Harry James was one of the most popular and influential trumpet players and bandleaders of the big band era. He rose to fame with his virtuosic and expressive style, and led a successful orchestra that featured many stars, including Frank Sinatra. He also appeared in several films and married the glamorous actress Betty Grable. However, his life was not without challenges and tragedies. He struggled with addiction, divorce, and illness, and died of lymphoma at the age of 67. This article will explore the life and legacy of Harry James, and his cause of death.
Early Years and Musical Career
Harry James was born on March 15, 1916, in Albany, Georgia, to circus performers. He learned to play the trumpet from his father, who was also a bandleader, and started performing with the circus at a young age. He later joined various orchestras, including Ben Pollack’s and Benny Goodman’s, where he gained recognition for his technical
James had his first hit with “Music Makers” in 1941, and soon became one of the most popular and successful bandleaders of the swing era. He hired many talented musicians and singers, such as Helen Forrest, Dick Haymes, and Frank Sinatra, who sang with James for six months in 1939 before joining Tommy Dorsey
James also experimented with different styles and genres, such as boogie-woogie, Latin, and classical. He recorded several songs that became classics, such as “You Made Me Love You”, “I’ve Heard That Song Before”, “I Had the Craziest Dream”, and “It’s Been a Long, Long Time
Film and Personal Life
James was not only a musical star, but also a film star. He appeared in several movies, usually featuring his orchestra, such as Springtime in the Rockies, Best Foot Forward, Bathing Beauty, and Two Girls and a Sailor.
James was also known for his romantic life. He married three times, and had five children. His most famous marriage was with Betty Grable, the pin-up girl and actress, whom he married in 1943. They were one of the most glamorous and celebrated couples in Hollywood, but their marriage was troubled by James’s infidelity, gambling, and alcoholism
James married his third wife, Joan Boyd, in 1967, but they divorced in 1970.
Death and Legacy
James was a heavy smoker, drinker, and gambler, which took a toll on his health. He was diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, in 1983. He continued to perform until his last professional job on June 26, 1983, in Los Angeles. He died nine days later, on July 5, 1983, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
James was buried at the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California, next to his second wife, Betty Grable.
James left behind a legacy of music and entertainment that influenced many generations of musicians and fans. He was one of the most innovative and versatile trumpet players of all time, who mastered various styles and genres. He was also a charismatic and dynamic bandleader, who led one of the most successful and popular orchestras of the big band era. He was a pioneer of jazz, swing, and pop music, and a star of film and stage. He was Harry James, the jazz legend.