1915-1967

“I think everything should happen at halfway to dawn. That's when all the heads of government should meet. I think everybody would fall in love.”

Though European classical music was his first love and as a teenager he'd aspired to be a classical composer and pianist, Billy Strayhorn turned to the jazz community when it became clear that the obstacles for black man trying to enter the classical music world were nearly insurmountable. He is best known for his successful collaboration with bandleader and composer Duke Ellington, lasting nearly three decades. His compositions include "Take the 'A' Train," "Chelsea Bridge," and "Lush Life."

By being a prominent member of the arts community in Harlem during the 1940s, Strayhorn became a civil rights figure, and primarily an advocate for blacks in the arts. He was also openly gay, which was a rare, bold stance for anyone in the public eye. [link]

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Billy Strayhorn standing tall in a wool suit with hands in his pockets. This photo was in Life Magazine sometime in the 40s.