Artie Shaw

Artie Shaw

Grande figure de l'âge d'or du swing, le clarinettiste Artie Shaw était le principal rival de Benny Goodman.

Arthur Arshawsky was born in 1910 in New York and grew up in New Haven (Connecticut). He learned the clarinet and saxophone in his teens and began his career at the age of 15 playing alto saxophone in a dance band. He soon abandoned the saxophone for the clarinet and adopted the pseudonym Artie Shaw.

He then joined various orchestras and became a brilliant studio musician. After a career break in the mid-1930s, he formed his own jazz orchestra and began to make a name for himself. His career took off in 1938 when he recorded his first hit, Cole Porter's Begin the Beguine, which remained at number 1 in the US charts for several weeks. He then accompanied the singer Billy Holiday with his orchestra, a collaboration that provoked much controversy in a segregated America.

During the Second World War, he enlisted in the navy, where he conducted an orchestra designed to boost troop morale. On his return, he founded and conducted several orchestras of varying sizes, including one with Roy Eldridge. He immediately adopted the Selmer Centered Tone clarinet and became its ambassador, as did his main rival Benny Goodman.

Unable to cope with fame and the expectations of the music industry, he retired in the mid-1950s to devote himself to literature. He published his autobiography in 1952 and a collection of short stories in 1965. In 2004, he received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement, before dying a few months later at the age of 94.

Photo credit: William P. Gottlieb