Wednesday, September 08, 2010

"Waiting For A Train" by Jimmie Rodgers

Jimmie Rodgers - born on this day in 1897 - was the first bonafide country music superstar, to the extent that he is often called the Father of Country Music; he was also called the Singing Brakeman and America's Blue Yodeler. He first released Waiting For A Train in October 1928, and is seen here performing it thanks to the miracle of celluloid.

Although a bout with tuberculosis ended his railroad career at the age of 27 - allowing him the chance to pursue a talent for music he discovered while riding the New Orleans and Northeastern - his weakened lungs would also prove his undoing. Jimmie Rodgers died in May 1933, aged only 35. Neverthless, Rodgers was among the first three inductees in the Country Music Hall of Fame - along with Fred Rose and Hank Williams - when it was established in 1961.
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In Memoriam: Barbara Frum

The typical Barbara Frum interview wouldn't have been out of place on the Discovery Channel...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketOne minute she's exchanging banalities with the Prime Minister, her face utterly expressionless. You'd wait and wait... Then she'd catch him in a lie and pounce! You're still cheering, and she's already started grimly pulling out his intestines, right there on national television. Thrilling...

Of course, they weren't all like that; she tended only to attack those who had it coming to them. With all others she would employ her droll wit and prodigious intellect to memorable end.

Born on this day in 1937, Barbara Frum was one of Canada's most versatile and respected journalists; when she died in March 1992 a career retrospective aired shortly thereafter by her employer the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation became the highest rated program in the network's history.  Proof that once upon a time Canadians valued that rare combination of style and substance which was her hallmark...
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Stefano Casiraghi: A Man Among Princes

Though he described himself as 'a born businessman', when Stefano Casiraghi married Princess Caroline of Monaco in December 1983 the terms being used to describe him were more along the lines of 'playboy' and 'gigolo' than 'capitalist'.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIt didn't take more than a couple of years, though, for Casiraghi to become one of the most powerful men in a Principality which then, as now, is positively thronged with powerful men. By the time he died, Casiraghi had become the son Prince Rainier III never had; even though Prince Rainier had a son, as so often happens in these cases, the sovereign and his heir were wary of each other in the way that the sovereign and his son-in-law didn't need to be.

Born this day in 1960, Casiraghi was just 30 when the power boat he was driving crashed in October 1990, killing him, and leaving Her Serene Highness a widow with three small children. As with most sudden deaths, conspiracies abound. None can be proved, of course, which for people who believe in such things only confirms (rather than dispels) such theories.

Despite the time that has elapsed since his death, interest in Casiraghi remains high, not least because the small children he left behind are now fully grown socialites and (understandably, given their parentage) raving beauties as well; this post remains one of the most frequently read on the Pop Culture Institute since it was posted here on this day in 2007.
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"Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray" by Patsy Cline

What you notice first is the voice: it's big, but gentle - vast, yet intimate... Most shocking to our modern ears, the voice is also utterly distinctive. Although many have tried, and some have even nearly succeeded, theirs was merely mimicry... There's only ever been one Patsy Cline, and there will only ever be one.

I first heard her singing, like a lot of my generation, on television in the 1980s, when mail-order houses were selling her records seemingly faster than they could press them; in a decade largely devoid of sincerity, that voice went a long way towards filling the void.

I could have chosen to put a performance of Walkin' After Midnight or Crazy up here; certainly they are her most famous singles. But there's something perverse in me, and so I chose a more obscure song - and one associated with tobacco, to boot - instead. Three Cigarettes In An Ashtray originally appeared on Cline's eponymous debut album in 1957; here she performs it on Ozark Jubilee.
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Remembering... Patsy Cline

When she was a little girl - born on this day in 1932 - Virginia Hensley just knew she was going to be famous, and looked up to stars like Judy Garland and Shirley Temple to show her the way...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThat little girl must have been on to something; as Patsy Cline, she not only changed the way the world looked at country music - thanks to the Nashville Sound, of which she was the most, er, vocal proponent - but also the way the country music industry's company town looked at its female performers. She would not be cheated, she would not be used, and she would not be forgotten. Despite the name, she used to like to say, she was 'nobody's patsy'.

From her first recordings in 1957 to her untimely death in a plane crash (aged only 30) in March 1963, Cline's rich voice, poignant phrasing, and populist sensibilities rendered her more than just a country singer, but as one of the foremost interpreters of popular music ever - in any genre.

Cline's earlier premonition about her fame had come true; a similar intuition- this time about her imminent mortality - did as well. Having survived two car crashes (the second, in June 1961, was nearly fatal) Cline told friends that her next accident would either finish her off or 'prove a charm'.

Alas, when the Piper Comanche in which she was flying crashed in March 1963, it did the former. In a way, too, it also did the latter. There's no doubt that, had she lived, Patsy Cline might still be singing away today at the age of 78, mentoring up-and-coming talent, and enjoying life as a living legend, although she likely wouldn't be resting on her laurels. Dying as she did, her voice haunts us still, calling to us in a rich contralto from a place that's not unlike immortality.
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The Day Dorothy Dandridge Died

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In 1957 Dorothy Dandridge struck back at the publisher of Hollywood tabloids - such as Confidential, Whisper, and Hush-Hush - who claimed she'd had an affair with a white bandleader in 1950 while performing her nightclub act in Lake Tahoe. Reminding the jury that had she so much as left her hotel room in those days she could have been arrested for defying laws which enforced racial segregation, they found in her favour.

She not only won her case, but her case was ultimately successful in curtailing the invasive tabloid coverage of Hollywood that had been on the rise throughout the 1950s; by the time the tabloid press came roaring back to life it was the mid-70s, and she was long gone. Too bad, because her death had everything the tabloids today seem to crave, and in their muckraking who knows what truths they might have turned up - even if accidentally - about the sad final years of her life.

By the age of 42 a lifetime of heartache had taken its toll on Dorothy Dandridge: childhood sexual abuse, racism, drugs and alcohol, bad relationships and even worse finances, even fame itself had brought the still beautiful singer and actress to a pretty pass. When she was found by her agent Earl Mills in her West Hollywood apartment on this day in 1965, dead from an overdose of Imipramine, the notoriously cursory LA County coroner Thomas Noguchi made only his usual scant investigation before declaring her fate an accidental overdose.

Whether suicide or accident or murder killed Dorothy Dandridge we may never know...
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"Furnace Room Lullaby" by Neko Case

Birthday gal Neko Case, the pride of Tacoma, is also a major player in Vancouver's music industry; after attending the city's Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design she was signed by Mint Records, whereupon she recorded the alt-country classic album The Virginian in 1997.

Her follow-up was the sensational album Furnace Room Lullaby - from whence is drawn this awesome track - which showcases (and indeed shows Case's) crystalline tone and assertive pitch. Although Case's voice has drawn comparisons to Patsy Cline, her persona both onstage and off owes more to punk and even the anarchic spirit of the honky-tonk than it does to the suavity of the Nashville Sound as executed by Owen Bradley.

As you might be able to tell from its video, the song was used in the soundtrack for the 2000 film The Gift, which starred Cate Blanchett.

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Pop History Moment: "Star Trek" Debuted


On this day in 1966 (also known as stardate 1513.1) the first episode of Star Trek aired on NBC; although The Man Trap was the first episode to be broadcast, it wasn't the first to be produced. That honour goes to Where No Man Has Gone Before, which also comes first in the Star Trek universe's current official timeline. The network chose to air The Man Trap a week before the show's previously announced debut because executives felt it dealt with all the characters (and their back stories) more fully.

The Man Trap was written by George Clayton Johnson and directed by Marc Daniels. It. Stars. William Shatner. As. Captain. James T. Kirk... You know, back when he was hot - before the booze and coke removed all the planes from his face and tone from his musculature. Good times...
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POPnews: September 8th

[The only time I can legitimately post a picture of a penis is when
I'm being artsy-fartsy, so
lah-di-dah motherfuckers!]

1264 - The Statute of Kalisz - which guaranteed Jews safety and personal liberties and gave them battei din jurisdiction over Jewish matters - was promulgated by Boleslaus the Pious, Duke of Greater Poland.

1331 - Stefan Dušan declared himself King of Serbia.

1504 - Michelangelo unveiled his magnificent and iconic sculpture, David, in Firenze.

1565 - Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés settled St. Augustine, Florida.

1831 - William IV was crowned King of England.

1888 - Annie Chapman - second known victim of Jack the Ripper - was found brutally murdered in the doorway of 29 Hanbury Street, in the London neighbourhood of Spitalfields.

1900 - A hurricane made landfall at Galveston, Texas; as many as 12,000 people died, mostly due to flooding.

1914 - Private Thomas Highgate became the first British soldier to be executed for desertion during World War I.

1934 - A fire onboard the SS Morro Castle killed 135 people while the ship was beached off Asbury Park, New Jersey - a story well-told by Brian Hicks in his badly titled book When The Dancing Stopped: The Real Story of the Morro Castle Disaster and Its Deadly Wake.

1935 - In the state house he'd built in Baton Rouge as Governor, Senator Huey Long of Louisiana was shot - whether purposely by Carl Austin Weiss or accidentally, by Long's bodyguards trying to kill Weiss, we may never know. The man better known as 'Kingfish' died two days later of his injuries.

1943 - The surrender of Italy was announced by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, having been reached five days earlier.

1944 - The first V-2 rocket hit London.

1951 - 48 nations signed the Treaty of San Francisco with the Empire of Japan in formal recognition of the end of the Pacific War.

1966 - The Severn Bridge was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

1971 - Washington DC's John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts was inaugurated, with the premiere of Leonard Bernstein's Mass.

1974 - President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon.

1975 - Two decades before Ellen Degeneres did it, Air Force Tech Sergeant Leonard Matlovich, recipient of both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, came out on the cover of Time magazine. Not only was Matlovich eventually given a general discharge, he was also excommunicated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because that's what Jesus would have done.

1986 - The first episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show aired; conveniently, it was hosted by Oprah Winfrey.

1991 - The Republic of Macedonia gained its independence from Yugoslavia.
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