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Jazz and orchestral composer and pianist Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (1899-1974) is among the most admired and influential musicians and composers in the history of American music. France awarded him the Legion of Honor and the United States gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The nickname given to him because of his regal appearance and bearing also came to symbolize the inner royalty of spirit that flowed through his works. His saw to it that his orchestra toured the U.S. by private railroad car to avoid the indignity of inferior "colored" hotels. Noted compositions include "Mood Indigo," "Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me (Concerto for Cootie)", "Black and Tan Fantasy," and "Sophisticated Lady." He made musical homes for pianist Billy Strayhorn, who wrote "Satin Doll" and "Lush Life," and for his son, Mercer Ellington, who wrote "Things Ain't What They Used to Be," songs forever associated with the Duke.

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