Strayhorn, Billy, 1915-1967

Alternative names
Birth 1915-11-29
Death 1967-05-31

Biographical notes:

William "Billy" Strayhorn was born in Dayton, Ohio on November 29, 1915. He spent part of his childhood in Hillsborough, North Carolina. His family eventually moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he studied classical music at the Pittsburgh Musical Institution.

At the age of 23, he submitted a musical composition titled "Something to Live For" to Duke Ellington, who subsequently recorded it with Strayhorn as the pianist. Strayhorn worked as the pianist in Mercer Ellington's orchestra for a short time, but left to join Ellington's band as associate arranger and second pianist. He stayed with Ellington for nearly thirty years and they collaborated on more than 200 items, including "Take the 'A' Train," "Satin Doll," and the theme from Anatomy of a Murder.

Strayhorn also contributed to other recordings by Cootie Williams, Bigard, Johnny Hodges, the Ellingtonians, the Coronets, Louie Bellson, Ben Webster, and Clark Terry. He composed the song "King Fought for the Battle of 'Bam" for Martin Luther King, Jr., and was also an influence of Lena Horne.

In 1946, Strayhorn received the Esquire Silver Award for outstanding arranger. Invited by the Duke Ellington Jazz Society, in 1965 he presented a concert, using only his own work, at New York's New School of Social Research.

Billy Strayhorn died in New York on May 31, 1967.

From the guide to the Strayhorn, Billy, Master Editions. Collection, 1933-1966, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)


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Ark ID:


  • Instrumental ensembles--Scores and parts
  • Piano music (jazz)
  • /Waltzes
  • Ballets--Excerpts, Arranged
  • Big band music--Scores and parts
  • Piano music
  • Suites (Jazz ensemble)--Scores and parts
  • Jazz vocals
  • Jazz--1961-1970--Lead sheets
  • Jazz


  • Composers


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