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Artie Shaw
Artie Shaw in Second Chorus 2.jpg
Artie Shaw in Second Chorus (1940)
Background information
Birth name Artie Jacob Arshawsky
Born (1910-05-23)May 23, 1910
New York City, U.S.
Died December 30, 2004(2004-12-30) (aged 94)
Thousand Oaks, California, U.S.
Genres Swing, big band
Occupation(s) Bandleader, composer
Instruments Clarinet
Years active 1925–2004

Artie Shaw (May 23, 1910December 30, 2004) was an American musician. He is considered to be one of the best jazz musicians of his time. He was a jazz clarinet player, composer, and bandleader. He also wrote both fiction and non-fiction writings.

Early life

He was born Arthur Jacob Arshawsky in New York, New York. He began learning the saxophone when he was 15. By age 16 he began to tour with a band. He returned to New York City and became a session musician. During the Swing Era, his big bands were very popular with hits like "Begin the Beguine" and "Stardust".

During the War

During World War II he joined the U.S. Navy. He served in the Pacific theater as the leader of a service band (similar to Glenn Miller's wartime band in Europe).

Political problems

In 1953, Shaw was brought up before the House Un-American Activities Committee for his leftist activities. The committee was investigating a peace activist organization, the World Peace Congress, which it considered a communist front.

Writing career

Throughout his musical career, Shaw would take time off. He would quit the music business and pursue his writing career. In 1955, Shaw stopped playing the clarinet. After that, he focused on writing, especially semi-biographical fiction.


In 1981, he organized a new Artie Shaw Band with clarinetist Dick Johnson as bandleader and soloist. Shaw himself would guest conduct from time to time, ending his self-imposed retirement.

In 1991, Artie Shaw's band library and manuscript collection was donated to the University of Arizona. In 2004, he was presented with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Personal life and death

Shaw was married eight times: Jane Cairns (1932); Margaret Allen (1934-37); Lana Turner (1940); Betty Kern (1941-43), daughter of songwriter Jerome Kern; Ava Gardner (1945-46); Forever Amber author Kathleen Winsor (1946-48); Doris Dowling (1952-56) and Evelyn Keyes (1957-85). He had two sons by Kern and Dowling.

In his later years, Shaw lived and wrote in the Newbury Park section of Thousand Oaks, California. Shaw had adult onset diabetes. In December 2004, he died due to the disease at age 94.

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