Lush Life (jazz song)

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"Lush Life"
Published1949 by Tempo Music
Released1948 (1948)
Songwriter(s)Billy Strayhorn

"Lush Life" is a jazz standard that was written by Billy Strayhorn from 1933 to 1936. It was performed publicly for the first time by Strayhorn and vocalist Kay Davis with the Duke Ellington Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on November 13, 1948.[1]


The lyric describes the author's weariness of the night life after a failed romance, wasting time with "jazz and cocktails" at "come-what-may places" and in the company of girls with "sad and sullen gray faces/with distingué traces". Strayhorn was a teenager when he wrote most of the song, which was to become his signature composition (along with "Take the 'A' Train").

The song was written in the key of D-flat major.[1] The melody is over relatively complex chord changes, compared with many jazz standards, with chromatic movement and modulations that evoke a dreamlike state and the dissolute spirit characteristic of the so-called lush life.

Nat King Cole performed "Lush Life" in 1949, while trumpeter Harry James recorded it four times. In the 1950s, it was performed by jazz vocalists Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, and Sarah Vaughan. John Coltrane recorded it twice. The first was a 14-minute version in recorded in 1958 as the title track of an album for Prestige. The other was on John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, with vocalist Johnny Hartman, recorded in 1963. Kurt Elling recorded a version for his album Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman.[1]

Linda Ronstadt's version won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocal(s) (1986).

Other musicians who have recorded the song include Joey Alexander, Chet Baker, Andy Bey, Anthony Braxton, Sylvia Brooks, Kate Ceberano & Mark Isham, Sammy Davis Jr., Blossom Dearie, Bebi Dol, Lisa Ekdahl, Ella Fitzgerald & Oscar Peterson, Bill Frisell, Lady Gaga, Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Stevie Holland, José James, Molly Johnson, Rickie Lee Jones, Sheila Jordan, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Queen Latifah, Julie London, Patti Lupone, Johnny Mathis, Tito Puente, Joshua Redman, Buddy Rich, Linda Ronstadt, Tony Scott, Rare Silk, Terell Stafford, McCoy Tyner, Ernie Watts, Bob Welch, and Nancy Wilson.

Other versions[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Gioia, Ted (2012). The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. New York City: Oxford University Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-19-993739-4.
  2. ^ "". Retrieved June 1, 2020.

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