Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Billy Strayhorn 100 -- September 29, 2015

100 years ago today, on 29-September-2015, American composer and pianist Billy Strayhorn was born in Dayton, Ohio.  He became interested in music very early in life.  When he met Duke Ellington after a show in 1938, he showed Duke how he would have arranged one of Ellington's compositions.  Ellington was impressed and invited him to join the band as composer, arranger, conductor and whatever else was needed. 

When I was a kid, I thought Duke Ellington had composed this theme song, "Take the 'A' Train."  It was composed by Billy Strayhorn. 

Billy's most famous song was "Lush Life."  It has been recorded by virtually everyone. 

Touring the world with Ellington gave Strayhorn a chance to live life as a gay man when it was illegal almost everywhere.  It also gave him opportunities to work for civil rights.  He died of cancer in 1967. 

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