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Glenn Miller: The Life and Legacy of Early 20th Century America's Most Popular Musician

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

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Publisher's Summary

“A band ought to have a sound all of its own. It ought to have a personality.” (Glenn Miller)

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. 

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, and while musicians like Benny Goodman popularized swing music, big bands produced America’s most popular music. 

Though it may be hard to fathom in the wake of Elvis Presley and popular rock bands like the Beatles, the early 20th century featured a burgeoning music sales industry that was dominated in ways that nobody would ever reach again, including the Fab 4. While Elvis and the Beatles had a combined 71 Top 10 hits over their lengthy careers, Glenn Miller had 16 records reach #1, and he compiled 69 Top 10 hits, all in the span of four years before he had turned 40. Like any music pioneer, Miller and his band were often criticized for not being true to the roots of the music they performed, even as they perfected a sound that captivated the country. In short order, Miller and his music influenced legends ranging from Benny Goodman to Louis Armstrong.

Miller was the most popular big band leader in the United States when he walked away from his orchestra to enlist in the US Army. World War II was raging, and Miller was determined to fulfill his patriotic duty, so he assembled a military orchestra to give fellow American servicemen a little taste of the homes they were missing. 

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

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Glenn Miller: The Life and Legacy

I enjoyed the story however it was marred by the narration. The narrator emphasized the last consonants of words to the distraction of the story.