Criminal Songs

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On this day in 1974 the Bob Marley song “I shot the Sheriff” performed by Eric Clapton reached Number 1 in the Billboard 100.

Throughout the decades there have been many songs that were about crime or criminal behaviour, this is just a quick overview of some of these Criminal Songs.

Crime and murder have been the subject of popular recorded music since the invention of the phonograph. “Stagolee,” also known and performed as “Stagger Lee,” was one of the 20th century’s first hits. The lyrics, in which the theft of a Stetson hat leads to the death of a self-professed family man, were based on an actual murder that occurred in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1894 or 1895.

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Over the years, versions of the song have been recorded by hundreds of artists, including, more recently, the Grateful Dead and Nick Cave.

Derek Bentley was convicted and hanged for the murder of Police Constable Sidney Miles in London in 1952. But Bentley did not fire the shot that killed Miles. His underage accomplice Christopher Craig did. Bentley shouted the ambiguous phrase “let him have it, Chris” to his coconspirator, which was part of the reason his death sentence has been highly contested.

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Elvis Costello brings his customary literate vitriol to the case on “Let Him Dangle” from his late ‘80s smash, Spike, and takes down capital punishment in the process.

Johnny Cash recorded  “Mr. Garfield”  recounting the assassination of President Garfield by Charles Guiteau in 1881 for his epic 1965 concept album Johnny Cash Sings the Ballads of the True West. Instead of recounting the grisly details of the murder, Cash focuses his attention on the strife of the nation as it comes to grips with its fallen leader.

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“Strange Fruit” was originated as a poem written by American writer, teacher and songwriter Abel Meeropol, under his pseudonym Lewis Allan, as a protest against lynchings.

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In the poem, Meeropol expressed his horror at lynchings, inspired by Lawrence Beitler’s photograph of the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana. He published the poem under the title “Bitter Fruit” in 1937 in The New York Teacher, a union magazine.Though Meeropol had asked others (notably Earl Robinson) to set his poems to music, he set “Strange Fruit” to music himself.

“Have You Seen Bruce Richard Reynolds”  by Alabama 3 is a rarity on this list, as it features guest vocals from the criminal himself. In 1963, Reynolds carried out The Great Train Robbery, which at the time was Britain’s largest robbery ever.

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While Reynolds was on the run following the incident, folk musician Nigel Denver immortalized the rogue in the song “Have You Seen Bruce Richard Reynolds.” Reynolds eventually served 25 years in prison, and the song saw resurrection via the Alabama 3 a few decades after his release. In a strange twist, the Alabama 3 claims Reynolds’ son, Nick, among its members, a fact that led to a controversial appearance by Reynolds on the track.

 

 

 

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Musica Italiano

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Don’t worry I haven’t suddenly turned Italian and although the music in this blog will be in Italian, the text won’t be.

The thing is every once in a while I like to deviate from my usually heavier historical subjects to a more light-hearted one.

I love Italy, I had the chance to visit the country several times especially a small town called Valli del Pasubio and a even smaller village called Sturma(you’ll ne hard pressed to find it on a map). I first visited as a young teenager

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To be honest I fell in love with the place.It is where I first learned how to eat proper food,not the potatoes and apple sauce diet I had insisted on prior to that. The food was just heavenly and 16 stone further I still have a loving relationship with food.

The blog however is about Italian music and not food.Even before I set foot in Italy I had a bit of a weak spot for Italian music,although I was a metal head, I couldn’t help falling for the soothing tones of the Italian language converted into music.

Italian music is often referred to as Italo Pop or Italo Disco but I don’t think any of these names capture the essence of the music.

Although I don’t really understand the songs, I do know that they tell a story just by the rhythm of the tunes. The song above called Gente di Mare(people of the sea),by Umberto Tozzi & Raf lost out in 1987 to Johnny Logan at the Eurovision Contest.

This one of my all time favourites by Matia Bazar” Ti sento” which I believe means I feel you, the haunting husky voice just adds so much atmosphere to the song.

I am not an emotional man but the first time I heard Andrea Bocelli it literally send shivers down my spine.The combination of a classical tenor and contemporary music is just magical, like a fairy tale coming to life.

This song is proof that the language of music is without constraints and ignores physical borders. Sung in Italian,Dutch and English by an Italian Dutch man Marco Borsato and Andrea Bocelli. If this doesn’t give you Goosebumps nothing will.

Another 80’s Italian classic

 

I hope you enjoy the music just as much as I did. Finishing up with my favorite Italian song, it is jazz song in it’s purest and sincerest form by Paolo Conte.

 

 

SRV-The death of a Legend.

I am very careful when it comes to calling someone a hero, for so many are considered a hero , often aren’t. However in this case I can say that SRV-Stevie Ray Vaughan was one of my heroes. The man who made playing guitar look cool again.

On August 26, 1990, Vaughan performed two shows with Eric Clapton at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin.

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Some of the musicians boarded four Chicago-bound helicopters, which were waiting on a nearby golf course. Vaughan, along with three members of Eric Clapton’s entourage (agent Bobby Brooks, bodyguard Nigel Browne, and assistant tour manager Colin Smythe), boarded the third of the four helicopters—a Bell 206B Jet Ranger—flying to Meigs Field.

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In Clapton: The Autobiography, Clapton explains that, contrary to rumors, his seat was not given to Vaughan, but three members of Clapton’s entourage were on board with Vaughan. According to a witness, there was haze and fog with patches of low clouds. The helicopter took off at about 12:50 am (CDT)on August 27 and, despite the conditions, turned left towards a 150-foot ski hill adjacent to the golf course. It collided with the hill approximately fifty feet from the summit.

 All on board, including the pilot, Jeff Brown, were killed instantly.According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a veteran pilot for Alpine Valley suspected that Brown attempted to fly around the ski hill, but misjudged the location.The Civil Air Patrol was notified of the accident at 4:30 am, and located the crash site almost three hours later.

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Clapton and Jimmie Vaughan were asked to identify the bodies. The Walworth County coroner conducted an autopsy and found that Vaughan suffered from multiple internal and skull injuries.Clapton issued a statement the next day, saying that the victims “were my companions, my associates and my friends. This is a tragic loss of some very special people. I will miss all of them very much.” A Coptic cross necklace, worn by Vaughan, was given to Jimmie Vaughan.

Vaughan’s memorial was held on August 30, 1990, at Laurel Land Cemetery in Dallas, where he was buried next to his father, and was preceded by a private chapel service for close friends and family. Reverend Barry Bailey of the United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, who was Vaughan’s AA sponsor, opened the service with personal thoughts: “We’re here to thank God for this man’s life. He was a genius, a superstar, a musician’s musician. He captured the hearts of thousands and thousands of people. I am thankful for the impact of this man’s influence on thousands of people in getting his own life together in the name of God.” Kim Wilson, Jeff Healey, David Bowie, Charlie Sexton, ZZ Top, Colin James, and Buddy Guy attended the event. Stevie Wonder, Jackson Browne, and Bonnie Raitt sang “Amazing Grace” at the event. Nile Rodgers gave a eulogy,while a member of the Nightcrawlers read chapters five and eleven from The Big Book, the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous.In 1995, the Vaughan family received an undisclosed settlement for wrongful death.

Sadly Jeff Healey and David Bowie also have died since.

David Bowie and Stevie Ray Vaughan had collaborated on Bowie’s China Girl. The guitar solo is the genius of  SRV.

I only heard the news late in the evening. I remember it as vividly as the time I heard the news about Elvis’s death. I had just finished an evening shift and went to my local pub for a drink. where I saw these big tattooed ,pierced bikers with tears in their eyes.

I asked “what happened?” and they replied in chorus”Stevie died” it was just so surreal.

Finishing up with my one of my favorite SRV tracks, taken from his last studio album “Family Style”

RIP SRV

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Elvis Presley and Robert Johnson

Why did I use the names of these 2 artists as the title of this blog? For they had nothing in common.

Well that is not entirely true. Both were born in Mississippi and both died on the 16th of August, Elvis 40 years ago today and Robert Johnson 79 year ago today. Both were pioneers in their music genre.

Also they both shaped my musical taste. It is a simple fact that there will never be any stars of their magnitude again.

Elvis was and is the undisputed King of Rock N Roll.

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Whereas Robert Johnson was and is the undisputed King of the Blues.

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Both men were legends and met untimely deaths and both were victims of circumstance.

I will not go to deep into their lives because there is nothing more that I can add to their stories. Below are 2 blogs though I have done in the past.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/02/23/elvis-and-the-colonel/

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/04/27/did-robert-johnson-sell-his-soul-to-the-devil/

Let’s celebrate their lives with some of their music.

 

RIP Elvis and Robert. Thank you for the music

Leon Jessel- Was he misguided, believing the Nazis would leave him alone?

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Leon Jessel,(January 22, 1871 – January 4, 1942) was a German composer of operettas and light classical music pieces. Althouh if I had beem up to his parents Samuel and Mary Jessel, he would have become a textile sales man.His  Father however was a gifted violinist.

Today Leon Jessel  is best known internationally as the composer of the popular jaunty march The Parade of the Tin Soldiers, also known as The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.

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Jessel was a prolific composer who wrote hundreds of light orchestral pieces, piano pieces, songs, waltzes, mazurkas, marches, choruses, and other salon music. He achieved considerable acclaim with a number of his operettas — in particular Schwarzwaldmädel (Black Forest Girl), which remains popular to this day.

Because Jessel was a Jew by birth (he converted to Christianity at the age of 23), with the rise of Nazism in the late 1920s, his composing virtually came to an end, and his musical works, which had been very popular, were suppressed and nearly forgotten.

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Jessel was a Jew who converted to Christianity at the age of 23 in order to marry a Christian woman. They moved to Berlin in 1911, where Jessel continued his composing. He and his wife divorced and Jessel remarried in 1921. All through the 1920s and into the 1930s, his operettas were popular. The music was light but robust, and the plots fed the nostalgia for turn-of-the-century German imperial enthusiasm—such catchy songs, for example, as “We Wander through the Wide, Wide World” from The Girl from the Back Forest.

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As a matter of fact, that operetta was one of Hitler’s favorites. In 1930 the handwriting on the wall in Germany was perhaps still unclear. Maybe Jessel thought that his conversion to Christianity and his sense of nationalism would stand him in good stead. His second wife was even a member of the NSDAP (the Nazi party). Yet, none of that helped. None of it. His works were banned in 1933.  (Ironically, in that same year the German post office issued a commemorative stamp on the occasion of the first filming of Jessel’s Black Forest operetta!).

His wife was expelled from the Nazi party in 1934; Jessel was forced out of the Reichsmusikkammer (State Music Bureau) in 1937 and the recording and distribution of his music was prohibited. In 1939, he wrote to a friend: “I cannot work in a time when hatred of Jews threatens my people with destruction, where I do not know when that gruesome fate will likewise be knocking at my door.” The Gestapo came calling in 1941 and arrested Jessel for spreading Greuelmärchen (“horror stories”) about the state.

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The Gestapo took him to their infamous torture chamber at Alexanderplatz in Berlin. He was then taken to a hospital where he died on January 4, 1942.

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Rock and Pop songs inspired by Historical events.

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A slight deviation from my regular  history of sorts. This time I will leave the music do the talking.

Throughout the decades there have been many songs that took their inspiration from historical events, below is a list and clips of some of them.

Starting of with the one song that covers most of known history of mankind. The Rollings Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”

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Next up the re-telling of Rasputin by Boney M. Although they took quite some poetic licenses it still broadly outlines the history of that infamous Russian.

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Martin Luther King was the inspiration for U2’s “Pride” one of U2’s best songs ever with a powerful message.

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On December 29, 1890, the massacre of Sioux warriors, women and children along Wounded Knee Creek in southwestern South Dakota marked the final chapter in the long war between the United States and the Native American tribes indigenous to the Great Plains.

It was to be known as the Wounded knee massacre.It inspired the Native American Rock band Redbone to record the protest song “We were all wounded at Wounded Knee”

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In 2010 the Chicago Metal band released the song “Never Again” it was inspired by the Holocaust and served as an indictment that the one thing that history teaches us is that it keeps repeating itself.

Even our darkest era is denied, forgotten and slowly at risk of repeating itself again. But like Disturbed I also say “NEVER AGAIN”

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Although I am not a great fan of Bob Dylan as a performing artist, there is no denying he is one of the best songwriters ever.

I could have picked so many songs from his back catalogue but decided to go with “Hurricane”

Hurricane” is a protest song by Bob Dylan co-written with Jacques Levy, about the imprisonment of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. It compiles alleged acts of racism and profiling against Carter,[1] which Dylan describes as leading to a false trial and conviction.

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Finishing up as I started with a song that encompasses several decades of history.”We Didn’t Start the Fire” is a song by Billy Joel. Its lyrics include brief, rapid-fire allusions to more than 100 headline events between 1949, the year of Joel’s birth, and 1989,the year the song was released.

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The 1st Sony Walkman

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it is not often I do a piece on technology, in fact this is the first time and it probably will be last time, but this device has had an impact on my life.And today marks the 38th anniversary of its first release.

The transistor radio was a technological marvel that put music literally into consumers’ hands in the mid-1950s. It was cheap, it was reliable and it was portable,

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but it could never even approximate the sound quality of a record being played on a home stereo. It was, however, the only technology available to on-the-go music lovers until the Sony Corporation sparked a revolution in personal electronics with the introduction of the first personal stereo cassette player. A device as astonishing on first encounter as the cellular phone or digital camera would later be, the Sony Walkman went on sale for the very first time on July 1, 1979.

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The Sony Walkman didn’t represent a breakthrough in technology so much as it did a breakthrough in imagination. Every element of the Walkman was already in production or testing as part of some other device when Sony’s legendary chairman, Masaru Ibuka, made a special request in early 1979.

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Ibuka was a music lover who traveled frequently, and he was already in the habit of carrying one of his company’s “portable” stereo tape recorders with him on international flights. But the Sony TC-D5 was a heavy device that was in no way portable by modern standards, so Ibuka asked his then-deputy Norio Ohga if he could cobble together something better. Working with the company’s existing Pressman product—a portable, monaural tape recorder that was popular with journalists—Ohga had a playback-only stereo device rigged up in time for Ibuka’s next trans-Pacific flight.

Even though this proto-Walkman required large, earmuff-like headphones and custom-made batteries (which, of course, ran out on Ibuka midway through his flight), it impressed the Sony chairman tremendously with its sound quality and portability. Many objections were raised internally when Ibuka began his push to create a marketable version of the device, the biggest of which was conceptual: Would anyone actually buy a cassette device that was not for recording but only for playback? Ibuka’s simple response—”Don’t you think a stereo cassette player that you can listen to while walking around is a good idea?”—proved to be one of the great understatements in business history.

After a breakneck development phase of only four months, Sony engineers had a reliable product ready for market at 30,000 Yen (approximately US$150 in 1979 dollars) and available before the start of summer vacation for Japanese students—both critical targets established at the outset of development. The initial production run of 30,000 units looked to be too ambitious after one month of lackluster sales (only 3,000 were sold in July 1979). But after an innovative consumer-marketing campaign in which Sony representatives simply approached pedestrians on the streets of Tokyo and gave them a chance to listen to the Walkman, the product took off, selling out available stocks before the end of August and signaling the beginning of one of Sony’s greatest success stories.

I remember getting a Sony Sports Walkman in the mid eighties it was the top of the range technology at the time.

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No longer was I confined at home to listen to my favorite rock tunes. I got be a “rock star” anywhere I wanted. Ignore all those who laughed at me while I was playing air guitar on my way to school or town.I didn’t mind because I knew they envied me because I had a Sony Sports Walkman.

This is a tune of an album I played a lot on the Walkman. Whitesnake,album:Slide it in, Track, Love ain’t no stranger.

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The unknown originals -volume 2

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Sometimes you hear a song on the radio and you may have actually heard this song for many years,always thinking it was an original. However it often happens that these “originals” are actually copies or covers.

In this blog I will be looking at the songs in the original language, sometimes performed by the same artist.

Below are some of these real originals. Starting off with the Germans. A nation not that known for it’s musical abilities,well at least in Pop music terms. In the 80s though they came up with this new wave of German music, called “die Neue Deutsche Welle” or New German wave in English.

One of the leading bands were Nena, fronted by the lead singer Nena.

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They had a massive worldwide hit with 99 Red balloons, the original however was in German “99 Luftballons”

 

In 1988 the Munich band Münchener Freiheit, renamed for the English speaking countries to “Freiheit” had a massive  hit with the song”Keeping the dream alive” it actually became a Christmas hit even tough it had nothing to do with Christmas.

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But the original is called “So lang’ man Träume noch leben kann”

 

“It’s now or never” was one of Elvis’s biggest hits and you may be forgiven that the original was in English.

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However the original date back to the 19th century. “’O sole mio” is a globally known Neapolitan song written in 1898. Its lyrics were written by Giovanni Capurro and the music was composed by Eduardo di Capua and Alfredo Mazzucchi. Here performed by Pavarotti.

 

One of my favourite crooners is Bobby Darin.

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His version of “beyond the sea” always puts me in a nostalgic mood. It was however a cover from the French chanson “la mer” a song written by French composer, lyricist, singer and showman Charles Trenet.

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When Frank Sinatra sang ” I did it my way” he did it in more then one way.

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“My way” is a cover of the French song “Comme d’habitude” French for “As usual”) is a French song composed in 1967 by Claude François and Jacques Revaux with lyrics by Claude François and Gilles Thibaut.

 

The Irish folk band the Fureys had a worldwide hit wit “the red rose cafe” .The original Dutch version  is called “het Kleine cafe aan de haven” which translates in the little pub at the harbour. It was written,performed and composed by Pierre Kartner under his artist name Vader Abraham(no it’s not a name of a Sith lord in Star Wars?.Who also composed and performed “the Smurf song”

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As bonus I will also include the original Dutch version of the Smurf song by the aforementioned Vader Abraham

The Eurovision song contest

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Tonight is the first semi finals of the annual circus called the Eurovision Song contest. I have to be honest though, I do like it. It basically goes against everything I like,music wise, the whole bizarre circus and the politics behind it I do find entertaining.

In case you are in doubt it is political you only have to look at last year’s winner. Ukraine;Jamala-1944.

Let’s just look at the history of probably the biggest Television event in the world.

The history of the Eurovision Song Contest began with an idea of Sergio Pugliese, of the Italian television RAI, and then approved by Marcel Bezençon of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

The contest was based on the Italian Sanremo Music Festival and was designed to test the limits of live television broadcast technology.

.The first contest took place on 24 May 1956, where seven nations participated.  It was won by Lys Assia for Switzerland, with the song refrain.

As the Contest progressed, the rules grew increasingly complex and participation levels rose to pass forty nations at the end of the 20th century. As more countries came on board over subsequent decades and technology advanced, the EBU attempted to keep up with national and international trends.

Ireland won the contest 7 times, followed by Sweden 6 times.France, Luxembourg, United Kingdom 5 times and the Netherlands 4 times.

Of the 7 times Ireland won it, 3 times were by Johnny Logan.

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Twice as a performer and in 1992 as the composer with the song Why me? sung by Linda Martin.

Ireland also had one of the most bizarre contestants, a Turkey called Dustin. It was really as a protest against the geographical bloc voting which became evident at the end of the 1990’s and early 21st century,after the introduction of tele-voting and the removal of the jury votes.

 

Finland who mostly got 0 points or at the most just a few points was the surprise winner in 2006 with a Heavy Metal band called Lordi. Although many people complaint about this, it does show the diversity of popular music on display at the Eurovision.

 

In general the winners do not enjoy too much success or longevity in the music industry, however there were 2 acts that were able to build a career on the back of their wins at the Eurovision

In 1988 Canadian born Celine Dion entered the contest for Switzerland with the song “Ne partez pas sans moi” she became a global mega star afterwards.

The band that really is associated with the Song contest is of course ABBA, in 1974 they won with their song Waterloo, this catapulted their career into the stratosphere. Their fame was at par with bands like Queen, the Beatles and the Rolling stones.

 

Going back to the diversity of the Eurovision in 1998 and in 2014 the contest was won by transgender/sexual  contestsants, 1998 Dana International for Israel with the song”Diva” and 2014 Conchita Wurst for Austria with the song “Rise like a Phoenix”

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In 2009 the contest was won by Norway’s Alexander Rybak with his self-penned “Fairytale”, which received a record-breaking 387 points out of 492, at the time the highest total score in the history of the contest.

Finishing up with the song that won the last time for the Netherlands. In 1975 Teach In won the contest with the song”Ding A Dong” (hey it was the seventies)

Nearer my God to thee-And the band played on.

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105 years ago today as the Titanic was sinking,band leader Wallace Hartley decided to stay on the ship together with his fellow musicians.

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Why I don’t really know but I think it was to give that glimmer of hope to those who were facing their last minutes before their mortal coils would give up.What is even more amazing is the fact that the piece of music they played was “Nearer my God to thee” these are the heroes who are often forgotten.

After the Titanic hit an iceberg and began to sink, Hartley and his fellow band members started playing music to help keep the passengers calm as the crew loaded the lifeboats. Many of the survivors said that he and the band continued to play until the very end. None of the band members survived the sinking, and the story of them playing to the end became a popular legend. One survivor who clambered aboard ‘Collapsible A’ claimed to have seen Hartley and his band standing on the boat deck, near the entrance to the grand staircase, near the base of the second funnel. He went on to say that he saw three of them washed off while the other five held on to the railing on top the Grand Staircase’s deckhouse, only to be dragged down with the bow, as Hartley exclaimed, “Gentlemen, I bid you farewell!” A newspaper at the time reported “the part played by the orchestra on board the Titanic in her last dreadful moments will rank among the noblest in the annals of heroism at sea.”

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Many of the survivors said that Hartley and the band continued to play until the very end. One second class passenger said:

“Many brave things were done that night, but none were more brave than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea. The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame”

This is my salute to those who kept faith until the last moment.