Written in 1927 by Duke in tribute to Florence Mills (who was one of the most famous Black Entertainers of her day) after she died tragically at the age of 32. It is said that over 10,000 mourners paid their respects to Florence at that funeral home as well as thousands attending her funeral. Among Florence’s fans was the Prince of Wales who attended her performance in Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds eleven times.

I wanted to provide some context about Florence Mills because far too often we don’t have the historical context to understand that this art that emanates from this group of people who were once held captive on these shores has influenced the world for not just decades, not just since the dawn of the video age, but you could argue that it goes back to the end of the Victorian Age. Why is this so important? Well because when you realize that you are not necessarily a pioneer, but part of a lineage, it may be a little easier for you to claim your crown.


Florence Mills

This is truly one of the most beautiful melodies constructed by Duke.

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.