Artie Shaw, the jazz clarinetist and famed American bandleader, has died at the age of 94, after a lengthy illness.

Shaw, one of the major figures of the swing and big-band era, became a national star with "Begin the Beguine" in 1938. Another of his many recorded hits was "Stardust."

Shaw was ranked with such notables as Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey, among the greatest bandleaders of the time.

He was among the first white bandleaders to hire a black singer full time when Billie Holiday joined his group.

Shaw abruptly stopped performing in 1954, but reorganized a band in the early 1980s that featured another clarinetist leading the orchestra.

Among his eight wives were actresses Lana Turner and Ava Gardner. All eight marriages ended in divorce.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.