This Week In Music

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Benny Goodman — May 30, 1909Dubbed the king of swing, Benjamin David "Benny" Goodman was born to a large, impoverished family in Chicago on May 30, 1909. By age 10 he was skilled on the clarinet, and by age 12 his imitation of musician Ted Lewis's style impressed bandleader Ben Pollack enough to remember Goodman and invite him to join his band five years later.

Goodman left Pollack in 1929 working clubs and sessions to hone his craft. He founded his first band for the 1934 radio program Let's Dance. Already relying on songs by Black arrangers, Goodman was among the first White bandleaders to challenge segregation of performers by the entertainment industry.

Goodman's career took off sharply following a rousing success in Los Angeles' Palomar Ballroom on August 21, 1935—often seen as marking the birth of the 10-year-long swing era. During 1936 alone, Goodman had 15 songs in the top 10. A further triumph was 1938's appearance at Carnegie hall on January 16, during which Goodman's all-star band gave jazz music new legitimacy with mainstream audiences.

Over the years Goodman had performed with greats like Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Bix Beiderbecke, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and many others. While many top-notch musicians got their start with Goodman, many left his bands unwilling or unable to meet his withering demands for technical perfection.

His legacies include untold numbers of musicians who took up the clarinet to be like him, popularization of swing and big band musical styles, scores of best-selling records, and movie performances in The Big Broadcast of 1937, Hollywood Hotel (1937), Syncopation (1942), and Sweet and Low-Down (1944).

Goodman taught for a time at Juilliard, received honorary degrees from Brandeis University, Bard College, Yale, and Harvard, and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award shortly before his death in 1986. Still remembered as one of the greats of jazz, the U.S. Postal Service honored his memory with a 1996 stamp as part of the Legends of American Music series.


At the height of the Cold War, between the 1961 Berlin Crisis and 1962's Cuban Missile Crisis—during which the world stood on the brink of nuclear disaster—the U.S. State Department sent Benny Goodman, son of Eastern European immigrants, to tour the Soviet Union with a jazz band as part of a rare cultural exchange.

The 53-year-old Goodman and his band performed 32 concerts with stops in Sochi, Tiflis, Kiev, Leningrad, Tashkent, and Moscow. Some 180,000 Russians, including Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev attended the concerts, with one Russian newspaper proclaiming Goodman a "true poet of the clarinet."

A highlight of the six-week tour was a debate with Khrushchev in which Goodman defended modern art and music to the Soviet leader who, at least publicly, officially condemned it as decadent.

The tour was considered a great success and boosted the popularity of American jazz in Eastern Europe. A number of tunes from the concerts were recorded and eventually released by RCA. German documentary filmmaker Konstanze Burkard released a 97-minute film about the trip: To Russia With Jazz – Benny Goodman in the USSR.


Week of May 23, 2011
Event: "In a Precursor to Outdoor Rock Festivals, Ray Charles and B.B. King Perform For 9,000 Fans in Atlanta

Birthday: Miles Davis Born May 26, 1926

Week of May 16, 2011
Event: "When The Saints Go Marching In" Recorded by Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra

Birthday: Woody Herman Born May 16, 1913

Week of May 2, 2011
Event: New York's Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center Announces Addition of Rock, Pop, and Jazz Concerts

Birthday: Maynard Ferguson Born May 4, 1928

Week of April 25, 2011
Event: At Decca Studios Charlie Parker Made His First Commercial Recording April 30, 1941

Birthday: Duke Ellington Born April 29, 1899

Week of April 18, 2011
Event: Pipeless Organ Patented by Laurens Hammond April 24, 1934

Birthday: Tito Puente Born April 20, 1923

Week of April 4, 2011
Event: Herp Alpert Born April 4, 1939

Birthday: Freddie Hubbard Born April 7, 1938

Week of March 28, 2011
Birthday: Michael Brecker Born March 29, 1949

Birthday: Herp Alpert Born March 31, 1935

Week of March 14, 2011
Event: Joseph Haydn's Surprise Symphony Is Performed for the First Time March 23, 1792

Birthday: Johann Sebastian Bach Born March 21, 1685

Week of March 7, 2011
Event: Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians Recorded Auld Lang Syne March 7, 1939

Birthday: Leon Bismark (Bix) Beiderbecke March 10, 1903

Week of February 28, 2011
Event: Miles Davis Records "Kind of Blue" on Columbia Records March 2, 1959
Birthday: Frédéric Chopin Marc 1, 1810

Week of February 21, 2011
Event: Duke Ellington Records "The Queen's Suite"
Birthday: Dexter Gordon February 27, 1923

Week of February 14, 2011
Event: Sonny Rollins Records his Title Track "The Bridge" February 14, 1962
Birthday: Buddy DeFranco February 17, 1923

Week of February 7, 2011
Event: Rhapsody in Blue is Performed for the First Time February 12, 1924
Birthday: Marion "Buddy" Childers February 12, 1926

Week of January 31, 2011
Event: Frank Sinatra Debuts on Radio's "Your Hit Parade" February 6, 1943
Birthday: Stanley "Stan" Getz February 2, 1927

Week of January 24, 2011
Event: Original Dixieland Jazz Band Makes the First Jazz Record January 30, 1917
Birthday: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart January 27, 1756