Eugene Bertram “Gene” Krupa lived from January 15, 1909 to October 16, 1973. He was an American jazz and big band drummer, actor and composer, known for his highly energetic and flamboyant style.
One of my all-time favorite non-piano songs is Sing Sing Sing. Krupa joined Benny Goodman’s band in 1934, where his featured drum work made him a national celebrity. His tom-tom interludes on their hit “Sing, Sing, Sing” were the first extended drum solos to be recorded commercially.
The Benny Goodman big band playing Sing Sing Sing, featuring Gene Krupa at the end. We get the added benefit of hearing Mr. Harry James play a trumpet solo.
Alfred Brendel was born in 1931 in Wiesenberg, Czech Republic.
After World War II, Brendel composed music, as well as continuing to play the piano, to write and to paint. However, he never had more formal piano lessons and, although he attended master classes with Edwin Fischer and Eduard Steuermann, he was largely self-taught after the age of six.
He made his debut in Graz (1948), and has since performed widely throughout Austria, where he lives.
Victor Borge was born in 1909 in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was an entertainer and pianist – a deliciously funny performer. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen, and in Vienna and Berlin.
He made his debut as a pianist in 1926, and as a revue actor in 1933. From 1940 until his death in 2000 he worked in the USA for radio, television, and theatre, and has performed with leading symphony orchestras on worldwide tours since 1956.
He was best known for his comedy sketches combining music and narrative. He used his classical training to skew serious music and performers.
From his obituary:
Pianist Victor Borge, died in his sleep Dec 23, 2000 at his Greenwich, Connecticut home, was known as the unmelancholy Dane of international show business. He would have turned 92 on Jan. 3, 2001.
“The cause of death was heart failure,” his daughter, Sanna Feirstein, told Reuters.
“He had just returned from a wonderfully successful trip to Copenhagen … and it was really heartwarming to see the love he experienced in his home country,” she said.
Borge was one of five performers selected for the Kennedy Center Honors in 1999.
“He went to sleep, and they went to wake him up this morning, and he was gone,” said his agent, Bernard Gurtman.
“He had so much on the table, and to the day he died he was creative, and practicing piano several hours a day,” Gurtman told Reuters. “He was just a great inspiration.”
Funeral services will be private, his daughter said.
Borge made a career of falling off piano stools, missing the keys with his hands and getting tangled up in the sheet music.
One of his inspirations was a pianist who played the first notes of the GriegA Minor Concerto and then fell on the keys dead.
He said that the only time he got nervous on stage was when he had to play seriously and adds that if it had not been for Adolf Hitler he probably would never have pursued a career as a concert-hall comedian.
Until he was forced to flee Denmark in 1940 he was a stage and screen idol in his native country.
But as a Jew who had lampooned Hitler, Borge — his real name was Boerge Rosenbaum — was in danger and fled first to Sweden and then to the United States, where he arrived penniless and unknown and by a fluke got booked on the Bing Crosby radio show. He was an instant success.
He became an American citizen in 1948, but thought of himself as Danish. It was obvious from the numerous affectionate tributes and standing ovations at his 80th birthday concert in Copenhagen in 1989 that Danes felt the same way.
In the concert at Copenhagen’s Tivoli gardens, Borge played variations on the theme of “Happy Birthday to You” in the styles of Mozart, Brahms, Wagner and Beethoven — all executed with such wit that the orchestra was convulsed with laughter that a woman performing a piccolo solo was unable to draw breath to play.
“Playing music and making jokes are as natural to me as breathing,” Borge told Reuters in an interview after that concert.
“That’s why I’ve never thought of retiring because I do it all the time whether on the stage or off. I found that in a precarious situation, a smile is the shortest distance between people. When one needs to reach out for sympathy or a link with people, what better way is there?
“If I have to play something straight, without deviation in any respect, I still get very nervous. It’s the fact that you want to do your best, but you are not at your best because you are nervous and knowing that makes you even more nervous.”
His varied career included acting, composing for films and plays and writing but he was best known for his comic sketches based on musical quirks and oddities.
His routines were unpredictable, often improvised on stage as his quick wit responded to an unplanned event — a noise, a latecomer in the audience — or fixed on an unlikely prop — a fly, a shaky piano stool.
Borge was born in Denmark on January 3, 1909, son of a violinist in the Danish Royal Orchestra.
His parents encouraged him to become a concert pianist, arranging his first public recital when he was 10. In 1927 he made his official debut at the Tivoli Gardens.
Borge’s mischievous sense of humor was manifest from an early age. Asked as a child to play for his parent’s friends he would announce “a piece by the 85-year-old Mozart” and improvise something himself.
When his mother was dying in Denmark during the occupation, Borge visited her, disguised as a sailor.
“Churchill and I were the only ones who saw what was happening,” he said in later years. “He saved Europe and I saved myself.”
From 1953 to 1956, he appeared in New York in his own production “Comedy in Music,” a prelude to world tours that often took him to his native Scandinavia.
On radio and television, Borge developed the comedy techniques of the bungling pianist that won him worldwide fame.
Many of his skits were based on real-life events. One of his classics evolved from seeing a pianist playing a Tchaikovsky concerto fall off his seat.
Borge’s dog joined the show after it wandered on stage while he was at the keyboard — an entrance nobody would believe had been unplanned.
One incident could not be repeated. A large fly flew on to Borge’s nose while he was playing. “How did you get that fly to come on at the right time?” people asked. “Well, we train them,” Borge explained.
Borge’s book, “My Favorite Intervals”, published in 1974, detailed little-known facts of the private lives of composers describing Wagner’s pink underwear and the time Borodin left home in full military regalia but forgot his trousers.
In 1975, Borge was honored in recognition of the 35th anniversary of his arrival in the United States and his work as unofficial goodwill ambassador from Denmark to the United States. He celebrated his 75th birthday in 1984 with a series of concerts at Carnegie Hall and in Copenhagen.
Borge received a host of honors from all four Scandinavian countries for his contributions to music, humor and worthy causes.
Borge, who had lived in Greenwich since 1964, is survived by five children, nine grandchildren, and one great grandchild. His wife of many years, Sanna, died earlier that year.
• 1894 ~ Ernest John Moeran, English composer who had strong associations with Ireland.
• 1904 ~ Nathan Milstein, Russian-born American violinist and composer
• 1908 ~ Jonah Jones (Robert Elliott Jones), Trumpeter, singer, played with Cab Calloway and threw spitball that got Dizzy Gillespie fired from a band
• 1922 ~ Rex Allen, ‘The Arizona Cowboy’, entertainer, rodeo star, singer, songwriter who published over 300 songs
• 1923 ~ Singer Eddie Cantor opened in the lead role of Kid Boots. Broadway critics called the production, “A smash musical hit!” Eddie made several of the songs from that show into smash hits also, like Alabamy Bound and If You Knew Susie. Three years later, If You Knew Susie became the title song for a movie starring Cantor.
• 1928 ~ Ross Barbour, Singer with The Four Freshmen
• 1929 ~ Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians played Auld Lang Syne as a New Year’s Eve song for the first time. Auld Lang Syne had been the band’s theme song long before 1929. However, this night was the start of a New Year’s Eve tradition as Lombardo’s famed orchestra played at the Hotel Roosevelt Grill in New York City to usher in the new year. Where did it Auld begin? Scottish poet Robert Burns said he heard an old man singing the words, and wrote them down, but Burns is considered the original author. The literal translation means “old long since”; less literal means “days gone by”. Auld Lang Syne and Happy New Year!
• 1930 ~ Odetta (Holmes Felious Gordon), American folk-blues singer, guitarist, songwriter and actress
• 1940 ~ As a result of a dispute between the radio networks and ASCAP (the American Society of Composers and Publishers), the radio industry was prevented from playing any ASCAP-licensed music. The ban lasted for ten months. An ASCAP competitor, BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) made giant strides, expanding to include 36,000 copyrights. Many radio stations had to resort to playing public domain songs, such as marches and operas, to keep their stations on the air. Even kids songs were played over and over again until the ban was lifted. One of the most popular songs to be played was Happy Birthday to You, which was performed in many different languages just to get past the ban.
The American copyright status of “Happy Birthday to You” began to draw more attention with the passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in 1998. When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Act in Eldred v. Ashcroft in 2003, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer specifically mentioned “Happy Birthday to You” in his dissenting opinion. American law professor Robert Brauneis, who extensively researched the song, concluded in 2010 that “It is almost certainly no longer under copyright.” In 2013, based in large part on Brauneis’s research, Good Morning to You Productions, a company producing a documentary about “Good Morning to All”, sued Warner/Chappell for falsely claiming copyright to the song. In September 2015, a federal judge declared that the Warner/Chappell copyright claim was invalid, ruling that the copyright registration applied only to a specific piano arrangement of the song, and not to its lyrics and melody.
In 2016, Warner/Chappell settled for US $14 million, and the court declared that “Happy Birthday to You” was in the public domain.
• 1942 ~ Andy Summers (Somers), Guitarist, singer with The Police
• 1943 ~ John Denver (Deutschendorf), American singer and songwriter of popular music
• 1947 ~ Burton Cummings, Jr., Singer with The Guess Who
• 1947 ~ Roy Rogers, ‘the King of the Cowboys’, and Dale Evans were hitched in marriage. They rode off into that sunset together for over fifty years. (Roy died July 6, 1998.)
• 1948 ~ Donna Summer (LaDonna Gaines), Grammy Award-winning singer
• 1951 ~ Tom Hamilton, Bass with Aerosmith
• 1960 ~ After playing California nightclubs as The Pendletones, Kenny and the Cadets, and Carl and the Passions, a new group emerged this day: The Beach Boys. The group’s first national hit, Surfin’ Safari, was soon to be. They recorded for local (Los Angeles) Colpix Records and at the height of their popularity, Capitol Records. The Beach Boys also recorded under the Reprise Records banner. The revitalized group still tours and Capitol continues to reissue various greatest hits packages. The Beach Boys were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
• 1972 ~ Joe McIntyre, Singer with New Kids on the Block
• 1975 ~ Elvis Presley performed before 60,000 fans at the Silverdome in Pontiac, MI. He earned $800,000 for the concert, a world record for a single concert by a single artist.
• 1985 ~ Over 54,500 people played kazoos in downtown Rochester, New York. The assembled multitude played A Bicycle Built for Two. Any idea why? Well, they felt it was appropriate for the last day of the year and it got the crowd listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for ‘Most Kazoo-ers’.
• 1997 ~ Floyd Cramer, American Hall of Fame pianist (Nashville Sound), died of cancer at the age of 64
• 2000 ~ Tanaquil Le Clercq, the ballerina who dazzled the world in the 1940s and ’50s before her career was cut short by paralytic polio, died of pneumonia at the age of 71. Le Clercq contracted the disease, which left her paralyzed below the waist, in 1956. At the time, she was the fourth wife of George Balanchine and had attracted an adoring public because of her long-legged elegance. She later became a teacher at Dance Theater of Harlem, wrote two books and regularly attended dance performances. The New York City Ballet, of which Le Clercq was a charter member, paid tribute to her in 1988, when it opened its 50th-anniversary season. She acknowledged a thunderous New York State Theater ovation from her wheelchair. Le Clercq was blessed with an elongated physique that she used with refinement or humor. She epitomized the modernized look in classical dancing, which enthralled Balanchine, who once cast her as a dragonfly. As the first City Ballet ballerina trained since childhood by Balanchine, she was naturally identified with the roles he created for her in his major works, such as the ballets “Symphonie Concertante,” “Symphony in C” and “La Valse,” in which her doomed heroine danced herself to death. She was equally unforgettable in the ballets of Jerome Robbins and as the white-faced allegorical figure of Sacred Love in “Illuminations” in 1950.
• 2000 ~ José Greco, the famed flamenco dancer and choreographer who founded the José Greco Spanish Dance Company, of heart failure at the age of 82. Born in Montorio nei Frentani, Italy, of Spanish-Italian parents, he moved to Seville, Spain, at the age of 3, then was raised in Brooklyn from the age of 10. He began his career in 1937 and became known as the greatest Spanish dancer in the world. In 1941, the already famous Argentine-born dancer La Argentinita (known off the stage as Encarnacion Lopez) was preparing for an American tour when she saw Greco dance and asked him to perform as her partner and the featured male performer in her company until she died in 1945. After that, Greco danced with her sister Pilar Lopez. In 1951, Greco shared with Carol Channing the title of “New Broadway Personality of the Year.” The José Greco Dance Company, which helped integrate flamenco with mainstream ballet, toured extensively in North America, and six times worldwide, over the following two decades. In 1962, he Greco was knighted by the Spanish government. In 1971, Greco formed the Foundation for Hispanic Dance. His autobiography, “Gypsy in My Soul: The Autobiography of Jose Greco,” was published in 1977.
• 2000 ~ Eddy Shaver, a guitarist who performed with his father Billy Joe Shaver and Dwight Yoakam, died at the age of 38. Eddy Shaver grew up around music because of his father, a celebrated songwriter whose songs include I’m Just an Old Chuck of Coal (But I’m GonnaBe a Diamond Someday) and Georgia on a Fast Train. Dickie Betts of The Allman Brothers Band helped teach Eddy Shaver to play and gave him his two favorite guitars, one formerly owned by the late guitarist Duane Allman. Eddy Shaver began playing guitar with his father at 13, and gradually became Billy Joe Shaver’s musical partner and sometime co-writer. Billy Joe Shaver merged from country to a more rock-influenced sound because of his son. Albums by the band Shaver include “Tramp on Your Street,” the live “Shaver: Unshaven,” and “Electric Shaver.” A new album, “The Earth Rolls On,” was released on March 20, 2001.
• 2001 ~ Marie Hartford, a well-known businesswoman on Music Row and widow of the late songwriter and performer John Hartford, died of lung cancer. She was 67. Marie Hartford worked at Glaser Publishing, booking the studios at the Glaser Brothers’ Music Row operation, where country music’s Outlaw movement was bred. John Hartford, who wrote the standard Gentle on My Mind, died June 4 after a decade-long battle with cancer. The song was recorded more than 300 times, most prominently by Glen Campbell in 1967 but also by Dean Martin, Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin.
• 2003 ~ Renata Babak, an internationally known mezzo-soprano with the Bolshoi Opera who defected from the Soviet Union in 1973, died of pancreatic cancer. She was 69. Babak gave recitals until last year, singing in a sweet but powerful and well-controlled voice described by critics as among the best in the world. Her last opera was in 1997, when she performed in Tchaikovsky’sIolanta with Opera Camerata of Washington. Babak was an international star with 10 years’ experience at the Bolshoi when she defected while the opera company was playing at La Scala in Milan, slipping out of a hotel lobby wearing a wig and dark glasses. She immigrated to Canada and went into hiding for two years. Babak’s U.S. debut at Carnegie Hall in 1975 was met with enthusiastic reviews. She moved to New York and then to Washington in the hopes of working with George London, then general director of the Washington Opera. Babak joined the faculty of the Washington Conservatory of Music when London was disabled by a stroke.
He used the # in unusual places before Twitter… but how would Beethoven have used Facebook? And what would his profile look like? From his likes and dislikes to his friends and love interests, we’ve imagined what the composer might have posted online throughout his life.
Franz Liszt was born in Raiding, near Ödenburg, October 22, 1811 and died in Bayreuth, July 31, 1886. He was a Hungarian composer and pianist who was a major influence during the romantic period. Liszt was an outstanding pianist at seven, composed at eight and made concert appearances at nine. In addition to being a piano virtuoso, he was also a critic, conductor, city music director, literary writer and transcriber of the works of other composers. He transcribed Beethoven’s Symphonies for the piano.
Franz Liszt began his career as the outstanding concert pianist of the century, who, along with the prodigious violinist Niccoló Paganini (1782-1840), created the cult of the modern instrumental virtuoso. To show off his phenomenal and unprecedented technique, Liszt composed a great deal of music designed specifically for this purpose, resulting in a vast amount of piano literature laden with dazzling, and other technical marvels. In this vein, Liszt composed a series of virtuosic rhapsodies on Hungarian gypsy melodies, the best-known being the all too familiar Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2. Liszt developed the rhapsody as a form of serious music. This kind of music is worlds apart from the generally more introspective, poetic music of pianist-composer Frédéric Chopin.
Liszt was wildly handsome and hugely talented. He was extremely popular in Paris during the 1830’s. It is said that women actually fainted at his piano recitals. He was the first to position the piano so that its lid reflected the sound and the audience could see his profile as he performed.
Liszt was the first to write a tone poem, which is an extended, single-movement work for orchestra, inspired by paintings, plays, poems or other literary or visual works, and attempting to convey the ideas expressed in those media through music. Such a work is Les Préludes, based on a poem in which life is expressed as a series of struggles, passions, and mysteries, all serving as a mere prelude to . . .what? The Romantic genre of the symphonic poem, as well as its cousin the concert overture, became very attractive to many later composers, including Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky, Dvorák, Sibelius, and Richard Strauss.
Jelly Roll Morton, born Ferdinand Joseph La Menthe in 1885, was one of the most influential composers of the jazz era, bridging an important gap between ragtime, blues, and jazz. In a sense, he was the first great jazz composer.
His career began in New Orleans, where he began to experiment with a unique blend of blues, ragtime, Creole, and Spanish music in bordellos as a piano player. Along with being a musician, he also worked as a gambler, pool shark, vaudeville comedian, and was known for his flamboyant personality and diamond front tooth.
Morton became successful when he started making what would be some of the first jazz recordings in 1923 with “the New Orleans Rhythm Kings”. Whether he played on the West Coast, New Orleans, or in Chicago, his recordings were always very popular. He joined the group “the Red Hot Peppers” in 1924 and made several classic albums with the Victor label.
Nothing but success came to him until 1930, when “Hot Jazz” began to die out, and big bands began to take over. Morton died in 1941, claiming that a voodoo spell was the cause of his demise.
Destined to become one of the world’s greatest pianists, Vladimir Horowitz was born in 1903 in Kiev, Russia. While most young children were playing games, Vladimir was playing with the ivories. His time was well spent as he was fully capable of performing publicly by the time he was sixteen.
Within four years, the young piano virtuoso was entertaining audiences at recitals throughout Leningrad – 23 performances in one year, where he played over 200 different works of music, never repeating a composition. After Leningrad, Horowitz played in concerts in Berlin, Hamburg and Paris.
In 1928, the Russian pianist traveled to the United States to play with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Arturo Toscanini chose Horowitz to perform his first solo with the New York Philharmonic. It was there that Horowitz met his bride-to-be, Toscanini’s daughter, Wanda. The two were wed in Milan in 1933. New York became Horowitz’ permanent home in 1940. He became a U.S. citizen a few years later, devoting the rest of his career to benefit performances, and helping young, aspiring artists.
His return to the concert stage in May of 1965 was a triumphant success, as was his television recital, Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall.
Just three years before his death, Vladimir Horowitz returned to his homeland to perform once again for the Russian people on April 20, 1986. They felt he had been away far too long … close to sixty years.
None of the companies that have collected royalties on the “Happy Birthday” song for the past 80 years held a valid copyright claim to one of the most popular songs in history, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled on Tuesday.
In a stunning reversal of decades of copyright claims, the judge ruled that Warner/Chappell never had the right to charge for the use of the “Happy Birthday To You” song. Warner had been enforcing a copyright since 1988, when it bought Birch Tree Group, the successor to Clayton F. Summy Co., which claimed the original disputed copyright.
Judge George H. King ruled that a copyright filed by the Summy Co. in 1935 granted only the rights to specific piano arrangements of the music, not the actual song.
George Gershwin lived between September 26, 1898 and July 11, 1937. He is considered to be a twentieth century composer.
If you hate homework but like roller skating, you have something in common with American composer George Gershwin. Born in Brooklyn, New York to Russian immigrant parents, George loved to play street hockey, ‘cat’, and punch ball. He didn’t even have an interest in music until his family got him a piano when he was twelve. Nine years later he had his first hit, “Swanee”, with lyrics written by Irving Caesar. No one else in the Gershwin family was musical, but George was fascinated by music. When he heard a schoolmate play the violin, George struck up a friendship with the boy who introduced him to the world of concert music.
Gershwin’s American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue (featured in Disney’s newly released Fantasia 2000) proved that jazz was powerful enough to combine will with symphonic music. Gershwin was only 26 years old at the time when he composed Rhapsody in Blue. No matter how you hear it, “Rhapsody in Blue” will remain the signature of one of the most influential of composers, songwriters and pianists in American music history.
His play Porgy and Bess has been produced as both a film and an opera.