He refined and perfected the "symphonic poem", a new musical form invented by Franz Liszt. It is usually a one-movement piece inspired by an extramusical idea or famous literary work. While Liszt and other composers wrote symphonic poems lasting only about ten or 15 minutes, Strauss' longest symphonic poems last as long as 40 minutes. Among his most famous are "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks", "Don Juan", "Don Quixote" and "Thus Spake Zarathustra".
He wrote what was considered the most shocking opera up to that time-- "Salome", based on Oscar Wilde's play. It contains a scene in which the evil and depraved Salome is sexually aroused by the decapitated head of John the Baptist.
Accepted the sponsorship of the Nazi Party during World War II.
He was apparently somewhat naive about the Nazis. He fought to retain the services of Jewish poet Stefan Zweig, and refused to obey the Nazis' policies on anything, despite having accepted their sponsorship. He was under constant threat of house arrest because of this.
His opera, "Die schweigsame Frau", was banned during World War II because it had a libretto by Jewish poet Stefan Zweig.
His most famous movement "Also Sprach Zarathustra" is about 40 minutes long; the portion used in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was the beginning of the piece, which is known as "Sunrise" or "Dawn".
Five days after the Allies had landed on D-Day, Hitler sent Strauss a congratulatory 'Happy Birthday' telegram, celebrating his 80th birthday.
Pictured on an Austrian 62c commemorative postage stamp, issued 11 June 2014, the 150th anniversary of his birth.