Happy Birthday to You! Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train”

you guys! do you know what today is? it’s the 70th birthday of duke ellington’s “take the A train”.  seventy!! it’s aged so well — doesn’t sound a day over twenty-five!

take the a train

i’m no big band expert, so when i was informed of this v. important date this morning, i figured it was worth looking into. well, all you jazzies out there probably already know this, but “take the A train” was the duke ellington orchestra’s signature tune. it’s written about new york city’s A subway service, which ran from brooklyn to harlem and northern manhattan.

as i listened to “take the A train” on my way to work, its’ jaunty tune carried me away from my crowded subway platform at yonge & bloor and i imagined myself instead riding the train in 1940s-era new york city with all the big band musicians of the day. ah, the romance! the excitement! the adventure! (actually, it was probably a bit of a slog, but whatever, this is my idealized version of it all)

anyway, the first commercial recording of “take the A train” was made on feb 15, 1941. so if you’re looking for a reason to celebrate today, raise your glass in a birthday toast to this seminal track!

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