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Billy Strayhorn

"Billy Strayhorn" (William Thomas Strayhorn) (November 29, 1915 - May 31, 1967) was an American composer and pianist, perhaps most famous for having written "Take the A Train" and for his collaboration with Duke Ellington.

Billy Strayhorn was born in Dayton, Ohio. He began his musical career in Pittsburgh, where he studied for a time at the Pittsburgh Music Institute, wrote a high school musical and, while still in his teens, composed "Lush Life," a work that had all the world weariness of a much older man. He first met Duke Ellington backstage after an Ellington performance in Pittsburgh in 1938, where he first told, and then showed, the band leader how he would have arranged one of Duke's own pieces. Duke was impressed enough to invite other band members to hear Strayhorn. At the end of the visit he arranged for Strayhorn to meet him when the band returned to New York. Strayhorn worked for Ellington for the next quarter century until his early death from cancer.

Strayhorn's relationship with Ellington was always difficult to pin down: he was a gifted composer and arranger who seemed to flourish in Duke's shadow. Ellington may have taken advantage of him, but not in th...

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