A century of Benny Goodman

Lynne Kiesling

Last Saturday was the centenary of the birth of Benjamin J. Goodman, otherwise known as Benny, the King of Swing. His music, and his signature virtuoso clarinet work, changed music forever. To riff off of something my favorite musician said about Buddy Rich, I defy any sentient being not to be moved by hearing “Sing, Sing, Sing”! Especially the original 1938 Carnegie Hall concert recording, for which I have a great fondness, because it was also a breakout event for one of the other most transformative musicians ever, drummer Gene Krupa. Coincidentally, the centenary of Krupa’s birth was January 15, 2009. Any of you who appreciate the crisp backbone that the hi-hat adds to music should thank your lucky stars for Gene Krupa, the inventor of the hi-hat.

I was reminded of how fantastic Goodman and Krupa (and when they played with Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton as the Benny Goodman Quartet) remain to this day by this truly outstanding NPR story from last Wednesday on Goodman. I encourage you to click through and listen to the whole commentary if you missed it; it’s a wonderful tribute to Goodman and his century.


One thought on “A century of Benny Goodman

  1. Not only was Goodman a musical pioneer, he was also a social pioneer.

    From Wikipedia

    [In November, 1936] Goodman asked [vibraphone player Lionel] Hampton to join the Benny Goodman Trio, made up of Goodman, [pianist] Teddy Wilson, and Gene Krupa, expanding it into the Benny Goodman Quartet. The Trio and Quartet were among the first racially integrated jazz groups to record and play before wide audiences, and were a leading small-group in an era when jazz was dominated by big bands.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionel_Hampton

    Hampton and Teddy Wilson were African-Americans.

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