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The Life And Music Of Billy Strayhorn


Portrait of Billy Strayhorn, New York, N.Y., between 1946 and 1948.

Portrait of Billy Strayhorn, New York, N.Y., between 1946 and 1948.

William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress, LC-GLB13-0821 DLC

Jazz musician and composer Billy Strayhorn collaborated closely with Duke Ellington for almost three decades. He composed now famous jazz standards like “Take The ‘A’ Train” and “Lush Life.” But he’s not exactly a household name. 

Strayhorn primarily worked behind the scenes, at least in part because he was openly gay at a time when that was still very taboo — even dangerous.

McGill University professor Lisa Barg has written about the intersection of jazz history and queer identity that converged in Strayhorn’s life and career.

Barg is in Portland for a conference at Reed College called “Ellington and Strayhorn: A Celebration.” We’ll talk to her about Billy Strayhorn.

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