Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Music History Monday: Whoa

When it comes to a date-oriented blog like this one, there are days and then there are days

Over the two-plus years since I began this post, I have found that most days offer up one or two major (or semi-major) events in music history. These are the good days, the easy days to write about. Some days are harder as events of any note are few and far between. There are days – more frequent than you might think – during which virtually nothing of interest occurred; when that happens I’ve either juked forward or back by a day or just taken the opportunity to bloviate. 

Finally, every now and then, there is a day so filled with notable musical anniversaries that the mind reels and the bladder weakens at the thought of choosing just one, two, or even three events to write about. For reasons coincidental, astrological, or just whatever, October 1 is just such a day in music history: the wealth of events – major and minor – that occurred on this date is crazy. I cannot and will not choose; let’s just wallow, in chronological order.

John Blow
John Blow

On October 1, 1708 – 310 years ago today – the famed English composer and organist John Blow passed on to that great choir loft in the sky. Born in the village of Collingham in Nottinghamshire and baptized on February 23, 1649, Blow went on to become the “private musician” to King James II, choirmaster at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Composer to the Chapel Royal. High end credentials, by any standard. Among his students was the great Henry Purcell, and Blow’s own opera Venus and Adonis (ca. 1685) influenced Purcell’s masterwork, Dido and Aeneas (ca. 1688).

With no disrespect intended, were Maestro Blow alive today, we’d likely advise him to change his last name.

Henry Clay Work
Henry Clay Work

The American composer and songwriter Henry Clay Work was born on this day in Middletown, Connecticut 186 years ago: on October 1, 1832. Self-taught as a musician, Work was – by far – the most popular American songwriter of the 1860s and 1870s. Among his million-plus sheet music sellers (numbers unheard of up to his time) were Marching Through Georgia (of 1865) and My Grandfather’s Clock (of 1876).

For our information: Work’s childhood home was a stop on the Underground Railroad, for which his father was arrested and imprisoned. In 1970, Work was elected into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. He died in 1885 in Hartford, Connecticut. 

Paul Dukas
Paul Dukas

The French composer Paul Dukas was born in Paris on October 1, 1865: 153 years ago today. A professor of composition at the Paris Conservatory – where among his students were Olivier Messiaen and Josquin Rodrigo – Dukas went to his grave in 1935 tortured by the knowledge that what he considered to be a minor composition – his Sorcerer’s Apprentice – was the most famous of his works. 

John Philip Sousa in 1900
John Philip Sousa in 1900

On this day in 1880, the American bandmaster John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) was named the conductor of the United States Marine Band, “The President’s Own Band” in Washington, D.C. Sousa forged the Marine Band into the single greatest military band in the country. It was during his tenure with the Marine Band that he composed Semper Fidelis, which remains the “Official March of the United States Marine Corps.” Among his other best-known marches are The Stars and Stripes Forever (the “National March of the United States of America”), The Thunderer, The Washington Post, and The Liberty Bell (which, in 1969, became the theme music for the British TV show Monty Python’s Flying Circus).

Vladimir Horowitz ca. 1930
Vladimir Horowitz ca. 1930

The pianist Vladimir Samoylovich Horowitz was born in Kiev 115 years ago today, on October 1, 1903. (Do not be fooled by those sources that give his birthdate as being September 18; that date is the old style, Russian-Julian calendar date.) He died in New York City in 1989. Horowitz was a Greenberg family deity when I was growing up, and his star remains undimmed in my eyes and ears. I will find an excuse to write about him in the future, so for now we move on.

František Pavlík
František Pavlík

On October 1, 1905 – 113 years ago today – a Czech laborer named František Pavlík was killed by German troops in a demonstration in the Moravian capital of Brno, an event that inspired Leoš Janáček to compose a haunting piano work entitled 1. X. 1905 (as in “1, October, 1905”.) I devote an entire lecture to this event and this piano piece in my Great Courses survey, “Music as a Mirror of History.” Czech it out (sorry).

As the length of this post is getting entirely out-of-control, I will – sadly – move with necessary dispatch through the remaining items.

Richard Harris in 1985
Richard Harris in 1985

On this day in 1924, the Curtis Institute of Music opened in Philadelphia. It was the brainchild of Mary Louise Curtis Bok who donated $12 million from her Curtis Publishing Saturday Evening Post fortune. To this day, the total tuition cost per student is $0. If you’re good enough to get in, the ride is free.

On October 1, 1930 – 88 years ago today – the actor Richard Harris (think the original Dumbledore) was born in Limerick, Ireland. Harris was a singer as well as an actor, and in 1968 he scored a number-one hit with his rendition of Jimmy Webb’s song MacArthur Park. (Question: has anyone yet taken the cake in from the rain?)

Julie Andrews ca. 1956
Julie Andrews ca. 1956

83 years ago today – on October 1, 1935 – the British actress and singer Julie Andrews was born Julia Elizabeth Wells in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey, England. Anyone who doesn’t adore Julie Andrews has a heart smaller than Hitler’s; I’m sorry, but that’s just how it is. 

Donny Hathaway ca. 1973
Donny Hathaway ca. 1973

On this day in 1945, the American songwriter, singer, organist and pianist Donny Hathaway was born in Chicago. His biggest hit, Where is the Love, won a Grammy in 1973. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at the height of career, he was found dead at the age of 33 in New York City. He death was ruled a suicide. 

Elvis Presley in 1956
Elvis Presley in 1956

On this date in 1956, test audiences rejected the death of Elvis Presley at the conclusion of his film Love Me Tender. The ending was reshot, in which THE KING LIVES!

The Beatles in 1962
The Beatles in 1962

October 1, 1962: The Beatles signed their first genuine management contract with Brian Epstein, who was slated to receive 25% of their earnings. Since George Harrison and Paul McCartney were still minors, their fathers had to sign the contract for them. 

Paul Anka in 1980
Paul Anka in 1980

Also on October 1, 1962: Johnny Carson made his debut as host of the Tonight Show. The theme song (Johnny’s Theme) was written by Paul Anka (born 1941). Rip-off for Anka: as per their arrangement, Carson scribbled down some lyrics that were never published and as a result, he got co-author status and received fifty-percent of the song’s royalties, a substantial amount given Carson’s 30-year run.

Barbra Streisand in 1962
Barbra Streisand in 1962

And again, on October 1, 1962: Barbra Streisand signed her first recording contract, with Columbia. She has since made 89 albums, including compilations. Impressive. However, not even close to the Greek singer Nana Mouskouri (born 1934), who has recorded some 450 albums in 15 different languages!

Ernst Toch
Ernst Toch

The prolific Pulitzer Prize winning composer Ernst Toch died on this date in 1964 at the age of 76. Born into a poor Jewish family in Vienna, he fled Germany (where he was teaching, in Mannheim) when Hitler came to power in 1933. He ended up teaching at USC and writing film scores. 

Jimi Hendrix ca. 1967
Jimi Hendrix ca. 1967

On this date in 1970, Jimi Hendrix was buried at The Greenwood Cemetery at the Dunlop Baptist Church in Seattle. His headstone reads: “Forever In Our Hearts, James ‘Jimi’ Hendrix 1942-1970.”

Roy Harris
Roy Harris

On October 1, 1979 the American composer Roy Harris died in Santa Monica, California at the age of 81.   Harris is a favorite of mine, and his Symphony No. 3 of 1939 (he composed a total of 13 symphonies) remains one of the greatest orchestral works ever composed by an American. It’s a piece I discuss in my Great Courses survey, The Symphony.

The Glove
The Glove

On October 1, 1991, what must be considered the world’s most valuable glove – the white, crystal-beaded glove worn by Michael Jackson during his ″Thriller″ tour – was stolen from the Motown Museum in Detroit. MC Hammer offered a $50,000 reward for its return although he didn’t have to pay it, as the glove was recovered by police two days after it was stolen.

Jason Aldean in 2017
Jason Aldean in 2017

Finally – and tragically – we conclude with an event we can only wish had never taken place. It was one year ago today – during Jason Aldean’s headlining set at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017 – that a maniac named Stephen Craig Paddock opened fire from his room on the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel. Between roughly 10:05 pm and 10:15 pm, Paddock fired more than 1,100 rounds into the crowd of some 22,000 people, killing 58 and wounding 422 before taking his own life.

Peace my friends.

Listen on the Music History Podcast

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