Billy Strayhorn

Dance of the Eggheads
February 25, 2011

In Manhattan after the Second World War, I’ve been told, a group of African American dancers, musicians, painters, and writers gathered regularly for martinis and mutual support at the home of the dancers Dorcas and Frank Neal, in Chelsea. The core membership included James Baldwin, Billy Strayhorn, and Talley Beatty, the choreographer, who told me about the group when I was researching my biography of Strayhorn in the early ’90s.

It's Good to Love the Banana
November 12, 2010

In music as well as politics, there is something marvelous in the human capacity to embrace bad ideas that jibe with one’s personal experience or taste. I’ve been thinking about this since last weekend, when I attended a pair of concerts devoted to the music of my favorite composer, Billy Strayhorn, at Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC).

Just How Bad Were the Songs Paul and Linda McCartney Did Together?
June 11, 2010

I am little enriched for having listened over the past week to most (though not all) of more than 90 songs published with Paul and Linda McCartney credited jointly as co-writers. In fact, I almost wish that President Obama had never given Sir Paul the Gershwin Prize and stirred me to reconsider this remarkably unmemorable work, much of which I had heard at one time or another over the years and appropriately forgot.

Lena Horne: Maybe … Maybe Not
May 14, 2010

It's not that she lied. It’s that when Lena Horne told Rosie O'Donnell, "I like show business," she was being truthful only in small part. The occasion, a talk-show interview to promote a charity for singers, was one of very few interviews Horne did in the years before her death this week, at 92, and, for the sake of a good cause, she allowed herself to say something that she had devoted her final decades to disproving. As she went on to make plain, Horne cared deeply about singers, and she loved the art of music.