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Back to Activity Room  Andy Razaf: From Madagascar to Tin Pan Alley
Andy RazafAndriamanantena Paul Razafinkarefo--better known as Andy Razaf--was born in Washington, D.C., in 1895, after his mother fled Madagascar in the midst of political turmoil. Razaf was the son of a Malagasy man who died in Madagascar and Jennie Waller, the daughter of John Lewis Waller, the first African-American consul to Madagascar. Raised in Harlem, Razaf had decided by age 16 to become a songwriter.

A well-known local poet by the early 1920s, he teamed up with Thomas "Fats" Waller, an aspiring pianist and jazz composer. The two collaborated through the 1920s and the '30s, feeding Tin Pan Alley's hunger for new songs for revues and records. Among their best-known songs were "The Joint Is Jumpin'," "Ain't Misbehavin'," "Honeysuckle Rose," "Willow Tree" and "(What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue." Razaf worked with many notable musicians and composers, including Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Eubie Blake and James P. Johnson, and wrote lyrics for hits such as "Stompin' at the Savoy," "Memories of You" and "A Porter's Love Song to a Chambermaid."

Many of Razaf's songs provide an African-American perspective on America and the realities around him. Through their sharp observation of social and racial issues, Razaf's songs give us an inside look at life in New York City in the first half of the 20th century.

A Porter's love song to a Chambermaid
Stompin' at the Savoy
Ain't Misbehavin'

Please select and play one song at a time.

Pictured above (from top to bottom)
Andy Razaf on 131st Street and 7th Avenue near the Ubangi Club and Connie's Inn
Photographer unknown, c. 1935
Courtesy Frank Driggs