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Benny Goodman: The Life and Legacy of the King of Swing

Narrated by: Scott Clem
Length: 1 hr and 10 mins
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Publisher's Summary

Sprightly swing music spills across the dimly lit club. The grayish curtains of cigarette smoke part every once in a while to reveal a sparkling stage and tables upon tables of patrons, some incurably inebriated and others high on the fast-paced nightlife. Fabulous flappers in shimmery cocktail dresses and stylish feather headbands throw their hands up and stomp their feet to the addictive beat on the dance floor. Smartly dressed men, their hair neatly parted and slicked back, toss fistfuls of dice onto the plush green baize of the craps tables. Some hover over roulette wheels, staring intently at the spinning flashes of silver, while others finger their playing cards as they sip on tumblers of whiskey, eyeing both the river and the tower of tokens next to them. 

Frisky tunes, chic fashion, and American gambling are nostalgic, rose-tinted images most choose to project when visualizing the Roaring Twenties, but the other side of the coin brought an uninviting, much harsher reality that most would prefer to sweep under the rug. The first real estate bubble was on the brink of bursting, and progress was evident, but painfully slow, which gave way to yet another era of violent riots, lynchings, and other forms of oppression imposed on minorities. 

When the phrase “the King” is used in the context of American music, most people think of Elvis Presley, but Presley was just a baby when the title was first conferred upon Benny Goodman as the King of Swing in 1935. The Swing Era was a magical period in American history between the hedonism of the Roaring Twenties and the rebelliousness sparked by rock music beginning in the 1950s. Swing music was rooted in ragtime, blues, and jazz music that had long been popular in African American enclaves in Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, and New Orleans. Swing took the entire nation by storm thanks in large part to Benny Goodman and his bands, earning Goodman the nearly undisputed title of the King of Swing. 

Apart from a few hiatuses to tend his health and his growing family, Goodman remained a consistently active musician literally right up until his death in 1986 at the age of 77. Somewhat fittingly, he died in his study with his clarinet next to him and a Brahms sonata on a music stand nearby.

Benny Goodman: The Life and Legacy of the King of Swing profiles how Goodman rose from obscure beginnings to become one of 20th century music’s most influential figures. You will learn about the King of Swing like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

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