Benny Goodman

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About Benny Goodman

Unassuming yet witty clarinetist Benjamin David Goodman was America's first King of Swing and a pivotal figure in the introduction of Black jazz to white audiences. Born in Chicago to poor Jewish immigrants in 1909, Goodman began performing professionally as a young teenager. After kicking off a string of chart hits in 1930 with the relatively tame "He's Not Worth Your Tears," he later commissioned "killer-diller" arrangements from Fletcher Henderson that added rhythmic excitement to Goodman's famously sweet sound. A regular spot on the radio program Let's Dance primed the pump for a career-making 1935 Hollywood show by Goodman's big band that essentially ignited the Swing era. With racial segregation the norm, Goodman helped integrate popular music by hiring Black musicians such as pianist Teddy Wilson and guitarist Charlie Christian. Goodman's big band, trio, quartet, and sextet ruled jazz for the rest of the '30s. He had his biggest hit with "Moonglow" in 1936, and a 1938 Carnegie Hall show brought the clarinetist and entire jazz genre unprecedented respectability. Until his death in 1986, Goodman continued to perform jazz (including a short-lived bebop period) while regularly commissioning classical works from composers like Belá Bartók and Igor Stravinsky.

Chicago, IL, United States
May 30, 1909

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