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Almanac – April 15

1452 – Leonardo da Vinci born.  Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer.

His genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal. Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the Renaissance Man, a man of “unquenchable curiosity” and “feverishly inventive imagination“.

 He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.

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1802 – William Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy saw a “long belt” of daffodils, on a walk around Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater, in the Lake District,  inspiring the former to pen I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud a couple of years later, inspired by Dorothy’s journal entry describing the walk –

When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side, we fancied that the lake had floated the seed ashore & that the little colony had so sprung up — But as we went along there were more & yet more & at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about & about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed and reeled and danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever dancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here & there a little knot & a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity & unity & life of that one busy highway — We rested again & again. The Bays were stormy & we heard the waves at different distances & in the middle of the water like the Sea.

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1894 – Bessie Smith born. American blues singer. Nicknamed The Empress of the Blues, she was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s, and is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and, along with Louis Armstrong, a major influence on other jazz vocalists.

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1912 – The British passenger liner RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic at 2:20 a.m., two hours and forty minutes after hitting an iceberg. Only 710 of 2,227 passengers and crew on board survived.

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1980 – Jean-Paul Sartre died. French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic.

He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism, and one of the leading figures in 20th-century French philosophy and Marxism.

His work has also influenced sociology, critical theory, post-colonial theory, and literary studies, and continues to influence these disciplines.

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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 – 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 – 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 06

1475 – Michelangelo born.  Italian Renaissance sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art.

Despite making few forays beyond the arts, his versatility in the disciplines he took up was of such a high order that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, along with fellow Italian Leonardo da Vinci.

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1619 – Cyrano de Bergerac born. French dramatist and duelist.

In fictional works about his life he is featured with an overly large nose, which people would travel from miles around to see. Portraits suggest that he did have a big nose, though not nearly as large as described in works about him. Cyrano’s work furnished models and ideas for subsequent writers.

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1937 – Valentina Tereshkova born.  Soviet cosmonaut and the first woman to have flown in space, having been selected from more than four hundred applicants and five finalists to pilot Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963.

In order to join the Cosmonaut Corps, Tereshkova was only honourarily inducted into the Soviet Air Force and thus she also became the first civilian to fly in space. During her three-day mission, she performed various tests on herself to collect data on the female body’s reaction to spaceflight.

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Almanac – September 16

1400 – A meeting of Welsh rebels at Glyndyfrdwy, Merionithshire, declared Owain Glyndwr to be the rightful Prince of Wales, sparking a 10-year rebellion gainst Henry IV.

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1498 – Tomas de Torquemada, monk and first Inquisitor-General of Spain, died.  Notorious for his zealous campaign against the crypto-Jews and crypto-Muslims of Spain, he was one of the chief supporters of the Alhambra Decree, which expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492. About 2,000 people were burned at the stake by the Spanish Inquisition between 1480 and 1530. In modern times, his name has become synonymous with the Christian Inquisition’s horror, religious bigotry, and cruel fanaticism.  In 1832, his tomb was ransacked, his bones stolen and burnt to ashes.

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1886 – Hans Arp born., German-French sculptor, painter, poet and abstract artist in other media such as torn and pasted paper, Arp was a founding member of the Dada movement in Zürich in 1916.

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1925 – B.B. King born. American songwriter, vocalist, and  blues guitarist.Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at No. 6 on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

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1934 – Dick Heckstall-Smith born.  English jazz and blues saxophonist. He played with some of the most influential English blues rock and jazz fusion bands of the 1960s and 1970s, including Blues Incorporated, The Graham Bond Organization, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and Colosseum.

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1977 – Marc Bolan died. English singer-songwriter, guitarist and poet,  best known as the frontman of  T. Rex. Died in a car smash.

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