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Billy Strayhorn


Billy Strayhorn joined Duke Ellington’s band in 1939 as a lyricist, but his duties instantly increased to handling arrangements, songwriting and piano playing. He even composed “Take the A-Train,” which became the Duke’s theme soon after. The musical link between Strayhorn and Ellington was so strong that it's hard to tell where one contribution began and the other ended (they quickly adopted each other’s styles, and the writing credits aren’t always correct). Together, they were an unbeatable team, and though Ellington guarded Strayhorn from working outside his stable of artists on a continual basis, he did manage to break away occasionally. His song “Lush Life” was first recorded by Nat Cole, and is one of the finest torch songs ever written.
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