50 Facts About Artie Shaw


Artie Shaw was born on Arthur Jacob Arshawsky; May 23, 1910 – December 30, 2004 and was an American clarinetist, composer, bandleader, actor and author of both fiction and non-fiction.

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Widely regarded as "one of jazz's finest clarinetists", Artie Shaw led one of the United States' most popular big bands in the late 1930s through the early 1940s.

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Musically restless, Artie Shaw was an early proponent of what became known much later as Third Stream music, which blended elements of classical and jazz forms and traditions.

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Artie Shaw's music influenced other musicians, such as Monty Norman in England, with the vamp of the James Bond Theme, possibly influenced by 1938's "Nightmare".

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Artie Shaw recorded with small jazz groups drawn from within the ranks of the big bands he led.

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Artie Shaw served in the US Navy from 1942 to 1944, during which time he led a morale-building band that toured the South Pacific.

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Artie Shaw grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, where his natural introversion was deepened by local antisemitism.

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Artie Shaw bought a saxophone by working in a grocery store and began learning the saxophone at 13.

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From 1925 to 1936, Artie Shaw performed with many bands and orchestras; from 1926 to 1929, he worked in Cleveland and established a lasting reputation as music director and arranger for an orchestra led by the violinist Austin Wylie.

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In 1932, Artie Shaw joined the Roger Wolfe Kahn Orchestra and made several recordings with the outfit including "It Don't Mean a Thing" and "Fit as a Fiddle".

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Artie Shaw valued experimental and innovative music over dancing and love songs.

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Artie Shaw was an innovator in the big band idiom, using unusual instrumentation; "Interlude in B-flat", where he was backed with only a rhythm section and a string quartet, was one of the earliest examples of what would be later dubbed Third Stream.

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Artie Shaw named it Artie Shaw and the Gramercy Five after his home telephone exchange.

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Long series of musical groups Artie Shaw subsequently formed included Lena Horne, Helen Forrest, Mel Torme, Buddy Rich, Dave Tough, Barney Kessel, Jimmy Raney, Tal Farlow, Dodo Marmarosa, and Ray Conniff.

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Artie Shaw used the morose "Nightmare", with its Hasidic nuances, as his theme rather than choosing a more accessible song.

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Artie Shaw generally did not stick around long enough to reap his bands' successes through live performances of their recorded hits.

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Artie Shaw was the headliner of a radio series with comedian Robert Benchley as emcee.

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Artie Shaw became increasingly disillusioned with not having time to develop new arrangements, and having to play the same pop tunes over and over.

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Artie Shaw was hired as bandleader for the Burns and Allen Show broadcast from Hollywood.

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Artie Shaw organized a band that was modeled after his swing band concept of the late-1930s with the addition of six violins, two violas, and one cello.

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Artie Shaw updated the idea with the music trends of the 1940s.

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Artie Shaw was at or near the top of the list of virtuoso jazz bandleaders.

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Artie Shaw acted on the show as a love interest for Gracie Allen.

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Artie Shaw's contract was renewed for another 13 weeks when the program was moved to New York.

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Artie Shaw disliked having to be a part of the celebrity culture of the period, with its professional obligations.

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Artie Shaw told Metronome magazine: "I don't like the business of music.

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Artie Shaw summed up his feelings in a self-penned 1939 Saturday Evening Post article: "My job is to play music, not politics, and my only obligation is to the people who pay to listen to me.

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Artie Shaw broke up the Hollywood band, keeping a nucleus of seven musicians in addition to himself, and filled out the ensemble with New York musicians until March 1941.

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Artie Shaw was shaken by the news, as he told interviewer Freddie Johnson in 1994: "Everything seemed to pale into insignificance, and I had to go back out on stage and announce "Star Dust" or something, and it sounded so fatuous.

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Artie Shaw credited his time in the Navy from 1942 to 1944 as a period of renewed introspection.

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Artie Shaw worked for years on his 1, 000-page autobiographical novel, The Education of Albie Snow, but the three-volume work remained unpublished.

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Artie Shaw continued to record for RCA Victor, as he had before the war, and limited the band's personal appearances to military bases in California.

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Artie Shaw made a few records for Musicraft before the band broke up, and all of the recordings for Musicraft from 1946 were staffed by top-notch session musicians.

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In July 1954, Artie Shaw undertook a brief Australian tour for promoter Lee Gordon on which he shared the bill with drummer Buddy Rich and vocalist Ella Fitzgerald.

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Artie Shaw explained to a reporter: "In the world we live in, compulsive perfectionists finish last.

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Artie Shaw appeared with the band throughout its first few years, limiting his role to being its conductor and front man, while leaving the clarinet playing duties to Johnson.

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In 1985, another week-long series of strenuous rehearsals followed during which Artie Shaw added more repertoire, including many arrangements and compositions that were from the later years of his career Artie Shaw had never recorded.

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Artie Shaw made several musical shorts in 1939 for Vitaphone and Paramount Pictures.

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Artie Shaw collaborated on the love song "If It's You", sung by Tony Martin in the Marx Brothers' film The Big Store.

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Artie Shaw's 1940 recording of "Stardust" was used in its entirety in the closing credits of the film The Man Who Fell to Earth.

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Canadian filmmaker Brigitte Berman interviewed Hoagy Carmichael, Doc Cheatham, and others including Shaw for her documentary film, Bix: Ain't None of Them Play Like Him Yet about Bix Beiderbecke, and afterward she went on to create an Academy Award-winning documentary, Artie Shaw: Time Is All You've Got (1985), featuring extensive interviews with Shaw, Buddy Rich, Mel Torme, Helen Forrest, and other musicians, in addition to Shaw's eighth wife, actress Evelyn Keyes.

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The documentary ends with Artie Shaw rehearsing his new band with co-leader Johnson present and rolls to credits perhaps quite fittingly with the band taking a final segue to Artie Shaw's theme song Nightmare.

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Artie Shaw had two sons, Steven Kern and Jonathan Shaw (with Doris Dowling).

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Artie Shaw's controlling nature and incessant verbal abuse drove Turner to have a nervous breakdown, soon after which she divorced him.

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In 1940, before eloping with Lana Turner, Artie Shaw briefly dated actresses Betty Grable and Judy Garland and, according to Tom Nolan's biography, had an affair with Lena Horne.

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Apart from his interest in music, Artie Shaw had a tremendous intellect and almost insatiable thirst for intellectual knowledge and literature.

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In 1946, Artie Shaw was present at a meeting of the Independent Citizens' Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions.

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In 1953, Artie Shaw was forced to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee for his leftist activities.

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Artie Shaw was a precision marksman, ranking fourth in the United States in 1962, and an expert fly fisherman.

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In 1980, Artie Shaw donated his papers, most of which amounted to his music library of over 700 scores and parts and approximately 1, 000 pieces of sheet music, to Boston University.

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