jazz and swing musician, clarinetist and bandleader
May 30, 1909 - June 13, 1986
Benny Goodman was an American jazz and swing musician, clarinetist and bandleader, known as the "King of Swing". Goodman led one of the most popular bands in America, and their January 16, 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City is considered one of the most important jazz or pop concert in history. Goodman's band launched the careers of many famous jazz players, became the first major integrated jazz group in an era of racial segregation. Goodman was one of the few American musicians to be allowed into the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Benny Goodman – godfather of the swing era
Benjamin David "Benny" Goodman was born in Chicago to the family of Russian-Jewish immigrants from the Russian Empire, one of the twelve children of David Gutman, originally from Belaya Tserkov (now Ukraine) and Dora Grinska of Kaunas (now Lithuania).
When the boy was 10, he was enrolled by his father into music classes at a local synagogue. When he was 12, he had his first concert. When he was 14, he dropped out of school to play music professionally. When he was 16, he was accepted into Ben Pollack's band. And when he was 20, he was already making a career of a freelance clarinetist in New York!
In 1931 he recorded his first widely known song He’s Not Worth Your Tears, and just two years later got a record deal from Columbia Records, creating such hits as Ain’t Cha Glad?, Riffin’ the Scotch (with Billy Holiday) and I Ain’t Lazy, I’m Just Dreamin’, with all of them getting into Top 10 in the charts.
On June 1, 1934 Benny Goodman's orchestra was officially created, with participation of various players who had performed with Goodman for several years.
Goodman was the first band leader who openly defied unwritten (but in some Southern states officially stipulated by Jim Crow Laws) segregation rules, inviting several black players.
They played on the wildly popular NBC radio show Let's Dance, which turned from a Saturday night filler into a staple of the company's broadcast program.
Next year, having lost their main sponsor due to a workers' strike, Goodman and his band had to go on a tour across Midwest, using their own cars due to lack of money for a touring bus. The initial tepid reaction change to a craze when the band dropped the carefully compiled program and started playing their swing with complete abandon!
In January 1938 Goodman's band became the first jazz music group to perform at Carnegie Hall in NYC, playing to the sold out and eager hall and gathering thunderous applause plus five (!) curtain calls. According to some critics, by this performance Goodman single-handedly launched the swing era...
During the World War II, with the ban on recording studios, the musician concentrated on soundtracks for popular Hollywood movies. And after the war, Goodman dedicated most of his time to recording, experimenting with classical music and occasionally touring with famous performers, including Louis Armstrong in 1953. And in 1962 he became one of the very few American musicians to be allowed into the Soviet Union.
Goodman's personal life was a very quiet one, just in line with his demeanor. In 1942 he married Alice Frances Hammond, the sister of his close friend John Hammond. They had two daughters, Benjie and Rachel.
Despite increasing health problems, Goodman continued to play until his very death of a heart attack in 1986.
"Biography". Benny Goodman – The Official Website of the King of Swing. Estate of Benny Goodman.
"The King of Swing". Benny Goodman. January 16, 1938.
BG on the Record: A Bio-Discography of Benny Goodman (2nd ed.). New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House
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