Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Music History Monday: What a Day!

February 15 is one of those crazy days during which so much happened in the world of music that we are de facto forced to wonder if there is some metaphysical explanation for why this date should be a nexus of musical-historical activity!

In an attempt to answer that question, I have probed.


Here is some of what I have found.

February 15 is the 46th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. As of today, 319 days remain until the end of the year (320 days in leap years).

It was on this day in 506 that Khosrau II was crowned as the last great Sassanian king (or “shah”) of Persia. Whoa. Was that a feather that just knocked me over?

Byzantine Emperor Justinian II
Justinian II looking quite dapper in his golden schnozzola

On this day in 706, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian II (668-711) had his predecessors, the Emperors Leontios and Tiberios III publicly executed in the Hippodrome of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul). Now, lest we think that Justinian II was just a disrespectful welp, offing his predecessors on a whim, we’d observe that back in 695 the 27-year-old Justinian II had been deposed and, adding nasal insult to injury, had his nose cut off (thus his nickname, “Justinian Rhinotmetos”, meaning “Justinian the slit-nosed”). Tossed into exile, Justinian the Slit-Nosed replaced his probiscis with a solid gold prosthesis, raised an army, took Constantinople back, and made an example of those who had deposed him by not removing just their noses but their entire heads. From having been deposed and de-nosed, Justinian’s was, without any doubt, one of the greatest comebacks of all time!

Can any other historical happenings explain the plethora of musical events that occurred on this date?

On February 15, 1764, the city of St. Louis was founded in what was then Spanish Louisiana and what is today the American state of Missouri.


The USS Maine in better times, passing under the Brooklyn Bridge
The USS Maine in better times, passing under the Brooklyn Bridge

On this day in 1898, the battleship USS Maine exploded and sank in Havana harbor in Cuba. 274 sailors died in the explosion, for which the United States declared war on Spain.

On February 15, 1992, the serial killer and professed omnivore, the “Milwaukee Monster” -Jeffrey Dahmer – was sentenced in Milwaukee to life in prison (as opposed to being sentenced to life in Milwaukee, which might rightfully be considered cruel and unusual). Unfortunately, prison proved a bad fit for Dahmer, who was beaten to death in the shower on November 28, 1994.

he Chelyabinsk meteor explodes
Dang but Russians love their dash-cams; the Chelyabinsk meteor explodes

Finally, on February 15, 2013 – 8 years ago today – a meteor exploded over the Chelyabinsk Oblast in southern Russia. Measuring about 66 feet in diameter and weighing more than the Eiffel Tower, the meteor was traveling at roughly 42,000 miles-per-hour when it exploded at an altitude of some 97,000 feat. The shock wave had the equivalent force of a ½ megaton nuclear bomb, and even at 97,000 feet it made quite a mess on the ground, blowing out windows and damaging over 7,200 buildings across six cities.

Excepting perhaps that last entry – the meteor – I can find no divine or metaphysical reason beyond mere coincidence for the spate of musical events that have occurred on this date. Rather than choose one or two of them, I have chosen instead to snow you under with all of them, a celebration of the date!

Here we go, in almost chronological order.

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