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    The great Billy Strayhorn, remarkably, composed 2 mature and enduring ballads between ages 16-22: Lush Life and Something to Live For. Before that he had composed a score for a show, Fantastic Rhythm, for his HS that was picked up for a run in black HSs in the Northeast. The music was hip and complex, but still somewhat derivative (it did have the mature Strayhorn ballad My Little Brown Book.

    These two ballads, however, mark an epoch milestone in the mature work of an emergent genius. They use chromatic linking; ingenious note selection; harmonic peregrination and sophistication. It's my opinion that Something to...came after Lush Life, only because Strayhorn's lyric is a bit more mature, and eschews strained rhyme like awful/troughful (it remains a classic art/saloon song. The mind boggles at how such a young man could write such a dark, bitter, world-weary lyric like this. The only answer: genius. And we all know he had reasons to feel marginalized.

    Something to Live For is chiefly in Bb, with the verse in F---probably somewhat unusual for the late '30s-earliest '40s. The 1st 2 chords of the refrain (of an A B C---or, if you like, A B A with extension, form) are Bb maj7 to Bb min 7 (2 measures each)---perhaps foreshadowing the main body of I'm Glad There is You? Then the fun really starts: the notes C G# B against an E9 chord. Spicy, that C! After that resolves to the Eb--IV in Bb, the rest of the A section proceeds in relatively conventional fashion---til the lead-up to B: on the word ('and make it) seem'---he starts a cycle that takes us to the II dominant/pivot (V of F Major): A half-diminished; D7;/ D half-diminished; G7 ('Gay, as they say it...')---landing smack-dab on C 11--C7 ('Ought to be', at B---bridge). Now he's in F major, and cycles back to Bb (well, my chart goes chromatic---the changes in my Strayhorn Collection are dodgy. What I'd give to see the original manuscript! LOC?).

    All these strong structural harmonic points and rising melodies, of course, are wedded to the yearning emotion of the lyric. And the way it crests at the end: 'For the oooonnnnee...', wow! Fireworks, accompanied by another cycle, but rising and spiraling downward. I won't deprive you musicians the pleasure of discovering for yourselves by a blow-by-blow of every chord. You get the picture by now.

    Here is a chart I did. Only the verse is slightly reharmonized. (What the hey---couldn't help myself!). The rest is, I hope, very much in the Strayhorn mode.

    Enjoy!
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    Last edited by joelf; 07-11-2020 at 02:52 PM.

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  3. #2

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    Great tune and it is extraordinary how young he was when he wrote it .

    My favourite version is Carmen McRae's . She really had that slightly brittle , world-weary quality to her voice .


  4. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Pycroft
    Great tune and it is extraordinary how young he was when he wrote it .

    My favourite version is Carmen McRae's . She really had that slightly brittle , world-weary quality to her voice .

    Yeah, Carmen's attitude was 'f it all, life's a bitch, but it's gonna be alright---I'm tough! (an Academy Award-worthy front). Then there was a tender side.

    (BTW, this song will be my ballad feature on a hip streaming concert this Thursday night---see Announcements)...