Tag Archives: Songwriter

Almanac – June 17

1631 – Mumtaz Mahal died during childbirth. Her husband, Mughal emperor Shah Jahan I, spent the next 17 years building her mausoleum, the Taj Mahal.

 

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1939 – Last public guillotining in France: Eugen Weidmann, a convicted murderer, was guillotined in Versailles, outside the Saint-Pierre prison.

The “hysterical behaviour” of spectators was so scandalous that French president Albert Lebrun immediately banned all future public executions.

 

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1958 – Jello Biafra born. Former lead singer and songwriter for San Francisco punk rock band Dead Kennedys, now focused primarily on spoken word.
He is a staunch believer in a free society, who utilizes shock value and advocates direct action and pranksterism in the name of political causes,  known to use absurdist media tactics in the leftist tradition of the Yippies, to highlight issues of civil rights and social justice.

 

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Almanac – June 14

1928 – Che Guevara born. Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist.

A major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia within popular culture.

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1949 – Albert II, a rhesus monkey, rode a V2 rocket to an altitude of 134 km (83 mi), thereby becoming the first monkey in space. He survived the flight but   died on impact  after a parachute failure.

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1953 – David Thomas born.  American singer, songwriter, and musician.

He was one of the founding members of the short-lived protopunk Rocket From The Tombs (1974–1975), where he went by the name of Crocus Behemoth, and of  Pere Ubu (1975–present, intermittently). He has also released several solo albums. Though primarily a singer, he sometimes plays melodeon, trombone, guitar or other instruments.

Thomas has described his artistic focus as being the “gestalt of culture, geography and sound“. Common themes crop up throughout much of his work, such as the US Interstate Highway system, images of roadside or “junk” tourist culture, Brian Wilson, AM Radio, and many others.

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1966 – The Vatican announced the abolition of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (“index of prohibited books“), which was originally instituted in 1557.

The avowed aim of the list was to protect the faith and morals of the faithful by preventing the reading of immoral books or works containing theological errors, and noteworthy intellectuals and religious figures on the Index included Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, André Gide, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, Galileo Galilei, Blaise Pascal, Hugo Grotius and Saint Faustina Kowalska. Charles Darwin’s works were notably never included, nor was Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

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Almanac – June 09

1915 – Les Paul born. American jazz, country and blues guitarist, songwriter, luthier and inventor.

He was one of the pioneers of the solid-body electric guitar, which made the sound of rock and roll possible, and is credited with many recording innovations.

Although he was not the first to use the technique, his early experiments with overdubbing, delay effects such as tape delay, phasing effects and multitrack recording were among the first to attract widespread attention.

 He recorded with his wife Mary Ford in the 1950s, selling millions of records.

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1934 – Jackie Wilson born. American singer and performer.

Wilson was important in the transition of rhythm and blues into soul. He was considered a master showman, one of the most dynamic and influential singers and performers in R&B and rock history.

Gaining fame in his early years as a member of the R&B vocal group Billy Ward and His Dominoes, he went solo in 1957 and recorded over 50 hit singles that spanned R&B, pop, soul, doo-wop and easy listening.

Wilson’s powerful, electrifying live performances rarely failed to bring audiences to a state of frenzy.  His live performances consisted of knee-drops, splits, spins,back-flips, one-footed across-the-floor slides, a lot of basic boxing steps (advance and retreat shuffling) and one of his favorite routines, getting some of the less attractive girls in the audience to come up and kiss him. “If I kiss the ugliest girl in the audience, they’ll all think they can have me and keep coming back and buying my records.”

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Almanac – June 03

1924 – Franz Kafka died. German-language writer of novels and short stories, regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century.

 Kafka strongly influenced genres such as existentialism. His works, such as Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis), Der Process (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle), are filled with the themes and archetypes of alienation, physical and psychological brutality, parent–child conflict, characters on a terrifying quest, and mystical transformations.

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1926 – Allen Ginsberg born. American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s.

He vigorously opposed militarism, economic materialism and sexual repression. Ginsberg is best known for his epic poem “Howl“, in which he denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States.

Ginsberg took part in decades of non-violent political protest against everything from the Vietnam War to the War on Drugs. His poem “September on Jessore Road“, calling attention to the plight of Bangladeshi refugees, exemplifies what the literary critic Helen Vendler described as Ginsberg’s tireless persistence in protesting against “imperial politics, and persecution of the powerless.”

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1942 – Curtis Mayfield born.  American soul, R&B, and funk singer, songwriter, and record producer.

He is best known for his anthemic music with The Impressions during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and for composing the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Super Fly, Mayfield is highly regarded as a pioneer of funk and of politically conscious African-American music.

He was also a multi-instrumentalist who played the guitar, bass, piano, saxophone, and drums.

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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 – May 25

1895 – Playwright, poet, and novelist Oscar Wilde was convicted of “committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons” and sentenced to serve two years in prison.

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1956 – Sugar Minott born. Jamaican reggae singer, producer and sound-system operator.

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1965 – Sonny Boy Williamson II died.  American blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter.

He is acknowledged as one of the most charismatic and influential blues musicians, with considerable prowess on the harmonica and highly creative songwriting skills.

He recorded successfully in the 1950s and 1960s, and had a direct influence on later blues and rock performers.

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1967 – Poppy Z. Brite born. American author,  best known for writing gothic and horror novels and short stories.

Brite’s trademarks have included using gay men as main characters, graphic sexual descriptions in the works, and an often wry treatment of gruesome events.

Some of Brite’s better known novels include Lost Souls (1992), Drawing Blood  (1993), and Exquisite Corpse (1996).

Brite is, in real life, Billy Martin, a transgender man – he self-identifies as a gay man; “Ever since I was old enough to know what gay men were, I’ve considered myself a gay man that happens to have been born in a female body, and that’s the perspective I’m coming from” –  and prefers that male pronouns and terms be used when referring to him.

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2006 – Desmond Dekker died. Jamaican ska, rocksteady and reggae singer-songwriter and musician.

In 1968 Dekker’s “Israelites” was released, eventually topping the UK Singles Chart in April 1969 and peaking in the Top Ten of the US Billboard Hot 100 in June 1969 – Dekker was the first Jamaican artist to have a hit record in the US with a form and style that was purely Jamaican.

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Almanac – May 23

1701 – Captain William Kidd hanged for piracy, at Execution Dock, Wapping, in London. During the execution, the hangman’s rope broke and Kidd was hanged on the second attempt. His body was gibbeted over the River Thames at Tilbury Point as a warning to  would-be pirates.

Some modern historians deem his piratical reputation unjust, as there is evidence that Kidd acted only as a privateer. Kidd’s fame springs largely from the sensational circumstances of his questioning before the English Parliament and the ensuing trial.

 His actual depredations on the high seas, whether piratical or not, were both less destructive and less lucrative than those of many other contemporary pirates and privateers

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1934 – American bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were ambushed by police and killed in Black Lake, Louisiana.

Even during their lifetimes, the couple’s depiction in the press was at considerable odds with the hardscrabble reality of their life on the road—particularly in the case of Parker.

Though she was present at a hundred or more felonies during her two years as Barrow’s companion, she was not the machine gun-wielding cartoon killer portrayed in the newspapers, newsreels, and pulp detective magazines of the day. Gang member W. D. Jones was unsure whether he had ever seen her fire at officers.

 Parker’s reputation as a cigar-smoking gun moll grew out of a playful snapshot found by police at an abandoned hideout, released to the press, and published nationwide; while she did chain-smoke Camel cigarettes, she was not a cigar smoker.

Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were wild and young, and supposedly slept together. Without Bonnie, the media outside Texas might have dismissed Clyde as a gun-toting punk, if it ever considered him at all. With her sassy photographs, Bonnie supplied the sex-appeal, the oomph, that allowed the two of them to transcend the small-scale thefts and needless killings that actually comprised their criminal careers.

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1943 – General Johnson born. American soul  songwriter and record producer, and frontman of Chairmen Of The Board.

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Almanac – May 16

1923 – Peter Underwood born.  English author, broadcaster and paranormalist,  a prolific author on books covering ghosts by region of the United Kingdom.

He is a leading expert on Borley Rectory, and  traced and personally interviewed almost every living person who had been connected with what the press had dubbed the ‘most haunted house in England’.

He built up a volume of correspondence with paranormal investigator Harry Price and after Price’s death, he became literary executor of the Harry Price Estate.

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1951 – Jonathan Richman born.  American singer, songwriter and guitarist.
In 1970 he founded The Modern Lovers, an influential proto-punk band. Since the mid-1970s, Richman has worked either solo or with low-key, generally acoustic, backing.

He is known for his wide-eyed, unaffected and childlike outlook, and music that, while rooted in rock and roll, often draws on influences from around the world.

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1953 – Django Reinhardt died. Pioneering virtuoso jazz guitarist and composer, often regarded as one of the greatest guitar players of all time and is the first important European jazz musician who made major contributions to the development of the idiom.

Using only the index and middle fingers of his left hand on his solos (his third and fourth fingers were paralyzed after an injury in a fire), Reinhardt invented an entirely new style of jazz guitar technique (sometimes called ‘hot’ jazz guitar) that has since become a living musical tradition within French gypsy culture.

With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, he co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France, described by critic Thom Jurek as “one of the most original bands in the history of recorded jazz.”

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Almanac – May 02

1551 – William Camden born.  English antiquarian, historian, topographer, and officer of arms.

He wrote the first chorographical survey of the islands of Great Britain and Ireland and the first detailed historical account of the reign of Elizabeth I of England.

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1929 – Link Wray born.  American rock and roll guitarist, songwriter and vocalist.

Building on the overdriven, distorted electric guitar sound of early electric blues records, his 1958 instrumental hit “Rumble”  introduced “the power chord, the major modus operandi of modern rock guitarists,” making possible punk and heavy rock.

Rolling Stone placed Wray at number 45 of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

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1945 – Judge Dread born. English reggae and ska musician.

He was the first white recording artist to have a reggae hit in Jamaica, and the BBC has banned more of his songs than any other recording artist due to his frequent use of sexual innuendo and double entendres.

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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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