Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Billy Strayhorn on humility and individuality

Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967), composer, arranger, pianist, and for almost thirty years, Duke Ellington's collaborator:

Why shouldn't you play a simple melody? It's a matter of being humble. All artists are humble. All great artists are humble. The ones who're not are not great artists. When a little kid comes up and says "Play O, Say, Can You See?," you play it. That does not mean that you have to play it the way thousands of other people have played it. You can give it your own individuality. But don't look down on those things, because if you look down, that's the end of you, your integrity and everything.

Stanley Dance, The World of Duke Ellington (NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1970), 31

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