Artie Shaw...popular music...immortality

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Jay Maynes/Juan Oskar

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"I would say if a piece of popular music lasts fifty years, it's got a good shot at what we laughingly call immortality." Artie Shaw

Hey amigos...and interesting article. Later........Jay

The Atlantic Monthly | March 2005
> Pursuits & Retreats
> Post Mortem
> Ex-Husband of Love Goddesses
> Artie Shaw (1910-2004)
> by Mark Steyn
> Artie Shaw was the last of the big bandleaders of the Swing Era. We
> think of them as musicians now, and a few of them‹very few, according
> to Shaw‹were great artists. But for anyone under a certain age it's
> hard to comprehend the scale of their celebrity‹instrumentalists in
> tuxes fronting orchestras, and yet they were as big as the biggest
> movie stars. Imagine Britney if she could play a clarinet. >
> On the eve of World War II, Time reported that to Germans America
> meant "skyscrapers, Clark Gable and Artie Shaw." And Shaw lived more
> like a movie star than Gable did. In the ranks of legendary
> heterosexuals he's rivaled only by Sinatra when it comes to the
> of A-list Hollywood babes he got to see in non-Hays Code situations.
> He was engaged to Betty Grable when he ran off with Lana Turner. He
> married Ava Gardner and had an affair with Rita Hayworth. Among his
> eight wives were Evelyn Keyes, who played Mrs. Jolson in The Jolson
> Story, and Kathleen Winsor, the best-selling naughty novelist
> Amber), and Betty Kern, daughter of Jerome.
> Most fans of P. G. Wodehouse regard his literary landscape as a
> timeless playground sealed off from reality. "Mr Wodehouse's world
> never stale," wrote Evelyn Waugh. "He has made a world for us to live
> in and delight in." But Artie Shaw loomed so large at the height of
> his fame that he has the distinction of being one of the few real,
> live, flesh-and-blood contemporaries to invade the Wodehouse canon.
> The Mating Season a Hollywood starlet recounts to Bertie Wooster her
> encounter with an elderly English spinster who turned out to be
> something of a movie fan.
> "She knows exactly how many times everybody's been divorced and why,
> how much every picture for the last twenty years has grossed, and how
> many Warner brothers there are. She even knows how many times Artie
> Shaw has been married, which I'll bet he couldn't tell you himself.
> She asked if I had ever married Artie Shaw, and when I said no,
> to think I was pulling her leg or must have done it without noticing.
> I tried to explain that when a girl goes to Hollywood she doesn't
> to marry Artie Shaw, it's optional, but I don't think I convinced >
> When he stopped marrying, he started lecturing on it at colleges:
> "Consecutive Monogamy & Ideal Divorce," by an "ex-husband of love
> goddesses." "These love goddesses are not what they seem, especially
> if you're married to one," he explained. "They all think they want a
> traditional marriage, but they aren't made for that sort of thing.
> Somebody's got to get the coffee in the morning, and an Ava Gardner
> not going to do that. So you get up and get it, and then you find
> you're doing everything. And why? Because she's the love goddess, and
> that's all she has to be." He had children with a couple of 'em, but
> didn't care much for them either. "I didn't get along with the
> mothers," he said. "So why should I get along with the kids?"
> Still, celebrity broads were a rare compensation in a world where
> everything else was a pain in the neck. He was a swing bandleader,
> he hated the word "swing," and he was a jazz musician, but he hated
> the word "jazz." He resented singers, and despised dancers, and
> loathed fans; the audience was a bunch of "morons," and the musicians
> were "prima donnas," and the ones who weren't were hacks who did that
> cheesy synchronized swaying with the saxes and the trombones that the
> morons were dumb enough to go crazy for. Glenn Miller? "It would have
> been better if he'd lived and his music had died." Well, okay, lots
> jazz guys have a problem with Miller; how about Benny Goodman?
> "Musically, he had a limited vocabulary," sniffed Shaw.
> Gene Lees has described the big bands of the late thirties and early
> forties as the sound "that will not go away." For Shaw‹restless and
> obsessive‹that was the problem. So he went away instead. He started
> quitting the music business "permanently" a few months after his
> hit, and kept on quitting it. But every time he came back, the fans
> were still there, demanding "Star Dust" and "Frenesi." He found out
> was one thing to "Begin the Beguine," quite another to try and stop
> it. He told me, "Every time someone comes up to me and says, 'Oh, Mr.
> Shaw, I love "Begin the Beguine,"' I want to vomit."
> "Sorry," I said, "but I do love 'Begin the Beguine.'"
> "Well, then, you make me want to vomit," he replied. "I did
> It's over. If you want it, get the record. People say, 'Why did you
> give up music?' I say, 'Have you got every record I ever made?' They
> say, 'Well, no.' Well, get 'em all and then come back and complain."
> He made "Beguine" a hit, all 108 bars of it‹the longest standard in
> the standard repertoire, thanks to Shaw. Cole Porter wrote it as a
> piece of faux exotica‹"Down by the shore an orchestra's playing / And
> even the palms seem to be swaying"‹but Shaw threw out the lyric and
> made the tune jump. It may have made him vomit, but people love that
> record because, two thirds of a century on, the double thwack of
> opening bars is as wild and exciting and unmistakable as anything in
> American music. It's nothing to do with Porter, just a little figure
> Shaw and his arranger Jerry Gray cooked up, and then his clarinet
> comes in riding the rhythm section. You don't have to do it like
> you can play it a thousand different ways, but Shaw's recording
> the way for all the others. Cole Porter understood. On being
> introduced to the bandleader, he said, "Happy to meet my >
> hree of the best bandleaders of the period were clarinetists‹Shaw,
> Benny Goodman, Woody Herman‹and it seems to me that's the core sound
> of the era, so seductive, so insinuating. Artie, naturally, had no
> time for that kind of talk. According to him, the executives liked
> clarinet because, in those days of primitive recording, its higher
> pitch made it cut through the band more clearly than the sax.
> Whatever. Digitally remastered and cleaned up, the arrangements still
> sound good. On his smash 1940 recording of "Star Dust," Shaw's solo
> manages, in just sixteen marvelous bars, to sum up the broad legato
> sweep of Hoagy Carmichael's tune and yet get giddily away from it in
> those lovely triplets. There's so much going on in those early
> hits‹joyous, explosive vamps that for many listeners became part of
> the song. You can find later recordings of "'Swonderful" and "My Blue
> Heaven" that aren't performances of the numbers so much as of the
> band's arrangements of them.
> As much as he reviled the music biz, he had little time for the
> pomposity of post‹big-band jazz. "It doesn't have to sound like
> crockery to be jazz," he sighed. "It's solemn rather than serious. I
> told Clint Eastwood that Dirty Harry was the closest to art he ever
> got. That picture's America as it really is. Whereas a picture like
> Bird, which was meant to be a serious thing, was solemn and boring.
> you're going to pick an artist who's at odds with his time, you don't
> pick Charlie Parker. He was worshipped in his lifetime. He just
> screwed up."
> Shaw went into music just to make enough money to finish his
> education. He sold 100 million records and found out it wasn't about
> the money. For most of its practitioners, the point of jazz is that
> it's not fixed, it's never the same, it's improvisational. For Shaw,
> that's what made music frustrating. "The trouble with composing is
> that when it's done, it doesn't exist. It's just notes on a piece of
> paper. Until it's performed. And each performer will stick his own
> thumbprint on it and change it. Whereas in a book there it is, you
> can't change it. If you read Thomas Mann, you're reading Thomas Mann.
> Nobody improvises around his sentences. The two most honest and pure
> media are painting and literature. Van Gogh's Starry Night remains
> same wherever you hang it. You can achieve your perfection. In music,
> you can only approximate it."
> So he gave up the clarinet, and became a novelist, and a dairy
> and a film producer, and the fourth-ranked precision rifleman in
> America. A decade back he made his only visit to Britain, for a
> one-night stand conducting Prokofiev, Mozart, and some of his old
> at the Royal Festival Hall. He'd been a hero to a colleague of mine
> for decades, and was supposed to be interviewed by him for the BBC.
> But my friend fell ill, and I got the call to come in at the last
> minute. Listening from his sickbed, my pal scribbled me a note saying
> he'd been "horrified" by Shaw, but I loved that interview. Cole
> said of the Duchess of Windsor's conversational style that "she
> returned the ball." Shaw couldn't wait that long. He leaned over your
> side of the net and whacked it down your throat while you were still
> serving. I mentioned his version of "These Foolish Things" because it
> was co-written by a BBC producer, Eric Maschwitz. "So what?" snapped
> Shaw. "The song doesn't mean anything. What I did had nothing to do
> with the tune. The last eleven, twelve bars I did that cadenza‹that's
> as close to perfection as I'll ever get." It was one of his last
> records. In 1954 he put his clarinet away, never got it out again,
> never wanted to. "I did all you can do with a clarinet. Any more
> have been less."
> As for Artie's fellow bandleaders, the sound may not have "gone
> but a lot of the business did, and Dorsey and Goodman found
> like most celebrities, clinging to a moment as it recedes into the
> past. When Shaw decided to pack it in, Duke Ellington told him, "Man,
> you got more guts than any of us."
> "I can say truthfully what very few people can say‹that I did
> something better than anyone else in the world." And he did: he was
> the best clarinetist, the one with the fullest tone and the slyest
> shadings. And then he stopped, and did other things, and outlived
> every other bandleader. "My life turned out the best, too."
> To his "dimwit" wives, he was a deranged obsessive. To his estranged
> sons, he was a miserable, lonely man. But he was chasing different
> priorities. "The Mozart Clarinet Concerto, we know that's a good
> of work. Here it is a couple hundred years later. Here's some of my
> work fifty years later. I would say if a piece of popular music lasts
> fifty years, it's got a good shot at what we laughingly call
> immortality. We're aiming to transcend this short lifetime. You hope
> to put a footprint where it will last a little while."
> He certainly left his mark on Evelyn Keyes. If he went into a
> and saw the toilet roll hung up to unwind from the back rather than
> the front, it drove him nuts. Years after their divorce she said,
> "Every time I change a toilet roll, I think of Artie Shaw."
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> Mark Steyn is a columnist for Britain's Telegraph Group, the Chicago
> Sun-Times, and other publications.
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> Copyright © 2005 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.
> The Atlantic Monthly; March 2005; Ex-Husband of Love Goddesses;
> 295, No. 2; 138-139

Jay Maynes/Juan Oskar

Thread Starter
I don't think I've ever posted a reply to my own post but Artie Shaw was an interesting chap. A former A&M employee sent this article to me, but what was facinating to me is that I felt I knew this guy. He reminded me of a couple musician old timers I have known. I loved this quote because I think there is truth to it: "I would say if a piece of popular music lasts fifty years, it's got a good shot at what we laughingly call immortality." Artie Shaw
My point is if I have one... :tongue: These TJB albums are fresh and interesting even after more than 40 years, and my Juan Oskar CDz lasted at least a good 30 minutes. :badteeth: Later amigos...................Jay


Jay Maynes/Juan Oskar said:
He certainly left his mark on Evelyn Keyes. If he went into a
> and saw the toilet roll hung up to unwind from the back rather than
> the front, it drove him nuts. Years after their divorce she said,
> "Every time I change a toilet roll, I think of Artie Shaw."

Is this some sort of trait among Big Band musicians? According to George T. Simon in his biography of Glenn Miller, Miller and his wife, Helen, used to fight about the same thing! :laugh:
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