Duke Ellington was a jazz pianist and America’s greatest composer. He maintained his cool through an elegant aristocratic front that refused to recognize the country’s entrenched racism. Born and raised in the nation’s capital, Ellington established a national audience with a residency at Harlem’s Cotton Club. He wrote dance songs, three-minute concertos, spiritual works, thematic compositions about black life and culture, classics of the American songbook, and extended suites featuring Asian and Latin American motifs. His main instrument was his orchestra: he wrote for musicians as individuals. When he left space on the music score to improvise ("ad lib here"), he validated jazz as a democratic musical form. In 1965 he was denied a Pulitzer Prize by a judge who refused to give it to a black man. "Fate doesn’t want me to be famous too young," was his diplomatic reply. He is still worshipped by musicians the world over.