About Artie Shaw (1910 - 2004)
Big Band Leader, Jazz Clarinetist/Musician
Born: 23 May 1910; Birthplace: New York, New York; Death: 30 December 2004 (natural causes); Best Known As: Clarinet-playing Big Band leader who recorded Begin the Beguine
Arthur Jacob Arshawsky was born in New York City, New York, USA, (May 23, 1910 – December 30, 2004), better known as Artie Shaw, was an accomplished jazz clarinetist, composer, bandleader, and writer.
He began learning the saxophone at age 15 and by 16 he was touring with a band.
He returned to New York and became a session musician. His Big Band was very popular with hits like "Begin the Beguine", "Lady Be Good", and "Frenesi" during the Swing Era.
Shaw used unusual instrumentation in his band and was known for being an innovator in the Big Band idiom. Interlude in B-flat was one of his earliest examples of what would later be dubbed third stream.
Billie Holiday, a black female singer, was hired as the band's vocalist. Shaw was the first white bandleader to hire a black female singer, full-time.
His band was very successful although his own playing was not yet recognized. However, it eventually rivalled that of Benny Goodman. Duke Ellington's clarinetist, Barney Bigard -- himself a talented musician -- cited Shaw as his favorite clarinet player.
Shaw reportedly earned $30,000US per week at the height of his career. A very large amount during the Great Depression.
During WWII, Shaw enlisted in the U.S. Navy (along with his entire band) and served with them in the Pacific theater (similar to Glenn Miller's wartime band in Europe). He spent approximately 18 months playing as many as four shows a day for navy personnel. He received a medical upon discharge.
Shaw would take sabbaticals throughout his career, where he would quit the business. He credited his time in the navy as a period of renewed introspection, and began psychoanalysis and to pursue a writing career.
Shaw stopped playing the clarinet in 1954. Citing, his own perfectionism would kill him. He focused on writing on semi-biographical fiction and wrote The Trouble With Cinderella and was working on The Education of Albie Snow when he died in December of 2004.
For the Marx Brothers' movie, The Big Store, Shaw co-wrote the song, "If It's You." He also had a significant role in the Fred Astaire film Second Chorus.
A self-proclaimed "very difficult man", Shaw was married eight times. It was a national joke to have been "married as many times as Artie Shaw."
Among his wives were Jane Cairns, Margaret Allen, Betty Kern (daughter of songwriter Jerome Kern), author Kathleen Winsor, and actresses Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Doris Dowling and Evelyn Keyes. He had two children.
Shaw was brought up before the House Un-American Activites Committee in 1953 for his liberal activities. The committee was investigating a peace activist organization, the World Peace Congress, which was considered a Communist front.
In his later years, Shaw lived and wrote in the Newbury Park section of Thousand Oaks, California. In 1981 he organised a new Artie Shaw Band, with clarinetist Dick Johnson as band leader and soloist. Shaw himself would guest conduct from time to time, ending his self-imposed retirement.
In 2004, he was presented with a lifetime achievement Grammy Award. He died from natural causes at the age of 94.
Official Artie Shaw website (http://www.artieshaw.com)