Tag Archives: American

Almanac – June 14

1928 – Che Guevara born. Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist.

A major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia within popular culture.

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1949 – Albert II, a rhesus monkey, rode a V2 rocket to an altitude of 134 km (83 mi), thereby becoming the first monkey in space. He survived the flight but   died on impact  after a parachute failure.

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1953 – David Thomas born.  American singer, songwriter, and musician.

He was one of the founding members of the short-lived protopunk Rocket From The Tombs (1974–1975), where he went by the name of Crocus Behemoth, and of  Pere Ubu (1975–present, intermittently). He has also released several solo albums. Though primarily a singer, he sometimes plays melodeon, trombone, guitar or other instruments.

Thomas has described his artistic focus as being the “gestalt of culture, geography and sound“. Common themes crop up throughout much of his work, such as the US Interstate Highway system, images of roadside or “junk” tourist culture, Brian Wilson, AM Radio, and many others.

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1966 – The Vatican announced the abolition of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (“index of prohibited books“), which was originally instituted in 1557.

The avowed aim of the list was to protect the faith and morals of the faithful by preventing the reading of immoral books or works containing theological errors, and noteworthy intellectuals and religious figures on the Index included Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, André Gide, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, Galileo Galilei, Blaise Pascal, Hugo Grotius and Saint Faustina Kowalska. Charles Darwin’s works were notably never included, nor was Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

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Almanac – June 10

323 BC – Alexander the Great died. King of Macedon, a state in northern ancient Greece.

By the age of thirty, he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas. He was undefeated in battle and is considered one of history’s most successful commanders.

Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, in Babylon, aged 32.

 

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1884 – Leone Sextus Denys Oswolf Fraudatifilius Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache born.

English soldier, here solely because of his name. He died on active service in 1917, though of influenza rather than a bullet.

 

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1910 – Howlin’ Wolf born. American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player.

With a booming voice and looming physical presence, Wolf is commonly ranked among the leading performers in electric blues; musician and critic Cub Koda declared, “no one could match Howlin’ Wolf for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits.”

 A number of songs written or popularized by him —such as “Smokestack Lightnin'”, “Back Door Man”, “Killing Floor” and “Spoonful”—have become blues and blues rock standards.

At 6 feet, 6 inches (197 cm) and close to 300 pounds (136 kg), he was an imposing presence with one of the loudest and most memorable voices of all the “classic” 1950s Chicago blues singers.  Sam Phillips once remarked, “When I heard Howlin’ Wolf, I said, ‘This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.'”

 

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1940 – Marcus Garvey died. Jamaican political leader, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator who was a staunch proponent of the Black nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements, to which end he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL).

He founded the Black Star Line, part of the Back-to-Africa movement, which promoted the return of the African diaspora to their ancestral lands.
The Rastafari movement  proclaims Garvey as a prophet

.Garvey died in London in 1940 after two strokes. Due to travel restrictions during World War II, his body was interred in London and he was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery. In 1964, his remains were exhumed and taken to Jamaica, where the government proclaimed him Jamaica’s first national hero and re-interred him at a shrine in the National Heroes Park.

 

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1946 – Jack Johnson died.  American boxer.

At the height of the Jim Crow era, Johnson became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion (1908–1915). In a documentary about his life, Ken Burns notes that “for more than thirteen years, Jack Johnson was the most famous and the most notorious African-American on Earth.”

Johnson died in a car crash on U.S. Highway 1 near Franklinton, North Carolina, a small town near Raleigh, after racing angrily from a diner that refused to serve him.

Miles Davis‘s 1971 album entitled A Tribute to Jack Johnson was inspired by the boxer. The end of the record features the actor Brock Peters (as Johnson) saying:
I’m Jack Johnson. Heavyweight champion of the world. I’m black. They never let me forget it. I’m black all right! I’ll never let them forget it!”

 

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Almanac – June 09

1915 – Les Paul born. American jazz, country and blues guitarist, songwriter, luthier and inventor.

He was one of the pioneers of the solid-body electric guitar, which made the sound of rock and roll possible, and is credited with many recording innovations.

Although he was not the first to use the technique, his early experiments with overdubbing, delay effects such as tape delay, phasing effects and multitrack recording were among the first to attract widespread attention.

 He recorded with his wife Mary Ford in the 1950s, selling millions of records.

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1934 – Jackie Wilson born. American singer and performer.

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.

Wilson’s powerful, electrifying live performances rarely failed to bring audiences to a state of frenzy.  His live performances consisted of knee-drops, splits, spins,back-flips, one-footed across-the-floor slides, a lot of basic boxing steps (advance and retreat shuffling) and one of his favorite routines, getting some of the less attractive girls in the audience to come up and kiss him. “If I kiss the ugliest girl in the audience, they’ll all think they can have me and keep coming back and buying my records.”

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Almanac – June 02

1692 – Bridget Bishop was the first person to go to trial in the Salem witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts.

She wasaccused of bewitching five young women, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam, Jr., Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, and Elizabeth Hubbard, but  she may also have been accused because she owned one or more taverns, played shuffleboard, dressed in provocative clothing, and was outspoken.

She was hanged on June 10 1692.

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1740 – Marquis de Sade born. French aristocrat, revolutionary politician, philosopher and writer, famous for his libertine sexuality.

His works include novels, short stories, plays, dialogues and political tracts; in his lifetime some were published under his own name, while others appeared anonymously and Sade denied being their author.

 He is best known for his erotic works, which combined philosophical discourse with pornography, depicting sexual fantasies with an emphasis on violence, criminality and blasphemy against the Catholic Church.

He was a proponent of extreme freedom, unrestrained by morality, religion or law. The words “sadism” and “sadist” are derived from his name.

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2008 – Bo Diddley died. American R&B vocalist, guitarist, songwriter (usually as Ellas McDaniel), and rock and roll pioneer.

He was  known as The Originator because of his key role in the transition from the blues to rock, influencing a host of acts, including Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Velvet Underground, The Who, The Yardbirds, Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles, among others.

 He introduced more insistent, driving rhythms and a hard-edged electric guitar sound on a wide-ranging catalog of songs, along with African rhythms and a signature beat (a simple five-accent clave rhythm) that remains a cornerstone of rock and pop.

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Almanac – June 01

1925 – Marie Knight born.  American gospel and R&B singer.

 

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1926 – Marilyn Monroe born. American actress, model, and singer, who became a major sex symbol, starring in a number of commercially successful motion pictures during the 1950s and early 1960s

 

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1927 – Lizzie Borden died. American woman who was tried and acquitted in the 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother (Andrew Jackson Borden and Abby Durfee Gray Borden, Andrew’s second wife) in Fall River, Massachusetts.
The case was a cause célèbre throughout the United States. Following her release from the prison in which she had been held during the trial, Borden chose to remain a resident of Fall River, Massachusetts for the rest of her life, despite facing significant ostracism.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts elected to charge no one else with the murder of Andrew and Abby Borden, and speculation about the crimes continues into the 21st century.

 

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Almanac – May 31

1837 – Joseph Grimaldi died.  English actor, comedian and dancer, who became the most popular English entertainer of the Regency era.

In the early 1800s, he expanded the role of Clown in the harlequinade that formed part of British pantomimes, notably at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and the Sadler’s Wells and Covent Garden theatres, and  became so dominant on the London comic stage that harlequinade Clowns became known as “Joey”, and both the nickname and Grimaldi’s whiteface make-up design were, and still are, used by other types of clowns. He also originated catchphrases such as “Here we are again!”, which continues to feature in modern pantomimes.
In his last years, Grimaldi lived in relative obscurity and became a depressed, impoverished alcoholic, dying at home in Islington in 1837, aged 59.

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1872 – W. Heath Robinson born.  English cartoonist and illustrator, best known for drawings of eccentric machines.

In the UK, the term “Heath Robinson” has entered the language as a description of any unnecessarily complex and implausible contraption, although it  is perhaps more often used in relation to temporary fixes using ingenuity and whatever is to hand, often string and tape, or unlikely cannibalisations.

Its popularity is undoubtedly linked to Second World War Britain’s shortages and the need to “make do and mend“.

 

 

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1996 – Timothy Leary died. American psychologist and writer, known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs.

During a time when drugs such as LSD and psilocybin were legal, Leary conducted experiments at Harvard University under the Harvard Psilocybin Project, resulting in the Concord Prison Experiment and the Marsh Chapel Experiment.

Both studies produced useful data, but Leary and his associate Richard Alpert were fired from the university nonetheless because of the public controversy surrounding their research.

Leary believed LSD showed therapeutic potential for use in psychiatry. He popularized catchphrases that promoted his philosophy such as “turn on, tune in, drop out” (a phrase given to Leary by Marshall McLuhan); “set and setting“; and “think for yourself and question authority“.

He also wrote and spoke frequently about transhumanist concepts involving space migration, intelligence increase and life extension (SMI²LE), and developed the eight-circuit model of consciousness in his book Exo-Psychology (1977).

During the 1960s and 1970s, he was arrested often enough to see the inside of 29 different prisons worldwide. President Richard Nixon once described Leary as “the most dangerous man in America“.
His death was videotaped for posterity at his request, capturing his final words. During his final moments, he said, “Why not?” to his son Zachary. He uttered the phrase repeatedly, in different intonations, and died soon after. His last word, according to Zach, was “beautiful.”
Seven grams of Leary’s ashes were arranged  to be buried in space aboard a rocket carrying the remains of 24 others including Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek), Gerard O’Neill (space physicist), and Krafft Ehricke (rocket scientist). A Pegasus rocket containing their remains was launched on April 21, 1997, and remained in orbit for six years until it burned up in the atmosphere.

 

 

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Almanac – May 28

1938 – Prince Buster born. Jamaican singer-songwriter, producer and sound system operator.

He is regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of ska and rocksteady music. The records he released in the 1960s influenced and shaped the course of Jamaican contemporary music and created a legacy of work that later reggae and ska artists would draw upon.

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1944 – Gladys Knight born. American singer-songwriter, actress, businesswoman, humanitarian, and author, best known for the hits she recorded during the 1960s and 1970s, for both the Motown and Buddah Records labels, with her group Gladys Knight & the Pips.

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Almanac – May 27

1894 – Dashiell Hammett born. American author of hard-boiled detective novels and short stories, a screenplay writer, and political activist.

Among the enduring characters he created are Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man), and the Continental Op (Red Harvest and The Dain Curse).

In addition to the significant influence his novels and stories had on film, Hammett is now widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time  and was called, in his obituary in The New York Times, “the dean of the… ‘hard-boiled’ school of detective fiction.”

Time magazine included Hammett’s 1929 novel Red Harvest on a list of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005.

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1907 – Rachel Carson born. American marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.

 Although Silent Spring was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides, and it inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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2011 – Gil Scott-Heron died. American soul and jazz poet, musician, and author, known primarily for his work as a spoken word performer in the 1970s and ’80s.

His collaborative efforts with musician Brian Jackson featured a musical fusion of jazz, blues, and soul, as well as lyrical content concerning social and political issues of the time, delivered in both rapping and melismatic vocal styles by Scott-Heron.

 His own term for himself was “bluesologist“, which he defined as “a scientist who is concerned with the origin of the blues.”

His music, most notably on Pieces of a Man and Winter in America in the early 1970s, influenced and helped engender later African-American music genres such as hip hop and neo soul.

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Almanac – May 26

1647 – Alse Young, hanged in Hartford, Connecticut, became the first known  person to be  executed as a witch in the British American colonies.

Very little is recorded of Alse Young; her existence is only known through her reputation as a witch. She is believed to have been the wife of John Young, who bought a small parcel of land in Windsor in 1641, sold it in 1649, and then disappeared from the town records.

There is no further record of Young’s trial or the specifics of the charge, only that Alse Young was a woman. Early historical record hints at the possibility that there may have been some sort of epidemic in the town of Windsor in early 1647.

She had a daughter, Alice Young Beamon, who would be accused of witchcraft in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts, some 30 years later.

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1828 – Celebrated feral child Kaspar Hauser was discovered wandering the streets of Nuremberg.

At first it was assumed that he was raised half-wild in forests, but during conversations with officials, Hauser told a different version of his past life, which he later also wrote down in more detail. According to this story, for as long as he could remember he spent his life totally alone in a darkened cell about two metres long, one metre wide and one and a half high with only a straw bed to sleep on and a horse carved out of wood for a toy.

He claimed that he found bread and water next to his bed each morning. Periodically the water would taste bitter and drinking it would cause him to sleep more heavily than usual. On such occasions, when he awakened, his straw was changed and his hair and nails were cut.

Hauser claimed that the first human being with whom he ever had contact was a mysterious man who visited him not long before his release, always taking great care not to reveal his face to him.

This man, Hauser said, taught him to write his name by leading his hand. After learning to stand and walk, he was brought to Nuremberg. Furthermore, the stranger allegedly taught him to say the phrase “I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was” (in Bavarian dialect), but Hauser claimed that he did not understand what these words meant.

This tale aroused great curiosity and made Hauser an object of international attention. Rumours arose that he was of princely parentage, possibly of Baden origin, but there were also claims that he was an impostor.

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1897 – Dracula,  by  Bram Stoker, was published.

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1916 – Moondog born. Blind American composer, musician, poet and inventor of several musical instruments.
 
Moving to New York as a young man, Moondog made a deliberate decision to make his home on the streets there, where he spent approximately twenty of the thirty years he lived in the city.

Most days he could be found in his chosen part of town wearing clothes he had created based on his own interpretation of the Norse god Odin.[citation needed] Thanks to his unconventional outfits and lifestyle, he was known for much of his life as “The Viking of 6th Avenue”.

Native American music, along with contemporary jazz and classical, mixed with the ambient sounds from his environment (city traffic, ocean waves, babies crying, etc.)  created the foundation of Moondog’s music.

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1926 – Miles Davis born. American jazz musician, trumpeter, bandleader, and composer.

 Widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century,  Miles Davis was, with his musical groups, at the forefront of several major developments in jazz music, including bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz, and jazz fusion.

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