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Friday, August 1, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 68.0° F  Fair
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MUSIC

Bunny Berigan's 'I Can't Get Started' remains one of the greatest jazz performances by a Wisconsin native

Bunny Berrigan
Bunny Berrigan
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A man from Fox Lake did an extraordinary thing -- so extraordinary that the state of Wisconsin erected a historical marker in his Dodge County hometown, population 1,400.

The man was Bernard "Bunny" Berigan, a jazz trumpeter from the 1930s and '40s. On the marker, you learn that the local boy got his start playing in Beaver Dam and Madison, went on to perform with famous musicians like Benny Goodman and Bing Crosby, and eventually led his own orchestra.

It mentions the extraordinary thing only in passing. In 1937, the marker says, Bunny recorded a song called "I Can't Get Started," "his most popular hit."

But "I Can't Get Started" is more than just a "hit." It's one of the most poignant performances in American music -- a cry from the heart that still touches us today.

The 175th anniversary of Fox Lake is as good an occasion as any to give this song another spin. The town's anniversary party -- which doubles as a celebration of Bunny Berigan -- is at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 14, at the Fox Lake Community Center, with music by the New Century Dance Orchestra.

If you can't make the drive, here's an audio tribute to "I Can't Get Started." It originally aired on Wisconsin Public Radio's Wisconsin Life.

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