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John Lennon, founder of the Beatles, was born 83 years ago today
Photo by Yoko Ono
John Lennon was born 83 years ago today.
Lennon was an English musician, singer and songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as a founding member of The Beatles, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music.
Together with Paul McCartney, he formed one of the most celebrated songwriting partnerships of the 20th century.
Born and raised in Liverpool, Lennon became involved as a teenager in the skiffle craze. His first band, the Quarrymen, evolved into the Beatles in 1960.
As the Beatles disintegrated towards the end of the decade, Lennon embarked on a solo career that produced the critically acclaimed albums, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, and iconic songs such as "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine.”
After his marriage to Yoko Ono in 1969, he changed his name to John Ono Lennon. Lennon disengaged himself from the music business in 1975 to devote time to raising his infant son, Sean, born on his 35th birthday.
Lennon re-emerged with Ono in 1980 with the new album, Double Fantasy. He was murdered three weeks after its release at age 40.
Lennon revealed a rebellious nature and acerbic wit in his music, writing and drawings. Controversial through his political and peace activism, he moved to New York City in 1971, where his criticism of the Vietnam War resulted in a lengthy attempt by Richard Nixon's administration to deport him, while some of his songs were adopted as anthems by the anti-war movement.
As of 2012, Lennon's solo album sales in the United States exceed 14 million units, and as writer, co-writer or performer, he is responsible for 25 #1 singles on the U.S. Hot 100 chart.
John Lennon sings “Imagine.”
Imagine in Strawberry Fields
Photo by Frank Beacham
Strawberry Fields in Central Park, New York City, was dedicated on John Lennon’s 45th birthday in 1985 — 38 years ago today.
Strawberry Fields is a 2.5-acre landscaped section in Central Park that is dedicated to the memory of Lennon. It is named after the Beatles' song "Strawberry Fields Forever" written by Lennon.
The memorial was designed by Bruce Kelly, the chief landscape architect for the Central Park Conservancy. It was dedicated on October 9, 1985 by New York Mayor Ed Koch and Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, who had underwritten the project.
The entrance to the memorial is located on Central Park West at West 72nd Street, directly across from the Dakota Apartments, where Lennon had lived for the latter part of his life, and where he was murdered in 1980.
The memorial is a triangular piece of land falling away on the two sides of the park, and its focal point is a circular pathway mosaic of inlaid stones, with a single word, the title of Lennon's famous song: "Imagine.”
This was a gift from the city of Naples, Italy. Along the borders of the area surrounding the mosaic are benches which are endowed in memory of other individuals and maintained by the Central Park Conservancy.
Along a path toward the southeast, a plaque on a low glaciated outcropping of schist lists the nations which contributed to building the memorial. Yoko Ono, who still lives in The Dakota, contributed over a million dollars for the landscaping and the upkeep endowment.
The mosaic, in the style of Portuguese pavement, is at the heart of a series of open and secret glades of lawn and glacier-carved rock outcroppings, bounded by shrubs and mature trees and woodland slopes, all designated a "quiet zone.”
A woodland walk winds through edge plantings between the glade-like upper lawn and the steep wooded slopes; it contains native rhododendrons and hollies, Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), viburnums, and jetbead. Wild shrub roses and a mature pink Magnolia × soulangeana flank the main walk.
At the farthest northern tip of the upper series of lawns enclosed by woodland are three dawn redwood trees, which lose their needles but regain them every spring, an emblem of eternal renewal. The trees can be expected to reach a height of 118 feet within 100 years, and eventually they will be visible from great distances in the park.
The memorial is often covered with flowers, candles in glasses and other belongings left behind by Lennon's fans. On Lennon's birthday (October 9) and on the anniversary of his death (December 8), people gather to sing songs and pay tribute, staying late into what is often a cold night.
Gatherings also take place on the anniversaries of birthdays of the other members of The Beatles. Impromptu memorial gatherings for other musicians, including Jerry Garcia and George Harrison, have occurred at the memorial.
Jackson Browne in a duo with Joan Baez at the Beacon Theatre, New York City
Photo by Frank Beacham
Jackson Browne is 75 years old today.
Browne is a singer-songwriter and musician who has sold over 17 million albums in the United States alone. Coming to prominence in the 1970s, Browne has written and recorded several notable songs throughout his career including "These Days,” "The Pretender,” "Running On Empty,” "Lawyers in Love,” "Doctor My Eyes,” "Take It Easy,” "For a Rocker" and "Somebody's Baby.”
After moving to Greenwich Village in early 1966, Browne joined the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, performing at the Golden Bear (Huntington Beach, California) where they opened for The Lovin' Spoonful. The band later recorded a number of Browne's songs, including "These Days,” "Holding" and "Shadow Dream Song.”
Before Browne's 18th birthday, he became a staff writer for Elektra Records' publishing company, Nina Music, reporting on musical events in New York City with his friends, Greg Copeland and Adam Saylor. He spent the remainder of 1967 and 1968 in Greenwich Village, where he backed Tim Buckley and the German singer, Nico, of the Velvet Underground.
In 1967, Browne and Nico were romantically linked and he became a significant contributor to her debut album, Chelsea Girl, writing and playing guitar on several of the songs (including "These Days").
After leaving New York City, Browne formed a folk band with Ned Doheny and Jack Wilce and settled in Southern California. His first songs, such as "Shadow Dream Song" and "These Days,” were recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tom Rush, Nico, Steve Noonan, Gregg Allman, Joan Baez, the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and the Byrds.
Browne did not release his own version of many of these early songs himself until years later.
Here, Browne performs “Running on Empty,” 1979.
The Iceman Cometh premiered on this day on Broadway in 1946 — 77 years ago today.
Written by Eugene O'Neill in 1939 and first published in 1946, the play premiered at the Martin Beck Theatre. It was directed by Eddie Dowling, where it ran for 136 performances before closing on March 15, 1947.
Here is the original cast of The Iceman Cometh, 1946.
Judy Tyler on the Howdy Doody Show
Judy Tyler, actress who played Princess Summerfall Winterspring on the Howdy Doody Show, was born 91 years ago today.
Born Judith Mae Hess in Milwaukee, Tyler came from a show business family and was encouraged to study dance and acting. Her acting career began as a teenager with regular appearances on Howdy Doody from 1950 to 1953.
Like her mother, she became a chorus girl but then went on to star in a major role in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Pipe Dream. Life Magazine did a story on rising Broadway talent with Tyler on the magazine's cover as one of the up-and-coming stars.
She lived with her parents in Teaneck, New Jersey when appearing on Howdy Doody and Broadway. Offered an opportunity in Hollywood, Tyler appeared in the film, Bop Girl Goes Calypso. Then she starred opposite Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock (1957).
After completing filming of the Presley movie, she and her second husband, Greg Lafayette, left Los Angeles to drive back home to their apartment in Manhattan.
While driving through Wyoming on July 3, 1957, they were involved in an automobile accident on U.S. Route 30 just three miles north of Rock River. Tyler was killed instantly and Lafayette died the next day at a hospital in Laramie. Tyler was 24 years old.
Elvis Presley, who co-starred with Tyler in Jailhouse Rock, was stunned at the news of Tyler’s death. He never wanted to see this picture again.
Buffalo Bob Smith, host of the Hoody Doody Show, wept as he spoke of Tyler’s death, many years later.
Here’s a tribute to Tyler.
Yogi Berra Explains Jazz
Interviewer: Can you explain jazz?
Yogi: I can't, but I will. 90% of all jazz is half improvisation. The other half is the part people play while others are playing something they never played with anyone who played that part. So if you play the wrong part, its right. If you play the right part, it might be right if you play it wrong enough. But if you play it too right, it's wrong.
Interviewer: I don't understand.
Yogi: Anyone who understands jazz knows that you can't understand it. It's too complicated. That's what's so simple about it.
Interviewer: Do you understand it?
Yogi: No. That's why I can explain it. If I understood it, I wouldn't know anything about it.
Interviewer: Are there any great jazz players alive today?
Yogi: No. All the great jazz players alive today are dead. Except for the ones that are still alive. But so many of them are dead, that the ones that are still alive are dying to be like the ones that are dead. Some would kill for it.
Interviewer: What is syncopation?
Yogi: That's when the note that you should hear now happens either before or after you hear it. In jazz, you don't hear notes when they happen because that would be some other type of music. Other types of music can be jazz, but only if they're the same as something different from those other kinds.
Interviewer: Now I really don't understand.
Yogi: I haven't taught you enough for you to not understand jazz that well.
John Entwistle, CBS Studios, London, 1966
Photo by Chris Morphet
John Entwistle, bass player for The Who, was born 79 years ago today.
Entwistle was an English bass guitarist, songwriter, singer and horn player, as well as a film and record producer. His aggressive lead sound influenced many rock bass players.
Entwistle's lead instrument approach used pentatonic lead lines, and a then-unusual trebly sound ("full treble, full volume") created by roundwound RotoSound steel bass strings. He had a collection of over 200 instruments by the time of his death, reflecting the different brands he used over his career.
They included Fender, Danelectro and Rickenbacker basses in the 1960s, Gibson and Alembic basses in the 1970s, Warwick in the 1980s and Status all-Carbon fibre basses in the 1990s.
Entwistle died in hotel room 658 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on June 27, 2002, one day before the scheduled first show of The Who's 2002 U.S. tour. He had gone to bed that night with a stripper/groupie, Alycen Rowse, who woke at 10 a.m. to find Entwistle cold and unresponsive.
Candace Bushnell, 39, at Elaines Restaurant, New York City, 2002
(Gay Talese in background)
Photo by Jessica Burstein