Music Interviews

Bandleader Artie Shaw Dies at 94

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Artie Shaw

Big bandleader Artie Shaw, pictured in 1942, has died at age 94. Bettmann/Corbis hide caption

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Bandleader, clarinetist and arranger Artie Shaw has died at home in Los Angeles. His health had declined since Thanksgiving. He was 94 years old.

Shaw's recording of "Begin the Beguine" became so popular in 1938 that it brought him to an even footing with the other so-called "King of Swing" — Benny Goodman. The famously irascible Shaw later referred to the song as an anchor around his neck.

Shaw was an innovator as well as a hit maker. He was one of the first white bandleaders to hire black musicians, and his orchestral compositions won him respect in the classical music world.

But Shaw quit performing in the mid-1950s to compose and arrange music, write books, produce film — and perfect fly-fishing techniques. Shaw once said his epitaph should read, "He did the best he could with the material he had." Then he changed it — to "Go Away."

NPR's Robert Siegel has a remembrance.

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