His middle name, William, was later changed to Aaron after converting to the Jewish faith. In his masterful biography titled Who Was Einar Swan? A Study in Jazz Age Fame and Oblivion, Swedish historian and musician Sven Bejerstedt, reported that Swan’s family lived at a variety addresses in
|Commerce High School Orchestra, Swan standing at far right with clarinet|
In a 1915 article in the Worcester Telegram the proud father is quoted saying, “Einar W. Swan, my oldest boy and the musical genius of the family, was born at
12 years ago, and showed musical talent when he was 2 ½ years old. He first played the organ and later on I found that he loved to play violin.... I can sit and dream of the day when he will become as great in name and ability as our present day nationally prominent musicians.” Fitchburg
His father did not have to wait long for his dreams to be realized. In his short lifetime, Einar Swan became an in-demand and recognized multi-instrumentalist, composer, lyricist and arranger.
A teenage Einar went to
and played clarinet in the school’s orchestra, of which violinist Harry Levenson (future conductor for the Worcester Symphony) was also a member. A 1927 Worcester Telegram feature on Swan stated: “As one of the best musicians Commerce High School ever turned out, he played all the instruments in the school band…. He also displayed a predilection for non-classical music that was going to have impact on his future life and career: For he introduced novel rhythms, and unknown notes into the compositions he played. He was making jazz, though he didn’t know it.” Commerce High School
|Swan's business card|
After graduating from Commerce, Swan formed the Swanie Serenaders affording him the opportunity to “play his own kind of music.” Organized in
in 1922, the group featured among others pianist Sam Swenson, drummer Ernest Paul, violinist Julius Levinsky, banjo player Joe Toscano, trumpeter Billy Conn, trombonist Oscar Werme, and its leader Swan who doubled on all reeds. Werme would later switch to the tuba and join Paul Whiteman’s Leviathan Orchestra. Worcester
The popular band was, as one local reported wrote, “all right, but Einar Swan stuck out from the rest of them like a bar of soap in a coal skuttle, and it wasn’t long before he received an offer from the famous Roseland Gardens in New York city, an offer which he accepted.”
The gig that Swan was hired for was with the Sam Lanin Orchestra playing at the Roseland Ballroom on Broadway. “Suddenly,” Berjstedt wrote, “the 21-year old
boy Einar Swan was at the center of popular music, making new important acquaintances. One of them was tubaist Joe Tarto (1902-1986), soon to co-compose “White Ghost Shivers” with Swan.” Worcester
|Lopez sax section, Swan is third from the left|
Swan’s next gig was with the Vincent Lopez Orchestra, in its day, the only rival to Paul Whiteman as one of the more popular bands in the country. In an interview with Joseph Fagan, a former bandmate of Swan’s stated, “He stayed only a five months. He was too good for the
In spite of the fact that competition that year was fierce, with all the top composers turning out excellent material, and even though the recording industry was struggling to stay alive while being smothered in the two grip of the Depression and radio, the song was an instant hit and it drew attention from those recording artists lucky enough to still be working and who appreciated the song.
“Thus it was made for OKeh by Louis Armstrong. Bert Lown’s band, at its peak at the time, recorded it for Victor. Ben Selvin, with an all-star group including Benny Goodman, waxed it for
. Eubie Blake and his orchestra made it for Crown, Bob Haring for the Plaza labels, and Ben Bernie on Columbia . Harry Richman sang it on Brunswick . Through the years it has never really died out, and every so often another recording of it is made. Among later sides are renditions by Frank Sinatra, Roy Eldridge, Stan Kenton, and George Shearing.” Brunswick
In his study, Bjerstedt includes the full lyric. The piece has an opening verse, which is rarely performed. It reads: “For ages and ages / The poets and sages / Of love wond’rous love always sing / but ask any lover / And you’ll soon discover / The heartaches that romance can bring.”
“It was featured with considerable dramatic effect in the 1931 motion picture film Blonde Crazy with James Cagney and Joan Blondell,” wrote Bjerstedt. “It has been recorded by hundreds of artists and to this day remains the single ‘well-known’ song of Einar Swan.”
According to Vaché, in spite of it being a hit, Swan made no attempt to cash in on its success with a flurry of follow-ups. He points to “A Room With a View,” as the only other song of note, singling out Helen Forrest’s recording on Bluebird.
In addition to playing lead alto saxophone, Swan began to writing arrangements for Lopez, a skill that he would also be recognized for and one that he would eventually make a fateful transition to full-time. In fact, after leaving the band, Swan worked mainly as an arranger for several orchestras, “among others those of pianist-conductor Gustave Haenschen, Russian-American violinist David Rubinoff, the Paramount Theatre, New York, Raymond Paige and the Westinghouse Symphony Orchestra,” reported Bejerstedt.
Swan died while vacationing in
Swan passed from this life on
August 8, 1940. He was 37. To quote a lyric from his masterpiece: “When you’re alone / Who cares for starlit skies? / When you’re alone / The Magic moonlight dies. At break of dawn, there is no sunrise / When Your Lover Has Gone.”
“When Your Lover Has Gone” (1931)
Writer: Einar Swan
|The majestic Maxine Sullivan|
In reviewing this song, musician Max Morath wrote this of its author: “The popular music world might have heard a lot more from Einar Swan if he hadn’t died in the midst of an active career as an arranger and composer in the radio and concert business.” Of the classic, “’When Your Lover Has Gone,” Morath said: “[Swan] composed this one great torch song, and the torch has been carried ever since.” The tune has been covered by all the greats – Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Sinatra, to name a few -- as well as such legendary singers as Ethel Waters, Lee Wiley, Maxine Sullivan, and Sarah Vaughan.
It has been reported that when Frank Sinatra heard that the songwriter had died so young Ol’ Blue Eyes donated the royalties of his recording of the song to the Swan family. “When Your Lover Has Gone” can also be heard on the film soundtracks of Any Given Sunday, Rockateer, and Beyond the Sea.
Here sung by Sinatra:
“When Your Lover Has Gone” – sung by Maxine Sullivan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKMxIVFRMdU
Instrumental version – performed by Sonny Rollins
“A Room with a View” – performed by Artie Shaw with vocalist Helen Forrest -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uROMn4XVHa0
"White Ghost Shivers" – by the New Orleans Owls -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7nbIRvcXJk&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PL199D598C60D2A8F0
Other songs written by Einar Swan include: “Closet Strut,” “In the Middle of a Dream,” (written with Tommy Dorsey), “Orient,” “Swan’s Serenade,” “The Spirit of St. Louis,” “The Tip Off Cues,” “The Trail of Dreams,” and “What Good is Scheming.”
Collaborators: Tommy Dorsey, Charles Hathaway, Ben Harris, Lee Christopher Hamblin, Simon Alban Law, Raymond Klages, Al Stillman, and Joe Tarto.
EINAR AARON “Eino” SWAN
March 20, 1904 ( ) Fitchburg
August 8, 1940 ( Greenwood Lake, NY)
This is a work in progress. Comments, corrections, and suggestions are always welcome. Also see: www.jazzriffing.blogspot.com
http://archive.org/details/TrailOfDreams_500 -- The Trail of Dreams