The significance of August 16 in Music.

Elvis

August 16 is a date like any other date, except when it comes to music. Several events on this date have had a massive impact on the music industry. In fact in musical terms it just doesn’t get bigger than this .

August 16-1915 The birth of Al Hibbler

Al Hibbler

Nowadays the name Al Hibbler will mean very little to most.But if I will mention the song ‘Unchained Melody’ it will trigger a lot of memories to many, especially the pottery scene in the movie ‘Ghost’ the version of the song was by ‘the Righteous Brothers” and a great number of people may think theirs was the original but it was Al Hibbler who brought the song to the number 1 spot of the charts for the first time in 1955.It was composed by by Alex North and lyrics by Hy Zaret.

In the late 1950s and 1960s, was involved in the  civil rights movement. He got arrested in 1959 in New Jersey and in 1963 in Alabama partaking in protest marches with .This didn’t make him very popular with major record labels notoriety and they did not  carry his work, but Frank Sinatra supported him and signed him to a contract with his label.

August 16-1938 the death of Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson

Robert Elroy Johnson is without a doubt the undisputed King of the blues. Legend has it that he made a deal with the devil for his talents.

As a young man living on a plantation in rural Mississippi, he had a burning desire to become the greatest blues musician. He was instructed to take his guitar to a crossroad near Dockery Plantation at midnight. There he was met by allegedly the devil who took the guitar and tuned it. The devil played a few songs and then returned the guitar to Johnson, giving him virtuosity of the instrument.All Robert had to give in exchange was his soul.

That soul was taken on August 16,1938 when he was aged 27, which also makes one of the first musicians to make it to the list of the the club of 27, the cause of his death has never really been solved. Popular believe is that he was poisoned during an altercation in a bar with  the jealous husband of a woman with whom he had flirted. It is said he was given a given a poisoned bottle of Whiskey after another bottle was knocked  out of his hand.

He only recorded 29 songs but there is yet another legend about a 30th song never recorded. This ‘missing’ song is the plot line of the 1986 movie ‘Crossroads’ in all honesty the movie isn’t great but the music is fantastic, especially the guitar duel between Ry Cooder and Steve Vai is something else.

August 16-1958 the Birth of Madonna

Madonna

Love her or loathe her there is no denying Madonna’s place in musical History, she is without a doubt the most influential female artist in decades.

Born Madonna Louise Ciccone on August 16, 1958 she became the leading female singer in the 80’s,90’s, and early 21st century. Although her acting and directing careers both turned out to be fiasco’s, when it comes to music there is no other like her. Staring off with poppy songs like ‘Borderline’ or ‘Like a Virgin’ she constantly reinvented herself and did not shy away from controversies.

She herself was influenced by 2 other strong female performers,Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde.

August 16-1962  the sacking of the Beatle, Pete Best.

Pete Best

The Beatles have been and still are one of the most influential bands ever, Their fame did not diminish after they split up. Kids nowadays still know them, and if you were to ask ,anyone to name the 4 band members people would say”John Lennon,Paul McCartney,George Harrison and Ringo Starr” however as the picture above indicates this wasn’t the original line up.

The original drummer was Pete Best but he was replaced by Ringo Starr on August 16,1962. There was no official reason given why he was sacked but according to Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager,Lennon, McCartney and Harrison thought that Best was “too conventional to be a Beatle” and added that “though he was friendly with John, he was not liked by George and Paul”

Originally the Beatles had been a 5 piece band, the original bass player Stuart Sutcliffe died in 1961, in Hamburg.

August 16-1977 the death of the King of Rock N Roll,Elvis.

Elvis the King

I am not going to say too much about the King, because I don’t think there is anybody on the planet who hasn’t heard of them.

This is me personal memory of the day he died on August 16,1977.

Death

I came home from school that day and my mother sat at the kitchen table, and she asked me “Guess who died today?” I replied “I don’t know, just tell me” She said ‘Elvis’. I was 9 at the time and pretended not to care. But I went up to my room and cried my eyes out, it felt I had just lost my best friend.

Leaving you with one of my favourite Elvis songs.

 

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Moody Blues-Prague in White Satin

Moody Blues

You’re an immensely popular Rock-Blues band and you have been invited to one of the Warsaw pact countries,Czechoslovakia to be precise.

They just got a new leader a man with a vision,a prelude to glasnost as such. Alexander Dubček opened it up his country for new cultural experiences, so when the Moody Blues got a chance to play a gig behind the iron curtain of course they took it with both hands, After all what could go wrong? They had the blessing of the supreme leader.

Dubcek

Well it was August 20,1968 the day that the Soviet Union and the other Warsaw Pact nations decided they did not like these new liberties introduced by Mr Dubček and decided to end this party nick named the Prague spring and took control of this unruly situation.

Tanks

The band did get a chance to shoot a promo for a French TV show the video  was shot in the afternoon . As The Moody Blues played their hit song, Warsaw Pact troops were already preparing for an invasion. By the evening, it had begun, and the British Embassy took no chances and quickly withdrew the band members from the city. Justin Hayward recalled in an interview: “We were in Czechoslovakia when the Russians rolled in. The British Air Force very kindly got us out, and it wasn’t until we got back to England that we realized what was going on.”

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Video killed the radio star

VIDEO

In the history of popular music ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ must be the most ironic song ever to hit the airwaves, Ironic in 2 ways,firstly it was the song that launched MTV on August 1,1981. Secondly, that same MTV eventually killed itself.

The song was written by written by Trevor Horn, Geoff Downes and Bruce Woolley in 1978.Initially it was recorded by Bruce Woolley and The Camera Club (with Thomas Dolby on keyboards) for their album English Garden.

But the version we all know is by the band The Buggles and that is the version which was used by MTV. The Buggles only had the one hit but the musicians involved in the band are genuine Rock and Pop music pedigree.

Geoffrey Downes, a British musician was a member of the prog Rock band ‘Yes’ and in 1981 after he split with Yes, he formed the super group’Asia’ . He  joined forces with Yes’s guitarist Steve Howe , bassist/vocalist John Wetton from King Crimso) and drummer Carl Palmer OF  Emerson, Lake & Palmer fame.

downes

The other member of the Buggles was none other then the aforementioned Trevor Horn. His work is really more behind the scene but significant nonetheless, He co-wrote the song Video killed the radio star. but it is his work as a producer and songwriter is phenomenal. He worked with Seal,Genesis,Hans Zimmer,Lisa Stansfield and many others.

horn

Recently he participated in a BBC documentary  where they tried to scientifically produce the perfect Pop song. Interestingly they had taken data from 7 decades of Pop music. The one thing that surprised me was that according to the data, the Beatles were average and mediocre, the Stones were just a bit more edgy, but the 60s band which was the edgiest was the Kinks.

They did achieve a scientific pop song in the documentary, but had to come to the conclusion it was only mediocre.

MTV started off with a blast.Anyone who grew up in the 80s, grew up with MTV. I don’t know what happened to it but the 21st century MTV has little to do with music but everything with bad to mediocre reality shows, maybe MTV also conducted  a scientific experiment.

mtv

Finishing with the Buggles version of Video Killed the Radio star.(another ironic twist it’s on Vevo)

 

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Django’s lucky escape

Django

The title of this blog is not referring to a Western film, it is actually referring to an extraordinary event during WWII.

Django Reinhard is one of my favourite guitarists it is actually because of him (and Jim Croce) I picked up a guitar myself. Although I am an admirer of his music and even more his style of playing I didn’t know too much about Django during WWII. I had always assumed he had escaped Europe on time.

It was only after watching a documentary on BBC 4 called Tunes for Tyrants, presented by Suzy Klein, I discovered that Django not only survived the war he also thrived.

You may think “What is so extraordinary about that?” Django was a Belgian born Roma French jazz guitarist. Three words in the last line is what makes it extraordinary, Roma Jazz Guitarist.

Roma’s were persecuted in Nazi occupied Europe, about 1 million Roma-Gypsies perished in extermination camps or as a result of forced labour.

Jazz was considered degenerate music in the Third Reich.

degenerate

However Jazz was allowed in Paris, because Hitler did not care about the ‘spiritual well being’ of the French. Django had lived in the UK before the war but had returned to Paris when the war broke out in 1939,leaving his wife behind and eventually divorcing her.

In 1943, Reinhardt married Sophie Ziegler in Salbris. The could had a son, Babik Reinhardt.

Because Django and his family were Roma, he tried to escape Nazi occupied France, His first attempt failed he and his family were caught ,but lady luck smiled on them for a Luftwaffe officer Dietrich Schulz-Köhn,who was an ardent Jazz fan and knew Django and his music, allowed Django and his family return to Paris. If Köhn would not have done that the Reinhard family would have surely ended up in a concentration camp.

Django remained nervous though for he knew there was always a chance that he’d still be arrested some day and be sent away. Although he did attempt to flee France again, he was send back at the Swiss border.

He remained in Paris and his music was enjoyed by the Parisians but also by the Nazis. Django actually managed to make quite a bit of money during those years. One of his songs, “Nuages,” did  become an unofficial anthem in Paris to signify hope for liberation.

He did change his musical direction somewhat though, because Jazz although allowed in Paris was still considered degenerate music, and the laisse faire attitude the Nazis in Paris had towards it  could change any minute. He attempted to  He tried to write a Mass for the Gypsies and a symphony.

Django guitar

I would really recommend watching the 3 part documentary series ‘Tunes for Tyrants’ on BBC 4. It gives a great overview of the musical history during the world war 2 era and the years before it.

Ending this blog withe the aforementioned “Nuages”

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Captain Macheath- The story behind Mack the Knife.

knife

Mack the Knife is one of my favourite Jazz songs, and I love the Bobby Darin and Louis Armstrong equally. It just doesn’t get cooler then that song, sung by those 2 performers, although Sammy Davis Jr, does a pretty cool rendition also.

Although I have admired this song for decades. it is only recently I discovered the actual history of the song. I always thought it was written in the 50s.

The song was composed in 1928 in Berlin by Kurt Weil amd Berolt Brecht provided the lyrics.

 

Both Weil and Brecht were Jewish and fled Germany in the early 30s for fear of persecution. They both ended up in the US, although Brecht eventually returned to East Berlin after the war.

They had written the music drama called “The Threepenny Opera” which premiered in Berlin in 1928. The song Mack the Knife, or “Die Moritat von Mackie Messe” was part if that opera.

The character Mack the Knife is based on , the dashing highwayman Macheath, from John Gay’s   “The Beggar’s Opera ”

beggar

Although Macheath is a fictional character he is believed to be based on, or at least partially based on Jack Sheppard, an English thief and jail breaker, and also enjoyed the affections of a prostitute, but unlike the character in the song he despised violence.

The Macheath in Mack the Knife is compared with a shark, and it  tells tales of his  numerous  crimes like robberies, murders, rapes, and arson.

And the shark, it has teeth,
And it wears them in the face.
And Macheath, he has a knife,
But the knife can’t be seen.

The song was was translated in 1954 by Marc Blizstein. The nuances of Blitzstein’s  translations are different compared to the original.

Oh, the shark has pretty teeth, dear,
And he shows them pearly white
Just a jack-knife has Macheath, dear
And he keeps it out of sight.

jack knife

Leaving you with Bobby Darin’s version of the song.

 

 

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The forgotten Live Aid acts.

live aid

On July 13 1985, one of the biggest ever music concerts took place. Live Aid. The aim of the concerts was to raise  funds for relief of the ongoing Ethiopian famine.

The concerts are often referred to as a dual-venue benefit concert, which is actually not true. Yes the main concerts took place in London and Philadelphia but there were other concerts held in tandem in Australia,Asia and other European countries.

Another thing that happened was the relaxing on restrictions to Rock music in the Soviet Union

The Soviet Unions’s  Contribution for Live Aid was the Band ‘Autograph’

USSR LINK

Their performance was broadcast via Satellite from Moscow to Wembley,London.They were introduced by Introduction by Vladimir Posner .They played 2 songs Golovokruzhenie ( ” Vertigo “) and Nam nuzhen nir ( ” We need peace “).

Yugoslavia contributed with their equivalent to Band Aid and USA For Africa with a song called “For a Million Years” the song was introduced by Mladen Popovic , who also gave some background information to the song.

BB King was performing at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague,Netherlands that night and joined also via satellite link and played 4 songs.

“When It All Comes Down”
“Why I Sing the Blues”
“Don’t Answer the Door”
“Rock Me Baby”

BB King

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The Saxophone- The Musical instrument that nearly wasn’t invented.

2

It thought it was time for me to do a Saxy blog(pardon the pun). Om June 28 1846, Adolphe Sax patented the instrument named after him, the Saxophone.

sax

However this nearly didn’t happen, not because he forgot to submit it but because he must have been either the luckiest or unluckiest man,depending on how you look at it, on earth.

Even his own mother said at one stage “He’s a child condemned to misfortune; he won’t live,”

Why did she say this? Here are just a few reasons.

When young Adolphe was just able to stand, he accidentally fell three stories and hit his head on solid stone, making his family  believe he died. Clearly he survived.

When he reached the age of 3 he drank a bowl full of vitriolized water(diluted sulfuric acid) and later swallowed a metal pin.

He burnt himself seriously in a gunpowder barrel explosion. He also fell on a red-hot cast iron skillet, which burned his face.

He nearly died of  poisoning and suffocation in his own bedroom where varnished items were kept during the night.

Another time, a cobblestone fell off of a roof and landed on his head. And to top things of he nearly drowned.

Twelve years after patenting the saxophone, he developed lip cancer, but a doctor well-versed in the properties of Indian herbal remedies cured him.

About 30 years ago today I had the fortune to visit his birthplace Dinant, in Belgium and frequented a bar called Le Sax. I am not sure if that’s still there.

 

a sax

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Two Pop Icons, two deaths, two different legacies.

colonel abrams

A little known  Minneapolis-based funk group formed in December 1975 called ’94 East’ lost two of its former members in 2016. Both of them were iconic in the 80s but one of them became a megastar, where the other one died homeless.

The two were  Prince and Colonel Abrams(picture above)

prince

 

Colonel Abrams(which was his real name), a musical pioneer who helped bring house into the mainstream mainly known for his hit single “Trapped” died on Thanksgiving, November 24, 2016. In 2015  some of his friends launched a crowdfunding campaign in order to help Abrams gain access to diabetes medication and get him off the streets.

His career involved being a part of various different bands, including 94 East which at one point had Prince on guitar, but it split when Prince became a solo star.

prince solo

Prince who became one of the biggest artists of the 20th century and remained a musical power house until the day he died on April 21,2016, 7 months before Colonel Abrams.

Two men with two different legacies, each death though was a tragedy. Although Prince’s legacy has grown even after his death,Colonel Abrams’s has all but disappeared.

Ending the blog with a song that featured them both.

The time Michael Jackson became Elvis’s son in law.

blogs-aisle-say-michael-jackson-and-lisa-marie-wedding

This is something that had slipped my mind but on this day in 1994, Michael Jackson married Lisa-Marie Presley.

They first met nearly 2 decades before they got married.He was introduced to her when he was 16 ans she was 6.at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Paradise, Nevada by her Elvis.

Elvis head brought her there to see the Jackson 5 perform.

Jackson 5

The pair picked up their friendship many years later in 1992,at a private dinner held at the home of their mutual friend the artist Brett-Livingstone Strong.  and two years after that, the ruler of Neverland and the heiress of Graceland were to be wed.

Although no one knew at the time. They got married in secret in n a secluded part of the Dominican Republic. The news about the wedding only leaked 11 weeks later.

MJ and LM

Lisa Marie had been a great support to Michael Jackson,when he became the subject of child sexual abuse accusations in 1993.

Michael Jackson had proposed to Lisa Marie while she was still married to actor Danny Keough. Jackson and Presley wed on May 26, 1994, at a ceremony in the Dominican Republic.Presley had divorced Keough only 20 days before.

The whole ceremony only lasted for 15 minutes and was held by was held by Judge Hugo Francisco Alvarez Perez at his home.

The marriage only lasted for 2 years. They got divorced on August 20 1996.

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Source

Bride

 

 

 

The Pianist who spoke his mind and was killed for it.

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Regardless how talented you were, or how much value you could add to the German culture, if you didn’t comply to the Nazi ideology or dared to criticize it, you stood a good chance of getting executed.

Karlrobert Kreiten born 26 June 1916,  in Bonn, Germany) was a Dutch-German pianist,  holding Dutch citizenship his short life because of his Dutch father. He was a promising pianist, described by conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler as the most talented young pianist in Germany.

concert announcement

He made his debut at the age of eleven with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A major in a live broadcast. His father was a Dutch composer and pianist, and his mother was a classical singer who performed under the stage name Emmy Kreiten-Barido. Karlrobert studied with the Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau in Berlin, and at the Music Academy.

son & mother

In early 1943 Kreiten moved to Berlin and began practising for his upcoming concerts at the house of his mother’s friend Ellen Ott-Monecke, who had offered her salon and piano until he would  find suitable accommodation.

Ellen Ott-Monecke who was a fanatic Nazi supporter,unbeknownst to Kreiten, one day he relayed his views on Hitler to Ott-Monecke. He had told her that Hitler was ‘brutal, sick and insane,’ and was responsible for starting the war. He also continued saying  that there would be a revolution in which Hitler, Goering and Goebbels would be ‘made a head shorter.’

Ellen Ott-Monecke reported this to the Gestapo He was indicted at the Volksgerichtshof (the ‘People’s Court’) for being a ‘threat to victory,’ and sentenced to death.

Volksgerichtshof, Reinecke, Freisler, Lautz

Roland Freisler,, presided over the trial and stated that Kreiten’s crime was ‘public’ and he could therefore face the death sentence. Freisler wanted to make an example of Kreiten at the trial, commenting  that, “whoever acts as Kreiten did, is doing precisely as our enemies wish. He becomes the henchman in their war of nerves against the steadfastness of our people”

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Friends and family desperately tried to save his life, but alas to no avail. The Kreiten family  only accidentally learned, via an anonymous phone call.  that Karlrobert had been executed by hanging, with 185 other inmates, at Plötzensee prison, om September 7 1943.

1024px-Jsa_ploetzensee_torhaus

Press coverage of the trial painted the pianist as a traitor, including articles written by Nazi propagandist Werner Höfer.  When the false articles by Werner Höfer  about Kreiten became known to a wider public  in 1987 he had to retire.

in convert

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Sources

holocaustmusic.ort.org