Thursday, 19 November 2009

Then you came along with your siren song

Lest we forget a largely unheralded gay genius, I thought it appropriate to have a little celebration of the birthday of the late Billy Strayhorn - author of Take the A-Train for Duke Ellington, among many many more classic jazz numbers. And to do so, it is only fitting to post his masterpiece.

Mr Strayhorn (remarkably) wrote Lush Life when he was just eighteen, yet its sophistication and complexity is worthy of much more mature writers. Quite rightly the song has become a true standard, with covers by Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Nancy Wilson, Carmen McRae, Julie London, Linda Ronstadt and Donna Summer.

However, out of all the versions that have been recorded I have made an unusual choice. A rather lovely version by (of all people) Queen Latifah...

I used to visit all the very gay places
Those come-what-may places
Where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life
To get the feel of life from jazz and cocktails

The girls I knew had sad and sullen grey faces
With distingué traces that used to be there
You could see where they'd been washed away
By too many through the day, twelve o'clock tales

Then you came along with your siren song
To tempt me to madness
I thought for a while that your poignant smile
Was tinged with the sadness of a great love for me
Ah yes, I was wrong
Again, I was wrong

Life is lonely again and only last year
Everything seemed so sure
Now life is awful again
A trough full of hearts could only be a bore

A week in Paris could ease the bite of it
All I care is to smile in spite of it

I'll forget you, I will while yet you are still
Burning inside my brain romance is mush
Stifling those who strive

So I'll live a lush life in some small dive
And there I'll be
While I rot with the rest of those
Whose lives are lonely too

Billy Strayhorn biography

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