One of the most prominent of big band leaders, Goodman was also a leader in integrating his band when he hired black pianist Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton on vibes and guitarist Charlie Christian. This was a decade before Jackie Robinson's entry into major league baseball, in full defiance of Jim Crow segregation laws.
His instrument was the clarinet.
Ninth born of 12 children, Goodman grew up poor in Chicago. His parents were immigrant Jews from the area of the Russian Empire that would later become Poland.
One of Goodman's closest friends was Columbia producer John Hammond, who influenced Goodman's move from Victor to Columbia in 1939. Goodman married Hammond's sister Alice Frances Hammond (1913–1978) on March 20, 1942. They had two daughters and raised Alice's three daughters from her first marriage to British politician Arthur Duckworth, from whom she had obtained a divorce. Goodman's daughter Rachel became a classical pianist. She sometimes performed in concert with him, beginning when she was sixteen.
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