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Swing, Swing, Swing: The Life & Times of Benny Goodman Paperback – August 17, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (August 17, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393311686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393311686
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,229,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Firestone ( The Man in Me ) strikes the right chords in this exceptionally fine biography of the King of Swing, Benny Goodman (1909-1986). With a social historian's command of events and places, he vividly chronicles his subject's ascent, beginning with his split from his brother's Chicago band just before the Crash of 1929. Firestone illuminates the recordings, club dates, tours and players in the clarinetist and bandleader's surprisingly rocky career. Full, revealing reports describe Goodman's popular appearances at the Paramount Theater and Carnegie Hall in New York City during the 1930s; his integrated bands, which crossed the racial lines in the movies as well as in the music business; his conflicts with record executive John Hammond Sr.; and his steadfast support of his bandmembers, including drummer Gene Krupa, whose career was left in tatters after he was imprisoned for giving marijuana to a minor. Extensive interviews with Goodman's contemporaries and judicious use of newspaper accounts of performances and trends not only sharpen this portrait but revive the excitement of the early days of swing. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Firestone offers a sympathetic biography of jazz bandleader Goodman (1909-86), who spearheaded the swing dance craze. He describes the clarinetist's poverty-stricken childhood in Chicago, his early musical career, and his rise to national prominence from 1935 through World War II. The author also chronicles Goodman's pioneering efforts to racially integrate his bands, his interest in modern jazz, and his work around the world until his death. Though he writes a lively narrative, Firestone never acknowledges James Lincoln Collier's Benny Goodman and the Swing Era ( LJ 9/15/89), to which he adds little. Recommended for general collections without Collier's book and comprehensive jazz collections.
- David Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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This is really the only bio to get of BG.
The Man in the Hathaway Shirt
Complete Benny Goodman Carnegie Hall Concert 1938Definitive Goodman and has the distinction of being in the catalog every year since first released in 1951!!
Drew
If you are interested in the history of Jazz, this is one of the books that is essential to your collection.
Sheryl Katz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By The Man in the Hathaway Shirt on August 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is really the only bio to get of BG. Collier's book "BG And The Swing Era" perpetrates many myths and inaccuracies, mainly because he seems to have this fear about going to primary sources and seems to get a lot of his information off album sleeves and from 12th-hand anecdotes. Firestone's book uncovers some interesting facts, about Benny's flirtation and near-marriage to singer Helen Ward, about the recording of the famous Carnegie Hall concert (contrary to popular myth, there was more than one overhead mike turned on that night, and the band knew they were being recorded) and Benny's near emotional breakdowns in the 50s and 60s and his near total dependence on painkillers and other medications (for a chronic bad back) that also may have altered his personality and brought on some of the bizarre behavior Goodman is infamous for. Briskly-written, filled with surprises, a fascinating read, it should be on the shelf of every jazz fan and big band enthusiast.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Sheryl Katz VINE VOICE on August 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you are interested in the history of Jazz, this is one of the books that is essential to your collection. It's not only a great biography about an unusual but talented man, it's the story of a man who stood at the divide between swing and bop, who was a cruel band leader but who nurtured some of the great talents that followed him, who never really mastered bop but whose vision and band format was the foundation that made bop possible.
Goodman was apparently a hard man to like, and this biography squarely faces his difficult personality. He was also a genius, and incredibly hard working. This book does a good job both of telling the story of Goodman's life and the context of his music. There are many compelling anecdotes, and the story is engrossingly told.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Candace Scott on July 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
So many people love Benny Goodman's music, but know so little about the man himself. Hopefully, all of you Benny aficionados will take a crack at this excellent, well-written biography. Firestone has done copious amounts of research, interviewed many people close to BG and has produced an absolutely definitive look at the King of Swing. From cradle to grave, this provides readers with information on Benny as a musician and also as a(oftentimes difficult) human being. If you want a detailed musical analysis of Goodman, you will find it here, but there is also a gossip-y element which adds considerable spice.
Firestone illuminates Goodman's jazz beginnings, the early sidemen gigs in the 20's and then the genesis of the Swing band in the mid-30's. It was great to have thumbnail portraits of the great musicians Benny's early bands, they're all here: the frenetic, pot-loving Gene Krupa, the arrogant Harry James, the gentle Teddy Wilson and the phenomenal Lionel Hampton. At the core is Goodman himself, an extremely hard task master, perfectionist and driven man. Firestone details how nit-picky Benny could be, demanding take after take on various album cuts until it all sounded "perfect." Goodman's notorious cheapskate ways are also detailed.
If you love Goodman's music, then treat yourself to discovering what Goodman was like behind the scenes: difficult, ambitious and addicted to prescription pain killers in later years. Yet despite it all, who could swing like this man? No one.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Drew on December 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
No, not the caped crusader folks. That was the title of a 1940 original composition for the Benny Goodman band composed by Eddie Sauter. But it could also serve as a fitting eulogy for the man who became a clarinet virtuoso in both popular and classical fields of music.

Along the way he managed to be credited with launching the 'Swing Era,' was truly amazed at the fans who came to scream (yes scream) at his band's performances and dance in movie theatre isles (oh you thought it was the Beatles who started all that stuff - think again!!), became an International Ambassador to the USA through his music, playing in Moscow and other Russian cities in 1962 at the height of the cold war, and, oh yes, performed what is generally acknowledged as one of the finest performances of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. Whew! But then, you only have to listen to understand why he was so highly regarded.

As a Goodman enthusiast I have to confess to owning a large collection of his music, and I have read several mini biographies of the man. In Ross Firestone's book I found many details not previously known to me, which when combined with an excellent and well researched narrative style, combine to make outstanding reading.

From 'hot shot' clarinetist too young to wear long pants but old enough and good enough to find a place in the early dance bands of the 1920's, to 'King of Swing,' World Ambassador of popular music and classical supremo, this book manages to convey a lot about Goodman the man, perfectionist, genius and who could be a nightmare to work for.

Through some fine research it is also one of an elite group of writings that manages to bring the period to life.

Highly recommended.

Drew.
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