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On this day in 1967 — 56 years ago — The Beatles met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and learned Transcendental Meditation
On this day in 1967 — 56 years ago — The Beatles met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whose lecture on Transcendental Meditation they had gone to hear at the Hilton Hotel in London.
Transcendental Meditation involved the silent repetition of a word or sound to produce a state of mind that reduces stress, calms the mind and energizes both mind and body. Encouraged by Pattie Harrison, The Beatles and their partners — minus Ringo and Maureen Starkey, whose second child, Jason, had been born five days previously — attended the lecture.
The Harrisons had become interested in Eastern philosophy during a six-week holiday in Bombay towards the end of 1966. The following year Pattie attended a lecture on Transcendental Meditation at Caxton Hall, London, where she had been given her mantra. Inspired by her new discovery, she encouraged George to accompany her to Maharishi's lecture at the Hilton.
A press conference followed the lecture, after which a 90-minute private audience with Maharishi was held for Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and the rest of their party. The yogi's words left them keen to learn more, and they made arrangements to travel to Bangor, North Wales, the next day to attend the weekend seminar being held there.
The Maharishi invited The Beatles to travel with him to Bangor, in North Wales, to attend more lectures. They accepted his invitation.
In February 1968, the Beatles took their interest a large step forward by traveling to the Maharishi’s home base in northern India. Lennon and wife Cynthia, and Harrison and Pattie Boyd arrived first (Ringo Starr and Paul would soon join them) along with other notable friends such as Beach Boy Mike Love, Donovan and actress Mia Farrow.
During their stay, they would learn more about meditation and would also find time to write many of the songs that would ultimately end up on The Beatles (aka the White Album). “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Dear Prudence” (written about Farrow’s sister, also in attendance), “Mother Nature’s Son,” and “Sexy Sadie” were just a few of the songs born out of their experiences there.
“I was really impressed with the Maharishi. I was impressed because he was laughing all the time,” said Ringo. “It was another point of view. It was the first time we’re sort of getting into Eastern philosophies.” McCartney described the stay in India as “very much like a summer camp,” with Starr adding, “It was pretty far out.”
Both McCartney and Starr cut their stay short, while others hung out for close to two months. The harmonious vibes of the trip, however, would soon come to an end when allegations arose about the more earthly interests of the Maharishi in one or more of the females in attendance as well as questions surrounding the Maharishi seeking financial involvement from the Beatles.
Exactly why the Beatles left the Maharishi is up to question. All left abruptly. According to a 2006 statement by Deepak Chopra, the Beatles and their entourage "were doing drugs, taking LSD, at Maharishi's ashram, and he lost his temper with them. He asked them to leave, and they did in a huff." This was confirmed in a 2008 article in The Washington Post that reported "others said the Beatles resumed drug use at the ashram."
Others said the Beatles learned the Maharishi sought financial gain, while others said, the supposedly celibate guru made a pass at female members of the group.
Upon their return, a reporter asked Lennon if the Maharishi was “on the level.” Lennon quipped, “I don’t know what level he’s on, but we had a nice holiday in India and came back rested.”
Amelia Earhart was born 126 years ago today.
An aviation pioneer and author, Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for this record. Earhart set many other records, wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences and was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots.
Earhart joined the faculty of the Purdue University aviation department in 1935 as a visiting faculty member to counsel women on careers and help inspire others with her love for aviation. She was also a member of the National Woman's Party, and an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.
During an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10 Electra, Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island.
There are many theories of how and why Earhart died. Though there is much evidence on various stories, so there has been no provable link to definitively settle the issue.
Fascination with Earhart’s life, career and disappearance continues.
Bob Dylan’s Masked and Anonymous debuted on this day in 2003 — 20 years ago.
It was in March, 2006 — while taking Robert Levinson’s Bob Dylan class at the New School in New York City — that several class members met the guest speaker that night for dinner at a coffee shop before the session began.
He was Richard Thomas, director of graduate studies and professor of classics, at Harvard. Dr. Thomas is quite an expert on Dylan, having written the recent book, “Why Bob Dylan Matters” and lectured on his performance artistry and such esoteric subjects as “the Aesthetics of Pastoral Melancholy from Virgil to Dylan.”
But that night, what I mainly remember, was our discussion of Dylan’s Masked and Anonymous. On the surface, most critics said the film was about how a singer, whose career had gone on a downward spiral, was forced to make a comeback to the performance stage for a benefit concert.
Those critics totally missed what the film was really about. It was immediately panned as another clueless Dylan effort, which if they didn’t understand, no one else possibly could either. Thomas, of course, wasn’t one of those critics. He got the film immediately.
“In three hundred years, when people look back at the entire Sony motion picture catalog of that era, only one film will be remembered as truly important and will have stood the test of time,” Thomas told me. “That will be Masked and Anonymous.”
Over the years, I have watched Masked and Anonymous many times and each time I glean new information from what I consider a Dylan classic. This was a film that was never intended to be commercial, but a multi-layered puzzle with the viewer as one of the pieces.
Larry Charles, the film’s director, put it this way in an interview with Trev Gibb: Bob Dylan is “somebody who’s seen more than you have and knows more than you know and if you're wise and you listen, he will tell you everything you need to know.
“But you're gonna have to do the work of interpreting it and that’s how the movie is also, it's like Bob is telling you everything. This is Bob telling you everything about himself also, but it’s not laid out clearly. You have to do the work of putting the pieces together.”
That, in a nutshell, is why I think Masked and Anonymous is so intriguing and continues to live on in the minds of the viewers who have embraced it.
It’s important that the film was conceived outside of today’s capitalist system. “There was no commercial consideration in making this movie,” said Charles. “This was a purely instinctive process which is really an anathema to the making of movies today.”
Jon Faddis is 70 years old today.
Faddis is a jazz trumpet player, conductor, composer and educator — renowned for both his playing and for his expertise in the field of music education. Upon his first appearance on the scene, he became known for his ability to closely mirror the sound of trumpet icon Dizzy Gillespie, who was his mentor, along with Stan Kenton trumpeter, Bill Catalano.
Born in Oakland, California, at 18, Faddie joined Lionel Hampton's big band before joining the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra as lead trumpet. After playing with Charles Mingus in his early twenties, Faddis became a noted studio musician in New York, appearing on many pop recordings in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In the mid-1980s, he left the studios to continue to pursue his solo career, which resulted in albums such as Legacy, Into The Faddisphere and Hornucopia. As a result of his growth as a musician and individual artist, he became the director and main trumpet soloist of the Dizzy Gillespie 70th Birthday Big Band and Dizzy's United Nation Orchestra.
From 1992 to 2002, Faddis led the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band (CHJB) at Carnegie Hall, conducting more than 40 concerts in ten years. During that time, the CHJB presented over 135 musicians, featured over 70 guest artists and premiered works by over 35 composers and arrangers at Carnegie Hall.
Faddis also led the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars and the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars Big Band from their inception through 2004, when he was appointed artistic director of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble (CJE), based at Columbia College Chicago in Illinois.
Faddis led the CJE from autumn 2004 though spring 2010, premiering significant new works, pioneering educational initiatives in Chicago public schools focusing on Louis Armstrong's music and bringing the CJE into new venues.
This included presenting the first of the "Made in Chicago" Jazz series at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park while concurrently leading the Jon Faddis Jazz Orchestra of New York, the successor to the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band.
Faddis appeared in the 1998 movie, Blues Brothers 2000. In the film, he plays trumpet with The Louisiana Gator Boys.
Faddis is a first-call lead player in New York City and has an international reputation for his playing ability in the full range, particularly the highest registers, of the trumpet. His distinctive trumpet playing can be heard on themes including "Lil' Bill," "The Wiz" and "Bird."
Here, Faddis performs “New Orleans” with the Blues Brothers and the Louisiana Gator Boys in Blues Brothers 2000.
In 1928, in a bizarre scenario, comedian W.C. Fields was tried in New York City for cruelty to a canary.
It arose from a Broadway routine in which Fields played a dentist trying to find the mouth of a bushy-bearded man.
Fields would carry a hidden canary, make it look like he found it in the beard and release the bird.
One night Fields was arrested and accused of letting the bird fly up and hit the scenery “so as to produce torture.”
In a trial in what is now Midtown Community Court, the judge scolded the police for “an unjustifiable arrest of a reputable citizen” and let Fields go.
Digital illustration by Leszek Bujnowski