Friday, December 21, 1990

50 years ago: Artie Shaw’s “Frenesi” hit #1


Artie Shaw

Writer(s): Albert Dominguez/Ray Charles/S.K. Russell (see lyrics here)

First Charted: July 27, 1940

Peak: 113 US, 12 GA, 13 HP, (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, -- video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Artie Shaw developed a reputation during the swing era (roughly 1935-1945) as one of jazz’s finest clarinetists. He also served as a bandleader, helming five different orchestras over the years, “all of them distinctive and memorable.” AMG He got his start as a teenager with Johnny Cavallaro’s dance band in 1925 and was later associated with Willie “The Lion” Smith. He scored his first hit on his own in 1936 and hit #1 with 1938’s “Begin the Beguine.”

After that song’s success, Shaw struggled with the business of leading a band and moved to Mexico for a couple months. After his return, he recorded “Frenesi,” a song he believed was a native folk tune in the public domain. SS “With a large thirty-three piece orchestra, the thoroughly engaging Latin-flavored melody was given a brisk, swirling, very danceable arrangement in fox trot tempo.” SS It became the biggest hit of his career and one of the biggest #1 songs in chart history.

It turned out the song was not part of the public domain as Shaw thought, a mistake he says cost him a half million dollars. SS Alberto Dominguez originally wrote it for the marimba and then others adapted it as a jazz standard. WK The word “frenesi” is the Spanish equal to the word “frenzy” WK but according to the song’s lyrics, “Frenesi” means “please love me.” TY1

Shaw’s recording made it the first million-selling song by a Mexican writer. TY1 The success helped “popularize Brazilian rhythms in jazz and pop music.” DJ-60 Others who recorded the song included Les Brown, Dave Brubeck, Betty Carter, Tommy Dorsey, The Four Freshman, Eydie Gorme, Woody Herman, Earl Hines, Harry James, Glenn Miller, Cliff Richard, Linda Ronstadt, and Frank Sinatra. WK


First posted 12/21/2011; last updated 4/5/2023.

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