At the height of African American men’s enlistment in Vietnam and in the year Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lost was assassinated, pianist and composer Billy Strayhorn received a posthumous 1968 Grammy award with Duke Ellington for their thirty-year collaboration producing some of America’s greatest songs. Their firm positioning as masters within American music superseded race; the jazz scene has long been a robust subculture representative of racial harmony. Long a favorite of music industry veterans and jazz lovers worldwide, Billy “Sweet Pea” Strayhorn (November 29, 1915 – May 31, 1967) did not live long enough to see his endless work, activism and miraculous gifts culminate to a coveted Grammy awarding. But he and his legacy have moved to more recognition and centering in American music in the last two decades.

Until recently, he was best known as the indispensable sidekick and intellectual muse to Duke Ellington. He humbly and courageously…

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