- Goodman, Benny
- (1909-1986)The man who was to become “the King of Swing” was born Benjamin David Goodman to Jewish immigrant parents in Chicago, Illinois. Goodman began studying the clarinet at the age of 10 and left school at 14 to begin playing professionally. In 1925, he joined Ben Pollack’s orchestra, and he made his first recording in 1926. Goodman began performing as a solo artist and with different ensembles in 1929, making a number of radio broadcasts and recordings. In 1934, he formed his own band in New York City, and his was one of three bands to play on the three-hour National Biscuit Company radio program Let’s Dance. His band included drummer Gene Krupa and pianist and arranger Fletcher Henderson, and they had a number of hit records, including, Stompin’ at the Savoy (1935) and Don’t Be That Way (1938). In 1935, the Goodman band began a national tour. It was not successful until August of that year when a performance at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles provoked an enthusiastic response from the audience who began jitterbugging in the aisles. Goodman began to add black musicians to the lineup, including pianist Teddy Wilson, trumpeter Cootie Williams, and guitarist Charlie Christian. Their hits included “Bugle Call Rag,” “One O’Clock Jump,” and “Sing, Sing, Sing.” After playing to packed houses at the Paramount Theater in New York in 1937, Goodman and his band appeared at Carnegie Hall in 1938 in what is regarded as a historic concert marking the pinnacle of the swing era. During the war years, the popularity of swing began to decline, and it was difficult to maintain big band performances or produce records. Goodman gave the occasional concert and recorded V-discs for the troops. From 1942 to 1944, he appeared in a number of films, including The Powers Girl (1943) and The Gang’s All Here (1943). He also played and recorded a number of classical pieces. In 1948, he appeared in the movie A Song Is Born with Tommy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton, and Louis Armstrong.During the 1950s, Goodman performed widely and took part in a number of international tours, some sponsored by the State Department. The film The Benny Goodman Story appeared in 1955. In 1961, he toured Latin America for the first time, and in 1962 he visited the Soviet Union. He even publicly debated with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev about the merits of jazz. Goodman continued performing and recording until the end. He put on his final concert in 1986 just days before his death. He received numerous awards and titles in recognition of his contribution to music.See also Cinema.
Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . Neil A. Wynn . 2015.