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Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" was published 66 years ago today
Neal Cassady (left) and Jack Kerouac, 1952
Photo by Carolyn Cassady
One of the first novels of the Beat movement of the 1950s, On the Road, by Jack Kerouac, was published on this day in 1957 — 66 years ago.
The novel chronicles the cross-country wanderings of a Kerouac-like hero, Sal Paradise, and his pal, Dean Moriarty, based on Neal Cassady, and their free-ranging encounters with drugs, free love and the budding counterculture.
The book, which Kerouac wrote in just three weeks, became an instant classic.
This was helped when New York Times writer Gilbert Millstein gave the book a rave review on the day it was published. Millstein wrote "the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as 'beat,' and whose principal avatar he is."
"Jack went to bed obscure," Kerouac's girlfriend told a reporter, "and woke up famous."
Although a credo of the Beat-inspired movement of the 1960s was "Never trust anyone over 30," Kerouac was 35 when the book came out. He had long been associated with the Beat movement, and the novel is filled with characters based on Beat figures like Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs.
Kerouac was born in March, 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts. The son of French-Canadian parents, he learned English as a second language. In high school, Kerouac was a football star and won a scholarship to Columbia University. In World War II, he served in the Navy, but was expelled for severe personality problems. He became a merchant seaman.
In the late 1940s, he wandered the United States and Mexico and wrote his first novel, The Town and the City. His later novels included The Dharma Bums (1958), The Subterraneans (1958), and Lonesome Traveler (1960).
Kerouac was a heavy drinker when he died in Florida from an internal hemorrhage, at the age of 47, on October 21, 1969.
In 1998, the Modern Library ranked, On the Road, 55th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. The novel was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.
Bob Newhart is 94 years old today.
A stand-up comedian and actor, Newhart is known for his deadpan and slightly stammering delivery. He came to prominence in the 1960s when his album of comedic monologues, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, was a worldwide bestseller and reached #1 on the Billboard pop album chart.
It remains the 20th best-selling comedy album in history.
The follow-up album, The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back!, was also a massive success, and the two albums held the Billboard #1 and #2 spots simultaneously, a feat unequaled until the 1991 release of Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II by the hard rock band, Guns N' Roses.
Newhart later went into acting, starring in two long-running and prize-winning situation comedies, first as psychologist Dr. Robert "Bob" Hartley on the 1970s sitcom, The Bob Newhart Show, and then as innkeeper Dick Loudon on the 1980s sitcom, Newhart.
He also had a third, short-lived sitcom in the nineties, Bob.
Newhart also appeared in film roles such as Major Major in Catch-22 and Papa Elf in Elf. He provided the voice of Bernard in the Walt Disney animated films, The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under. One of his most recent roles is the library head, Judson, in The Librarian.
In 2011, Newhart made a cameo in the film, Horrible Bosses, and in 2013 he guest-starred in four episodes of The Big Bang Theory. For the appearances, he received his first Primetime Emmy Award on September 15, 2013.
Newhart sold his Wallace Neff-designed Bel Air mansion to Canadian Robert Quigg, a developer, in May, 2016 for $14.5 million.
Here, Newhart appears on the Tonight Show.
Freddie Mercury was born 77 years ago today.
A British musician, singer and songwriter, Mercury is best known as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the rock band, Queen. As a performer, he was known for his flamboyant stage persona and powerful vocals over a four-octave range.
As a songwriter, Mercury composed many hits for Queen, including "Bohemian Rhapsody,” "Killer Queen,” "Somebody to Love,” "Don't Stop Me Now,” "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and "We Are the Champions.”
In addition to his work with Queen, he led a solo career, and also occasionally served as a producer and guest musician (piano or vocals) for other artists.
He died of bronchopneumonia brought on by AIDS on November 24, 1991, only one day after publicly acknowledging he had the disease.
This video features “Living On My Own,” taken from Freddie Mercury “Lover of Life, Singer of Songs.”
Al Stewart is 78 years old today.
Stewart is a Scottish singer-songwriter and folk-rock musician who rose to prominence as part of the British folk revival in the 1960s and 1970s. He developed a unique style of combining folk-rock songs with delicately woven tales of characters and events from history.
Stewart is best known for his 1976 hit single, "Year of the Cat," the title song from the platinum album of the same name.
Though, Year of the Cat, and its 1978 platinum follow-up, Time Passages, brought Stewart his biggest worldwide commercial successes, earlier albums such as Past, Present and Future from 1973 are often seen as better examples of his intimate brand of historical folk-rock — a style to which he has returned in recent albums.
Stewart was a key figure in British music and he appears throughout the musical folklore of the revivalist era. He played at the first-ever Glastonbury Festival in 1970, knew Yoko Ono before she met John Lennon, shared a London flat with a young Paul Simon and hosted at the Les Cousins folk club in London in the 1960s.
Stewart has released sixteen studio and three live albums since his debut album Bedsitter Images in 1967, and continues to tour extensively in the U.S., Canada, Europe and the UK.
Here, Stewart performs “Year of the Cat” in 1979.
Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles, Panhandle Free Concert, San Francisco, 1967
Buddy Miles was born 76 years ago.
A rock and funk drummer, most known as a founding member of the Electric Flag in 1967, Miles was then as a member of Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys from 1969 until January, 1970.
Born in Omaha, Miles was known as a child prodigy. At 12, he played in The Behops, his father, George Miles, Sr.'s, jazz band. Miles Sr. had played upright bass with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon.
Miles was given the nickname, "Buddy," by his aunt after the drummer Buddy Rich. He played in a variety of rhythm and blues and soul acts as a teenager, including Ruby & the Romantics, the Ink Spots, the Delfonics and Wilson Pickett.
By 1967, he moved to Chicago, where he formed the Electric Flag with guitarist, Mike Bloomfield, and bassist, Harvey Brooks. Nick Gravenites was the vocalist. The blues-soul-rock band made their main live debut at the Monterey Pop Festival in mid-1967 and released their debut Columbia album, A Long Time Comin', in early 1968.
Miles sometimes sang lead vocals for the Electric Flag, in addition to playing drums. The group broke up after their second album, An American Music Band, in late 1968. He then formed The Buddy Miles Express, with Jim McCarty, later the guitarist for Cactus.
A Greatest Hits album by the Electric Flag was issued in 1971 by Columbia. In 1974, the Electric Flag reformed briefly and released the Atlantic album, The Band Kept Playing.
After the Electric Flag, Miles began a closer musical relationship with Hendrix. After the Buddy Miles Express split up, Miles would begin the collaboration with the Hendrix and bassist, Billy Cox, who produced the Band of Gypsies album.
Miles had met Hendrix in an earlier time, when he was only sixteen and both were acting as sidemen for other artists in the early '60s. The meeting had occurred in Canada in 1964, at a show both were participating in.
Miles died on February 26, 2008 of congestive heart disease at his home in Austin at the age of 60.
Here, Miles performs “Runaway Child” in Finland, 1971.
John Cage was born 111 years ago today.
A composer, music theorist, writer and artist, Cage was pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music and non-standard use of musical instruments. He was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde.
Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer, Merce Cunningham, who was also Cage's romantic partner for most of their lives.
Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4′33, which is performed in the absence of deliberate sound. Musicians who present the work do nothing aside from being present for the duration specified by the title.
The content of the composition is not "four minutes and 33 seconds of silence," as is sometimes assumed, but rather the sounds of the environment heard by the audience during performance. The work's challenge to assumed definitions about musicianship and musical experience made it a popular and controversial topic both in musicology and the broader aesthetics of art and performance.
Cage was also a pioneer of the prepared piano (a piano with its sound altered by objects placed between or on its strings or hammers), for which he wrote numerous dance-related works and a few concert pieces. The best known of these is Sonatas and Interludes (1946–48).
On August 11, 1992, while preparing evening tea for himself and Cunningham, Cage suffered a stroke. He was taken to the nearest hospital, where he died on the morning of August 12. He was 80.
Here is “Dream,” written for piano by Cage in 1948.
Dweezil Zappa, rock guitarist and son of Frank Zappa, is 54 years old today.
Exposed to music from an early age, Dweezil learned guitar directly from world-class guitarists such as Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen. He quickly developed into an accomplished musician in his own right, releasing his first single (produced by Eddie Van Halen) at the age of 12.
In addition to writing and recording his own music, Zappa has carried on the legacy of his father's music by touring with the group Zappa Plays Zappa.
The band features renditions of Zappa's original material and the lineup has often included Zappa alumni such as Napoleon Murphy Brock, Steve Vai and Terry Bozzio.
Here is a full concert of Dweezil Zappa in 2020.
Loudon Wainwright III is 77 years old today.
Wainwright is a songwriter, folk singer, humorist and actor. He is the father of musicians, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche, brother of Sloan Wainwright and the former husband of the late folk singer, Kate McGarrigle.
Wainwright has released 26 studio albums. Reflecting upon his career, in 1999, Wainwright stated "you could characterize the catalog as somewhat checkered, although I prefer to think of it as a tapestry."
Wainwright had a relationship with the singer, Suzzy Roche, during which they had one daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche, who is also a singer. The relationship ended, although Wainwright and Suzzy Roche remain on good terms and occasionally appear onstage together.
Wainwright was married for the second time in 2005, to Ritamarie Kelly, an actress. They have a daughter, Alexandra (Lexie) Kelly Wainwright, born in 1993.
Here, Wainwright performs “I’m Alright.”
On the beach, 1950s
Photo by Vivian Maier