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Diamond’s familiar tunes, including “America” and “Cherry, Cherry” have had a defining impact on pop music. His song, “Sweet Caroline,” written for presidential daughter Caroline Kennedy, is sung in ballparks and taverns. Coincidentally, Kennedy hosts the show Sunday night.

Lionel Richie told the AP that he got into the music business because he wanted to be Diamond.

“He’s a great storyteller,” Richie said, as with the hit single “America.” “He’s not an acrobatic singer. Basically he told the story in a very simple voice.”

Ma, one of the best-known classical musicians, has played the cello since he was 4. Now at 56, he is hailed as a musical ambassador whose work has spanned styles around the world from Bluegrass to sounds from the Silk Road. His star power has drawn fans including Stephen Colbert, conductor John Williams and even Elmo from “Sesame Street.”

“Thank God for Yo-Yo,” said Sharon Robinson, a cello player who long played in a quartet with Ma, her husband Jaime Laredo and the late violinist Isaac Stern. “He has spread the love, proselytizing for all kinds of music, particularly classical music.”

Cook, 84, made her Broadway debut in 1951 and later had her breakthrough in Leonard Bernstein’s musical version of Voltaire’s “Candide.” She topped that performance as Marian the Librarian in 1957’s hit musical “The Music Man,” for which she won a Tony Award.

Glenn Close called Cook an icon for anyone who has worked on Broadway, adding that Cook went on to a successful solo career and is still performing.

“I think we have the biggest respect for her because she really has survived, survived and prevailed,” Close said.

Rollins, 81, is a jazz saxophonist has shared the stage with Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, among others. He is one of the last surviving giants from the golden era of jazz.

Fellow sax player President Bill Clinton said he has been a fan since the age of 15 or 16 when he bought his first Rollins LP and played it until it was worn out. Then he spent time searching for an explanation of how Rollins could create such sounds.

“His music can bend your mind, it can break your heart, and it can make you laugh out loud,” Clinton said. “He has done things with improvisation that really no one has ever done. In complexity and creativity, he rivals (John) Coltrane.”


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