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Lester Young

Jazz Musician

Born: 27 August 1909
Died: 15 March 1959
Birthplace: Woodville, Mississippi
Best known as: The jazz saxophonist called "The Prez"
Lester Young was a musician's musician, a man whose innovative saxophone style had a large influence on other sax greats. Nicknamed "The Prez," he was particularly known for his work with the Count Basie Band during the 1930s and 1940s and for his recordings with vocalist Billie Holiday. (He gave Holiday her nickname "Lady Day.") Young's freewheeling style included holding the saxophone at odd angles; he often held it nearly horizontal. His signature porkpie hat also was copied by generations of jazz musicians. Young and his contemporary Coleman Hawkins are often listed as the original twin towers of modern jazz saxophone.
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Young was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1944, but court-martialed for marijuana use and discharged the next year.

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