Tag Archives: Motown

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 – April 02

742 – Charlemagne born. King of the Franks from 768, the King of Italy from 774, the first Holy Roman Emperor,  called the “Father of Europe” (pater Europae),  his empire united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire.

His rule spurred the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of art, religion, and culture through the medium of the Catholic Church. Through his foreign conquests and internal reforms, Charlemagne encouraged the formation of a common European identity.  Both the French and German monarchies considered their kingdoms to be descendants of Charlemagne’s empire.

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1725 – Giacomo Casanova born.  Italian adventurer and author from the Republic of Venice.

He was, by vocation and avocation, a lawyer, clergyman, military officer, violinist, con man, pimp, gourmand, dancer, businessman, diplomat, spy, politician, medic, mathematician, social philosopher, cabalist, playwright, and writer. He wrote over twenty works, including plays and essays, and many letters. His novel Icosameron is an early work of science fiction.

He has become so famous for his often complicated and elaborate affairs with women that his name is now synonymous with “womanizer“.

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1891 – Max Ernst born. German painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and poet. A prolific artist, Ernst was a primary pioneer of the Dada movement and Surrealism.

Ernst developed a fascination with birds that was prevalent in his work. His alter ego in paintings, which he called Loplop, was a bird. He suggested that this alter-ego was an extension of himself stemming from an early confusion of birds and humans.

 He said that one night when he was young he woke up and found that his beloved bird had died, and a few minutes later his father announced that his sister was born. Loplop often appeared in collages of other artists’ work, such as Loplop presents André Breton.

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1928 – Serge Gainsbourg born. French singer, songwriter, poet, composer, artist, actor and director. Regarded as one of the most important figures in French popular music, he was renowned for his often provocative and scandalous releases, as well as his diverse artistic output, which embodied genres ranging from jazz, chanson, pop and yé-yé, to reggae, funk, rock, electronic and disco music.

Gainsbourg’s extremely varied musical style and individuality make him difficult to categorize. His legacy has been firmly established, and he is often regarded as one of the world’s most influential popular musicians.

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1941 – Dr. Demento born. American radio broadcaster and record collector specializing in novelty songs, comedy, and strange or unusual recordings dating from the early days of phonograph records to the present.

He is credited with introducing new generations of listeners to artists of the early and middle twentieth century whom they may not have otherwise discovered, such as Haywire Mac, Spike Jones, Benny Bell, Yogi Yorgesson, and Tom Lehrer, as well as with bringing parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic to national attention.

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2003 – Edwin Starr died.  American soul music singer. Starr is most famous for his Norman Whitfield produced Motown singles of the 1970s, most notably the number one hit “War”.

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Almanac – November 28

1757 – William Blake born.  English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His prophetic poetry has been said to form “what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language”.

 His visual artistry has led one contemporary art critic to proclaim him “far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced”. Although he lived in London his entire life except for three years spent in Felpham he produced a diverse and symbolically rich corpus, which embraced the imagination as “the body of God”, or “Human existence itself”.

Reverent of the Bible but hostile to the Church of England – indeed, to all forms of organised religion – Blake was influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American revolutions, as well as by such thinkers as Jakob Böhme and Emanuel Swedenborg. Despite these known influences, the singularity of Blake’s work makes him difficult to classify. The 19th-century scholar William Rossetti characterised Blake as a “glorious luminary,” and as “a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successors”.

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1820 – Friedrich Engels born. German social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research. In 1848 he co-authored The Communist Manifesto with Karl Marx, and later he supported Marx financially to do research and write Das Kapital.

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1929 – Berry Gordy Jr. born. American songwriter,  record producer, and the founder of the Motown record label.

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Almanac – November 25

Historically a day of storms… which gives me an excuse (as if i need one) to play this Northern Soul classic.

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1703 – The Great Storm of 1703, the greatest windstorm ever recorded in the southern part of Great Britain, reached its peak intensity which it maintained through November 27. Winds gusted up to 120 mph, and 9,000 people died. Observers at the time recorded barometric readings as low as 973 millibars (measured by William Derham in South Essex), but it has been suggested that the storm may have deepened to 950 millibars over the Midlands.

 The storm, unprecedented in ferocity and duration, was generally reckoned by witnesses to represent the anger of God—in recognition of the “crying sins of this nation”, the government declared 19 January 1704 a day of fasting, saying it “loudly calls for the deepest and most solemn humiliation of our people”. It remained a frequent topic of moralizing in sermons well into the nineteenth century.

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1839 – A cyclone hit India with high winds and a 40 foot storm surge, destroying the port city of Coringa (which has never been completely rebuilt). The storm wave swept inland, taking with it 20,000 ships and thousands of people. An estimated 300,000 deaths resulted from the disaster.

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1950 – The Great Appalachian Storm of November 1950, otherwise known at the time as the “Storm of the Century”, struck  New England with hurricane force winds resulting in massive forest blow-downs and storm surge damage along the Northeast coast including New York City. This storm also brought blizzard conditions to the Appalachian Mountains and Ohio Valley, becoming one of the worst storms of all time. 353 people died in the event.

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1974 – Nick Drake died.  English singer-songwriter and musician, known for his gentle guitar-based songs. He failed to find a wide audience during his lifetime but his work has gradually achieved wider notice and recognition. Died from an overdose of amitriptyline, a prescribed antidepressant; he was 26 years old. Whether his death was an accident or suicide has never been resolved.

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1987 – Typhoon Nina hit  the Philippines with category 5 winds of 165 mph and a surge that destroyed entire villages. At least 1,036 deaths are attributed to the storm.

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2008 – Cyclone Nisha struck northern Sri Lanka, killing 15 people and displacing 90,000 others while dealing the region the highest rainfall in 9 decades.

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2009 – Devastating floods, known as the 2009 Saudi Arabian Floods, following freak rains swamped the city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia during an ongoing Hajj pilgrimage. 3,000 cars are swept away and 122 people perished in the torrents, with 350 others missing.

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Almanac – October 17

1091 – London Tornado of 1091, reckoned by modern assessment of the reports as possibly a T8 tornado (roughly equal to an F4 tornado) which  is Britain’s earliest reported tornado,  killing two. The wooden London Bridge was demolished, and the church of St. Mary-le-Bow in the city of London was badly damaged; four rafters 26 feet (7.9 m) long were driven into the ground with such force that only 4 feet (1.2 m) protruded above the surface. Other churches in the area were demolished, as were over 600 (mostly wooden) houses.

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1814 – London Beer Flood. At the Meux and Company Brewery on Tottenham Court Road, a huge vat containing over 135,000 imperial gallons (610,000 L) of beer ruptured, causing other vats in the same building to succumb in a domino effect.

As a result, more than 323,000 imperial gallons (1,470,000 L) of beer burst out and gushed into the streets. The wave of beer destroyed two homes and crumbled the wall of the Tavistock Arms Pub.

The brewery was located among the poor houses and tenements of the St Giles Rookery, where whole families lived in basement rooms that quickly filled with beer. Eight people died in the flood (some drowned, some died from injuries, and one succumbed to alcohol poisoning).
The brewery was eventually taken to court over the accident, but the disaster was ruled to be an Act of God by the judge and jury, leaving no one responsible.

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1934 – Rico Rodriguez born  – in Cuba, but moved with his family to Jamaica at an early age.  Ska and reggae trombonist.

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2008 – Levi Stubbs died.  American baritone singer, best known as the lead vocalist of the Motown R&B group Four Tops. He was also a voice artist, portraying villainous characters in films and animated television series, most famously having provided the voice of the alien plant Audrey II in the musical horror film Little Shop of Horrors, and Mother Brain in Captain N: The Game Master.

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Almanac – August 21

1614 – Elizabeth Báthory death confirmed. . Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed, of Hungary, probably the most prolific female serial killer in history. Under house arrest, she was immured within a tower with only one slit to give her provisions, where she  remained  for four years, until her death. On 21 August 1614, she was found dead, and since there were several plates of food untouched, her actual date of death is unknown. She was buried in the church of Csejte, but due to the villagers’ uproar over having “The Tigress of Csejte” buried in their cemetery, her body was moved to her birth home at Ecsed, where it is interred at the Báthory family crypt.

1872 – Aubrey Beardsley born.  English illustrator and author. His drawings in black ink, and influenced by the style of Japanese woodcuts, emphasized the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic. He was a leading figure in the Aesthetic movement which also included Oscar Wilde and James A. McNeill Whistler. Beardsley’s contribution to the development of the Art Nouveau and poster styles was significant, despite the brevity of his career before his early death from tuberculosis.



1879 – At Knock, County Mayo, Ireland, an apparition of Mary, Joseph and St John the Evangelist alledgedly seen by 15 people at the village church.

They claimed to have watched the figures for two hours in the pouring rain, and an official inquiry ruled that their evidence was trustworthy.

A shrine built at the site became a place of pilgrimage and a number of miraculous cures claimed for it. Maybe the biggest miracle is that there is now a Knock International Airport, opened in 1986 to cater for the one-and-a-half million pilgrims who travel there each year.

1904 – William “Count” Basie born.  American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer.

1940 – Leon Trotsky died, the result of an attack by an assassin armed with an ice-pick the previous day.

1961 – Motown released what would be its first #1 hit, “Please Mr. Postman” by The Marvelettes.

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