[Dixielandjazz] NYTimes.com Article: Star Bandleader Artie Shaw Dies at 94

Dan Augustine ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu
Thu Dec 30 20:32:03 PST 2004

>December 30, 2004
>  Filed at 10:51 p.m. ET
>THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) -- Artie Shaw, the clarinetist
>and bandleader whose recording of ``Begin the Beguine''
>epitomized the Big Band era, died Thursday at his home. He
>was 94.
>Shaw had been in declining health for some time and
>apparently died of natural causes, his attorney and
>longtime friend Eddie Ezor said. Shaw's caregiver was with
>him when he died, Ezor said.
>At his peak in the 1930s and '40s, Shaw pulled in a
>five-figure salary per week and ranked with Benny Goodman,
>Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller as the bandleaders who made
>music swing. But he left the music world largely behind in
>the mid-'50s and spent much of the second half of his life
>devoted to writing and other pursuits.
>His band's recording of Cole Porter's ``Begin the Beguine''
>was intended to be the ``B'' side of the record. Instead,
>it became a huge hit, topping the charts for six weeks in
>1938 and making Shaw famous at age 28.
>Among his other hits, some with his big band and some with
>his quartet, the Gramercy Five: ``Frenesi,'' ``Dancing in
>the Dark,'' ``Nightmare,'' ``Back Bay Shuffle,''
>``Accent-tchu-ate the Positive,'' ``Traffic Jam,'' ``They
>Say,'' ``Moonglow,'' ``Stardust,'' ``Thanks for
>Ev'rything,'' ``Summit Ridge Drive'' and ``My Little Nest
>of Heavenly Blue.''
>He composed some of his songs, such as ``Interlude in B
>Flat,'' a 1935 work that featured an unusual combination of
>clarinet and strings.
>He worked with such jazz legends as Buddy Rich, Mel Torme,
>Gordon Jenkins and, at a time when most white bandleaders
>refused to hire blacks, Billie Holiday.
>Another famous roster: his wives. They included actresses
>Lana Turner (wife No. 3, 1940), Ava Gardner (No. 5, 1945),
>Evelyn Keyes (No. 8, 1957) and novelist Kathleen Winsor,
>author of the 1944 best-seller ``Forever Amber'' (No. 6,
>The marriage to Keyes, best known for playing the middle of
>the three O'Hara sisters in ``Gone With the Wind,'' lasted
>the longest, until 1985, but they led separate lives for
>much of that time.
>``I like her very much and she likes me, but we've found it
>about impossible to live together,'' he said in a 1973
>Entertainment mogul Merv Griffin, a former big band
>crooner, praised Shaw's musical accomplishments Thursday
>and said his romantic exploits made him the ``Howard Hughes
>of the clarinet.''
>After his first burst of stardom, his good looks made
>Hollywood come calling. It was while filming ``Dancing
>Coed,'' 1939, that he met Turner. In 1940, he appeared in
>another musical, ``Second Chorus,'' and got two Academy
>Award nominations for his musical contributions -- for best
>score and best song (``Love of My Life.'')
>A volatile and superbly intelligent man, Shaw hated the
>loss of privacy that stardom brought, had little use for
>signing autographs and once caused an uproar by calling
>jitterbugging fans ``morons.'' He later said he was just
>referring to the rowdy ones.
>``I could never understand why people wanted to dance to my
>music,'' he once said. ``I made it good enough to listen
>He chafed at having to play ``Begin the Beguine'' ad
>nauseam, wishing audiences would be more willing to accept
>new material. (``I mean, it's a good tune if you are going
>to be associated with one tune, but I didn't want that.'')
>He retired from performing several times -- finally
>putting down his clarinet for good in the mid-'50s. After
>that, he lived in Spain for a time, operated a farm, and
>turned to literature full time. He was a voracious reader
>since childhood, and had already produced a well-received
>autobiography, ``The Trouble with Cinderella,'' in 1952.
>``I did all you can do with a clarinet,'' he said. ``Any
>more would have been less.''
>He put out two collections of short fiction, ``I Love You,
>I Hate You, Drop Dead!'' and ``The Best of Intentions.'' He
>spent years working on a voluminous autobiographical novel
>tracing the rise of a young jazz musician, whom he called
>Albie Snow.
>``I've lived for a long time and I've learned a few things
>that I'm passing on,'' he said.
>He was recently named a Jazz Master by the National
>Endowment for the Arts and was looking forward to getting
>his award on Jan. 7, Ezor said. ``Someone will accept for
>him,'' Ezor said.
>Shaw was born Arthur Arshawsky on May 23, 1910, in New York
>City; his immigrant parents struggled to earn a living in
>the clothing business.
>He began his professional career while still in his teens,
>first playing saxophone, then switching to clarinet to take
>advantage of a job opportunity.
>By the time he was in his early 20s, he was a highly paid
>member of a CBS radio orchestra. After the first of his
>many retirements from the music business, he returned to
>New York and began assembling his first orchestra. ``Begin
>the Beguine'' and fame followed not long afterward.
>He enlisted in the Navy during World War II and wound up
>spending most of his time leading a band, giving shows for
>the troops.
>An outspoken liberal, Shaw was called before the House
>Un-American Activities Committee in 1953 when it was
>investigating Communist influence in entertainment. For
>once, Shaw was contrite, telling committee members he had
>attended a couple of Communist meetings after the war
>because of his interest in social justice and world peace
>-- but had never joined the party or given it any money.
>``I hate to admit that I was a dupe, but I guess I was,''
>he said. Committee members responded with sympathy, one
>telling him to go out and use his talent ``to fight for
>true Americanism.''
>His only musical activity in recent years was conducting a
>revival band he organized in the early 1980s, featuring
>arrangements Shaw's bands had used in the past. He did not
>play his clarinet.
>Shaw was often asked about his supposed rivalry with fellow
>clarinetist Goodman. He said: ``Benny, who was every bit as
>dedicated as I was, wanted to be an instrumentalist -- he
>was a superb technician -- while I wanted to be a musician.
>I think my mind was more complex than his.''
>Associated Press Writers Polly Anderson in New York and
>Gary Gentile in Los Angeles contributed to this story.
>Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

**  Dan Augustine     Austin, Texas     ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu  **
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