Tag Archives: Robert Johnson

Almanac – May 08

1891 – Helena Blavatsky died.  Russian-German occultist who, along with  Henry Steel Olcott, established a research and publishing institute called the Theosophical Society.

Blavatsky defined Theosophy as “the archaic Wisdom-Religion, the esoteric doctrine once known in every ancient country having claims to civilization.” 

One of the main purposes of the Theosophical Society was “to form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color”. Blavatsky saw herself as a missionary of this ancient knowledge.

Blavatsky’s extensive research into the many different spiritual traditions of the world led to the publication of what is now considered her magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine, which collates and organizes the essence of these teachings into a comprehensive synthesis. Her other works include Isis Unveiled, The Key to Theosophy and The Voice of the Silence.

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1911 – Robert Johnson born. American blues singer and musician.  His landmark recordings from 1936–37 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that has influenced later generations of musicians.

His shadowy, poorly documented life and death at age 27 have given rise to much legend, including the Faustian myth that he sold his soul at a crossroads to achieve success.

As an itinerant performer who played mostly on street corners, in juke joints, and at Saturday night dances, he had little commercial success or public recognition in his lifetime.

Johnson’s records sold poorly during his lifetime, it  was only after the reissue of his recordings in 1961 on the LP King of the Delta Blues Singers that his work reached a wider audience.

Johnson is now recognized as a master of the blues, particularly of the Mississippi Delta blues style, and  is credited by many rock musicians as an important influence; Eric Clapton has called Johnson “the most important blues singer that ever lived.”

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1920 – Tom of Finland born.  Finnish artist notable for his stylized androerotic and fetish art and his influence on late twentieth century gay culture.

 He has been called the “most influential creator of gay pornographic images” by cultural historian Joseph W. Slade.

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Almanac – March 21

1656 – James Ussher died.  Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland between 1625 and 1656.

He was a prolific scholar, who most famously published a chronology that purported to establish the time and date of the creation as the night preceding Sunday, 23 October 4004 BC, according to the proleptic Julian calendar.

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1902 – Son House born.  American blues singer and guitarist, noted for his highly emotional style of singing and slide guitar playing.

After years of hostility to secular music, as a preacher, and for a few years also as a church pastor, he turned to blues performance at the age of 25.

He quickly developed a unique style by applying the rhythmic drive, vocal power and emotional intensity of his preaching to the newly learned idiom. He was a formative influence on Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters.

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1922 – Russ Meyer born.  U.S. motion picture director, producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, actor and photographer,  known primarily for writing and directing a series of successful low-budget sexploitation films that featured campy humor, sly satire and large-breasted women – Faster Pussycat ! Kill ! Kill !, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, Supervixens, etc.

Film historian Jimmy McDonough posits that  Meyer’s usage of physically and sexually overwhelming female characters places him in his own separate genre.

He argues that despite portraying women as sex objects, Meyer nonetheless depicts them as more powerful than men and is therefore an inadvertent feminist filmmaker. I dont think anyone who’s seen the amazing  Tura Satana in Faster Pussycat ! Kill ! Kill !  would argue with that.

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1925 – The Butler Act prohibited  Tennessee  public school teachers from denying the Biblical account of man’s origin. It also prevented the teaching of the evolution of man from what it referred to as lower orders of animals in place of the Biblical account.

Any teacher straying from the Creationist line would be guilty of a misdemeanor and be fined between $100 and $500 for each offense.

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1943 – Vivian Stanshall born.  English singer-songwriter, painter, musician, author, poet and wit, best known for his work with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, for his surreal exploration of the British upper classes in Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, and for narrating Mike Oldfield‘s Tubular Bells.

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1952 – Alan Freed presented the Moondog Coronation Ball, generally accepted as the first major rock and roll concert, in Cleveland, Ohio.

At the time, its most remarkable feature was its mix of black and white musical performers, in a revue intended for a racially mixed audience, at a time when almost all performances, radio stations and record labels were de facto segregated by race.

 More tickets were printed than the arena’s actual capacity, in part due to counterfeiting, and a printing error (tickets for a follow-up ball were sold with the same date printed after the first had sold out).

With an estimated 20,000 individuals trying to crowd into an arena that held slightly more than half that — and worries that a riot might break out as people tried to crowd in — the fire authorities shut down the concert after the first song by opening act Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams ended.

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1974 – Candy Darling died. American actress, best known as a Warhol Superstar.

A male-to-female transsexual, she starred in Andy Warhol‘s films Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971), and was a muse of  The Velvet Underground – the subject of their song Candy Says, and is  one of several Warhol associates memorialized in Lou Reed‘s  solo Walk on the Wild Side.

Darling died of lymphoma  aged 29,

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Almanac – August 16

1819 – The Peterloo Massacre took place in Manchester, when the Militia attacked an orderly group of people gathered to listen to speakers on parlimentary reform, at which the well-known radical politician Henry Hunt was to speak. The crowd, numbering some 60,000 and including many women and children, was unarmed and entirely peaceful. The magistrates, who had brought in special constables from Lancashire and the Cheshire Yeomanry, nevertheless became nervous and ordered Hunt’s arrest.

As the yeomanry attempted to obey them, they were pressed by the mob. The hussars were sent in to “help”, and, in the general panic which followed, 11 people were killed and about 500 injured. The ‘massacre’ aroused great public indignation, but the government stood by the magistrates and passed the Six Acts to control future agitation.

1920 – Charles Bukowski born. German-born American poet, novelist and short story writer. His writing was influenced by the social, cultural and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles. It is marked by an emphasis on the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over sixty books. In 1986 Time called Bukowski a “laureate of American lowlife”.

1938 – Robert Johnson died.  American blues singer and musician. His landmark recordings from 1936–37 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that has influenced later generations of musicians, and, if not exactly a father of rock n roll, at the very least an uncle. His shadowy, poorly documented life and death at age 27 have given rise to much legend, including a Faustian-style  myth – music skills obtained from the Devil at a crossroads. His death – possibly murdered by poison –  is even more shadowy – three different burial grounds claim to house his remains.

1945 – Kevin Ayers born.  English singer-songwriter and  a major influential force in the English psychedelic movement. BBC DJ John Peel wrote in his autobiography that “Kevin Ayers’ talent is so acute you could perform major eye surgery with it.”  Ayers was a founding member of the pioneering psychedelic band Soft Machine in the late 1960s, and was closely associated with the Canterbury scene.

1956 – Bela Lugosi died.  Hungarian actor of stage and screen. He was best known for having played Count Dracula in the Broadway play and subsequent film version, as well as having starred in several of Ed Wood’s low budget films in the last years of his career, including Plan 9 From Outer Space.

1962 – Beatles drummer Pete Best was fired by manager Brian Epstein and replaced with the more image-friendly Ringo Starr. Who said the Beatles weren’t a manufactured boy band ?

1977 – Elvis Presley died.

Mr. Frankenstein

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