Song of the Day: Duke Ellington Orchestra, “Take the ‘A’ Train”

“Take the ‘A’ Train” is one of the Duke Ellington Orchestra’s signature tunes and one of Billy Strayhorn’s most famous compositions. It de facto replaced the band’s previous signature tune, “Sepia Panorama,” which Ellington had been prevented from using because of a 1940 dispute between the bandleader and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Strayhorn was one of Ellington’s closest collaborators and this song is directly linked to the origins of their creative partnership. In 1939, Ellington sent for him and instructed him to take the A subway service line upon his arrival to New York City from Pittsburgh. At the time, the line ran through New York City, going from Eastern Brooklyn into Harlem and Manhattan.

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