Today's Memory

Today’s Memory – Artie Shaw

23 - Artie-Shaw-1910-2004

No matter how carefully and assiduously and how deeply you bury shit, the American public will find it and buy it in large quantity.  It’s true, absolutely true

Artie Shaw

May 23, 1910, New York City – December 30, 2004, Thousand Oaks, California


Artie Shaw was an American clarinetist, composer, and bandleader of the 1930s and ’40s. Also an author, Shaw wrote both fiction and non-fiction.

Widely regarded as one of jazz’s finest clarinetists, Shaw led one of the United States’ most popular big bands in the late 1930s through the early 1940s. Their signature song, a 1938 version of Cole Porter’s Begin the Beguine, was a wildly successful single and one of the era’s defining recordings.

Artie Shaw and His Orchestra – Begin the Beguine 1938

Musically restless, Shaw was also an early proponent of Third Stream, which blended classical and jazz, and recorded some small-group sessions that flirted with be-bop before retiring from music in 1954. From 1939 Shaw lived alternately in Mexico and the United States, experimenting occasionally with small jazz combos that he called the Gramercy Five regardless of membership. While several public comebacks followed, including leadership of a U.S. Navy orchestra (1943–44), he dissociated himself from jazz almost totally after 1954 and did not play the clarinet again, although in 1983 he led a re-formed Artie Shaw Orchestra.

Artie Shaw and His Orchestra – Frenesi

He later worked as a farmer, theatre producer, and author. Among his writings are the three short novels collected in I Love You, I Hate You, Drop Dead! (1965) and his revealing autobiography, The Trouble with Cinderella (1952). Shaw was married eight times, and actresses Lana Turner and Ava Gardner were his most famous wives.

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Artie Shaw and His Orchestra in Paul Whiteman’s Carnegie Hall Concert (1938)


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