Miles Davis, jazz musician, trumpeter, bandleader and composer, was born 97 years ago today
Photo by David Gahr
Miles Davis was born 97 years ago today.
A jazz musician, trumpeter, bandleader and composer, Davis is widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. With his musical groups, Davis was at the forefront of several major developments in jazz. They included bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz and jazz fusion.
His album, Kind of Blue, is the best-selling album in the history of jazz. On November 5, 2009, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan sponsored a measure in the U. S. House of Representatives to recognize and commemorate the album on its 50th anniversary.
The measure also affirms jazz as a national treasure and "encourages the United States government to preserve and advance the art form of jazz music." It passed, unanimously, with a vote of 409–0 on December 15, 2009.
As an innovative bandleader and composer, Davis has influenced many notable musicians and bands from diverse genres. Many well-known musicians rose to prominence as members of Davis's ensembles.
They included saxophonists Gerry Mulligan, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, George Coleman, Wayne Shorter, Dave Liebman, Branford Marsalis and Kenny Garrett; trombonist J. J. Johnson; pianists Horace Silver, Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and Kei Akagi; guitarists John McLaughlin, Pete Cosey, John Scofield and Mike Stern; bassists Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, Dave Holland, Marcus Miller and Darryl Jones; and drummers Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Jimmy Cobb, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette and Al Foster.
Davis’s influence on the people who played with him has been described by music writer and author Christopher Smith: “Miles Davis' artistic interest was in the creation and manipulation of ritual space, in which gestures could be endowed with symbolic power sufficient to form a functional communicative, and hence musical, vocabulary. [...] Miles' performance tradition emphasized orality and the transmission of information and artistic insight from individual to individual. His position in that tradition, and his personality, talents, and artistic interests, impelled him to pursue a uniquely individual solution to the problems and the experiential possibilities of improvised performance.”
In 1986, the New England Conservatory awarded Miles Davis an Honorary Doctorate for his extraordinary contributions to music.
Davis died in 1991 from the combined effects of a stroke, pneumonia and respiratory failure in Santa Monica, California at age 65.
Here, Davis performs “Round About Midnight,” 1967
Stevie Nicks is 75 years old today.
Nicks is a singer-songwriter, who in the course of her work with Fleetwood Mac and her extensive solo career, has produced over 40 Top 50 hits and sold over 140 million albums. Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac in 1974, along with her partner, Lindsey Buckingham.
Fleetwood Mac's second album after the incorporation of Nicks and Buckingham, Rumours, released in 1977, was the best-selling album of all time the year of its release. To date, it is the eighth best-selling album of all time — having sold over 40 million copies worldwide.
The album remained at #1 on the American albums chart for 31 weeks, and reached the top spot in various countries worldwide. It won Album of the Year in 1978 and produced four U.S. Top 10 singles, with Nicks' Dreams being the band's first and only U.S. #1 hit.
Nicks began her solo career in 1981 with the album, Bella Donna, which reached Platinum status less than three months after its release and has since been certified quadruple-platinum.
In September, 2014, Nicks released her eighth studio album — 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault — which reached #7 on the Billboard 200. She also began a North American tour with Fleetwood Mac.
In May, 2015, Nicks reissued, Crystal Visions‚ The Very Best of Stevie Nicks, on a transparent double vinyl album. Having conquered her cocaine addiction and dependency on tranquilizers, she continues to be a popular solo performer.
Nicks is known for her distinctive voice, mystical visual style and symbolic lyrics, as well as the famous (sometimes tense) chemistry between her and Lindsey Buckingham.
Here, Nicks performs “Sara”
The story of the original Coney Island Hot Dog
In 1867, Charles Feltman, a German immigrant, opened the first hot dog stand in Coney Island.
He called his signature frankfurter the Coney Island red hot, and it was served with mustard, sauerkraut and diced raw onions.
Soon, Feltman’s red hots were all the rage. Al Capone is said to have devoured one every night as a teenager before his shift at a local nightclub.
Feltman’s hot dogs were originally made near the Brooklyn Navy Yard and sold from a pie cart. In 1871, an enormous Feltman’s restaurant opened in Coney Island. It took up two city blocks and could serve 10,000 diners at once.
It wasn’t long before other companies entered the competition. A young man named Nathan Handwerker worked for Feltman in 1915. The next year, he opened his own shop, Nathan’s Famous, down the street, where he sold his hot dogs for a nickel less.
Nathan’s ultimately became the dominant brand on the boardwalk. Feltman’s went out of business in 1954, eight years after Charles Feltman’s sons, who were in their 70s, retired and sold the business to a hotel owner.
Several years ago, Feltman’s of Coney Island returned, with two brothers once again at its helm.
Michael and Joe Quinn are relying on their complementary talents and skills to run the business — Michael is a Coney Island history buff, and Joe, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, has the business approach of a military strategist.
For example, Joe focused on locking down the Feltman’s supply chain in January, when he first heard about the Covid-19 outbreak. The brothers have also had good timing: People are pandemic-buying hot dogs like crazy.
Since March, the company has seen a 100 percent increase in sales from supermarkets and a 200 percent increase in online orders.
“Usually sales peak starting Fourth of July weekend,” Joe said. “So far it’s like March and April have turned into July.”
Thanks New York Times!
Levon Helm, 2010, Beacon Theatre, New York City
Photo by Frank Beacham
Levon Helm was born 83 years ago today.
Helm was a rock musician and actor who achieved fame as the drummer and frequent lead and backing vocalist for The Band. He was known for his deeply soulful, country-accented voice, multi-instrumental ability and creative drumming style highlighted on many of the Band's recordings such as "The Weight," "Up on Cripple Creek" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."
He also had a successful career as an actor, appearing in such films as Coal Miner's Daughter, The Right Stuff, Shooter and In the Electric Mist.
In 1998, Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer, which caused him to lose his singing voice. After undergoing treatment for the disease, his cancer eventually went into remission, which allowed him to gradually regain use of his voice.
In 2007, he released Dirt Farmer, the first of two comeback albums. In 2009, he made Electric Dirt, a follow-up to Dirt Farmer. Both were highly acclaimed albums.
On April 17, 2012, it was announced on Helm's website that he was "in the final stages of his battle with cancer." Two days later, Helm died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. He was 71.
Here, Helm performs “Anna Lee” at the Ramble at the Ryman, 2011
AI Means Big Trouble for Those Who Create Things
There is no doubt that AI, or artificial intelligence, seems to be everywhere these days. And, yes, it can do some amazing things. But, before getting dazzled, remember that you are playing with a rattlesnake. AI is one of the most dangerous technologies of our lifetime.
I won’t go into how it can be used to misinform or used to create fake images. Those dangers are well known.
As a writer, what worries me is that AI is basically a method that will allow anyone to freely steal creative works. That could be a book, a song, a voice or even a personal image. AI is based on re-using previously created works to automatically create new ones. The new work has no copyright protection. It is essentially an automated form of plagiarism.
That’s one of the big issues in the current writer’s strike. Studios could take the mass of stories written for previous films and television and use AI to keep recreating them with a computer. The technology is getting better by the minute.
AI can already clone actors, human voices, write and edit scripts and do a lot of the heavy lifting of routine production work. It is not hard to imagine a complete production being done totally with AI in the near future.
AI is based on what’s called machine learning, which means it gets raw information from human beings. It does not think for itself. That means it comes built-in with human bias; mistakes and sometimes outright deception. AI is not magic, and no better than humans. It just uses previous work and replicates it in a unique way.
AI can do immense damage. From tilting elections with a sea of misleading information to taking away jobs in almost every profession. The devastation that could come is obvious. Our political leaders are so weak and corrupt, expect nothing from them. They are worthless in a computerized world they don’t even understand.
AI re-draws the lines between reality and imagination. If AI is left to run wild, soon we won’t be able to separate what is real from what is fake. It could create a massive dislocation of jobs and disrupt society in a thousand unpredictable ways. AI has the potential to totally disrupt the way human beings make a living with their creativity.
Doretha Lange in her 1933 Ford Model C four door wagon, 1936. Her camera is a Graflex 5 x7 series D.
Photo by Rondal Patridge
Dorothea Lange was born 128 years ago today.
Lange was an influential American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Her photographs humanized the consequences of the Great Depression and influenced the development of documentary photography.
Born of second generation German immigrants on May 26, 1895, at 1041 Bloomfield Street, Hoboken, New Jersey, Lange was named Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn at birth. She dropped her middle name and assumed her mother's maiden name after her father abandoned the family when she was 12 years old — one of two traumatic incidents early in her life.
The other was her contraction of polio at age seven which left her with a weakened right leg and a permanent limp. "It formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me and humiliated me," Lange once said of her altered gait. "I've never gotten over it and I am aware of the force and power of it."
Lange was educated in photography at Columbia University in New York City in a class taught by Clarence H. White. She was informally apprenticed to several New York photography studios, including that of the famed Arnold Genthe.
In 1918, she moved to San Francisco and by the following year she had opened a successful portrait studio. She lived across the bay in Berkeley for the rest of her life.
In 1920, she married the noted western painter Maynard Dixon, with whom she had two sons. With the onset of the Great Depression, Lange turned her camera lens from the studio to the street. Her studies of unemployed and homeless people captured the attention of local photographers and led to her employment with the federal Resettlement Administration (RA), later called the Farm Security Administration (FSA).
In December, 1935, she divorced Dixon and married economist Paul Schuster Taylor, Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley.
Taylor educated Lange in social and political matters, and together they documented rural poverty and the exploitation of sharecroppers and migrant laborers for the next five years — Taylor interviewing and gathering economic data, Lange taking photos.
From 1935 to 1939, Lange's work for the RA and FSA brought the plight of the poor and forgotten — particularly sharecroppers, displaced farm families and migrant workers — to public attention. Distributed free to newspapers across the country, her poignant images became icons of the era.
Lange died at age 70 on Oct. 11, 1965.
Doretha Lange's "Migrant Mother"
The woman in the photo is Florence Owens Thompson. In 1960, Lange spoke about her experience taking the photograph:
“I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction.
I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed.
“She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.”
After Lange returned home, she told the editor of a San Francisco newspaper about conditions at the camp and provided him with two of her photos.
The editor informed federal authorities and published an article that included the photos. As a result, the government rushed aid to the camp to prevent starvation.
Peggy Lee was born 103 years ago today.
Lee was a jazz and popular music singer, songwriter, composer and actress in a career spanning six decades. From her beginning as a vocalist on local radio to singing with Benny Goodman's big band, she forged a sophisticated persona — evolving into a multi-faceted artist and performer.
She wrote music for films, acted and created conceptual record albums — encompassing poetry, jazz, chamber pop and art songs.
Lee was born Norma Deloris Egstrom in Jamestown, North Dakota, the seventh of eight children of Marvin Olof Egstrom, a station agent for the Midland Continental Railroad, and his wife Selma Amelia (Anderson) Egstrom. Her mother died when Lee was just four years old. Afterward, her father married Min Schaumber, who treated her with great cruelty while her alcoholic father did little to stop it.
As a result, she developed her musical talent and took several part-time jobs so that she could be away from home. Lee first sang professionally over KOVC radio in Valley City, North Dakota. She later had her own series on a radio show sponsored by a local restaurant that paid her a salary in food.
Both during and after her high school years, Lee sang for small sums on local radio stations. Radio personality Ken Kennedy of WDAY in Fargo, North Dakota (the most widely heard station in North Dakota), changed her name from Norma to Peggy Lee. Lee left home and traveled to Los Angeles at the age of 17.
She returned to North Dakota for a tonsillectomy and was noticed by hotel owner Frank Beringin while working at the Doll House in Palm Springs, California. It was here that she developed her trademark sultry purr – having decided to compete with the noisy crowd with subtlety rather than volume.
Beringin offered her a gig at The Buttery Room, a nightclub in the Ambassador Hotel East in Chicago. There, she was noticed by bandleader Benny Goodman.
"Benny's then-fiancée, Lady Alice Duckworth, came into The Buttery, and she was very impressed,” Lee recalled. “So the next evening she brought Benny in, because they were looking for a replacement for Helen Forrest. And although I didn't know, I was it.
“He was looking at me strangely, I thought, but it was just his preoccupied way of looking. I thought that he didn't like me at first, but it just was that he was preoccupied with what he was hearing."
Lee joined Goodman’s band in 1941. In 1942, Lee had her first #1 hit, "Somebody Else Is Taking My Place," followed by 1943's "Why Don't You Do Right?" (originally sung by Lil Green), which sold over a million copies. It made her famous.
Lee was a successful songwriter, with songs from the Disney movie, Lady and the Tramp, for which she also supplied the singing and speaking voices of four characters.
Her collaborators included Laurindo Almeida, Harold Arlen, Sonny Burke, Cy Coleman, Duke Ellington, Dave Grusin, Quincy Jones, Francis Lai, Jack Marshall, Johnny Mandel, Marian McPartland, Willard Robison, Lalo Schifrin and Victor Young.
Lee was a mainstay of Capitol Records when rock and roll came onto the American music scene. She was among the first of the "old guard" to recognize this new genre, as seen by her recording music from The Beatles, Randy Newman, Carole King, James Taylor and other up-and-coming songwriters.
From 1957 until her final disc for the company in 1972, she produced a steady stream of two or three albums per year which usually included standards (often arranged quite differently from the original), her own compositions and material from young artists. Lee continued to perform into the 1990s, sometimes in a wheelchair.
After years of poor health, Lee died of complications from diabetes and a heart attack at age 81.
Ironically, Little Willie John, who co-wrote “Fever,” recorded by Lee in 1958, died on this day in a prison in 1968 at the age of 30 years old. He had been convicted two years earlier of manslaughter and sent to Washington State Penitentiary for a fatal knifing incident following a show in Seattle.
Here, Lee performs “Fever” in 1968
Sculpture, 5th St. Gallery, San Pedro, CA, May 5, 2020
Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher