Satin Doll

Music: Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn; Lyrics: Johnny Mercer

FZ album(s) in which song has appeared

Tour(s) on which song is known to have been performed (main source: FZShows, v. 7.1)


Marc De Bruyn (, September 6, 2003

"Satin Doll" was written by Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (1899-1974) for and with pianist William Thomas "Billy" Strayhorn (1915-1967) in 1967; the lyrics were written by Johnny Mercer (1909-1976).

Ellington was recognized in his lifetime as one of the greatest jazz composers and performers. A genius for instrumental combinations, improvisation, and jazz arranging brought the world the unique "Ellington" sound that found consummate expression in works like "Mood Indigo", "Sophisticated Lady", and the symphonic suites "Black, Brown, and "Beige" (which he subtitled "a Tone Parallel to the History of the Negro in America") and "Harlem" ("a Tone Parallel to Harlem").

"Duke Ellington's pre-eminence in jazz is not only because of the very high aesthetic standard of his output, not simply due to his remarkable abilities as a pianist, composer and bandleader, but also to the fact that he has extended the boundaries of jazz more than any other musician, without abandoning the true essence of the music."—from G. Eddie Lambert's book "Duke Ellington" (1998, Scarecrow Press).

Ellington would be among the first to focus on musical form and composition in jazz using ternary forms and "call-and-response" techniques in works like "Concerto for Cootie" (known in its familiar vocal version as "Do Nothin' till You Hear from Me") and "Cotton Tail" and classic symphonic devices in his orchestral suites. In this respect, he would influence the likes of Monk, Mingus, and Evans.

If you are familiar with the jazz composition, "Take the A Train", then you know something about not only Duke Ellington, but also Billy "Sweet Pea" Strayhorn, its composer (Strayhorn joined Ellington's band in 1939, at the age of twenty-two). Strayhorn died of cancer; Duke Ellington's response to his death was to compose what the critics cite as one of his greatest works, a collection titled "And His Mother Called Him Bill".

Johnny Mercer, regarded as one of America's greatest songwriters (in the early 1940s, he was one of the co-founders of Capitol Records—he has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1628 Vine Street, right outside the Capitol Records building), was often asked to write lyrics to already popular songs; the lyrics to "Midnight Sun" and "Satin Doll" (music by Duke Ellington) were all written after the songs were already hits. Mercer, together with Henry Mancini, wrote the Academy Award-winning "Moon River" for "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961). He also wrote "Jeepers Creepers" (1938), together with Harry Warren (born Salvatore Guaragna, 1893-1981, see: "Chattanooga Choo Choo"). Some of his other songs (co-written with Harold Arlen): "Blues In The Night" (1941), "That Old Black Magic" (1942), "One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)" (1943), and "Come Rain Or Come Shine" (1946).

"Cigarette nolder—wich wigs me / over her shoulder—she digs me / out cattin'—that satin doll / Baby shall we go—out skippin' / careful amigo—you're flippin' / speaks latin—that satin doll / She's nobody's fool so I'm playing it cool as can be / I'll give it a whirl but I ain't for no girl catching me / Telephone numbers—well you know / doing my rhumbas—with uno / and that'n my satin doll"


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