Friday, December 31, 2004

Artie Shaw, 1910-2004

Artie Shaw, the great jazz clarinnetist and band leader, has died. Obituaries can be found here and here. There is a nice appreciation by Gary Younge here. Besides his consummate musicianship - think of "Begin the Beguine" or "Any Old Time" - Shaw was notable for his willingness to hire African American musicians when this was a rarity. Younge recalls a famous interview Shaw gave in 1985 when he explained why he had stopped playing so young:
I am compulsive. I sought perfection. I was constantly miserable. I was seeking a constantly receding horizon. So I quit .... It was like cutting off an arm that had gangrene. I had to cut it off to live. I'd be dead if I didn't stop. The better I got, the higher I aimed. People loved what I did, but I had grown past it. I got to the point where I was walking in my own footsteps.

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