Duke music professor Thomas Brothers examines the Ellington/Strayhorn collaboration in his new book
The fascinating story of how creative cooperation inspired two of the world’s most celebrated musical acts.
The Beatles and Duke Ellington’s Orchestra stand as the two greatest examples of collaboration in music history. Ellington’s forte was not melody—his key partners were not lyricists but his fellow musicians. His strength was in arranging, in elevating the role of a featured soloist, in selecting titles: in packaging compositions. He was also very good at taking credit when the credit wasn’t solely his, as in the case of Mood Indigo, though he was ultimately responsible for the orchestration of what Duke University musicologist Thomas Brothers calls “one of his finest achievements.”
Through his fascinating examination of these two musical legends, Brothers delivers a portrait of the creative process at work, demonstrating that the cooperative method at the foundation of these two artist-groups was the primary reason for their unmatched musical success. While clarifying the historical record of who wrote what, with whom, and how, Brothers brings the past to life with a lifetime of musical knowledge that reverberates through every page, and analyses of songs from Lennon and McCartney’s Strawberry Fields Forever to Billy Strayhorn’s Chelsea Bridge. “The only people who worked as closely as Lennon and McCartney, were those 2 people at the bottom of the (book) cover-Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn”, Brothers said.