Look: it’s Duke Ellington, and he’s playing a balalaika. Can we leap to the conclusion that this instrument helped him create “timeless works of art”? Sure we can. Can you prove that it didn’t happen?
If you’re tuning in late, the context for this post is a pencil company’s choice to market its merchandise by using the Ellington name. The Blackwing is a celebrated pencil that California Cedar has recreated in replica form. The company’s choice to associate Ellington with its merchandise rests on exactly one photograph of Ellington with a Blackwing (the real thing, not the replica) that I posted late last year.
Why I care: I’ve been listening to Duke Ellington for about thirty-six years, and I don’t like seeing his name used in a tacky commercial ploy. And I think that facts ought to remain stubborn things. John Adams, as quoted in David McCullough’s 2001 biography: “Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictums of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” The state of facts and evidence — a single photograph — does not support the conclusion that Duke Ellington had any particular attachment to the Blackwing pencil.
And if you’ve decided that you should really listen to some Ellington music, this post suggests the best place to start.
March 29: I’m happy to report that Duke Ellington’s name no longer appears on the Blackwing Experience page. Thanks to Gunther and Sean for passing on the news.
All Blackwing posts (via Pinboard)
All Duke Ellington posts (via Pinboard)