WBUR News

Support the news

The Lush Life Of Billy Strayhorn

Billy Strayhorn (right), spent the majority of his career as a composer and arranger for Duke Ellington (left) and his orchestra. (Getty Images)closemore
Billy Strayhorn (right), spent the majority of his career as a composer and arranger for Duke Ellington (left) and his orchestra. (Getty Images)

The fruitful collaboration between Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington is widely known to have brought us such classics as "Take The 'A' Train," "Chelsea Bridge" and "Isfahan." But behind the music, Strayhorn's life and identity were complex.

While composing some of the most harmonically rich jazz of its time — often in Ellington's shadow — Strayhorn was an outlier in that he led an openly gay life as a black man in the 1940s, an era rife with homophobia and racism.

In this episode of Jazz Night In America, hear interviews with Strayhorn's family members and biographer, along with rare archival tape of Strayhorn himself. You'll also hear Strayhorn's music performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, including pianist Johnny O'Neal's rendition of "Lush Life."

Copyright NPR 2016.

+Join the discussion
Share

Support the news

Next Up

Where to now?

More NPR or Explore Audio.