The Legendary Harlemite Andy Razaf, Composer Of “Ain’t Misbehavin’ And More, 1897 – 1973

February 19, 2022

Andy Razaf, born Andriamanantena Paul Razafinkarefo; December 16, 1895 – February 3, 1973, was a Harlem poet, composer, and lyricist.

He was known for such well-known songs as “Ain’t Misbehavin'” and “Honeysuckle Rose”.


Razaf was born in Washington, D.C., United States. His birth name was Andriamanantena Paul Razafinkarefo.

He was the son of Henri Razafinkarefo, nephew of Queen Ranavalona III of Imerina kingdom in Madagascar, and Jennie Razafinkarefo (née Waller), the daughter of John L. Waller, the first African American consul to Imerina.

The French invasion of Madagascar left his father dead and forced his pregnant 15-year-old mother to escape to the United States, where he was born in 1895.

He was raised in Harlem, NY, and at the age of 16 he quit school and took a job as an elevator operator at a Tin Pan Alley office building.

He was raised in Harlem, NY, and at the age of 16, he quit school and took a job as an elevator operator at a Tin Pan Alley office building.

A year later he penned his first songtext, embarking on his career as a lyricist.

During this time he would spend many nights in the Greyhound Lines bus station in Times Square and would pick up his mail at the Gaiety Theatre office building, which was considered the black Tin Pan Alley.

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, Don Redman, James P. Johnson, Harry Brooks, and Fats Waller.

Among the best-known Razaf-Waller collaborations are “Ain’t Misbehavin’“, “Honeysuckle Rose”, “The Joint Is Jumpin’“, “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 Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League’s Negro World newspaper.

He also wrote quite a number of raunchy ‘character’ blues-type songs for many of the women blues singers of the 1920s.

He also made a number of records as vocalist (both as solo and as vocalist for jazz groups, including a handful by James P. Johnson and Fletcher Henderson).

He was married to Jean Blackwell Hutson from 1939 to 1947.

An analysis of Andy Razaf music:

In 1972, Razaf was recognized by his Tin Pan Alley peers in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.


Razaf died in North Hollywood, California from renal failure, aged 77.

Photo credit: Source.

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