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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lush Life

By Billy Strayhorn
1933

As rich and moving as a popular song can be, "Lush Life" has become as much a part of the jazz tradition as the pop tradition, owing to its origins with Duke Ellington's brilliant collaborator Strayhorn. Amazingly, this minor-key dirge for lost love was mainly written when the composer was a mere 16. He continued to refine the song for another five years, but didn't introduce it publicly until 1948, when he performed it at Carnegie Hall with the Ellington Orchestra and Kay Davis on vocals.

Lyrics:

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 gray faces,
With distant gay 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 of 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 will 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.
I'll live a lush life in some small dive...
And there Ill be, while I rot
With the rest of those whose lives are lonely, too.

Recorded By:

John Coltrane
Johnny Hartman
Sarah Vaughan
Nat King Cole
Jack Jones

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