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Artie Shaw Dies

Jazz clarinetist and big-band leader Artie Shaw died on Thursday December 29, 2004 in Newbury Park, Calif. at age 94 of natural causes. Shaw was famed for his classic recordings of “Begin the Beguine” and “Lady Be Good,” as well as his volitile marriages to movie stars Lana Turner and Ava Gardner.

Born May 23, 1910, Shaw grew up on the Lower East Side of New York City and by 1926 he had moved to Cleveland to play with Austin Wylie’s band. Shaw moved back to New York City in the 1930s, playing with numerous orchestras.

In 1938 Shaw’s recording of “Begin the Beguine” gained him national acclaim and spawned his rivalry with fellow clarinetist Benny Goodman. Shaw’s bands from the 1930s and 1940s featured numerous jazz greats, including Billie Holiday, Buddy Rich and Roy Eldridge.

Shaw quit music in 1954 because he “could not reach the level of artistry he desired.” But in 1981, Shaw returned to music and reformed his band, this time under the leadership of clarinetist Dick Johnson. The orchestra played Shaw’s music, but Shaw himself appeared only as a non-playing conductor.

Shaw also wrote numerous books, including his autobiography, The Trouble With Cinderella, and two books of short stories. He also received the Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2004.

Shaw married eight times, all ending in divorce.

Originally Published