Billy Stryhorn's Impact On Jazz

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Born on November 29, 1915 in Dayton, Ohio, an African-American child was born that would grow and develop into a celebrated yet underrated hero who would have a profound impact on the development of jazz--William Thomas “Billy” Strayhorn (Claerbaut, Alyce, and Schlesinger, David). With compositions such as “Take the ‘A’ Train” and “Lush Life,” Strayhorn served as an enlightened hero with what he brought to the genre of jazz (Hasse 242). He also made several solo compositions--as well as arrangements for many smaller bands--but he is most recognized for the time, work, and writings he contributed to Duke Ellington’s orchestra (“Billy Strayhorn”). Despite his raw, honest sound and his passion and appreciation for music, his impact on jazz is…show more content…
Strayhorn was first introduced to music when he began fiddling with his grandmother’s piano (“Billy Strayhorn”). He took private piano lessons as well as a music class at his high school that he occasionally taught as a student because he was so talented (“Billy Strayhorn”). He even constructed an entire musical for his high school in 1935 (“Billy Strayhorn”). Strayhorn had a strong background in classical music, and wanted to pursue a career in that (“Billy Strayhorn”). He dreamed of being a classical pianist after high school, but could not afford to attend music school (“Billy Strayhorn”). Furthermore, many discriminated against him because of his background and race, and others advised him that he would not succeed in the prestigious world of…show more content…
However, Strayhorn had the misfortune of living in his shadow because his work and contribution often went unrecognized--especially after Ellington’s death and movements to expand the late musical genius’s legacy arose (Claerbaut, Alyce, and Schlesinger, David). Many argue that Strayhorn “dedicated his entire professional life to the service of Duke Ellington and did virtually nothing outside Ellington’s orbit” (Hajdu ix). However, Ellington saw Strayhorn as a true friend, and in his writings he describes him as one of the “most unselfish, the most patient, and the most imperturbable” men he had ever known (Ellington 156). He firmly believed that Strayhorn did not mind handing over the spotlight because his patience was “incomparable and unlimited,” and that he didn’t aspire to outshine anyone else (Ellington 92). Strayhorn himself said that he didn’t think anything of the matter--just that he worked diligently in effort to ‘“make the show a success,”’ rather than to fulfill a need for recognized glory (Hadju 24). Some artists such as Lena Horne, however, did recognize and understand Strayhorn’s success, importance, and impact. Horne was a jazz singer and later actress whose career was launched after she was introduced by Ellington to Strayhorn (“Billy Strayhorn”). Strayhorn spent a great deal of time mentoring Horne, training her to hone and perfect her singing skills (“Billy Strayhorn”). Horne greatly

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