Friday, July 3, 2009

Begin the Beguine

In July, 1938, Artie Shaw recorded Begin the Beguine for the Bluebird label. He was 28. It quickly became an enormous hit and and Shaw became more and more annoyed when concert audiences began requesting it over and over and over and over and over again in concert halls and dance pavilions. What could he do? It was hummable and you could dance to it. Within a year he would be making $60,000 a week. Then, suddenly, he quit the music business and moved to Mexico. It was the first of several retirements and unretirements that came almost as frequently as his serial marriages to glamorous film stars. Artie Shaw appears four times in A Book of Ages, but none of the entries answers the question "Who was better: Artie Shaw or Benny Goodman?" (Hint: the superior clarinetist's initials are A.S.)

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