Andy Razaf

Andy Razaf (December 16, 1895February 3, 1973), (born Andriamanantena Paul Razafinkarefo also Razafkeriefo) was an African American composer, poet, and lyricist of such well-known songs as "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Honeysuckle Rose".

Born in Washington, D.C., he was the son of Henri Razafkeriefo, nephew of Queen Ranavalona III of Madagascar, and Jennie (Waller) Razafkeriefo, the daughter of John L. Waller, the first African American consul to Madagascar. The French invasion of Madagascar left his father dead, and forced his 15-year-old mother to escape with the boy to the United States, where their lives were anything but royal. Raised in Harlem, at the age of 16 Andy quit school and took a job as an elevator operator at a Tin Pan Alley office building. A year later he penned his first song text, embarking on his career as a lyricist.

Some of Razaf's early poems were published in 1917-18 in the Hubert Harrison-edited "Voice," the first newspaper of the "New Negro Movement." Razaf collaborated with composers Eubie Blake, Paul Denniker, Don Redman, James P. Johnson, J. C. Johnson, Harry Brooks, and Fats Waller (no relation, according to Barry Singer's biography). He also added lyrics to instrumental hits such as Stompin' at the Savoy, Christopher Columbus, and In the Mood. Among the best-known Razaf-Waller collaborations are The Joint Is Jumpin', Ain't Misbehavin', Honeysuckle Rose, Willow Tree, Keepin' Out of Mischief Now, and (What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue. His music was played by other Tin Pan Alley musicians, as well as Benny Goodman, Eubie Blake, Cab Calloway and many others. He was a contributor and editor of the UNIA's Negro World newspaper. Many of Razaf's lyrics provide an African-American perspective on America. Through their sharp observation of social and racial issues, Razaf's lyrics give an inside look at life in New York City in the first half of the 20th century. In 1972 at seventy-six years of age, Andy Razaf, the most prolific black lyricist of twentieth century popular music, was finally recognized by his Tin Pan Alley peers in the Songwriters Hall of Fame


The Songwriters Hall of Fame entry on Andy Razaf lists 215 compositions, giving co-writers and publishers He also had many unpublished songs; Singer's biography lists more than 800, published and unpublished (but without giving lyrics). Some notable lyrics include:

  • Baltimo', composed at the age of 17, was sung by members of "The Passing Show of 1913" at Winter Garden, New York.
  • Ain't Misbehavin'
  • Honeysuckle Rose
  • In the Mood
  • The Joint Is Jumpin'
  • Louisiana
  • Black and Blue
  • Stompin' at the Savoy
  • Garvey! Hats Off to Garvey
  • U.N.I.A.


Although Razaf's songs are found on hundreds of recordings, there are only two albums devoted exclusively to his compositions:

  • Maxine Sullivan, A Tribute to Andy Razaf, 1956, produced by Leonard Feather, re-issued in 2006 as My Memories of You with two additional non-Razaf tracks.
  • Bobby Short, Guess Who's in Town, 1987, re-released in 2001 in tandem with Bobby Short Loves Cole Porter


  • Wired, Hired, Fired, an expression of grief and sorrow that color bars one fitted to position.
  • Jack Johnson, touching on defeat with honor.

Further reference

  • Black and Blue: The Life and Lyrics of Andy Razaf by Barry Singer, Foreword by Bobby Short, ISBN 0-02-872395-3
  • The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America's Great Lyricists by Philip Furia, ISBN 0-19-507473-4
  • Who's Who of the Colored Race, Memento Edition Half-Century Anniversary of Negro Freedom in U.S., reprinted by Gale Research Company, Book Tower Detroit, 1976.

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