“I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good)” was written by Duke Ellington (1899-1974). Ellington was once of the most prolific composers and performers of the 20th century.
Ellington’s full name was Edward Kennedy Ellington. He was born in Washington, D.C. A boyhood friend gave him the nickname “Duke” because of his regal air. He started playing piano when he was seven years old, and he formed his first group, The Duke’s Serenaders, in 1917. He moved to New York City in 1923, where he and his group became the house band at a popular nightclub in Harlem called the Cotton Club.
Ellington performed until his death in 1974. He gave more than 20,000 performances worldwide and he wrote hundreds of songs. He brought a sophistication to jazz and his work synthesized many styles of music, including ragtime, Tin Pan Alley, and blues. He wrote for many settings, from nightclubs and revues to movies and cathedrals.
“I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good)” was written in 1941. Ellington wrote the music, and the lyrics were written by music by Paul Francis Webster.
2. Play other versions of this song. (Some of the performers who have performed it are Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, Carly Simon, Nina Simone, The Stylistics, Frank Sinatra, Joe Jackson, and Ella Fitzgerald. You can find clips on YouTube and a selection of covers at www.whosampled.com.) Compare and contrast the different versions. What kind of difference does it make when there are vocals? When the vocalist is male versus female? (For another instrumental version to compare to Pickens’, listen to Keith Jarrett’s version.)
3. Ellington wrote the music for this song. The song had lyrics written by music by Paul Francis Webster. Discuss how a composer and lyricist might work together and explore the work of other songwriting teams such as George and Ira Gershwin; Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein; and Elton John and Bernie Taupin. If you have access to electronic or digital keyboards, have students work in pairs to create short melodies with lyrics.
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