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Bluesman B.B. King was born 98 years ago today
Painting of B.B. King by Tom Noll based on a photo by Rene Huemer
B.B. King was born 98 years ago today.
Riley B. King, known by the stage name, B.B. King, was a songwriter, vocalist and famed blues guitarist. He introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that would influence virtually every electric blues guitarist that followed.
King was widely considered one of the most influential blues musicians of all time. Because of this, he was nicknamed, “The King of Blues.” He was also known for performing tirelessly throughout his musical career appearing at 250-300 concerts per year until his seventies.
In 1956, it was noted that King appeared at 342 shows. While in his 80s, he appeared at 100 shows a year. He was best known for playing variants of the Gibson ES-355 guitar. In 1980, Gibson Guitar Corp. launched the B.B. King Lucille model.
In 2005, Gibson made a special run of 80 Gibson Lucilles, referred to as the "80th Birthday Lucille,” the first prototype of which was given as a birthday gift to King. He used it until his death.
King was widely regarded as one of the most influential blues guitarists of all time, inspiring countless other electric blues and blues-rock guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Peter Green, Derek Trucks, Duane Allman, Elmore James and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
King’s favorite singer was Frank Sinatra. In his autobiography, King spoke about how he was a "Sinatra nut" and how he went to bed every night listening to Sinatra's classic album, In the Wee Small Hours. King credited Sinatra for opening doors to black entertainers who were not given the chance to play in "white-dominated" venues. Sinatra got B.B. King into the main clubs in Las Vegas during the 1960s.
On May 1, 2015, after two hospitalizations caused by complications from high blood pressure and diabetes, King announced on his website that he was in hospice care at his home in Las Vegas. He died in his sleep on May 14, 2015, at the age of 89.
Here, a short film on B.B. King.
Peter Falk was born 96 years ago today.
Falk was an actor, best known for his role as Lt. Frank Columbo in the television series, Columbo.
Director William Friedkin, when discussing Falk's role in his 1978 film, The Brink's Job, said "Peter has a great range from comedy to drama. He could break your heart or he could make you laugh.”
Falk appeared in numerous films such as The Princess Bride, The Great Race and Next. He was nominated for an Academy Award twice (for 1960's, Murder, Inc. and 1961's, Pocketful of Miracles), and won the Emmy Award on five occasions (four for Columbo) and the Golden Globe award once.
In 1968, he starred with Gene Barry in a 90-minute television pilot about a highly-skilled, laid-back detective. Columbo eventually became part of an anthology series titled The NBC Mystery Movie, along with McCloud and McMillan & Wife.
The detective series stayed on NBC from 1971 to 1978, took a respite and returned occasionally on ABC from 1989 to 2003.
Falk was "everyone's favorite rumpled television detective," wrote historian David Fantle.
Falk died on June 23, 2011 at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 83.
Lauren Bacall was born 99 years ago today.
Born as Betty Joan Perske, Bacall was a film and stage actress and model, known for her distinctive husky voice and sultry looks. She first emerged as leading lady in the Humphrey Bogart film, To Have And Have Not (1944), and continued on in the film noir genre, with appearances in Bogart movies, The Big Sleep (1946) and Dark Passage (1947)
Bacall performed as a comedienne in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Marilyn Monroe and Designing Woman (1957) with Gregory Peck. She also worked on Broadway in musicals, gaining Tony Awards for Applause in 1970 and Woman of the Year in 1981.
Her performance in the movie, The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), earned her a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination.
In 1999, Bacall was ranked #20 of the 25 actresses on the AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars list by the American Film Institute.
In 2009, she was selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to receive an Academy Honorary Award "in recognition of her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures."
On May 21, 1945, Bacall married Humphrey Bogart. Their wedding and honeymoon took place at Malabar Farm, Lucas, Ohio. It was the country home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Louis Bromfield, a close friend of Bogart. The wedding was held in the Big House.
Bacall was 20 and Bogart was 45. They remained married until Bogart's death from esophageal cancer in 1957. Bogart usually called Bacall "Baby," even when referring to her in conversations with other people.
During the filming of The African Queen (1951), Bacall and Bogart became friends with Bogart's co-star, Katharine Hepburn, and her partner, Spencer Tracy.
Bacall died after suffering a massive stroke on August 12, 2014, at her longtime apartment in The Dakota, on the Upper West Side building overlooking Central Park in New York City.
She was 89 — five weeks short of her 90th birthday.
Lauren Bacall lounges on top of the piano while Vice President Harry S. Truman played for servicemen at the National Press Club Canteen in Washington, D.C., February 10, 1945
Photo by Charles Cort
Nadia Boulanger was born 136 years ago today.
Boulanger was a French composer, conductor and teacher who taught many of the leading composers and musicians of the 20th century. She also performed as a pianist and organist.
From a musical family, she achieved early honors as a student at the Paris Conservatoire but, believing that she had no particular talent as a composer, she gave up writing music and became a teacher. In that capacity, she influenced generations of young composers, especially those from the United States and other English-speaking countries.
Among her students were those who became leading composers, soloists, arrangers and conductors, including Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Quincy Jones, John Eliot Gardiner, Elliott Carter, Dinu Lipatti, Igor Markevitch, Virgil Thomson, David Diamond, Idil Biret, Daniel Barenboim, Philip Glass and Ástor Piazzolla.
Boulanger taught in the U.S. and England, working with music academies including the Juilliard School, the Yehudi Menuhin School, the Longy School, the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music.
But her principal base for most of her life was her family's flat in Paris, where she taught for most of the seven decades from the start of her career until her death at the age of 92.
Boulanger was the first woman to conduct many major orchestras in America and Europe, including the BBC Symphony, Boston Symphony, Hallé, New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia orchestras. She conducted several world premieres, including works by Copland and Stravinsky.
She died on October 22, 1979 at age 92.
Vietnam Veterans Against the War, 1972
Photo by Frank Beacham
On this day in 1940 — 83 years ago — the first peacetime draft in the history of the United States was imposed.
It came in the form of the Burke-Wadsworth Act, passed by Congress by wide margins in both houses. The measure gave birth to the Selective Service.
The registration of men between the ages of 21 and 36 began exactly one month later, as Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, who had been a key player in moving the Roosevelt administration away from a foreign policy of strict neutrality, began drawing draft numbers out of a glass bowl.
The numbers were handed to the president, who read them aloud for public announcement. There were some 20 million eligible young men — 50 percent were rejected the very first year, either for health reasons or illiteracy (20 percent of those who registered were illiterate).
In November, 1942, with the United States now a participant in the war, and not merely a neutral bystander, the draft ages expanded. Men 18 to 37 were made eligible.
Blacks were passed over for the draft because of racist assumptions about their abilities and the viability of a mixed-race military. But this changed in 1943, when a "quota" was imposed, meant to limit the numbers of blacks drafted to reflect their numbers in the overall population, roughly 10.6 percent of the whole.
Initially, blacks were restricted to "labor units," but this too ended as the war progressed, when they were finally used in combat.
"Conscientious objector" (CO) status was granted to those who could demonstrate "sincerity of belief in religious teachings combined with a profound moral aversion to war."
Quakers made up most of the COs, but 75 percent of those Quakers who were drafted fought. COs had to perform alternate service in Civilian Public Service Camps, which entailed long hours of hazardous work for no compensation.
About 5,000 to 6,000 men were imprisoned for failing to register or serve the nation in any form. These numbers were comprised mostly of Jehovah's Witnesses.
By war's end, approximately 34 million men had registered and 10 million served with the military. However, the draft laws remained intact.
Of the more than 72,000 men registering as conscientious objectors (CO), nearly 52,000 received CO status. Of these, over 25,000 entered the military in noncombatant roles, another 12,000 went to civilian work camps and nearly 6,000 went to prison.
Draft evasion only accounted for about four percent of the total inducted. About 373,000 alleged evaders were investigated with just over 16,000 being imprisoned.
The large cohort of Baby Boomers who became eligible for military service during the Vietnam War was responsible for a steep increase in the number of exemptions and deferments, especially for college students.
Besides being able to avoid the draft, college graduates who volunteered for military service (primarily as commissioned officers) had a much better chance of securing a preferential posting compared to less-educated inductees.
As U.S. troop strength in Vietnam increased, more young men were drafted for service there, and many of those still at home sought means of avoiding the draft.
Since only 15,000 National Guard and Reserve soldiers were sent to Vietnam, enlistment in the Guard or the Reserves became a popular means of avoiding serving in a war zone.
For those who could meet the more stringent enlistment standards, service in the Air Force, Navy or Coast Guard was a means of reducing the chances of being killed. Vocations to the ministry and the rabbinate soared, because divinity students were exempt from the draft.
Doctors and draft board members found themselves being pressured by relatives or family friends to exempt potential draftees.
Some conscientious objectors objected to the war based on the theory of Just War. One of these, Stephen Spiro, was convicted of avoiding the draft, but given a suspended sentence of five years. He was later pardoned by President Gerald Ford.
There were 8,744,000 service members between 1964 and 1975, of whom 3,403,000 were deployed to Southeast Asia.
From a pool of approximately 27 million, the draft raised 2,215,000 men for military service (in the United States, Vietnam, West Germany and elsewhere) during the Vietnam era.
The draft has also been credited with "encouraging" many of the 8.7 million "volunteers" to join rather than risk being drafted. The majority of servicemen deployed to Vietnam were volunteers.
Of the nearly 16 million men not engaged in active military service, 57 percent were exempted (typically because of jobs including other military service), deferred (usually for educational reasons), or disqualified (usually for physical and mental deficiencies but also for criminal records including draft violations).
During the 1968 presidential election, Richard Nixon campaigned on a promise to end the draft. He had first become interested in the idea of an all-volunteer army during his time out of office, based upon a paper by Martin Anderson of Columbia University.
Nixon also saw ending the draft as an effective way to undermine the anti-Vietnam war movement, since he believed affluent youths would stop protesting the war once their own probability of having to fight in it was gone.
There was opposition to the all-volunteer notion from both the Department of Defense and Congress, so Nixon took no immediate action towards ending the draft early in his presidency.
Instead, the Gates Commission was formed, headed by Thomas S. Gates, Jr., a former Secretary of Defense in the Eisenhower administration. Gates initially opposed the all-volunteer army idea, but changed his mind during the course of the 15-member commission's work.
The Gates Commission issued its report in February, 1970, describing how adequate military strength could be maintained without having conscription. The existing draft law was expiring at the end of June, 1971, but the Department of Defense and Nixon administration decided the draft needed to continue for at least some time.
In February, 1971, the administration requested of Congress a two-year extension of the draft, to June 1973. It was approved.
Meanwhile, military pay was increased as an incentive to attract volunteers, and television advertising for the U.S. Army began. With the end of active U.S. ground participation in Vietnam, December, 1972 saw the last men conscripted, who were born in 1952 and who reported for duty in June, 1973.
On February 2, 1972, a drawing was held to determine draft priority numbers for men born in 1953, but in early 1973 it was announced that no further draft orders would be issued.
In March, 1973, 1974 and 1975, the Selective Service assigned draft priority numbers for all men born in 1954, 1955 and 1956, in case the draft was extended, but it never was. Jeff Mellinger, the last drafted enlisted ranked soldier still on active duty, retired in 2011.
The pressures of the draft during the Vietnam war had a great effect on the music produced in the period and shaped the classic rock and roll that is still played today.
On this day in 1974 — 49 years ago — Bob Dylan began recording sessions for what would become Blood on the Tracks.
His fifteenth studio album, the record marked Dylan's return to Columbia Records after a two-album stint with Asylum Records.
The musicians at the Sept. 16 session quickly realized that Dylan was taking a "spontaneous" approach to recording. The session engineer, Phil Ramone, later said that Dylan transitioned from one song to another as if they were part of a medley.
Ramone noted: “Sometimes he will have several bars, and in the next version, he will change his mind about how many bars there should be in between a verse. Or eliminate a verse. Or add a chorus when you don't expect it.”
Eric Weissberg and his band, Deliverance, originally recruited as session men, were rejected after two days of recording because they could not keep up with Dylan's pace. Dylan retained bassist Tony Brown from the band, and soon added organist Paul Griffin (who had also worked on Highway 61 Revisited) and steel guitarist Buddy Cage.
After ten days and four sessions with the current lineup, Dylan had finished recording and mixing, and, by November, had cut a test pressing of the album. Columbia began to prepare to release the album before Christmas.
Dylan played the test recording for his brother, David Zimmerman, who persuaded Dylan the album would not sell because the overall sound was too stark.
In December, shortly before the scheduled release, Dylan abruptly re-recorded much of the material in a studio in Minneapolis. The final album contains five tracks from New York and five from Minneapolis. The album was released on Jan. 20, 1975.
Blood on the Tracks was initially received with mixed reviews, but has subsequently been acclaimed as one of Dylan's greatest albums by critics and fans.
The songs have been linked to tensions in Dylan's personal life, including estrangement from his then-wife, Sara. One of their children, Jakob Dylan, has described the songs as "my parents talking.”
The album has been viewed as an outstanding example of the confessional singer-songwriter's craft, and it has been called "the truest, most honest account of a love affair from tip to stern ever put down on magnetic tape.”
“A sickness known as hate. Not a virus, not a microbe, not a germ — but a sickness nonetheless, highly contagious, deadly in its effects. Don’t look for it in the Twilight Zone — look for it in a mirror. Look for it before the light goes out all together.”
Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson in a bar…