Blues For Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn, born a hipster, had a taste for the finer things.
Where to find them, stuck in Philly? Where to get a life that swings?
He had talent, was precocious, different from the other boys.
He played piano, wrote a show but they just made a lot of noise.
Billy Strayhorn, he wants out, knows there’s a better life somewhere out there.
He wants excitement, sophistication, a life with savoir faire.
He had a combo, wrote arrangements, played some gigs in local spots.
To be a part of a black renaissance, get to New York, that was tops.
Ellington was impressed one night by Billy’s charts and playing keys.
Gave directions when time was just right, said he needed more of these.
Took the ‘A’ train up to Harlem, became a New York urbanite.
Debonair and dapper Billy, lived his lush life, out all night.
Bars and restaurants were his terrain, with his lover and his friends,
Clubs and parties, fancy dresser, visits Paris now and then. .
A connoisseur’s taste, always behind scenes, he would never get acclaim
Gay man in Harlem, snagged on his dreams, could make a danger out of fame.
So he laboured in the background, never bound to get his due
Life was safer, if less rewarding, to be known to .
Too much smoking, and strong martinis, gave him cancer of the throat
Typically modest, he made no waves, didn’t want to rock the boat.
At his funeral, New York’s art life came in force to say ‘adieu’.
A well-kept secret, now public grieving, how much he never knew.