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The Swing Era was that magic moment in America when the popular music of the nation became virtually identical with the great new music of the period—jazz. The man most responsible for bringing this memorable music to popularity was the so-called "King of Swing"—Benny Goodman. In this controversial and widely acclaimed book, James Lincoln Collier tells the story of Goodman's life as seen through the music and social world of the years of the Great Depression in the 1930s and beyond.
Born of poor Jewish immigrant parents in Chicago in 1910, Benny Goodman's career was a rags-to-riches story brought to life. When he was ten years old he joined the local synagogue band with two of his brothers, and because he was the smallest of the three was given a clarinet. Proving to be a natural clarinetist, Goodman left home at fifteen to join the famous Ben Pollack orchestra. His clarinet playing became legendary before he was twenty, and he was one of the most sought-after jazzmen for radio shows and orchestras that needed a talented player on short notice.
Collier brilliantly recreates the colorful popular music world of the 1920s and 1930s, when the music industry was just expanding, radio was the great source of musical entertainment, and swing bands that had emerged out of the growth of jazz in the 1920s were first finding national audiences. He chronicles the rise and success of Goodman and his band against the social milieu and popular music of the time. Goodman's success was built largely on the arrangements of the brilliant black musician, Fletcher Henderson. He was the first leader to hire black musicians for a white band—Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton—and a number of major musical figures got their start in the band, among them Gene Krupa, Harry Janes, and Peggy lee. Collier also deals in detail with Goodman's simultaneous career as a classical musician.
Benny Goodman was a brilliant musician but an enigmatic man. Collier's biography captures this elusive personality with great insight and understanding. Collier perceptively analyzes dozens of Goodman's significant recordings and makes the reader hear them afresh. Benny Goodman and the Swing Era is a major work about jazz and one of its most significant figures.
This is the story of Goodman's life as seen through the music and social world of the Great Depression in the 1930s and beyond. Collier chronicles the rise and success of Goodman and his band against the social milieu and popular music of the time.