An erudite musician, both in literature and in the arts, Artie Shaw initiated many jazz formations. He also was widely talked about both because of his commitment to racial segregation and his female conquests, especially among movie actresses.
Arthur Jacob Arshawsky spent his childhood in New Haven, Connecticut. He learnt clarinet and saxophone and started playing in dance troupes. Returning to New York in 1929, he performed in the studio and joined Paul Whiteman's orchestra. Then he created his own orchestra. Avant-gardiste, he discoverd black singer Billie Holiday, which caused some tensions in a context of racial segregation. But the success he met placed him as Benny Goodman's main rival. In 1940, he formed a second orchestra while playing with a small band, the Grammercy Five.
During World War II, he joined the Navy and played to maintain the morale of troops. Demobilized, he recreated an orchestra with, among others, Roy Eldridge, Herbie Stewart, Ronnie Singer, and gave some classical music concerts with Denver and New York’s orchestras. But he could not stand the distance between him and his audience and in 1954 he put an end to his career as a professional musician. He retired in Spain until 1960. He only performed very occasionally and started movie and drama production. He also undertook various and surprising activities: agriculture, weapons manufacturing, lectures... ! In 1983, he went back on stage, but for only one month.
Artie Shaw appreciated the great classical composers of the 20th century, such as Stravinsky, Bartok, Debussy and Ravel. Known for his taste in women, he married eight times, notably with Lana Turner and Ava Gardner.
Six landmark dates in the life of Artie Shaw
1929: Began a career as an orchestral musician
1936: Creation of his first orchestra
1938: Recorded his first hit: Begin the beguine
1940: Married actress Lana Turner
1942: Engaged in the US Army
2004: Was nominated at the Grammy Award