Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sir George Shearing

Though he had been blind from birth, I never got the feeling that he regarded his handicap, or the fact that he had been born into near-poverty, as anything other than the most minor of nuisances. He struck me as a man devoid of resentment, the inverse of the personality type that the novelist Louis Auchincloss referred to as "injustice collectors," and his music struck me the same way. It was poised, equable and wonderfully sane.
In 1952, Shearing wrote his biggest hit: "Lullaby of Birdland," an ode to the famous New York jazz club. He acknowledged composing it in just 10 minutes. "But I always tell people, it took me 10 minutes and 35 years in the business," he told The Christian Science Monitor in 1980. "Just in case anybody thinks there are any totally free rides left, there are none!"

At an 80th birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall in 1999, Shearing introduced "Lullaby" by joking: "I have been credited with writing 300 songs. Two hundred ninety-nine enjoyed a bumpy ride from relative obscurity to total oblivion. Here is the other one."

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