Photo of Billy STRAYHORN

Source: David Redfern / Getty

Blackipedia is a weekly CASSIUS feature that takes a fun approach to exploring Black history, slang, and culture. For June (#PrideMonth), we’re honoring Black and brown members of the LGBTQ+ community. Get ready to learn something—and tell a friend!  

Billy Strayhorn

[bil-ee strey-hawrn]

noun

  • Billy Strayhorn was a Black American jazz pianist. An openly gay musician, he was also the only Black musician in a 25-player orchestra when he was featured as a soloist in Grieg’s “Piano Concerto in A Minor” in 1934. He was a teenager at the time.

  • Strayhorn aided the Ellington Orchestra amid a famous late-1940 dispute in which music licensing organization ASCAP forbid members from sharing their work on the radio. And when Ellington’s “Sepia Panorama” was banned from radio play, he premiered Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train” in 1941.

  • Along with “Take the ‘A’ Train,” Strayhorn is also known for “Lush Life,” “Satin Doll,” and other works “that run to well over 1,000 pieces in all,” notes NPR. He played everything from classical to bebop.

To Learn More:

Billy Strayhorn (Official Website)

Bill Strayhorn in Five Songs: A Blog Supreme (NPR Jazz)

SOURCE: PBS Independent Lens