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Poet, novelist and short story writer Charles Bukowski was born 103 years ago today
Charles Bukowski was born 103 years ago today.
A German-born American poet, novelist and short story writer, Bukowski’s writing was influenced by the social, cultural and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles.
It is marked by an emphasis on the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over sixty books. In 1986, Time Magazine called Bukowski a "laureate of American lowlife.”
Regarding Bukowski's enduring popular appeal, Adam Kirsch of The New Yorker wrote, "the secret of Bukowski’s appeal. . . [is that] he combines the confessional poet’s promise of intimacy with the larger-than-life aplomb of a pulp-fiction hero."
Bukowski’s family settled in South Central Los Angeles in 1930, the city where Charles Bukowski's father and grandfather had previously worked and lived. In the '30s, the poet's father was often unemployed. In his early teens, young Charles had an epiphany when he was introduced to alcohol by a friend.
"This [alcohol] is going to help me for a very long time," he later wrote, describing the genesis of his chronic alcoholism. As he saw it, alcohol was a method he could utilize to come to more amicable terms with his own life.
Bukowski died of leukemia on March 9, 1994, in San Pedro, California at age 73, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp. His gravestone reads: "Don't Try,” a phrase which Bukowski uses in one of his poems, advising aspiring writers and poets about inspiration and creativity.
Bukowski explained the phrase in a 1963 letter to John William Corrington:
"Somebody at one of these places [...] asked me: 'What do you do? How do you write, create?' You don't, I told them. You don't try. That's very important: 'not' to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It's like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it."
Here is “Charles Bukowski: The Wicked Life of America's Most Infamous Poet.”
Billy Joe Shaver was born 84 years ago today.
A Texas country music singer and songwriter, Shaver's 1973 album, Old Five and Dimers Like Me, is a classic in the outlaw country genre.
Shaver was raised by his mother, Victory Watson Shaver, after his father Virgil left the family before he was born. Until he was 12, he spent a great deal of time with his grandmother in Corsicana, Texas so that his mother could work in Waco. He sometimes accompanied his mother to her job at a local nightclub, where he began to be exposed to country music.
Shaver joined the U.S. Navy on his 17th birthday. Upon his discharge, he worked a series of dead-end jobs, including trying to be a rodeo cowboy. About this time, Shaver met and married, Brenda Joyce Tindell. They had one son, John Edwin, known as Eddy, who was born in 1962. The two divorced.
Shaver took a job at a lumber mill to make ends meet. One day his right hand (his dominant hand) became caught in the machinery, and he lost the better part of two fingers and contracted a serious infection. He eventually recovered, and taught himself to play the guitar without those missing fingers.
Shaver decided that life was too short to do something he didn't enjoy, so he set out one day to hitchhike to L.A. He couldn't get a ride west, and ended up accompanying a man who dropped him off just outside of Memphis.
The next ride brought him to Nashville, where he found a job as a songwriter for $50/week. His work came to the attention of Waylon Jennings, who filled most of his album, Honky Tonk Heroes, with Shaver's songs.
Other artists, including Elvis Presley and Kris Kristofferson, began to record Shaver's music. This led to his own record deal.
Unfortunately for Shaver, the first few recording companies he signed with soon folded. He was never able to gain widespread recognition as a singer, although he didn’t stop recording his own music.
On his records, he has been accompanied by other major rock and country music musicians like Willie Nelson, Nanci Griffith, Chuck Leavell and Dickey Betts (of the Allman Brothers), Charlie Daniels, Flaco Jiménez and Al Kooper.
After losing his wife, Brenda, and his mother to cancer in 1999, Shaver lost his son and longtime guitarist, Eddy, who died at age 38 of a heroin overdose on December 31, 2000. Shaver nearly died himself the following year when he had a heart attack on stage during an Independence Day show at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Texas.
After successful heart surgery, Billy Joe came back to release a new album entitled Freedom's Child in 2002. In 1999, Shaver was invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. In November 2005, he performed on the CMT Outlaws 2005.
In 2006, Shaver was inducted in the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. The Americana Music Convention awarded him their Lifetime Achievement Award in Songwriting.
Shaver died on October 28, 2020 from a massive stroke at the age of 81.
Here, Shaver performs “Georgia on a Fast Train” at the Farm Aid concert in Indianapolis, 1990.
Eddie Kirkland, electric blues guitarist, was born 100 years ago today.
Kirkland was also a singer, songwriter and harmonica player. He was known as the "Gypsy of the Blues" for his rigorous touring schedules. He played and toured with John Lee Hooker from 1949 to 1962.
After his period of working in tandem with Hooker, he pursued a successful solo career, recording for RPM Records, Fortune Records, Volt Records and King Records, sometimes under the stage name, Eddie Kirk. Kirkland continued to tour, write and record albums until his death in February, 2011.
Born in Jamaica to a mother, age 11, Kirkland first heard the blues from "field hollers.” He was raised in Dothan, Alabama. In 1935, he stowed away in the Sugar Girls Medicine Show tent truck and left town. Blind Blake was the one who influenced him the most in those early days.
He was placed on the chorus line with "Diamond Tooth Mary" McLean. When the show closed a year later, he was in Dunkirk, Indiana where he briefly returned to school. Kirkland joined the Army during World War II. Racism in the military, he said, led him to seek out the devil.
After his discharge, Kirkland traveled to Detroit where his mother had relocated. After a days work at the Ford Rouge Plant, Kirkland played his guitar at house parties. It was there he met John Lee Hooker.
Kirkland fashioned his own style of playing open chords, and transformed the rough, porch-style delta blues into the electric age by using his thumb, rather than a guitar pick. He secured his own series of recordings with Sid Nathan of King Records in 1953, at Fortune Records in 1958 and, by 1961, on his own album, It's the Blues Man, with the King Curtis Band.
Kirkland became Hooker's road manager and the two traveled from Detroit to the Deep South on many tours, the last being in 1962 when Hooker abandoned Kirkland to go overseas. Kirkland then found his way to Macon, Georgia and began performing with Otis Redding as his guitarist and band leader.
As Eddie Kirk, he released "The Hawg" as a single on Volt Records in 1963. The record was overshadowed by Rufus Thomas's recordings.
Kirkland, discouraged by the music industry and his own lack of education to change the situation, turned to his other skill and sought work as an auto mechanic to earn a living for his growing family.
In 1970, one of the revivals of the blues was taking place. Peter B. Lowry found Kirkland in Macon and convinced him to record again. His first sessions were done in a motel room, resulting in the acoustic, solo LP Front and Center. His second was a studio-recorded band album, the funky The Devil... and other blues demons. Both were released on Lowry's Trix Records label.
It was during the mid 1970s that Kirkland befriended the British blues-rock band, Foghat. Kirkland remained with Trix and was based in the Hudson Valley for twelve years. It was during this period that Kirkland appeared on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert with Muddy Waters, Honeyboy Edwards and Foghat.
By 2000, Kirkland was on his own again, always doing his own driving to concerts in his Ford County Squires, crossing the country several times a year. Well into his eighties, Kirkland continued to drive himself to gigs along the coast and in Europe.
Kirkland died in an automobile accident on the morning of February 27, 2011 in Crystal River, Florida.
Here, Kirkland, age 85, performs with the Wentus Bluesband.
On this day in 1930 — 93 years ago — a dancing frog set a new standard in animation.
“Fiddlesticks,” featuring Flip the Frog, was the first stand-alone cartoon with synchronized sound.
Music was already widely used to accompany animations; some of the more laborious animations were even in color. And there had been steps toward combining the two features.
In Germany, Lotte Reiniger’s character silhouettes of the 1920s used changing background colors to create atmospheric scenes. In the U.S., “King of Jazz” in 1930 featured a short color animation with synchronized sound.
In “Fiddlesticks,” Flip the Frog tap-dances his way through a world of merry animals, but then is moved to tears as he plays the piano alongside a violin-playing rodent that resembles Mickey Mouse.
The animation was released by Ub Iwerks, who had helped produce Mickey Mouse, shortly after he left Walt Disney’s growing enterprise. The Flip franchise ended in 1933, and Iwerks returned to work at Disney.
Thanks New York Times!
Bill Evans, jazz pianist and composer, was born 94 years ago today.
Evans's use of impressionist harmony, inventive interpretation of traditional jazz repertoire, block chords and trademark rhythmically independent, "singing" melodic lines influenced a generation of pianists.
He was considered by some to be the most influential post-World War II jazz pianist. Unlike many other jazz musicians of his time, Evans never embraced new movements like jazz fusion or free jazz.
Born in Plainfield, New Jersey, Evans received a classical education and studied Southeastern Louisiana University. In 1955, he moved to New York and soon began work with bandleader and theorist, George Russell.
In 1958, Evans joined Miles Davis's sextet, where he had a profound influence. In 1959, the band, then immersed in modal jazz, recorded Kind of Blue, the best-selling jazz album of all time.
In late 1959, Evans left Davis and soon began his career as a trio leader with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian, now regarded as one of the best jazz bands.
In 1961, ten days after recording the highly acclaimed Sunday at the Village Vanguard, and Waltz for Debby, LaFaro died in a car accident. After months of seclusion, Evans reprised his work, now with bassist Chuck Israels.
In 1963, Evans recorded Conversations with Myself, an innovative solo album featuring overdubbing. In 1966, he met bassist Eddie Gomez, with whom he would work for eleven years. Several successful albums followed, like Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Alone and The Bill Evans Album.
Some of his compositions, specially "Waltz for Debby," have been recorded by many artists. During the late 1970s, Evans became addicted to cocaine. At first, it was only one gram per weekend, but later increased dramatically. His health declined.
On September 15, 1980, Evans, who had been several days in bed with stomach pains at his home in Fort Lee, was accompanied by Joe LaBarbera and Laurie Verchomin to the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, where he died that afternoon. He was 51.
The cause of death was a combination of peptic ulcer, cirrhosis, bronchial pneumonia and untreated hepatitis. Evans's friend, Gene Lees, described Evans's struggle with drugs as "the longest suicide in history."
Here, the Bill Evans Trio performs “Waltz for Debby.”
Russ Titelman is 79 years old today.
Titelman is record producer and songwriter. He produced the Steve Winwood song, "Higher Love,” and Eric Clapton's Journeyman and Unplugged albums. He also produced the 24 Nights live album of 1990 and the all-blues album, From The Cradle, released in 1994.
Beginning his career in the 1960s, he has worked with musicians such as The Monkees, Dion Dimucci, George Harrison, Bee Gees, Little Feat, Christine McVie, Meat Loaf, Paul Simon, Brian Wilson, James Taylor, Rickie Lee Jones, Chaka Khan, Ry Cooder, Randy Newman, Gordon Lightfoot, Eric Clapton and Gerry Goffin.
After having worked for Warner Bros. Records for 25 years, Titelman has been an independent producer since 1997. Titelman started his independent music label Walking Liberty Records in New York City.
On this day in 1938 — 85 years ago — blues musician Robert Johnson died (probably poisoned by a jealous husband) at the age of 27 at a dance near Greenwood, Mississippi.
His recordings from 1936 -1937 have influenced generations of musicians including Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Winter, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.
Elvis Presley died at age 42 in Memphis on August 16, 1977 — 46 years ago today.
The death of the "King of Rock and Roll" brought legions of mourning fans to his mansion, Graceland. Doctors said he died of a heart attack, likely brought on by his addiction to prescription barbiturates.
Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8, 1935, Presley’s twin brother, Jesse, died during the birth. Elvis grew up dirt-poor in Tupelo and Memphis and found work as a truck driver after high school.
When he was 19, he walked into a Memphis recording studio and paid $4 to record a few songs as a present to his mother. Sam Philips, the owner of the studio, was intrigued by the rough, soulful quality of his voice and invited Presley back to practice with some local musicians.
After Philips heard Elvis sing the rhythm-and-blues song "That's All Right," which Presley imbued with an accessible country-and-western flavor, he agreed to release the rendition as a single on his Sun Records label. The recording went to the top of the local charts, and Presley's career was launched.
During the next year, Elvis attracted a growing following in the South, and in 1955 Sun Records sold his contract to a major record label, RCA, for a record $40,000. His first record for RCA was "Heartbreak Hotel," which made him a national sensation in early 1956. He followed this up with the double-sided hit record "Hound Dog"/"Don't Be Cruel."
In September, 1956, Elvis appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, a national variety television show. Teenagers went into hysterics over his dynamic stage presence, good looks and simple but catchy songs. Many parents, however, were appalled by his sexually suggestive pelvic gyrations, and by his third appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Elvis was filmed from only the waist up.
From 1956 through 1958, Elvis dominated the music charts and ushered in the age of rock and roll, opening doors for both white and black rock artists. During this period, he starred in four successful motion pictures, all of which featured his soundtracks: Love Me Tender (1956), Jailhouse Rock (1957), Loving You (1957) and King Creole (1958).
In 1958, Presley was drafted into the U.S. Army and served an 18-month tour of duty in West Germany as a Jeep driver. Teenage girls were overcome with grief, but Elvis' manager, Colonel Tom Parker, kept American youth satiated with stockpiled recordings that Presley made before his departure.
All five singles released during this period eventually became million-sellers. After being discharged as a sergeant in 1960, Elvis underwent a style change, eschewing edgy, rhythm-and-blues-inspired material in favor of romantic, dramatic ballads such as "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"
He retired from concerts to concentrate on his musical films, and he made 27 in the 1960s, including G.I. Blues (1960), Blue Hawaii (1961), Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962), Viva Las Vegas (1964) and Frankie and Johnny (1966).
In 1967, he married Priscilla Beaulieu, and the couple had a daughter, Lisa Marie, in 1968. By the end of the 1960s, rock and roll had undergone dramatic changes, and Elvis was no longer seen as relevant by American youth. A 1968 television special won back many of his fans, but hits were harder to come by. His final Top 10 entry, "Burning Love," was in 1972.
Still, he maintained his sizable fortune through lucrative concert and television appearances. By the mid 1970s, Elvis was in declining physical and mental health. He divorced his wife in 1973 and developed a dangerous dependence on prescription drugs.
He was also addicted to junk food and gained considerable weight. In the last two years of his life, he made erratic stage appearances and lived nearly as a recluse.
On this afternoon in 1977, he was found unconscious in his Graceland mansion and rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He was buried on the grounds of Graceland, which continues to attract fans and has been turned into a highly successful tourist attraction.
Here, Elvis performs “Heartbreak Hotel” in 1956.
Couple on Ku’damm in Berlin, November, 2010
Photo by Knut Skjærven
Late at night. I was hungry and on my way to Zoologischer Garden Station to have something to eat. I was staying at Motel One in Kantstrasse. Done that a couple of times.
Turning the corner towards the station and in front of the soft sex shop they were. Relaxing and in a good mood. Beers on the table. I passed them but had to turn back. They were posing like this. As if waiting for a photographer to drop by.
Clothes were expensive. I could see that at once. I needed to ask them for permission to take a few pictures. I was that close. No problem, they said. I stayed for a minute. We had a brief chat. I showed them the pictures and got their addresses. I sent the photographs.
I don’t know why but I had the feeling they were Swedish. Models perhaps. The young lady looked straight into the camera. As if she new the routine well.