Lush Life (jazz song)

"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]

"Lush Life"
Released1948 (1948)
Songwriter(s)Billy Strayhorn


The lyrics describe 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. One was a 14-minute version in 1958 as the title track of an album for Prestige. The other was in 1963 with vocalist Johnny Hartman. 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, Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Stevie Holland, José James, Molly Johnson, Queen Latifah, Rickie Lee Jones, Sheila Jordan, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Julie London, Patti Lupone, Johnny Mathis, Tito Puente, Joshua Redman, Buddy Rich, Tony Scott, Rare Silk, Terell Stafford, McCoy Tyner, Ernie Watts, Bob Welch, and Nancy Wilson.

Other versions


  1. 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.
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