Goodman, Benny

Alternative names
Birth 1909-05-30
Death 1986-06-13

Biographical notes:

Clarinettist and bandleader.

From the description of Check signed : New York, N.Y., 1955 May 6. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270914758

American clarinetist, bandleader, and King of Swing.

From the description of The Benny Goodman papers, 1933-1982 (inclusive). (Yale University). WorldCat record id: 702190423

From the description of The Benny Goodman papers, 1933-1982 (inclusive). (Yale University). WorldCat record id: 122555549

Musician; interviewee d. 1986.

From the description of Reminiscences of Benny Goodman : oral history, 1959. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122597897

Benny Goodman was an American jazz clarinettist, composer, and band leader. As his life is well documented, only a brief summary is provided here.

Benjamin David Goodman was born in Chicago on May 30, 1909. He began playing professionally at age 12, and by 1926 he joined Ben Pollack's orchestra. In 1929 he moved to New York and free lanced with various bands such as those of Red Nichols, Ben Selvin, Ted Lewis, Johnny Green, Paul Whiteman, and played in Broadway shows such as Gershwin's Strike Up The Band and Girl Crazy .

He formed his own band in Spring 1934, and started out with arrangements by Dean Kincaide, Will Hudson and Benny Carter. In November 1934, Goodman started a series of weekly broadcasts on the "Let's Dance" program, using additional arrangements by Fletcher Henderson. Through radio's effectiveness in dissemination and by touring throughout the United States, Goodman became known as "The King of Swing," one of the most widely-known and significant figures in popular music towards the end of the 1930s.

In 1939, Goodman disbanded his ensemble in order to undergo an operation to relieve sciatica. When he reassembled his band the following year, he acquired the services of arranger Eddie Sauter. The war years are considered the apogee of Goodman and his band's career.

Goodman was also active in classical music. In 1935, he performed and recorded the Mozart clarinet quintet. In 1938 he comissioned Bela Bartok to write Contrasts, which he premiered and recorded the following year with Joseph Szigeti and the composer. Goodman continued to comission works from contemporary composers, and increased the number of his appearances in classical venues towards the end of his career.

Benny Goodman continued to concertize and record up to the end of his life. He died in New York City on June 13, 1986, age 77.

From the guide to the Benny Goodman collection: musical arrangements performed by Goodman, ca. 1930-, (The New York Public Library. Music Division.)


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Ark ID:


  • Jazz
  • Dance orchestra music--Scores and parts
  • Music
  • Popular music
  • Clarinet with dance orchestra--Scores and parts
  • Music--20th century
  • Musicians--Interviews
  • Clarinet with jazz ensemble--Scores and parts
  • Big band music--Scores and parts


  • Composers
  • Performer


  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)