A Biography of Billy Strayhorn
A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award
Billy Strayhorn (1915-67) was one of the greatest composers in the history of American music, the creator of a body of work that includes such standards as "Take the 'A' Train." Yet all his life Strayhorn was overshadowed by his friend and collaborator Duke Ellington, with whom he worked for three decades as the Ellington Orchestra's ace songwriter and arranger. A "definitive" corrective (USA Today) to decades of patchwork scholarship and journalism about this giant of jazz, David Hajdu's Lush Life is a vibrant and absorbing account of the "lush life" that Strayhorn and other jazz musicians led in Harlem and Paris. While composing some of the most gorgeous American music of the twentieth century, Strayhorn labored under a complex agreement whereby Ellington took the bows for his work. Until his life was tragically cut short by cancer and alcohol abuse, the small, shy composer carried himself with singular style and grace as one of the few jazzmen to be openly homosexual. Lush Life has sparked an enthusiastic revival of interest in Strayhorn's work and is already acknowledged as a jazz classic.
Praise For Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn…
“Lush Life is a book as beautiful and intelligent as its subject. David Hajdu has brought all my dear memories of Billy Strayhorn to life.” —Lena Horne
“A portrait that is both full and convincing . . . It is a mark of excellence of this biography that it leaves one wanting nothing so much as to listen to the music.” —Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World
“Hajdu invests his biography of Strayhorn with the kind of sensitivity and clarity which is the mark of his subject's best work.” —The New Yorker
North Point Press, 9780865475120, 336pp.
Publication Date: June 26, 1997
About the Author
David Hajdu is the music critic for The Nation and a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Before joining The Nation in January 2015, he served for more than ten years as the music critic for The New Republic. He is the author of three books of narrative nonfiction and and one collection of essays: Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn (FSG, 1996), Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña (FSG, 2001), The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America (FSG, 2008), and Heroes and Villains: Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture (2009). Lush Life, Positively 4th Street, and Heroes and Villians were all finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award. The Ten-Cent Plague was a finalist for the Eisner award, and the editors of Amazon named it the #1 Best Book of the Year on the arts.
Hajdu is married to the singer and actor Karen Oberlin and is the father of three. He lives in Manhattan with his family.