Interview: David Hajdu

About 20 years ago, the name “Billy Strayhorn” was nearly obscure in the music world. While known as “the alter ego” and principal arranger of Duke Ellington, his name had largely faded after his death and the death of Ellington. Strayhorn’s credits on Ellington’s releases were sketchy at best and his private lifestyle meant that few people really knew him during his life. This all began to turn around in 1996 when David Hajdu published the first major Strayhorn biography: Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn. Complied from years of research and interviews (running something like 400 interviews over nine years), Hajdu’s biography of Strayhorn illuminated much about the genius composer and arranger; importantly his contributions to Ellington’s work. Many volumes, including Walter Van der Leur’s Something to Live For, have subsequently shed light on different aspects of Stray’s life but Hajdu’s is the well spring. In celebration of Strayhorn’s centennial, we have Professor Hajdu on air on the 24th to discuss his life, research of the book, and all things Billy Strayhorn.



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