"Poor Little Sweet Pea." Ellington's moving tribute to Billy Strayhorn, his pianist, composer, and collaborator. In his autobiography, Music is My Mistress, Ellington recalls the morning when he learned of Strayhorn's death from cancer: "I started sniffling and whimpering, crying, banging my head against the wall, and talking to myself about the virtues of Billy Strayhorn. ... I sat down and started writing what I was thinking, and as I got deeper and deeper into thinking about my favorite human being, I realized I was not crying anymore ... and so on and on I wrote."
This is the manuscript that Ellington produced that morning as he reflected on the influence and character of the composer of "Lush Life" and "Take the 'A' Train." "Poor Little Sweet Pea. Billy Strayhorn. William Thomas Strayhorn the Biggest Human Being who Ever lived, a man with the Greatest Courage—the Most Majestic Artistic Stature—Highly Skilled Muscian Who's Impeccable Taste Commanded Respect of all Musicians & Admiration of all listeners. ... Great Artists Paid Homage to Billy Strayhorn's Mastery of His Craft. ... His Rare Sensitivity ... Married Melody, Words, & Harmony. ... God Bless Billy Strayhorn." A somewhat revised version of this eulogy was published in Music is My Mistress.
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