Who was Billy Strayhorn?

Billy Strayhorn was best known as the main collaborator with Duke Ellington.  He penned the theme song, “Take The ‘A’ Train” and co-wrote  “Satin Doll”.  His most famous ballad is “Lush Life”.  He met Ellington in 1938 and collaborated with him from 1939 until his death in 1967. 

What was his instrument?

Strayhorn was a brilliant pianist who also studied classical music. 

When did he live?

Strayhorn was born November 29, 1915 and died May 31, 1967 at the age of 51 

Where did he grow up?

He was born in Dayton, Ohio but he grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Where did he study?

He attended Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh.  He also studied classical music at Pittsburgh Music Institute. 

Did he really write Lush Life when he was 16?

Lush Life, his most famous composition after ‘A’ Train, was written over a period of years.  He began writing it in high school.  The first title was “Life is Lonely”.  A big band arrangement titled  “Lonely Again”, features a clarinet solo.  In essence, he wrote the song in his teens. 

Was Lush Life his most important accomplishment during his early years?

Strayhorn wrote and entire jazz musical circa 1935 titled “Fantastic Rhythm”.  Of the original songs, several later became part of the Ellington band book including “Something To Live For”, “My Little Brown Book”, and “Your Love Has Faded”.  FANTASTIC RHYTHM was produced over a period of at least two years in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  

What are the most popular Strayhorn titles?

Take The ‘A’ Train, Lush Life, Chelsea Bridge, Satin Doll, Day Dream, Rain Check, Passion Flower, U.M.M.G., Lotus Blossom among others. 

Does Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc. (BSSI) assist artists in producing programs?

No. Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc. is a publisher for Strayhorn music.  As such, the company grants rights to use the music in live productions.  BSSI works with a co-publisher, Reservoir Media Management, to grant rights for recording and placing the music in film/radio/television. Inquiries can be directed to Scott Cresto; Executive Vice President, Synchronization and Marketing, (212) 675-0541. 

Where can I buy sheet music for Billy Strayhorn music?

Billy Strayhorn’s music can be purchased from many enterprises that sell sheet music.  Currently, scores for performance groups such as bands, combos, piano/vocal are published through Alfred Music. Go to our STORE page to view all available Alfred charts for Billy Strayhorn. 

Who do we contact if we want to participate in the 2015 Centennial?

You would contact the Board Secretary, Leslie Demus at

for additional information.




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