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Almanac – April 26

1886 – Ma Rainey born. One of the earliest known American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of such singers to record. she has been  billed as The Mother of the Blues.

She  was known for her very powerful vocal abilities, energetic disposition, majestic phrasing, and a ‘moaning’ style of singing similar to folk tradition, though her powerful voice and disposition are not captured on her recordings (due to her recording exclusively for Paramount, which was known for worse-than-normal recording techniques and among the industry’s poorest shellac quality), the other characteristics are present, and most evident on her early recordings, Bo-weevil Blues and Moonshine Blues. She also recorded with Louis Armstrong.

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1937 – Spanish Civil War: Guernica (or Gernika in Basque), Spain  bombed by German Luftwaffe, causing widespread destruction and civilian deaths – the Basque government reported 1,654 people killed.

The bombing was the subject of a famous anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso. It was depicted by Heinz Kiwitz, a German artist who made a woodcut of it  and later was killed fighting in the International Brigades.

The bombing shocked and inspired many artists: Guernica is also the name of one of the most violent of René Iché sculptures, one of the first electroacoustic music by Patrick Ascione, of a musical composition by René-Louis Baron and a poem by Paul Eluard (Victory of Guernica). There is also a short film from 1950 by Alain Resnais entitled Guernica.

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1938 – Duane Eddy born.  American guitarist. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he had a string of hit records, produced by Lee Hazlewood, which were noted for their characteristically “twangy” sound, including “Rebel Rouser”, “Peter Gunn”, and “Because They’re Young“. He had sold 12 million records by 1963.

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1940 – Giorgio Moroder born. Italian record producer, songwriter and performer.

When in Munich in the 1970s, he started his own record label called Oasis Records, which several years later became a subdivision of Casablanca Records.

 He collaborated with Donna Summer during the  disco era (including “Love to Love You Baby” and “I Feel Love“) and was the founder of the former Musicland Studios in Munich, which was used as a recording studio by artists including the Electric Light Orchestra, Led Zeppelin, Queen and Elton John.

Moroder also produced a number of electronic disco hits for The Three Degrees, two albums for Sparks, songs for performers including David Bowie, Irene Cara, Madleen Kane, Melissa Manchester, Blondie, Japan, and France Joli.

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1970 – Gypsy Rose Lee died.  American burlesque entertainer famous for her striptease act.

She was also an actress, author, and playwright whose 1957 memoir was made into the stage musical and film Gypsy.

Trying to describe what Gypsy was (a “high-class” stripper), H. L. Mencken coined the term ecdysiast.  Her style of intellectual recitation while stripping was spoofed in the number “Zip!” from Rodgers and Hart‘s Pal Joey, a play in which her sister June appeared.

Gypsy can be seen performing an abbreviated version of her act (intellectual recitation and all) in the 1943 film Stage Door Canteen.

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Almanac – April 08

1904 – British mystic Aleister Crowley transcribed the first chapter of The Book of the Law.

The full title of the book is Liber AL vel Legis, sub figura CCXX, as delivered by XCIII=418 to DCLXVI.

Through the reception of this book, Crowley proclaimed the arrival of a new stage in the spiritual evolution of humanity, to be known as the “Æon of Horus”. The primary precept of this new aeon is the charge to “Do what thou wilt”.

The book contains three chapters, each of which was written down in one hour, beginning at noon, on 8 April 9 April, and 10 April in Cairo, Egypt. Crowley claimed that the author was an entity named Aiwass, whom he later referred to as his personal Holy Guardian Angel (analogous to but not identical with “Higher Self”).

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1929 – Jacques Brel born.  Belgian singer-songwriter who composed and performed literate, thoughtful, and theatrical songs that generated a large, devoted following in Belgium and France initially, and later throughout the world. He was widely considered a master of the modern chanson.

 Although he recorded most of his songs in French, he became a major influence on English-speaking songwriters and performers such as David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Marc Almond and Rod McKuen.

 In French-speaking countries, Brel was also a successful actor, appearing in ten films. He also directed two films, one of which, Le Far West, was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1973.

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1973 – Pablo Picasso died. Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer.

As one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, he is widely known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore.

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Almanac – January 08

1697Last execution for blasphemy in Britain; of Thomas Aikenhead, student, at Edinburgh. He had been indicted in December 1696, the indictment reading:

That … the prisoner had repeatedly maintained, in conversation, that theology was a rhapsody of ill-invented nonsense, patched up partly of the moral doctrines of philosophers, and partly of poetical fictions and extravagant chimeras: That he ridiculed the holy scriptures, calling the Old Testament Ezra’s fables, in profane allusion to Esop’s Fables; That he railed on Christ, saying, he had learned magick in Egypt, which enabled him to perform those pranks which were called miracles: That he called the New Testament the history of the imposter Christ; That he said Moses was the better artist and the better politician; and he preferred Muhammad to Christ: That the Holy Scriptures were stuffed with such madness, nonsense, and contradictions, that he admired the stupidity of the world in being so long deluded by them: That he rejected the mystery of the Trinity as unworthy of refutation; and scoffed at the incarnation of Christ.

Thomas Babington Macaulay said of Aikenhead’s death that “the preachers who were the poor boy’s murderers crowded round him at the gallows, and. . . insulted heaven with prayers more blasphemous than anything he had uttered.”

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 1843 – Frederick Abberline born. A Chief Inspector for the London Metropolitan Police and was a prominent police figure in the investigation into the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888. As such he’s been represented (sometimes not very authentically) in numerous works of literature, cinema and television.

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1880 – Joshua A. Norton died. The self-proclaimed Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, was a celebrated citizen of San Francisco, California, who in 1859 proclaimed himself  Emperor of the United States  and subsequently Protector of Mexico. Although he had no political power, and his influence extended only so far as he was humored by those around him, he was treated deferentially in San Francisco, and currency issued in his name was honored in the establishments he frequented.

Norton collapsed at a street corner, and died before he could be given medical treatment. The following day, nearly 30,000 people packed the streets of San Francisco to pay homage.

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1896 – Paul Verlaine died. French poet associated with the Symbolist movement. He is considered one of the greatest representatives of the fin de siècle in international and French poetry.

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1897 – Dennis Wheatley born. English author whose prolific output of stylish thrillers and occult novels made him one of the world’s best-selling writers from the 1930s through the 1960s. His Gregory Sallust series was one of the main inspirations for Ian Fleming’s James Bond stories, but he’s perhaps better known for titles such as The Devil Rides Out, To The Devil – A Daughter, and  The Ka of Gifford Hillary. He even had a crack at the nascent UFO market (Star Of Ill-Omen, 1952).

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1935 – Elvis Presley born.

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1947 – David Bowie born.

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1948 – Kurt Schwitters died. German painter who  worked in several genres and media, including Dada, Constructivism, Surrealism, poetry, sound, painting, sculpture, graphic design, typography and what came to be known as installation art.

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1981 – A local farmer reported a UFO sighting in Trans-en-Provence, France, claimed to be “perhaps the most completely and carefully documented sighting of all time”.  

Renato Nicolaï, a fifty-five year-old farmer, heard a strange whistling sound while performing agricultural work on his property. He then saw a saucer-shaped object about eight feet in diameter land about 50 yards (46 m) away at a lower elevation.

According to the witness, “The device had the shape of two saucers, one inverted on top of the other. It must have measured about 1.5 meters in height. It was the color of lead. This device had a ridge all the way around its circumference. Under the machine I saw two kinds of pieces as it was lifting off. They could be reactors or feet. There were also two other circles which looked like trapdoors. The two reactors, or feet, extended about 20 cm below the body of the machine.”

Nicolaï claimed the object took off almost immediately, rising above the treeline and departing to the north east. It left burn marks on the ground where it had sat.

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Almanac – October 09

1635 –  Roger Williams was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a religious dissident.  An English Protestant theologian, he was an early proponent of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. In 1636, he began the colony of Providence Plantation, which provided a refuge for religious minorities, and started the first Baptist church in America. He was a student of Native American languages and an advocate for fair dealings with Native Americans. Williams was arguably the very first abolitionist in North America, having organized the first attempt to prohibit slavery in any of the original thirteen colonies.
He was tried by the General Court and convicted of sedition and heresy, the Court declaring  that he was spreading “diverse, new, and dangerous opinions”.

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1920 – Yusef Lateef born, American jazz multi-instrumentalist, composer, and educator.

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1934 – Abdullah Ibrahim born. South African pianist and composer, his music reflects many of the musical influences of his childhood in the multicultural port areas of Cape Town, ranging from traditional African songs to the gospel of the AME Church and ragas, to more modern jazz and other Western styles. Ibrahim is considered the leading figure in the sub-genre Cape jazz.

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1967 – A day after being captured, Marxist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara is executed for attempting to incite a revolution in Bolivia.

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1978 – Jacques Brel died. Belgian singer-songwriter who composed and performed literate, thoughtful, and theatrical songs that generated a large, devoted following in France initially, and later throughout the world.

He was widely considered a master of the modern chanson, and although he recorded most of his songs in French, he became a major influence on English-speaking songwriters and performers such as David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Marc Almond and Rod McKuen. English translations of his songs were recorded by many top performers, including Ray Charles, Judy Collins, John Denver, the Kingston Trio, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Scott Walker, and Andy Williams.He has sold over 25 million records worldwide. 

In French-speaking countries, Brel was also a successful actor, appearing in ten films. He also directed two films, one of which, Le Far West, was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1973.

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1989 – An official news agency in the Soviet Union reported the landing of a UFO in Voronezh. The alleged landing occurred the previous month in the city’s park, and subsequently led to encounters between citizens and extraterrestrial beings.

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1992 – A 13 kilogram (est.) fragment of the Peekskill meteorite landed on the driveway of the Knapp residence in Peekskill, New York, destroying the family’s 1980 Chevrolet Malibu.

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