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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 – 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 20

1912 – Bram Stoker died.  Irish novelist and short story writer, best known today for his 1897 Gothic novel Dracula.

During his lifetime, he was better known as personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned.

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1939 – Billie Holiday recorded “Strange Fruit“, considered by some to be the first Civil Rights song.

Written by Abel Meeropol, a white Jewish high-school teacher from the Bronx, and a member of the Communist Party, it exposed American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans.

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1943 – Edie Sedgwick born. American actress, socialite, fashion model and heiress. She is best known for being one of Andy Warhol‘s superstars.

Sedgwick became known as “The Girl of the Year” in 1965 after starring in several of Warhol’s short films.

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Almanac – April 05

1906 – Lord Buckley born. American stage performer, recording artist, monologist, and hip poet/comic. Buckley’s unique stage persona never found more than a cult audience during his life, but anticipated aspects of the Beat Generation sensibility, and influenced figures as various as Bob Dylan, Ken Kesey, George Harrison, Tom Waits, Dizzy Gillespie and Jimmy Buffett.

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 1926 – Roger Corman born. American film producer, director and actor. Working mainly  on low-budget B movies, some of Corman’s work has an established critical reputation, such as his cycle of films adapted from the tales of Edgar Allan Poe,and in 2009 he won an Honorary Academy Award for his body of work.

In 1966, Corman made the first biker movie with The Wild Angels, starring Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra, and in  1967, The Trip, written by Jack Nicholson and starring Peter Fonda, began the psychedelic film craze of the late 1960s.

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1929 – Joe Meek born. Pioneering English record producer and songwriter. Despite not being able to play a musical instrument or write notation, Meek displayed a remarkable facility for writing and producing successful commercial recordings.

In writing songs he was reliant on musicians such as Dave Adams, Geoff Goddard or Charles Blackwell to transcribe melodies from his vocal “demos”. He worked on 245 singles, of which 45 were major hits (top fifty).

He pioneered studio tools such as multiple over-dubbing on one- and two-track machines, close miking, direct input of bass guitars, the compressor, and effects like echo and reverb, as well as sampling.

Unlike other producers, his search was for the ‘right‘ sound rather than for a catchy musical tune, and throughout his brief career he single-mindedly followed his quest to create a unique “sonic signature” for every record he produced.

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1997 – Allen Ginsberg died.  American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s.

He vigorously opposed militarism, economic materialism and sexual repression, and is best known for his epic poem “Howl“, in which he celebrated his fellow “angel-headed hipsters” and harshly denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States.

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix…

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Almanac – April 01

ALL FOOLS DAY

1917 – Scott Joplin died.  American composer and pianist. Joplin achieved fame for his ragtime compositions, and was later dubbed “The King of Ragtime”. During his brief career, he wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas.

 One of his first pieces, the “Maple Leaf Rag“, became ragtime’s first and most influential hit, and has been recognized as the archetypal rag.

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1919 – The Staatliches Bauhaus school was founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar. 

Commonly known simply as Bauhaus, it  was a school in Germany that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicized and taught. It operated from 1919 to 1933.

The Bauhaus style became one of the most influential currents in Modernist architecture and modern design and had a profound influence upon subsequent developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography.

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1948 – Jimmy Cliff born.  Jamaican musician, singer and actor, best known among mainstream audiences for songs such as “Wonderful World, Beautiful People”, “The Harder They Come,” “Sitting in Limbo”, “You Can Get It If You Really Want” and “Many Rivers to Cross” from the soundtrack of the 1972 film  The Harder They Come, which helped popularize reggae across the world;  Cliff starred as Ivanhoe “Ivan” Martin.  Arriving in Kingston from the country, he tries to make it in the recording business, but without success.

Eventually, he turns to a life of crime. The soundtrack album of the film was a huge success that sold well across the world, bringing reggae to an international audience for the first time. It remains one of the most internationally significant films to have come out of Jamaica since independence.

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1949 – Gil Scott-Heron born. 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.

 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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1976 – Max Ernst died. German painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and poet. A prolific artist, Ernst was a primary pioneer of the Dada movement and Surrealism.

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1984 – Marvin Gaye died. American singer-songwriter and musician. Gaye helped to shape the sound of Motown Records in the 1960s with a string of hits including “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and duet recordings with Mary Wells and Tammi Terrell.

 

 

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Almanac – March 29

1948 – Harry Price died. British psychic researcher and author, who gained public prominence for his investigations into psychical phenomena and his exposing of fake spiritualists.

He is best known for his well-publicized investigation of the purportedly haunted Borley Rectory in Essex, England.

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Almanac – February 09

1966 – Sophie Tucker died.  Ukraine born  singer, comedian, actress and radio personality. Known for her stentorian delivery of comical and risqué songs, she was one of the most popular entertainers in America during the first half of the 20th century,  widely known as “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas.”

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1981 – Bill Haley died. Credited by many with first popularizing rock n roll  in the early 1950s with his group Bill Haley & His Comets and million selling hits such as, “Rock Around the Clock”, “See You Later Alligator”, and “Shake Rattle and Roll“. He has sold over 100 million records worldwide.

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Almanac – February 03

1927 – Kenneth Anger born.  American underground experimental filmmaker, actor and author of two controversial Hollywood Babylon books. Working exclusively in short films, he has produced almost forty works since 1937, nine of which have been grouped together as the “Magick Lantern Cycle“, and form the basis of Anger’s reputation as one of the most influential independent filmmakers in cinema history.His films variously merge surrealism with homoeroticism and the occult, and have been described as containing “elements of erotica, documentary, psychodrama, and spectacle.”

 Anger himself has been described as “one of America’s first openly gay filmmakers, and certainly the first whose work addressed homosexuality in an undisguised, self-implicating manner“, and his “role in rendering gay culture visible within American cinema, commercial or otherwise, is impossible to overestimate“.  He has also focused upon occult themes in many of his films, being fascinated by Aleister Crowley, and is a follower of Crowley’s religion, Thelema.

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1959 – Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, The Big Bopper   and pilot Roger Peterson died in an aircrash near Mason City, Iowa – “The day the music died” according to Don McClean.

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1967 – Joe Meek, English innovative music producer extrodinaire, shot his landlady and then himself. The date may not be coincidence – he was obsessed with Buddy Holly and claimed to have received messages from him from beyond the grave.

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Almanac – January 31

1606 – Guy Fawkes, Thomas Wintour, Ambrose Rookwood and Robert Keyes  executed for plotting against Parliament and King James. Fawkes was the last to stand on the scaffold, his fellow plotters were already hanged and quartered.  He asked for forgiveness of the King and state, while keeping up his “crosses and idle ceremonies“, and aided by the hangman began to climb the ladder to the noose.

Although weakened by torture, Fawkes managed to jump from the gallows, breaking his neck in the fall and thus avoiding the agony of the latter part of his execution. His lifeless body was nevertheless quartered and, as was the custom, his body parts were then distributed to “the four corners of the kingdom”, to be displayed as a warning to other would-be traitors.

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1942 – Derek Jarman born. English film director, stage designer, diarist, artist, gardener and author. Films include Sebastiane (1976), Jubilee (1977), The Tempest (1979) and The Last of England (1988).

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1956 – John Lydon born. Also known by the former stage name Johnny Rotten,  a singer-songwriter and television presenter, best known as the lead singer of punk rock band the Sex Pistols and Public image Ltd.

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1960 – Grant Morrison born. Scottish comic book writer, playwright and occultist. He is known for his nonlinear narratives and countercultural leanings in his runs on titles including DC Comics’ Animal Man, Doom Patrol, JLA, The Invisibles, Action Comics, All-Star Superman, and Batman, and Marvel Comics’ New X-Men and Fantastic Four

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Almanac – October 20

1854 – Arthur Rimbaud born.  French poet. Born in Charleville, Ardennes, he produced his works while still in his late teens—Victor Hugo described him at the time as “an infant Shakespeare”—and he gave up creative writing altogether before the age of 20. As part of the decadent movement, Rimbaud influenced modern literature, music, and arts, and prefigured surrealism.

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1882 – Bela Lugosi born.  Hungarian actor, who is best known for playing the character “Dracula” in the 1931 film and for his roles in various other horror films. Through the 1930s, he occupied an important niche in popular horror films, with their East European setting, but his Hungarian accent limited his repertoire, and he tried unsuccessfully to avoid typecasting.

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1937 – Wanda Jackson born. American singer, songwriter, pianist and guitarist who had success in the mid-1950s and 1960s as one of the first popular female rockabilly singers and a pioneering rock and roll artist. She is known to many as the Queen (or First Lady) of Rockabilly.

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1947 – The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a blacklist that prevents some from working in the industry for years.

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1967 – A purported Bigfoot is filmed by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin in the Six Rivers National Forest outside of Crescent City, California.

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