Almanac – January 21

1789 –  The Power of Sympathy or the Triumph of Nature Founded in Truth published by Isaiah Thomas in Boston. American sentimental novel written in epistolary form by William Hill Brown, and widely considered to be the first American novel.

The novel mirrors a local New England scandal involving Brown’s neighbor Perez Morton’s incestuous seduction of Fanny Apthorp, Morton’s sister-in-law. Apthorp became pregnant and committed suicide, but Morton was not legally punished.

The scandal was widely known, so most readers were able to quickly identify the “real” story behind the fiction: in every essential, Brown’s story is an indictment of Morton and an exoneration of Fanny Apthorp, with “Martin” and “Ophelia” representing Morton and Apthorp, respectively.

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1793 – After being found guilty of treason by the French Convention, Louis XVI of France was executed by guillotine. 

Some accounts of Louis’s beheading indicate that the blade did not sever his neck entirely the first time. There are also accounts of a blood-curdling scream issuing from Louis after the blade fell but this is unlikely, since the blade severed Louis’s spine. It is agreed that while Louis’s blood dripped to the ground many members of the crowd ran forward to dip their handkerchiefs in it.

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1938 – Wolfman Jack born. American disc jockey.

According to author Philip A. Lieberman, the Wolfman persona “derived from his love of horror flicks and his shenanigans as a ‘wolfman’ with his two young nephews. The ‘Jack’ was added as a part of the ‘hipster’ lingo of the 1950s, as in ‘take a page from my book, Jack,’ or the more popular, ‘hit the road, Jack.'”

 In 1973, he appeared in director George Lucas‘ second feature film, American Graffiti, as himself. His broadcasts tie the film together, and Richard Dreyfuss’s character catches a glimpse of the mysterious Wolfman in a pivotal scene.

In gratitude for Wolfman Jack’s participation, Lucas gave him a fraction of a “point” — the division of the profits from a film — and the extreme financial success of American Graffiti provided him with a regular income for life.

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1942 – Edwin Starr born.  American soul music singer,  most famous for his Norman Whitfield produced Motown singles of the 1970s, most notably the number one hit “War”.

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1984 – Jackie Wilson died. American singer and performer. Known as “Mr. Excitement“, Wilson was important in the transition of rhythm and blues into soul. He was considered a master showman, one of the most dynamic and influential singers and performers in R&B and rock history.

Gaining fame in his early years as a member of the R&B vocal group Billy Ward and His Dominoes, he went solo in 1957 and recorded over 50 hit singles that spanned R&B, pop, soul, doo-wop and easy listening.

During a 1975 benefit concert, he collapsed on-stage from a heart attack and subsequently fell into a coma that persisted for nearly nine years until his death in 1984, aged 49.

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 1997 – Colonel Tom Parker died. Entertainment impresario best  known as the manager of Elvis Presley. Parker’s management of Presley defined the role of masterminding talent management, which involved every facet of his life and was seen as central to the astonishing success of Presley’s career.

“The Colonel” displayed a ruthless devotion to his client’s interests and took more than the traditional 10 percent of his earnings (reaching up to 50 percent by the end of Presley’s life).
Presley said of Parker: “I don’t think I’d have ever been very big if it wasn’t for him. He’s a very smart man.”

For many years Parker falsely claimed to have been U.S.-born, but it eventually emerged that he was born in Breda, Netherlands, real name Andreas Cornelis  van Kuijk.

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