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MIXED MEDIA

April 11, 1993|LEONARD FEATHER

"BLACK AND BLUE: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF ANDY RAZAF

By Barry Singer

Schirmer ($28.00)

* * * *

This is an important, long overdue book, particularly because of the subject's almost total failure in achieving fame. Razaf was the co-writer of "Ain't Misbehavin'," "Honeysuckle Rose," "Black and Blue" and a dozen other megahits, but his partner, Fats Waller, received virtually all the credit and fame.

Razaf was born in Washington, D.C., in 1895 and had his first professional performance in "The Passing Show of 1913." He met Waller around 1923, though Razaf had many other partners before he and Waller wrote "Ain't Misbehavin' " for the Harlem revue, "Connie's Hot Chocolates" and "Honeysuckle Rose," also introduced at Connie's Inn in 1929.

Razaf's organized personality and discipline contrasted with the utter instability of Waller. This played a large role in the eventual breakup of their partnership, as did the conviction of Waller's manager that the pianist's future lay in public performances rather than songwriting.

The lyricist's later years were riddled with disappointments and errors of judgment. For example, he sold the lyrics to "In the Mood" for $200; it became a gigantic hit for Glenn Miller and could have earned Razaf a fortune. Razaf died in 1973.

Singer's thoroughly researched book fills in a huge gap in American musical history.

Items in this periodic survey of albums, books, videocassettes and laser discs are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent).

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