April 20 ~ This Day in Music History

today

. 1881 ~ Nicolai Miaskovsky, Russian composer

. 1925 ~ Tito (Ernest) Puente, Jazz musician, bandleader

. 1925 ~ Henri Renaud, French pianist

. 1931 ~ Louis Armstrong recorded the classic, When It’s Sleepy Time Down South, for Okeh Records. Satchmo would use the tune as his theme song for decades. The song was waxed in Chicago, IL.

. 1934 ~ One of America’s most beloved child stars made her debut. Shirley Temple debuted in Stand Up and Cheer, which opened in New York City. Moviegoers would rave about her song and dance routine, Baby, Take a Bow, for many years.

. 1935 ~ Your Hit Parade, starring Kay Thompson, Charles Carlyle, Gogo DeLys and Johnny Hanser, was first broadcast on radio in 1935. A youngster named Frank Sinatra would later be part of the program as a featured vocalist. Your Hit Parade stayed on the radio airwaves for 24 years. Snooky Lanson would later host the program when it made the transition from radio to TV. Other long-time regulars on the TV version were: Russell Arms, Gisele MacKenzie and Dorothy Collins. They were the lucky ones who got to present the top seven songs each week. Since many songs stayed on the list for weeks on end, these vocalists had to invent new ways to present the hit parade. On April 24, 1959, Your Hit Parade died. The regulars just didn’t fit with the new rock ‘n’ roll hits. Imagine, if you can, Snooky Lanson singing Hound Dog. The original title of the radio show was, Lucky Strike Hit Parade, sponsored by, you guessed it, Lucky Strike cigarettes. The cigarette company continued to sponsor the TV show (those were the days when cigarette companies sponsored lots of TV shows), and the opening theme song was Be Happy, Go Lucky.

. 1943 ~ John Eliot Gardiner, British conductor

. 1950 ~ Peter Frampton, British rock singer and guitarist

. 1951 ~ Luther Vandross, soul singer, (1989 UK No.13 single ‘Never Too Much’, first released 1983, US N0.10 and UK No.2 single with Janet Jackson ‘The Best Things In Life Are Free’).  Also worked with David Bowie, Mariah Carey. Vandross died on 1st July 2005 aged 54 two years after suffering a major stroke.

. 1968 ~ Hair opened on Broadway

. 1985 ~ The British pop music group Wham!, featuring George Michael, became the first to release cassettes in the People’s Republic of China. Selections from two of the group’s albums were packaged and sold on the tape.

. 1986 ~ Pianist Vladimir Horowitz gave his first concert in the Soviet Union in 61 years. He had emigrated in 1925.

. 1987 ~ Starlight Express posted the largest week’s gross in Broadway history. The roller-skating musical earned $606,081 at the box office. The revival of The King and I starring Yul Brynner had been the previous leader (1985).

. 2000 ~ Canadian composer Louis Applebaum, long associated with the prestigious classical repertory company the Stratford Festival, died of cancer. He was 82.

. 2001 ~ Giuseppe Sinopoli, Italian conductor, collapsed at the podium while conducting a performance of Verdi’s Aida in Berlin. He was rushed to the hospital, but doctors could not revive him. Sinopoli, 54, was the music director of the Dresden Staatskapelle and was a controversial figure in classical music. An avid scholar, Sinopoli had a medical degree and was also studying archaeology.

. 2003 ~ Nina Simone, whose deep, raspy, forceful voice made her a unique figure in jazz and later helped define the civil rights movement, died. She was 70. Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in 1933 in North Carolina, Simone was the sixth of seven children in a poor family. She began playing the piano at age 4. In the late 1950s Simone recorded her first tracks, including Plain Gold Ring and Don’t Smoke In Bed. But she gained fame in 1959 with her recording of I Loves You Porgy, from the opera “Porgy & Bess.” But she later wove the turbulent times of the 1960s into her music. In 1963, after the church bombing that killed four young black girls in Birmingham, Ala., and the slaying of Medgar Evers, she wrote Mississippi Goddam, and after the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she recorded Why? The King of Love is Dead. One of her most famous songs was the black pride anthem, To Be Young, Gifted and Black.

Simone enjoyed perhaps her greatest success in the 1960s and 70s, with songs like I Want A Little Sugar in My Bowl, and Four Women, the song with the famous line “they call me PEACHES.” She recorded songs from artists as diverse as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Bee Gees and made them her own. Perhaps one of her more popular covers was her version of House of the Rising Sun. While she had a regal presence onstage, she could often be temperamental. She had a reputation for chewing out audience members who interrupted her performances in clubs with conversation or loud drinking or talking. In 1999 she received a lifetime achievement award in Dublin and an award for excellence in music from the Association of African American Music in Philadelphia.

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