Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →

Billy Strayhorn

Born in Dayton, and raised in Pittsburgh and Hillsborough, N.C., Strayhorn became one of the most important jazz musicians of the twentieth century. Blocked from a career in classical music because of the racial discrimination of the times, he met band leader Duke Ellington in 1938. Strayhorn soon became Ellington’s most trusted composer and arranger, including writing “Take the “A” Train,” one of the band’s most famous numbers. Strayhorn died of cancer in 1967 at age 51. At his funeral, Ellington called him “the biggest human being who ever lived, a man with the greatest courage, the most majestic artistic stature.” Strayhorn was open about his intimate relationships with men, including with fellow musician Aaron Rodgers and, later, Bill Grove.