Synopses & Reviews
The Swing Era was that magic moment in America when the popular music of the nation became virtually identical with the great new music of the period--jazz. The man most responsible for bringing this memorable music to popularity was the so-called "King of Swing"--Benny Goodman. In this controversial and widely acclaimed book, James Lincoln Collier tells the story of Goodman's life as seen through the music and social world of the years of the Great Depression in the 1930s and beyond.
Born of poor Jewish immigrant parents in Chicago in 1910, Benny Goodman's career was a rags-to-riches story brought to life. When he was ten years old he joined the local synagogue band with two of his brothers, and because he was the smallest of the three was given a clarinet. Proving to be a natural clarinetist, Goodman left home at fifteen to join the famous Ben Pollack orchestra. His clarinet playing became legendary before he was twenty, and he was one of the most sought-after jazzmen for radio shows and orchestras that needed a talented player on short notice.
Collier brilliantly recreates the colorful popular music world of the 1920s and 1930s, when the music industry was just expanding, radio was the great source of musical entertainment, and swing bands that had emerged out of the growth of jazz in the 1920s were first finding national audiences. He chronicles the rise and success of Goodman and his band against the social milieu and popular music of the time. Goodman's success was built largely on the arrangements of the brilliant black musician, Fletcher Henderson. He was the first leader to hire black musicians for a white band--Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton--and a number of major musical figures got their start in the band, among them Gene Krupa, Harry Janes, and Peggy lee. Collier also deals in detail with Goodman's simultaneous career as a classical musician.
Benny Goodman was a brilliant musician but an enigmatic man. Collier's biography captures this elusive personality with great insight and understanding. Collier perceptively analyzes dozens of Goodman's significant recordings and makes the reader hear them afresh. Benny Goodman and the Swing Era is a major work about jazz and one of its most significant figures.
About the Author
About the Author
James Lincoln Collier is the author of over forty books, which have been published in twelve languages, including Russian: he is the only American writer on jazz to have official acceptance in the U.S.S.R. His books on music include biographies of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, The Making of Jazz and Practical Music Theory, used in many schools. His articles on music have also appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Village Voice, Wall Street Journal, and many others. He contributed major articles to the New Grove Dictionary of American Music and to Grove's Dictionary of Jazz. Collier has worked as a jazz musician around New York for many years, and has played with groups in a dozen nations around the world.