Standing On The Same Stage: Benny Goodman And His African American Band Members National History Day Research Paper

3394 words - 14 pages

Standing on the Same Stage:
Benny Goodman
and
His African American Band Members
Historical Paper
2425 Words
“From a technical standpoint alone, however, [Benny] Goodman was one of the greatest
clarinet virtuosos in the history of jazz, and he was most certainly the most influential figure on
that instrument during the Swing Era for both white and black clarinetists.” “In his own quiet 1
way Benny Goodman paved the way for other racial integrations such as Jackie Robinson.” 2
Albeit musicians of the 1920’s and 1930’s were relatively colorblind, music critics and audiences
were not. Contrary to his cautious peers, who were too afraid to have an African American
musician on stage with them, discouraged by what they presumed would deter their audiences
and potential fans, bandleader Benny Goodman showed his respect for African American
musicians in the 1930’s by taking a stand in solidarity against racial prejudice by integrating the
stage and performing publicly throughout the country with them.
Born in 1909 as Beno David Guttman to parents Dora and David Guttman, Benny 3
Goodman grew up in the impoverished Maxwell Street Ghetto located in Chicago. Nicknamed
‘Bloody Maxwell,’ it was considered the crime center of the country. His parents were Jewish 4
immigrants who left their home in Russia to escape anti-semitism. Furthermore, Goodman was a 5
part of a large family, which consisted of his parents and eleven siblings. The combination of 6
having a large family and being immigrants caused Goodman’s parents to struggle perpetually to
gain employment and consistently provide for their large family. His father eventually got a job
at a stockyard and would come home reeking of blood and dirt. His mother never learned to 7
1
Gerard, Charley. ​Jazz in Black and White: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Jazz Community​. Praeger Publishers,
1998.
2
​​Charles Hersch. 20 April 2017. Personal Interview.
3
Rhoads, Mark. "Illinois Hall of Fame: Benny Goodman." ​Illinois Review​. N.p., 6 July 2006. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.
4 ​The Legacy of the Benny Goodman Quartet​. Screenplay by Geoffrey Ward, narrated by Wendell Pierce, 2016.
NPR​, www.npr.org. Accessed 28 Oct. 2016.
5 ​Cramer, Alfred William. ​Musicians & Composers of the 20th Century.​ Pasadena, California, Salem Press, 2009.
eBook Collection (EBSCOhost)​. Accessed 15 Nov. 2016.
6 ​Chuck Haddix. 20 April 2017. Phone Interview.
7 ​The Legacy of the Benny Goodman Quartet​. Screenplay by Geoffrey Ward, narrated by Wendell Pierce, 2016.
NPR​, www.npr.org. Accessed 28 Oct. 2016.
read and was not able to assist in supporting their family financially. According to Goodman, 8
“There were days when there was not anything to eat. I don’t mean much to eat, I mean
anything.” 9
As a result of the Goodman family’s poverty, Goodman along with his siblings were
compelled to work outside the home when they were still but adolescents. Goodman’s father had
a great passion for music and would take the kids to free band...

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