Duke Ellington is a world-famous jazz legend, but Billy Strayhorn—the man who wrote and arranged some of Ellington’s most notable works—largely remains in the background. As the 2007 documentary Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life illustrates, the “Take the ‘A’ Train” composer’s rise to stardom was stunted by the fact that he was openly gay during the intensely homophobic era of the ’40s and ’50s. Strayhorn influenced pop culture from the shadows, and it’s only now, more than 40 years after his death, that he’s getting his due.
The film screens at 1 p.m. in conjunction with the exhibition “America I Am: The African American Imprint” at the National Geographic Museum, 1145 17th St. NW. (202) 857-7588.