Friday, May 21, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Jazz clarinetist Artie Shaw would have been 100 on Sunday. NPR did a nice piece on him which you can read here.

Artie Shaw was interviewed and profiled extensively for the Ken Burns' Jazz series on PBS. As one of the last remaining band leaders of the swing era, his memories formed a core around which that era could be examined in the limited amount of time allotted to it. He said one of his fondest memories was of giving a concert on an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Pacific. The sailors had seen some of the bitterest fighting and a lot of men were not coming home. The USO arranged for Shaw and his band to give the guys in this battle group a taste of home.

The band was set up on one of the flight decks which was lowered into the carrier. The sailors weren't told which band was coming only that a jazz band was coming to play for them. As the deck rose to the top, Shaw and his band started into their signature song "Begin the Beguine". He said he remembered the roar that went up from the men. He said he could still hear it 60+ years later. There was film footage of that event shown in the program. Men sitting everywhere on this carrier and Shaw standing front and center starting the song.

"Begin the Beguine" is one of my top 10 favorites. It's a song I love to play when the top is down on the Jeep and I'm driving along at 60 miles per hour. I think of Mr. Shaw and his story every time I hear it and I think about those guys in the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from home, doing something I wonder if I ever could because the world's freedom depended upon the performance of their job. Shaw said he never wanted to be a "popular" entertainer because he felt you gave away too much of your music. Yet one song cheered thousands of guys and has gone on to cheer millions. That's my definition of "popular".

Happy 100th Birthday! I'm sure the concert you're giving on Sunday will make the angels sing.

Beverage: China Black Tea


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