He played piano during his high school days, similarly, Ellington also played piano since his high school life. The genuine interest in the development of modern music enabled these three performers to make a musical revolution in the world.