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Immortal Swing: The Music of Glenn Miller

While thinking about a topic for this week’s blog post, I made a happy discovery: American bandleader and musician Glenn Miller shares a birthday with Frédéric Chopin! Although these two musicians come from very different places and eras, they do share another thing in common besides a birthday: memorable music. We’ll talk about Glenn Miller today and maybe give Chopin his time to shine in a few weeks.

Glenn Miller’s recordings defined the Swing music era of the 1930’s and 1940’s. In the years between 1939 and 1943, Miller had 23 top-charting tunes including “In the Mood,” “American Patrol,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” But in the years leading up to 1939, Miller had failed to gain national recognition, remarking to his friend Benny Goodman in late 1937 that he didn’t know how he could make it big.  Miller stuck with it, though, and just about two years later, the Glenn Miller Orchestra received their first number-one hit with the ballad “Moonlight Serenade.” That song continued to be the band’s signature song.

As the United States entered World War II in 1942, Glenn Miller decided to join the war effort and persuaded the Army to let him join and work with musicians, initially working with a large marching band. He was able to work with a smaller band eventually, and traveled with them to perform in England in 1944. On a business trip from England to France, Glenn Miller’s plane disappeared.

Although he had a brief time in the world of popular music, the music his arrangers wrote and his band performed has stood the test of time and will forever define the era of Swing. Here are some books in the NLS collection that will bring you back to that time.

Glenn Miller with his Trombone

Glenn Miller with his Trombone. Photo,  March 7, 1940. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c36855

Of course “In the Mood” is probably the Glenn Miller Orchestra’s most famous hit. We have it available in Digital Talking Book instruction for Alto Saxophone (DBM02723), and piano (DBM01746, called “Blues and Boogie”). There is also a version in braille for pianists in Popular Piano Solos for All Piano Methods, Level 3 (BRM28154).

We have the orchestra’s first hit, “Moonlight Serenade,” available in lead sheet format in Popular Music Lead Sheet No. 102 (BRM35445) and in Volume 5 of the Just Standards Real Book (BRM36374). We also have a piano arrangement in braille in Fifty Popular Songs and Show Tunes (BRM22785). There is also a version for trumpet in Soundpower’s Greatest Hits (BRM33865) and for the clarinet in Team Woodwind (BRM29777).

We also have an arrangement of the “Chattanooga Choo Choo” for piano in Boogie Woogie (BRM07251) and an arrangement for clarinet in Eight Pieces for B-flat Clarinet (BRM29289).

“Tuxedo Junction” is available from the Music Section in Digital Talking Book instruction for Piano (DBM03748), and available in lead sheet format in the Legit Fake Book vol. 2 (BRM22705) and in World’s Greatest Hits of the 40s and 50s for voice and piano (BRM28382).

We have many more pieces in the collection made famous by Glenn Miller including “At Last,” “String of Pearls,” “Elmer’s Tune,” and “Little Brown Jug.”

There is also a book in the talking book collection that discusses Glenn Miller’s life and legacy:

Glenn Miller and His Orchestra (DB 37120)

So happy 114th birthday to Glenn Miller…and happy 228th birthday to Chopin too!