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Lush Life: a Biography of Billy Strayhorn

by Hajdu, David

  • ISBN: 9780374194383
  • ISBN10: 0374194386

Lush Life: a Biography of Billy Strayhorn

by Hajdu, David

  • List Price: $27.50
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
  • Publish date: 01/01/2004
  • ISBN: 9780374194383
  • ISBN10: 0374194386
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Description: Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967) was one of the most accomplished composers in the history of American music, the creator of a body of work that includes such standards as "Take the 'A' Train", "Lush Life", and "Something to Live For". Yet all his life Strayhorn was overshadowed by another great composer: his employer, friend, and collaborator, Duke Ellington, with whom he worked as the Ellington Orchestra's ace songwriter and arranger. Lush Life, David Hajdu's sensitive and moving biography of Strayhorn, is a corrective to decades of patchwork scholarship and journalism about this giant of jazz. It is also a vibrant, absorbing account of the "lush life" led by Strayhorn and other jazz musicians in Harlem and Paris. A musical prodigy who began a career as a composer while still a teenager in Pittsburgh, Strayhorn came to New York City at Duke Ellington's invitation in 1939; soon afterward he wrote "'A' Train", which became the signature song of the Ellington Orchestra, one of the most popular jazz bands in the country. For the next three decades, Strayhorn labored under a complex agreement whereby Ellington thrived in the role of public artist to Strayhorn's private one, often taking the bows for Strayhorn's work. Strayhorn was alternately relieved to be kept out of the limelight and frustrated about it. In Harlem and in the cafe society downtown, the small, shy black composer carried himself with singular style and grace as one of the few jazzmen to be openly homosexual. His compositions and elegant arrangements made him a hero to other musicians, but when he died at age fifty-two, his life cut short by alcohol abuse and cancer, few people fully understood the vital role he played in theEllington Orchestra's development into a vehicle for some of the greatest, most ambitious American music of this century.
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