Saturday, May 30, 2009

Happy 100th Birthday Benny Goodman!

The King of Swing turns 100 today.

Here's a clip from 1942 showing Goodman and his band playing for all those young hipsters jitterbugging in the rain. Your grandparents weren't always old.  They were just as young and sexy as you think you are.  They could really dance, unlike you with that controlled spasm you call dancing.  Check out Grandmere Mimi sliding in the rain for a photographer.

Another movie clip with Goodman in the unlikely role of square professor playing with Lionel Hampton.

Here's a brief clip from 1937 showing Goodman and his band playing part of their signature tune "Sing Sing Sing" with solos by Harry James, Goodman, and Gene Krupa, who looks high as a kite (and probably was).

For all you hardcore fans, here's the whole "Sing Sing Sing," all 9 minutes of it.

Not bad for a poor Jewish kid from Chicago whose father worked in a lard factory.
It was Goodman more than anyone else who made American popular music and cleared the road for rock.  He was the first to put jazz before a broad white American audience.  Jazz before was associated with black folk and the urban underground.  Mainstream popular music on most radio shows in the early 1930s was schmalz; waltzes and polkas, with "hay rides" for the rural folk.  Goodman put a big heaping helping of hot spicy sex and underworld glamor into popular music that had an immediate appeal to white kids, introducing them to something that black kids had enjoyed for over 20 years.  Goodman was one of the first to desegregate pop music, integrating his band and giving black musicians top billing, most famously Lionel Hampton and Charlie Christian.  He avoided Southern segregation laws by simply not touring in the South.  He was successful enough that he could afford to ignore that whole region of the country.

He began his career at age 16, and toward the end of his life, he was touring the world with Louis Armstrong and playing music written for him by the likes of Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein.

Happy 100 Benny, and thanks for everything!


Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Not to mention how much his music meant to youngster in Europe.

I think of my hometown, isolated from the war, but with German bombers flying over Tusday nights. No one ever knew if they would only pass by or drop their loads...

A couple of years ago there was a Benny Goodman-style big band having a gig in the Concert Hall (where only Classical music used to be allowed).

The place was full of white haired persons!

JCF said...

I saw him play live.

I think I'm probably one of the youngest people who (by their own choice) can make that claim!

[In 1978, I won tickets to see him play (in Sacramento). I was a strange fish in high school: while my classmates were rocking out to Peter Frampton, I was majorly into Big Bands. Still have my box-set LP of the '38 Concert at Carnegie Hall!]

Thanks, seriously, for this Doug.

Counterlight said...

JCF you lucky dog.

I too had a taste for big band music in high school. I listened to the Dorseys, Artie Shaw, Jimmy Lunceford, Will Bradley, Glenn Miller, etc. But, the 2 giants in my estimation were Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. I still find the music of both to be incredibly sexy.

Will Bradley's "Celery Stalks at Midnight" remains one of my all time favorite novelty songs.

Posting this was my pleasure.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Exchanging childhood memories...

Late on Tuesday evenings there was a programme on the wirelss hosted by one Kjell Andersson, a Scanian fellow (particular dialect) about Jazz: Smoke Rings.

Classic Jazz from days gone. Benny Goodman, Louie Armstrong and the like. My mother always listened to it - and we listened too (couldn't help it).

It went on for about an hour.

The host had a very particular voice (apart from the dialect). One could practically h e a r the smoke.


Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Wow, JC!

JCF said...

A year or so before (that concert I attended), BG played "In Concert at Wolf Trap" on PBS.

To show my devotion---and the state my technology: our PBS station, KVIE Channel 6, had an audio signal which came over the bottom end of the FM dial. I taped the concert over the radio! *LOL* (I wonder if I still have that tape somewhere)

[Oh, BTW: that long version of "Sing, Sing, Sing" ISN'T the '38 Carnegie Hall version. It doesn't have the famous piano solo---by BG's session player (Jess somebody, I think)---which was so BEYOND what anyone had expected, BG actually *guffawed* in surprise and delight]

To tell you the truth, while BG was the superior jazzman, I absolutely ADORED Artie Shaw's tone on the ol' licorice stick. His sound could send a thrill right down to my . . . well, the places a virginal 16 year-old had been taught not to think about "until you're married" {snarf!}

Tommy Dorsey, Artie Lunsford, Benny Carter (he who did the Fisher kids---my brother, trumpet/Yours Truly, sax---one better, by playing BOTH!), Count Basie, Jimmy Dorsey (very underrated, IMO). Ach: so much to love! So weird a love, for the 70s [Maybe my taste in music OUTED me as hopelessly QUEER, even when I was still (more-or-less) gender-conforming and still (more-or-less) straight. Heh.]

I also watched late-night movies from the by-gone era of Swing...