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February 14, 2013


"In 1969, Duke Ellington celebrated his 70th birthday at the White House, where President Nixon threw a star-studded party and presented him with a Medal of Freedom. Only four years earlier, the greatest jazz composer of the 20th century had been passed over for a special Pulitzer Prize in recognition of his musical achievements. Hence the significance of the party, which was seen not merely as a tribute to Ellington but to jazz itself. Cynics took it for granted that Nixon's purposes were purely political. If, on the other hand, they had had access to Ellington's FBI file, it might have puzzled them that so prominent an opponent of Soviet Communism had chosen to honor an artist who appeared to have once had close ties to the American Communist Party..."

Posted February 14, 2013 10:19 PM

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