Thursday, November 29, 2012
Composer, pianist and arranger William "Billy" Strayhorn was born on November 29, 1915, in Dayton, Ohio. He began his musical career as a teen in Pittsburgh, studying classical music and composing songs that included one he later renamed "Lush Life" (which became a jazz standard). The almost completely white world of classical music was inimical to a black man, so he was steered into jazz. In 1938 he met the great composer and band leader Duke Ellington, with whom Strayhorn spent the next 25 years as an irreplaceable arranger and collaborator. He composed Ellington’s best known theme, "Take the ‘A’ Train," and other pieces in the band’s repertoire, including "Satin Doll." He had a major influence on the career of singer Lena Horne, who considered him the love of her life, even though he was openly gay.