Wednesday, October 06, 2010

"Nightshift" by The Commodores

Birthday wishes go out to Thomas McClary, founding member and lead guitarist of The Commodores; members of the band met in 1968 while attending the Tuskegee Institute, and were signed by Motown in 1972 having already made a sensation opening for The Jackson 5. While the band is best known for its ballads - such as Easy and Three Times a Lady - they could also churn out the funk with material like Brick House.

The song Nightshift was the first hit The Commodores had after Lionel Richie left for a solo career, and is a tribute to Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye, two R&B legends who died in 1984. It was the title track of the band's 1985 album.
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Remembering... Bette Davis

After a stellar career as one of Hollywood's top stars, Bette Davis found herself in the same predicament many talented actresses before her had done: middle-aged and unemployable...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketUnwilling (or unable) to accept such laissez-faire sexism lying down, Bette Davis took whatever work was on offer; she made horror films, which traded on her past fame and camp appeal, she did television when many film actresses of her generation felt it was beneath them, and she toured the world in stage shows, filling arenas and nightclubs alike with her considerable charisma.

In all of these she was an unqualified success; then the triumphs that had sustained her turned to tragedies, seemingly overnight.

Riding high on the success of Kim Carnes' 1981 pop hit Bette Davis Eyes, and having just filmed the pilot for Hotel in 1983 (which promised to be a big hit*) she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and subsequently quit the show. Having survived a mastectomy, weeks later Davis suffered four strokes, which left her partially paralysed. During her recovery her loathsome born-again daughter published a bookful of lies about her called My Mother's Keeper; despite having previously praised her mother to the heavens, the heavens now called on her to heap scorn instead, and did she ever.

Davis' friends and foes alike leapt to her defense, to little avail; the book was a runaway bestseller.

Yet it took more than ill-health and literary matricide to keep down someone as indomitable as Bette Davis. She did her last good movie - The Whales of August - in 1987, and made numerous television appearances to promote it, including Late Night With David Letterman, The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, and Donahue.

On this day in 1989, though, death finally caught Bette Davis; having gone abroad to accept a lifetime achievement award from a film festival in Spain, she fell ill, and died at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, in France. She was 81.

Davis is interred at Forest Lawn in Los Angeles, alongside her mother and sister; her epitaph reads, simply:

She did it the hard way.

On a personal note: that day was a cold and rainy one in Ottawa, where I was living at the time. I had gone out, and when I got home my roommate Matthew gave me the news. We went over to our friend Theresa's house and watched What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) - which I'd never seen before - in her honour. Even now, I can't watch that film without remembering that day, and its jumble of emotions - sadness at losing an icon, the camaraderie of friendship in difficult times, not to mention the shock at and delight in what is simply a bravura performance.

* It was. She was replaced by another Hollywood legend, Anne Baxter, and the show ran for 5 years, making stars of Connie Sellecca and James Brolin.

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Happy Birthday Ioan Gruffudd

Although his first international movie role was as John Gray, the real-life lover of Oscar Wilde opposite Stephen Fry in the film Wilde, it was as the fictional character Horatio Hornblower that I - along with millions of others - first got to know Ioan Gruffudd.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThen, of course, there's the matter of The Fantastic Four, in whose two recent films he played Mister Fantastic. Hm... Sounds like typecasting to me... He's also played Lancelot opposite Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in King Arthur (2004) and real-life abolitionist William Wilberforce in Amazing Grace (2006).

Nevertheless, it was the superhero role that launched his career into another level altogether. Gruffudd has expressed a keen interest in playing Horatio Hornblower as he was written, from callow midshipman to elderly Admiral, and the fame engendered by playing a comic book character might just allow him that opportunity.

In addition to acting, Gruffudd is an adept oboist, and in his native land of Wales in 2003 he was accepted into the Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain as a Bard at the highest level.
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"My Boy Lollipop" by Millie Small

Born on this day in 1946, Jamaican songstress Millie Small had a big hit in 1964 with My Boy Lollipop, which she recorded in London; the song had originally been a minor hit by Barbie Gaye.

Despite its Motown-esque sound, Small's version is considered the first internationally successful ska song. Accompanying her on guitar is Ernest Ranglin, with Jon Hiseman on drums; there remains, however, some question as to who is performing the harmonica solo... Jimmy Powell always maintained it was him, while the preponderance of opinion seems to favour Pete Hogman of The Five Dimensions. There's even a rumour that a still-unknown Rod Stewart deserves the credit.
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Remembering... Prince Claus of the Netherlands

Not many people can claim there were more protestors than revellers at their wedding, but that was certainly the case when, in March 1966, German-born Claus von Amsberg married Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands; with the Second World War still fresh in many memories, the idea that the future Queen would marry a German national didn't sit well with the normally tolerant Dutch population, and especially rankled the Dutch group Provo.

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1926, von Amsberg was conscripted by the Wehrmacht and served with the 90th Panzergrenadier Division in 1945 but was taken prisoner by the US before he could take place in any fighting; following the war, he served in the Germany's diplomatic corps, posted in the Dominican Republic and Côte d'Ivoire before returning to Bonn - then the West German capital.

The future royal couple met at the wedding night party of Princess Tatjana of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and Moritz, Landgrave of Hesse in the summer of 1964, and were soon engaged. Despite their initial reticence, the more the Dutch got to know Claus the more they liked him. His work on behalf of the developing world was highly respected everywhere, but to those who met him his best quality was his approachability, his utter lack of snobbishness.

Before his death on this day in 2002 Prince Claus was said to be the most popular member of the House of Orange-Nassau, having come a long way in a short time to heal wounds so grave some said they would never heal...
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In Memoriam: Carole Lombard

Though her beauty alone could have made her a leading lady, it was her vivacity and sense of humour that made her not only one of the great leading ladies of the 1930s but one of that era's finest comediennes as well.

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Born Jane Alice Peters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on this day in 1908, Carole Lombard first hit the silver screen in 1921; by 1930 she was under contract to Paramount and on her way to making a string of smash-hit comedies, including Twentieth Century (1934), My Man Godfrey (1936), and To Be or Not to Be (1942), which was released posthumously.

As she'd bewitched the movie-going public, so too did she captivate two of Hollywood's leading men: William Powell - whom she married in 1931 and from whom she was amicably divorced in 1933 - and Clark Gable, then known as the King of Hollywood, to whom she was married from 1939 until her untimely death in January 1942.
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POPnews - October 6th

[Artists, who are essentially all pagans anyway, turned to Greco-Roman mythology - for example, the touching love story of Orpheus and Eurydice - for inspiration when those boring old Bible stories got... Well, old and boring. The resulting paradigm shift was known as the Renaissance, which would eventually produce works as diverse as an opera by Jacopo Peri and this painting, Orfeo y Euridice, by Peter Paul Rubens. And yes, I know most of the example I gave were of the Baroque period - cut me some slack! I ain't too hot on this longhair stuff yet...]

105 BCE - At the Battle of Arausio the Cimbri (under Boiorix) and Teutobod's Teutones inflicted a heavy defeat on a Roman army commanded by Gnaeus Mallius Maximus.

69 BCE - At the Battle of Tigranocerta the forces of the Roman Republic under Lucius Licinius Lucullus defeated the army of the Kingdom of Armenia led by King Tigranes the Great.

1600 - Jacopo Peri's Euridice had its debut at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence as part of the marriage celebrations of France's King Henri IV and Maria de Medici; although Euridice is considered to be the second opera ever written, it is the oldest one that survives to this day, its predecessor Dafne (by the same author) having been lost.

1762 - The Battle of Manila concluded, giving British commanders Brigadier-General William Draper and Rear-Admiral Samuel Cornish a decisive victory over Spain's Archbishop Manuel Rojo and Simón de Anda y Salazar, which resulted in the British occupation of Manila for the remainder of the Seven Years' War.

1789 - France's King Louis XVI returned to the capital from the Palace of Versailles after being confronted by the women of Paris the previous day.

1849 - The 13 Martyrs of Arad were executed following the Hungarian Revolution on orders of Austrian general Julius Freiherr von Haynau.

1854 - The Great Fire of Newcastle and Gateshead started shortly after midnight at a worsted factory owned by Wilson & Son, leading to 53 deaths and leaving hundreds injured.

1898 - The Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity was founded at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music.

1909 - The inaugural run of Vancouver's ambulance service resulted in a fatal collision with an American tourist and businessman from Ohio named C.F. Keiss in front of Fader's grocery store at the corner of Granville and Pender streets; Keiss thus became its first passenger, taking its first journey, which was to the morgue.  [READ MORE]

1927 - The film considered to be the first talking picture, The Jazz Singer, opened to enthusiastic reviews and popular acclaim.

1945 - Billy Sianis and his pet billy goat were ejected from Wrigley Field during Game 4 of the 1945 World Series, leading to the so-called Curse of the Billy Goat.

1966 - LSD was declared illegal in the United States, the CIA having completed its own unethical studies of the drug on unwitting human subjects.

1973 - Egypt launched a coordinated attack against Israel to reclaim land lost in the Six Day War; whether you know it as the Ramadan War or the Yom Kippur War, it began at 2:05 pm on this day.

1976 - The Gang of Four were arrested on orders of Premier Hua Guofeng, bringing China's Cultural Revolution to an end.

1977 - The first prototype of the MiG-29, designated 9-01, made its maiden flight.

1979 - Pope John Paul II became the first pontiff to visit the White House, which he did as the guest of US President Jimmy Carter.

1985 - PC Keith Blakelock was murdered as riots erupted in the Broadwater Farm suburb of London.

1995 - 51 Pegasi was discovered to be the first major star apart from the Sun to have a planet (and extrasolar planet) orbiting it.

2002 - Opus Dei founder Josemaría Escrivá was canonized.
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