Benny Goodman

Benny Goodman

Original Name Benjamin David
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Death 13 Jun 1986 (aged 77)
Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Stamford, Fairfield County, Connecticut, USA
Memorial ID 3676 · View Source
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Jazz Musician, Bandleader. Famously known as "The King of Swing." From a life of impoverishment in a Jewish ghetto, he along with a group of gifted band members, Fletcher Henderson, Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton, Mel Powell, Peggy Lee, Wardell Grey and Stan Getz led jazz into the commercial mainstream. He was born in Chicago as Benjamin David Goodman, one of 12 children of Jewish immigrants who lived in a 3-story tenement at 1125 S.Francisco Street. His father worked as a tailor in sweatshops. He attended Shepard Grammar School which was across the alley from the apartment. Mr.Goodman took his kids to the free band concerts in nearby Douglas Park on Sunday afternoons. Upon learning that the Kehelah Jacob Synagogue was lending instruments and giving music lessons for 25 cents a week, he enrolled Benny, where he learned to play the clarinet. The talented youngster was soon taking lessons from Franz Schoepp, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. At age 14, Benny helped to support his family with musical performances at local dance halls. A school drop out at age 15, and at sixteen, his reputation was so well known, that Ben Pollack invited him to accompany his band to Los Angeles for an engagement at the Venice Ballroom. He made his early recordings with the Pollack Band but then began making records under his own name. He ventured to New York where he organized his first big band, a 12-piece creation which auditioned successfully for Billy Rose's new Music Hall which led to a recording contract with Columbia records. In the Fall of 1934, the band began playing on the NBC radio series, 'Let's Dance.' It was during these broadcasts that Gene Krupa joined Goodman. He then broke the race barrier by adding Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton to the group, the first to break the big band color barrier. The band fell on lean times and began a cross-country tour which was so dismal that the booking agency considered canceling. However, allowed to continue, and thus the famous gig at the Palomar Ballroom at 3rd Street and Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles which became the launching pad for the band and is considered the starting point of the 'Swing Era.' Some of his popular-song and instrumental compositions include Lullaby in Rhythm, Don't Be That Way, Seven Come Eleven, Flying Home, Two O'Clock Jump, Air Mail Special, Dizzy Spells, If Dreams Come True, Georgia Jubilee, Four Once More and The Kingdom of Swing. When the Big Band era faded into history, Goodman continued to make jazz appearances and assemble swing bands for major tours thus becoming the American Jazz Ambassador. He toured the Far East and then made a remarkable chain of swing concerts in the Soviet Union. He put together a band for the Brussels World Fair in 1959 and played in the American Pavilion. In 1978, on the 40th anniversary of his memorable concert in Carnegie Hall, he made a repeat nostalgic appearance. He turned to classical music in later years. The aging Goodman had recovered from several illnesses and had been in semi-retirement. He died while taking a nap on a guest room couch in his East 66th Street Manhattan apartment after a heart attack at age 77. His Jewish funeral included a nonsectarian service with Bible passages being read by all five of his daughters. His Eulogy was given by his attorney and friend, Bill Hyland. He was interred near his country farm home outside Stamford, Connecticut next to his wife who had passed away in 1978. Honors and Legacy: Benny Goodman was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1988 and was a charter inductee into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1978. His image appeared in 1996, in the set of four 29 cent US commemorative postage stamps in the 'Legends of American Music series.' Along with other band leaders honored in this issue: Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. He was one of the five recipients of the fifth annual Kennedy Center Honors awards in 1982. Goodman appeared in a film based on his life, 'The Benny Goodman Story' filmed in 1956.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 14 Oct 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial 3676
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Benny Goodman (30 May 1909–13 Jun 1986), Find a Grave Memorial no. 3676, citing Long Ridge Union Cemetery, Stamford, Fairfield County, Connecticut, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .