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Bob Dylan is 82 years old today
Bob Dylan, Beacon Theatre, Dec. 1, 2018
Photo by Frank Beacham
Bob Dylan is 82 years old today.
A musician, singer-songwriter, music producer, artist and writer, Dylan has been an influential figure in popular music and culture for more than five decades. He is often referred to as the Shakespeare of our times.
Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when he was an informal chronicler and a seemingly reluctant figurehead of social unrest. A number of Dylan's early songs, such as "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin'," became anthems for the U.S. civil rights and anti-war movements.
Leaving his initial base in the culture of folk music behind, Dylan's six-minute single, "Like a Rolling Stone," radically altered the parameters of popular music in 1965. His recordings employing electric instruments attracted denunciation and criticism from others in the folk movement.
Dylan's lyrics have incorporated a variety of political, social, philosophical and literary influences. They defied existing pop music conventions and appealed hugely to the then burgeoning counterculture.
Initially inspired by the performance style of Little Richard, and the songwriting of Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson and Hank Williams, Dylan has both amplified and personalized musical genres. His recording career, spanning more than fifty years, has explored many of the traditions in American song — from folk, blues and country to gospel, rock and roll and rockabilly to English, Scottish and Irish folk music, embracing even jazz and swing.
Dylan performs with guitar, keyboards and harmonica. Backed by a changing line-up of musicians, he has toured steadily since the late 1980s on what has been dubbed the Never Ending Tour.
His accomplishments as a recording artist and performer have been central to his career, but his greatest contribution is generally considered to be his songwriting. In Oct. 13, 2016, the Nobel Prize committee announced it had awarded Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."
Since 1994, Dylan has published several books of drawings and paintings, and his work has been exhibited in major art galleries throughout the world.
As a songwriter and musician, Dylan has sold more than 100 million records worldwide.
Here, Dylan performs “Blowin’ in the Wind” in March, 1963
Rosanne Cash performs at Carnegie Hall, New York City, 2012
Photo by Frank Beacham
Rosanne Cash is 68 years old today.
A singer-songwriter and author, Cash is the eldest daughter of country music icon Johnny Cash and his first wife, Vivian Liberto Cash Distin.
Although Cash is often classified as a country artist, her music draws on many genres, including folk, pop, rock and blues.
In the 1980s, she had a string of chart-topping singles, which crossed musical genres and landed on both C&W and Top 100 charts. Her most commercially successful came in 1981 with the breakthrough hit, "Seven Year Ache," which topped the U.S. country singles charts and reached the Top 30 on the U.S. pop singles charts.
In 1990, Cash released, Interiors, a spare, introspective album which signaled a break from her pop country past. The following year Cash ended her marriage with Rodney Crowell and moved from Nashville to New York City, where she continues to write, record and perform.
In 1995, Cash married producer/songwriter/guitarist John Leventhal, with whom she had co-produced, The Wheel. Since 1991, she has released several albums, written two books and edited a collection of short stories.
Her fiction and essays have been published in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Oxford-American, New York Magazine and various other periodicals and collections. Cash has had 11 #1 country hit singles, 21 Top 40 country singles and two gold records.
Born in Memphis just as father Johnny was recording his first tracks at Sun Records, the family moved to California in 1958, first to Los Angeles, then Ventura, where Cash and her sisters were raised by mother, Vivian. Johnny and Vivian separated in the early 1960s and divorced in 1966.
After graduating from high school, she joined her father's road show for two and a half years, first as a wardrobe assistant, then as a background vocalist and occasional soloist.
In 1976, Cash briefly worked for CBS Records in London before returning to Nashville to study English and drama at Vanderbilt University. She then relocated to Los Angeles to study at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in Hollywood.
On November 27, 2007, Cash was admitted to New York's Presbyterian Hospital for brain surgery. In a press statement, she announced that she suffered from Chiari Malformation Type I and expected to "make a full recovery." The surgery was successful, though recovery was slow, and in March, 2008 she was forced to cancel her spring tour dates for further recuperation.
She wrote about the experience in her New York Times article, "Well, Actually, It Is Brain Surgery." She resumed writing, recording and performing in late summer of 2008.
Cash released her next studio album — The List — on October 6, 2009. The album is based on a list of 100 greatest country and American songs that Johnny Cash gave her when she was 18. Cash picked twelve songs out of the 100 for the album. The album features vocal duets with Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Jeff Tweedy and Rufus Wainwright.
On September 9, 2010, the Americana Music Association named The List the Album of the Year. Cash signed with Blue Note Records in 2013 to release a new original album. The River & the Thread was released on January 14, 2014. It was her first album in more than four years and many consider it her masterpiece.
The River & the Thread was inspired by trips through the American South by Cash and her husband. Cash describes the album as “a mini-travelogue of the South, and of the soul.”
The Journey included visits to father Johnny Cash’s childhood home in Dyess, Arkansas, her own early childhood home in Memphis, William Faulkner’s house, Dockery Farms in Cleveland, Mississippi, the plantation where Howlin’ Wolf and Charley Patton worked and sang, Natchez, Mississippi, the blues trail, the Tallahatchie Bridge, as well as a visit with Natalie Chanin, a master seamstress in Florence, Alabama.
Throughout 2014, Cash toured extensively with partner Leventhal, performing The River & The Thread in sequence with first-person stories woven through historical time to much critical acclaim. The album was the #1 album of 2014 on Americana radio, and was honored by by many publications and awards
Here, Cash performs “A Feather's Not A Bird” from The River & the The Thread, 2014
The Brooklyn Bridge opened on this day in 1883 — 140 years ago
The bridge at sunset on May 18, 2019
Photo by Frank Beacham
After 14 years and 27 deaths while being constructed, the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River in New York City opened on this day in 1883 — 140 years ago.
The bridge connected the great cities of New York and Brooklyn for the first time in history. Thousands of residents of Brooklyn and Manhattan Island turned out to witness the dedication ceremony, which was presided over by President Chester A. Arthur and New York Governor Grover Cleveland.
Designed by the late John A. Roebling, the Brooklyn Bridge was the largest suspension bridge ever built to that date.
Roebling, born in Germany in 1806, was a great pioneer in the design of steel suspension bridges. He studied industrial engineering in Berlin and at the age of 25 immigrated to western Pennsylvania, where he attempted, unsuccessfully, to make his living as a farmer. He later moved to the state capital in Harrisburg, where he found work as a civil engineer. He promoted the use of wire cable and established a successful wire-cable factory.
Meanwhile, he earned a reputation as a designer of suspension bridges, which at the time were widely used but known to fail under strong winds or heavy loads.
Roebling is credited with a major breakthrough in suspension-bridge technology: a web truss added to either side of the bridge roadway that greatly stabilized the structure. Using this model, Roebling successfully bridged the Niagara Gorge at Niagara Falls, New York, and the Ohio River at Cincinnati, Ohio.
On the basis of these achievements, New York State accepted Roebling’s design for a bridge connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan – with a span of 1,595 feet – and appointed him chief engineer. It was to be the world’s first steel suspension bridge.
Just before construction began in 1869, Roebling was fatally injured while taking a few final compass readings across the East River. A boat smashed the toes on one of his feet, and three weeks later he died of tetanus. He was the first of more than two dozen people who would die building his bridge.
His 32-year-old son, Washington A. Roebling, took over as chief engineer. Roebling had worked with his father on several bridges and had helped design the Brooklyn Bridge. The two granite foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge were built in timber caissons — or watertight chambers — sunk to depths of 44 feet on the Brooklyn side and 78 feet on the New York side.
Compressed air pressurized the caissons, allowing underwater construction. At that time, little was known of the risks of working under such conditions, and more than a hundred workers suffered from cases of compression sickness.
Compression sickness, or the “bends,” is caused by the appearance of nitrogen bubbles in the bloodstream that result from rapid decompression. Several died, and Washington Roebling himself became bedridden from the condition in 1872. Other workers died as a result of more conventional construction accidents, such as collapses and a fire.
Roebling continued to direct construction operations from his home, and his wife, Emily, carried his instructions to the workers. In 1877, Washington and Emily moved into a home with a view of the bridge. Roebling’s health gradually improved, but he remained partially paralyzed for the rest of his life.
On May 24, 1883, Emily Roebling was given the first ride over the completed bridge, with a rooster — a symbol of victory — in her lap. Within 24 hours, an estimated 250,000 people walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, using a broad promenade above the roadway that John Roebling designed solely for the enjoyment of pedestrians.
The Brooklyn Bridge, with its unprecedented length and two stately towers, was dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world.” The connection it provided between the massive population centers of Brooklyn and Manhattan changed the course of New York City forever.
In 1898, the city of Brooklyn formally merged with New York City, Staten Island and a few farm towns, forming Greater New York.
In the image below, fireworks open of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883
Photo from The Metropolitan Museum of Art
What hath God wrought?
In a demonstration before members of Congress, inventor Samuel F.B. Morse dispatched a telegraph message from the U.S. Capitol to Alfred Vail at a railroad station in Baltimore, Maryland.
The message — “What Hath God Wrought?” — was telegraphed back to the Capitol a moment later by Vail. The question, taken from the Bible (Numbers 23:23), had been suggested to Morse by Annie Ellworth, the daughter of the commissioner of patents.
Morse, an accomplished painter, learned of a French inventor’s idea of an electric telegraph in 1832 and then spent the next 12 years attempting to perfect a working telegraph system.
During this period, he composed the Morse code, a set of signals that could represent language in telegraph messages, and convinced Congress to finance a Washington-to-Baltimore telegraph line.
On May 24, 1844 — 179 years ago today — he inaugurated the world’s first commercial telegraph line with a message that was fitting given the invention’s future effects on American life.
Just a decade after the first line opened, more than 20,000 miles of telegraph cable crisscrossed the country. The rapid communication it enabled greatly aided American economic expansion and the rest is history.
Patti LaBelle is 79 years old today
A singer, author and actress, LaBelle has spent more than 50 years in the music industry. For 16 years, she was lead singer of Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, who changed their name to Labelle in the early 1970s and released the disco song, "Lady Marmalade."
LaBelle started her solo career shortly after the group disbanded in 1977 and crossed over to pop music with "On My Own," "If You Asked Me To," "Stir It Up,” and "New Attitude." She has also recorded R&B ballads such as "You Are My Friend," "If Only You Knew" and "Love, Need and Want You."
LaBelle possesses the vocal range of a soprano and has sold over 50 million records worldwide.
Here, LaBelle performs a Tiny Desk concert
Smoke and Lovers, Memphis, 1992
Photo by Frank Stewart