Billy Strayhorn
A Great Jazz Composer
Born November 29, 1915, in Dayton, Ohio, but raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Strayhorn received an extensive private education in music. His collaboration with Duke Ellington began soon after he approached Ellington with one of his own compositions in 1938. In early 1939 the Ellington band recorded Strayhorn's "Something to Live For" with Strayhorn at the piano, and three more of his compositions were recorded later that year.  Soon Strayhorn was associate arranger and alternate pianist with the Ellington band. The Ellington-Strayhorn collaboration was unique in musical history because both as composers and pianists, the two musicians' accomplishments were so closely intertwined that it is often difficult to distinguish them. The Ellington theme song, "Take the 'A' Train," is a Strayhorn composition, and Strayhorn composed or collaborated on more than 200 recorded works in the Ellington repertoire, plus hundreds of others that have never been recorded. Strayhorn died from esophageal cancer in 1967. The standard biography is David Hadju's Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1996). Stray.gif (63706 bytes)
Go back to "Jazz Composers"
Go back to my home page
Visit my "Billy Strayhorn Links" page
Last updated 21 Sept.. 1999.