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Linda Ronstadt, singer-songwriter, is 77 years old today
Linda Ronstadt is 77 years old today.
A singer and songwriter who has performed on over 120 albums, Ronstadt has collaborated with artists from a diverse spectrum of genres including Billy Eckstine, Frank Zappa, Rosemary Clooney, Flaco Jiménez, Philip Glass, Carla Bley, The Chieftains, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, Dolly Parton, Neil Young, Johnny Cash and Nelson Riddle.
Christopher Loudon of Jazz Times noted in 2004, Ronstadt is "blessed with arguably the most sterling set of pipes of her generation ... rarest of rarities — a chameleon who can blend into any background yet remain boldly distinctive ... it's an exceptional gift; one shared by few others."
In total, she released over 30 studio albums and 15 compilations or greatest hits albums. Ronstadt charted 38 Billboard Hot 100 singles with 21 reaching the Top 40, 10 to the Top 10, three to #2 and "You're No Good" to #1.
In the UK, her single "Blue Bayou" reached the UK Top 40 and the duet with Aaron Neville, "Don't Know Much," peaked at #2 in December, 1989. In addition, she has charted 36 albums, 10 Top 10 albums and three #1 albums on the Billboard Pop Album Charts.
Born in Tucson, Arizona, Ronstadt was raised on her family's 10-acre ranch with siblings Peter (who served as Tucson's Chief of Police for ten years, 1981 – 1991), Michael J. and Gretchen (Suzi). The family was featured in Family Circle magazine in 1953.
Linda's father, Gilbert, came from a pioneering Arizona ranching family and was of German and English American descent, with some Mexican ancestry. Their influence and contributions to Arizona's history, including wagon making, commerce, pharmacies and music is chronicled in the library of the University of Arizona.
Her mother, Ruth Mary, of German, English and Dutch descent, was raised near Flint, Michigan. She was the daughter of Lloyd Groff Copeman, a prolific inventor and holder of many patents.
Lloyd, with nearly 700 patents to his name, invented an early form of the toaster, many refrigerator devices, the grease gun, the first electric stove and an early form of the microwave oven. His flexible rubber ice cube tray earned him millions of dollars in royalties.
Ronstadt established her professional career in the mid-1960s at the forefront of California's emerging folk rock and country rock movements — genres which later defined post-60s rock music. She joined forces with Bobby Kimmel and Kenny Edwards and became the lead singer of a folk rock trio, The Stone Poneys.
Later, as a solo artist, Ronstadt released Hand Sown...Home Grown in 1969, which has been described as the first alternative country record by a female recording artist. Although fame eluded her during these years, Ronstadt actively toured with The Doors, Neil Young, Jackson Browne and others. She made numerous television show appearances and began to contribute her voice to a variety of albums.
However, with the release of chart-topping albums such as Heart Like a Wheel, Simple Dreams and Living in the USA, coupled with the fact that Ronstadt became the first female "arena class" rock star, she set records as one of the top-grossing concert artists of the decade.
Referred to as "First Lady of Rock" and the "Queen of Rock," Ronstadt was voted the Top Female Pop Singer of the 1970s. Her rock and roll image was equally as famous as her music, appearing six times on the cover of Rolling Stone, as well as on the covers of Newsweek and Time magazines.
In the 1980s, Ronstadt went to Broadway, garnered a Tony nomination, teamed with composer Philip Glass, recorded traditional music and collaborated with famed conductor, Nelson Riddle — an event at that time viewed as an original and unorthodox move for a rock and roll artist.
This venture paid off, and Ronstadt remained one of the music industry's best-selling acts throughout the 1980s with multi-platinum selling albums such as What's New, Canciones de Mi Padre and Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind. Ronstadt continued to tour, collaborate and record celebrated albums, such as Winter Light and Hummin' to Myself.
Ronstadt's 30-plus album catalog continue to be best-sellers, with the vast majority of them certified gold, platinum and multi-platinum. Having sold in excess of 100 million records worldwide and setting records as one of the top-grossing concert performers for over a decade, Ronstadt was the most successful female singer of the 1970s and stands as one of the most successful female recording artists in U.S. history.
Ronstadt opened many doors for women in rock and roll and other musical genres by championing songwriters and musicians, pioneering her chart success onto the concert circuit and being at the vanguard of many musical movements.
Sadly, now Ronstadt’s voice is silenced. In a 2011 interview with the Arizona Daily Star, she said, "I am 100 percent retired and I'm not doing anything any more." It was announced publicly in August, 2013 that Ronstadt had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in December, 2012, which left her unable to sing.
Her autobiography, Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir, was released in September, 2013.
Here, Ronstadt performs “Desperado” with the Eagles.
D.A. Pennebaker, 1999
Photo by Frank Beacham
Donn Alan "D. A." Pennebaker was born 98 years ago today.
Pennebaker was a documentary filmmaker and one of the pioneers of Direct Cinema. Performing arts and politics were his primary subjects. In 2012, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized his body of work with an Academy Honorary Award or "lifetime Oscar.”
Described as "the pre-eminent chronicler of sixties counterculture,” Pennebaker was born in Evanston, Illinois, the son of Lucille Levick and John Paul Pennebaker, who was a commercial photographer. He was known as “Penny” to his friends.
He served in the Navy and later worked as an engineer, founding Electronics Engineering (the makers of the first computerized airline reservation system), before beginning his film career. Under the influence of experimental filmmaker Francis Thompson, Pennebaker directed his first film, Daybreak Express, in 1953.
Set to a classic Duke Ellington recording of the same name, the five-minute short of the soon-to-be-demolished Third Avenue elevated subway station in New York City is the earliest known example of Pennebaker's penchant for blending together documentary and experimental filmmaking techniques. According to Pennebaker, Ellington responded favorably to the film.
In 1959, Pennebaker joined the equipment-sharing, Filmakers' Co-op. He co-founded Drew Associates with Richard Leacock and former LIFE magazine editor and correspondent, Robert Drew. In a crucial time in the development of Direct Cinema, the collective produced documentary films for clients like ABC News (for their television series, Close-up) and Time-Life Broadcast (for their syndicated television series, Living Camera).
Their first major film, Primary (1960), documented John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey's respective campaigns in the 1960 Wisconsin Democratic Primary election. Drew, Leacock and Pennebaker, as well as photographers Albert Maysles, Terrence McCartney Filgate and Bill Knoll, all filmed the campaigning from dawn to midnight over the course of five days.
Widely considered to be the first candid and comprehensive look at the day-by-day events of a Presidential race, it was the first film in which the sync sound camera could move freely with characters throughout a breaking story, a major technical achievement that laid the groundwork for modern-day documentary filmmaking. It would later be selected as an historic American film for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 1990.
Drew Associates would produce nine more documentaries for Living Camera, including Crisis, which chronicled President Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy's conflict with governor George Wallace over school desegregation.
Then, in 1963, Pennebaker and Leacock left the organization to form their own production firm, Leacock-Pennebaker, Inc. Pennebaker would direct a number of short films over the course of two years. One of them was a rare recording of jazz vocalist Dave Lambert, as he formed a new quintet with singers such as David Lucas, and auditioned for RCA.
The audition was not successful, and Lambert died suddenly in a car accident shortly thereafter, leaving Pennebaker's film as one of the few visual recordings of the singer, and the only recording of the songs in those rehearsals. The documentary got attention in Europe, and a few weeks later, Bob Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, approached Pennebaker about filming Dylan while he was touring in England.
The resulting work, Dont Look Back (there is no apostrophe in the title), became a landmark in both film and rock history, "evoking the '60s like few other documents," according to film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum.
The opening sequence alone (set to Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" with Dylan standing in an alleyway, dropping cardboard flash cards) became a precursor to modern music videos. It would later be included in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 1998, and it was later ranked at #6 on Time Out magazine's list of the 50 best documentaries of all time.
Pennebaker would also film Dylan's subsequent tour of England in 1966, but while some of this work has been released in different forms. The footage supplied the framework for Martin Scorsese's Bob Dylan documentary, No Direction Home.
It was also re-edited by Dylan himself in the rarely distributed, Eat the Document. Pennebaker's own film of the tour, Something Is Happening, remains unreleased. Nevertheless, the tour itself has become one of the most celebrated events in rock history, and some of the Nagra recordings made for Pennebaker's film were later released on Dylan's own records.
The same year that Dont Look Back was released in theaters, Pennebaker worked with the author, Norman Mailer, on the first of many film collaborations.
He was also hired to film the Monterey Pop Festival, which is now regarded as an important event in rock history on par with 1969's Woodstock Festival. Pennebaker produced a number of films from the event, capturing breakthrough performances from The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Otis Redding and Janis Joplin that remain seminal documents in rock history.
The first of these films, Monterey Pop, was released in 1968 and was later ranked at #42 on Time Out magazine's list of the 50 best documentaries of all time. Other performers like Jefferson Airplane and The Who also received major exposure from Pennebaker's work.
Pennebaker continued to film some of the era's most influential rock artists, including John Lennon (whom he first met while filming Dylan in England), Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and most notably, David Bowie, during his famous "farewell" concert in 1973.
He also collaborated with Jean-Luc Godard, who had been impressed by Primary. Their initial plan was to film "whatever we saw happening around us" in a small town in France, but this never came to fruition.
In 1968, the two worked on a film that Godard initially conceived as "One AM" (One American Movie) on the subject of anticipated mass struggles in the United States – similar to the uprisings in France that year.
When it became clear that Godard's assessment was incorrect, he abandoned the film. Pennebaker eventually finished the project himself and released it several years later as One PM, meaning "One Perfect Movie" to Pennebaker and "One Pennebaker Movie" to Godard.
Around 1976, Pennebaker met experimental filmmaker turned documentarian, Chris Hegedus. The two soon became collaborators and then married in 1982.
In 1988, Pennebaker, Hegedus and David Dawkins followed Depeche Mode as they toured the U.S. in support of Music for the Masses, their commercial breakthrough in America. The resulting film, 101, was released the following year.
In 1992, during the start of the Democratic primaries, Pennebaker and Hegedus approached campaign officials for Arkansas governor Bill Clinton about filming his presidential run. They were granted limited access to the candidate, but were allowed to focus on lead strategist, James Carville, and communications director, George Stephanopoulos.
The resulting work, The War Room, became one of their most celebrated films, winning the award for Best Documentary from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures and earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature.
Pennebaker and Hegedus continued to produce a large number of documentary films through their company, Pennebaker Hegedus Films, most notably Moon Over Broadway (1998), Down from the Mountain (2001), Startup.com (2001), Elaine Stritch: At Liberty (2004), Al Franken: God Spoke (2006) and Kings of Pastry (2009).
Pennebaker's films, usually shot with a hand-held camera, often eschewed voice-over narration and interviews in favor of a "simple" portrayal of events typical of the direct cinema style. An accomplished engineer, Pennebaker developed one of the first fully portable, synchronized 16mm camera and sound recording systems which revolutionized modern filmmaking.
His aesthetic and technical breakthroughs also had a major influence on narrative filmmaking, influencing such realist masterworks as Barbara Loden's Wanda, which was filmed and edited by one of Pennebaker's protégés, Nicholas Proferes, and even popular satires such as Tim Robbins' Bob Roberts.
Pennebaker died at his home in Sag Harbor, New York on August 1, 2019.
D.A. Pennebaker photographs Bob Dylan for Eat the Document, 1966
Cowboy Copas was born 110 years ago today.
Born as Lloyd Estel Copas, he was a country music singer popular from the 1940s until his death in the 1963 plane crash that also killed country stars Patsy Cline and Hawkshaw Hawkins.
Born in 1913 in Blue Creek, Ohio, Copas began performing locally at age 14, and appeared on WLW-AM and WKRC-AM in Cincinnati during the 1930s. In 1940, he moved to Knoxville, where he performed on WNOX-AM with his band, the Gold Star Rangers.
In 1943, Copas achieved national fame when he replaced Eddy Arnold as a vocalist in the Pee Wee King band and began performing on the Grand Ole Opry. His first solo single, "Filipino Baby," released by King Records in 1946, hit #4 on the Billboard country chart and sparked the most successful period of his career.
While continuing to appear on the Opry, Copas recorded several other hits during the late 1940s and early 1950s, including "Signed Sealed and Delivered," "The Tennessee Waltz," "Tennessee Moon," "Breeze," "I'm Waltzing with Tears in My Eyes," "Candy Kisses," "Hangman's Boogie" and "The Strange Little Girl."
Copas' 1952 single, "'Tis Sweet to Be Remembered," reached #8 on the Billboard country chart, but it was his final Top 40 hit for eight years. Although Copas didn't maintain his stellar popularity of the late 1940s through the next decade, he continued to perform regularly at the Grand Ole Opry and appeared on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee.
After a lackluster partnership with Dot Records, Copas surged to the top of the charts again in 1960 with the biggest hit of his career, "Alabam," which remained #1 for three months. Other major hits during his successful period with Starday Records in the early 1960s, including "Flat Top" and a remake of "Signed, Sealed And Delivered," held promising implications for the future of his career.
On March 3, 1963, Copas, Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins and others performed at a benefit concert at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Kansas City for the family of disc jockey Cactus Jack Call, who had died the previous December in an automobile accident.
On March 5, they left for Nashville in a Piper Comanche piloted by Copas' son-in-law (and Cline's manager), Randy Hughes. After stopping to refuel in Dyersburg, Tennessee, the craft took off at 6:07 p.m. central time. The plane flew into severe weather and crashed at 6:20 p.m. in a forest near Camden, Tennessee. It was 90 miles from the destination.
There were no survivors. A stone marker, dedicated on July 6, 1996, marks the location of the crash.
Copas was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Goodlettsville, Tennessee in "Music Row" with Hawkins and other country music stars. He was 49 years old.
Here, Copas performs “The Strange Little Girl” in 1951.
Rembrandt’s self portrait
The Dutch master painter, Rembrandt van Rijn, was born in Leiden in South Holland on July 15, 1606 — 417 years ago today.
Born the son of a miller, Rembrandt’s humble origins may help account for the uncommon depth of compassion given to the human subjects of his art. His more than 600 paintings — many of them portraits or self-portraits — are characterized by rich brushwork and color, and a dramatic interplay of shadow and light.
After deciding to pursue painting, the young Rembrandt was taught by various teachers, among them Amsterdam painter Pieter Lastman, who interested him in biblical, mythological and historical themes.
Rembrandt was also deeply influenced by the Italian painter, Caravaggio, whose chiaroscuro technique — the strong use of light and shadow — would become central to Rembrandt's work.
He soon developed his own distinct style and by the age of 22 was accomplished enough to take on his own students in Leiden. During this period, he painted the first of nearly 100 self-portraits produced during his lifetime.
Moving to Amsterdam in 1631, Rembrandt began to achieve fame and commercial success as a portrait painter. Notable works from this period include the group portrait Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632), the biblical-themed Sacrifice of Isaac (1635) and the mythological masterpiece, Danae (1636).
In the 1630s, Rembrandt also began to produce ambitious etchings of biblical subjects. These masterful prints, such as Annunciation to the Shepherds (1634), had a lasting effect on printmakers for centuries. During his prosperous decade, Rembrandt's studio was filled with numerous assistants and students, many of whom became accomplished artists in their own right.
As a fashionable portraitist, he began to go out of style after the 1630s. Popular taste preferred Baroque refinement and detail over his increasingly expressive brush strokes and use of shadow. His human figures, inspired by the real people around him, were criticized as being coarse and indecorous.
Despite the decline in prominent commissions, Rembrandt maintained an extravagant lifestyle, particularly as a collector and this ultimately would lead to his bankruptcy in 1656. Financial difficulties were also coupled with personal miseries, particularly the death of his wife in 1642, the death of his mistress in 1663 and the death of his only son in 1668.
These troubles scarcely affected his artistic output, however, and the 1640s saw such masterworks as the 1642 painting The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq (also known as The Night Watch) and the monumental etching Christ Healing the Sick (1643-1649). He also developed an enduring interest in landscape during this time.
Financial ruin came in the 1650s, but he continued to work with undiminished energy and power. Many of the Rembrandt paintings most celebrated today came from this later period, which saw a profound penetration of character in pictures like Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer (1653) and Bathsheba (1654).
Some of his biblical-themed works from this period so closely resemble portraits that their religious subjects are obscure, such as the Jewish Bride (1664). Many soulful self-portraits were also produced in the last years of his life.
Rembrandt died in 1669.
Jane Jacobs is the woman whose brilliant protest in the 1960s ended the reign of terror wrought by power broker Robert Moses in New York City, the bureaucrat who wanted to turn the city into an interlacing urban net of highways.
Jacobs, who died 2006, was a writer and activist with primary interest in communities and urban planning and decay. She is best known for The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), a powerful critique of the urban renewal policies of the 1950s in the United States.
The book has been described as "one of 20th century architecture's most traumatic events,” but also credited with reaching beyond planning issues to influence the spirit of the times.
Within months of the completion of her book (1961) which promoted a grassroots, organic, neighborhood-based process to rehabilitate buildings, Jacobs learned that her 555 Hudson Street home in Greenwich Village was in an area targeted by Robert Moses for a $7 million urban renewal which would mean evictions and clearance of old buildings replaced by carefully-planned middle-income housing project.
The influential Harvard Economist Edward Glaeser, renowned for his work on urban studies, said Jacobs was prescient in attacking Moses for "replacing well-functioning neighborhoods with Le Corbusier-inspired towers."
Glaeser agreed that these housing projects proved to be Moses' greatest failures: "Moses spent millions and evicted tens of thousands to create buildings that became centers of crime, poverty and despair.”
Along with her well-known printed works, Jacobs is equally well known for organizing grassroots efforts to block urban-renewal projects that would have destroyed local neighborhoods. She was instrumental in the eventual cancellation of the Lower Manhattan Expressway.
Today, many New York City neighborhoods — including Greenwich Village — have survived due to the work of Jacobs.
New York City always remains one of the few U.S. urban areas where walking is easy, largely thanks to Jacobs, who stopped Moses plan for a “go everywhere” by car culture.
Street shot of Harrison Ford