by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Not John Wayne, but the great American composer Duke Ellington. Sure he was liberal, and he hung out with some wacky Communists and fellow travelers in his day, but an Ellington profile from Terry Teachout in the latest Commentary magazine tells us the Duke was “both a lifelong Republican and a passionate anti-Communist.”
“You know why he was anti-Communist?” Mercer Ellington later told an interviewer. “Because he was so religious, and anything that downed religion had to be wrong. Aside from that, he liked the idea of one day becoming rich.”
On top of all that, Ellington believed that jazz and freedom were consubstantial, so much so that he recorded public-service announcements for Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, which beamed his music via shortwave to Communist countries where it was a crime to listen to jazz: “When people behind the Iron Curtain tune to Radio Free Europe for a jazz program, they are getting two things at once: the music they want to hear and a little exercise in individual freedom.”
And who wouldn’t want the freedom to hear a classic performance like the “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue”?