Mildred Dixon

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Not to be confused with Mildred Dixon (actress) (1910–1985)

Mildred Dixon - Duke Ellington's wife
Mildred Dixon - second wife of Duke Ellington

Mildred Dixon was a dancer at the Cotton Club, manager and the second wife of Duke Ellington. She was born in Boston to parents from Africville, Nova Scotia, whom she would visit there with Ellington throughout her life.

In the mid 1920s, during the Harlem Renaissance, Dixon joined the Cotton Club and was renown along with Henri Wessell as the dance couple known as “Mildred and Henri”.[1] "Mildred and Henri" have been referred to as one of the "most exciting dance acts" in America.[2] She met Ellington on his first night playing at the Club on December 4, 1927. They worked together on numerous productions including: It’s the blackberries, Springbirds and "Pepper-pot Revue".[3]

In 1930, Dixon and Ellington moved in together at 381 Edgecombe Avenue, apt. 142 , Sugar Hill, Manhattan along with Ellington’s parents, son and daughter. While Dixon was Ellington’s companion (1928 – 1938), she is listed as manager of his company Tempo Music.[4] During this time Ellington wrote his most famous works: "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" (1932); "Mood Indigo" (1930), "Sophisticated Lady" (1933), "Solitude" (1934), and "In a Sentimental Mood" (1935).

When Dixon moved in with Ellington, his son Mercer Ellington was age10. Mercer later wrote in his biography that he considered Dixon his mother.[5] Mercer wrote: “She had innate class comparable to Ellington’s own.” [6]

Legacy[edit]

  • Mildred is the namesake of Ellington’s song "Sophisticated Lady" (1933)[7]
  • Joe Sealy’s Africville Stories in Music contains the song Duke’s in Town, which is about the visits Ellington and Dixon made to Africville
  • Dixon's cousin from Africville, Clara Carvery Adams is the namesake of Duke Ellington's song "Clara"[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tap Dancing America: A Cultural History By Constance Valis Hill, p. 91
  2. ^ Steppin' on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance By Jacqui Malone, p. 88
  3. ^ Duke Ellington and His World By A. H. Lawrence. ,p. 130
  4. ^ Duke Ellington's America By Harvey G. Cohen, p. 297
  5. ^ Mercer Ellington, Stanley Dance Duke Ellington in person: an intimate memoir
  6. ^ Duke Ellington By David Bradbury, p. 28
  7. ^ The Spirit of Africville p. 34
  8. ^ Bruce Nunn. Mr. Nova Scotia Know-it-All