February 27 in Music History

today

 

. 1848 ~ Hubert Parry, English composer, teacher and historian of music.

. 1873 ~ Enrico Caruso, Italian tenor, sang nearly 70 roles; appeared in nearly every country of Europe and North and South America
Read quotes by and about Caruso
More information about Caruso

. 1883 ~ Oscar Hammerstein of New York City patented the first practical cigar- rolling machine. If Oscar’s name sounds familiar, it should. Hammerstein’s grandson later made his mark by writing some of the best- known music in the world, teaming up frequently with Richard Rodgers.

. 1887 ~ Alexander Borodin, Russian composer, died at the age of 53
Read more about Borodin

. 1887 ~ Lotte Lehman, Singer

. 1897 ~ Marian Anderson, Opera diva

. 1923 ~ Dexter Gordon, American jazz tenor saxophonist

. 1927 ~ Guy Mitchell (Al Cernick), Singer, actor

. 1935 ~ Mirella Freni, Italian soprano

. 1936 ~ Chuck Glaser, Singer with Glaser Brothers

. 1948 ~ Eddie Gray, Guitarist with Tommy James & The Shondells

. 1951 ~ Steve Harley (Nice), Singer with Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel

. 1954 ~ Neal Schon, Guitarist with Santana; Journey

. 1955 ~ Garry Christian, Singer with The Christians

. 1970 ~ Simon and Garfunkel received a gold record for the single, Bridge Over Troubled Water.

. 2003 ~ Tom Glazer, 88, the balladeer, guitarist and songwriter who, along with Burl Ives, Josh White, Pete Seeger and others, helped spark national interest in folk music in the 1940s, died. Mr. Glazer wrote songs for children, including a hit 1963 parody, On Top of Spaghetti, that won him National Critics’ and Parent Magazine awards. He also acted, sang and wrote for movies and TV. He was singer-narrator for the film, Sweet Land of Liberty, and composed the score for the Andy Griffith film A Face in the Crowd. Mr. Glazer was a native of Philadelphia who attended the City College of New York. As a young man, he played tuba and bass in military and jazz bands and worked at the Library of Congress. He began singing with a group while living in Washington, and was invited by Eleanor Roosevelt to perform at the White House. Mr. Glazer became a full-time musician in 1943 and, over the years, hosted three radio series. He also wrote books about music, including a number of songbooks. His song Because All Men Are Brothers, based on the Passion Chorale by J. S. Bach, was recorded by the Weavers and Peter, Paul and Mary. Other hits included, Old Soldiers Never Die for Vaughn Monroe, More for Perry Como, Til We Two Are Onefor Georgie Shaw, and A Worried Man, recorded by the Kingston Trio. His song, The Musicians was used on the “Barney” television show for children; Bob Dylan recorded his Talking Inflation Blues.

. 2003 ~ Fred Rogers, who gently invited millions of children to be his neighbor as host of the public television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for more than 30 years, died. He was 74. From 1968 to 2000, Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, produced the show at Pittsburgh public television station WQED. The final new episode, which was taped in December 2000, aired in August 2001, though PBS affiliates continued to air back episodes. Rogers composed his own songs for the show and began each episode in a set made to look like a comfortable living room, singing “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…”, as he donned sneakers and a zip-up cardigan. His message remained simple: telling his viewers to love themselves and others. On each show, he would take his audience on a magical trolley ride into the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, where his puppet creations would interact with each other and adults. Rogers did much of the puppet work and voices himself. He also studied early childhood development at the University of Pittsburgh and consulted with an expert there over the years. Rogers’ show won four Emmy Awards, plus one for lifetime achievement. He was given a George Foster Peabody Award in 1993, “in recognition of 25 years of beautiful days in the neighborhood.” One of Rogers’ red sweaters hangs in the Smithsonian Institution.

 

. 2003 ~ Jean Sullivan, a musician, dancer and actress who starred opposite Errol Flynn in the 1944 film “Uncertain Glory,” died of cardiac arrest. She was 79. Sullivan was the leading lady Marianne in “Uncertain Glory” and also has a starring role in the 1945 movie “Escape in the Desert.” The young actress also played the daughter of Rosalind Russell and Jack Carson in the motion picture comedy “Roughly Speaking.” Despite a budding acting career, Sullivan relocated to New York and began studying ballet and dancing professionally. While practicing flamenco steps during a Carnegie Hall rehearsal, Sullivan was discovered by choreographer Anthony Tudor and was a dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. She enhanced her flamenco by playing Spanish guitar and became a popular entertainer at Latin nightclubs throughout New York City. Sullivan also played cello and piano. Despite her career change, Sullivan performed flamenco on TV variety shows, including “The Steve Allen Show” and “The Jackie Gleason Show.” She also was a meteorologist on local New York television stations.

. 2013 ~ Van Cliburn died.  He was an American pianist who achieved worldwide recognition in 1958 at the age of 23, when he won the first quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War.

Happy Birthday, Victor Borge!

Victor BorgeVictor 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 Grieg A 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.

Lampooned Hitler

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, BrahmsWagner 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.

Unpredictable Routine

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.

Borge’s birthday

Anniversary of Borge’s death

 

November 12 ~ This Day in Music History

today

OCMS 1833 ~ Alexander Borodin, Russian composer
More information about Borodin

.1920 ~ Jo Stafford, Singer

.1925 ~ Louis Armstrong recorded “My Heart”, starting a career that brought him worldwide fame.

.1939 ~ Lucia Popp, Czech soprano

.1940 ~ Walt Disney released “Fantasia”. One critic called the film “As terrific as anything that has ever happened on the screen.”

.1941 ~ Hot Lips Page performed the vocal for Artie Shaw’s very long and very slow version of St. James Infirmary on RCA Victor.

.1943 ~ Brian Hyland, Singer

.1943 ~ John Maus, Bass, singer with the trio, The Walker Brothers

.1944 ~ Booker T. Jones, Musician with Booker T and the MG’s

.1945 ~ Neil Young, Canadian folk-rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

.1948 ~ Errol Brown, Songwriter with Tony Wilson singer with Hot Chocolate

.1950 ~ Barbara Fairchild, Singer

.1955 ~ Leslie McKeown, Singer with The Bay City Rollers

.1967 ~ Pearl Bailey took over the lead in the Broadway musical, “Hello Dolly”. ‘Pearlie Mae’ was a smash hit in the role.

.1970 ~ After a successful London run, Anthony Quayle starred in the Broadway opening of “Sleuth”.

.1980 ~ John Lennon’s “Starting Over” was released. John and Yoko were seen kissing on the record cover.

.1983 ~ Lionel Richie began the first of four consecutive weeks at the top of the music charts as All Night Long (All Night) became the most popular song in the U.S.

.2001 ~ Broadway composer Albert Hague, who won a Tony for his work on Redhead and who played the part of cranky music teacher Benjamin Shorofsky in the Fame movie and television series, died of cancer. He was 81. Hague composed the music for many Broadway shows, including The Fig Leaves Are Falling, Plain and Fancy, Cafe Crown and Miss Moffat, which starred Bette Davis. He won his Tony in 1959. He also wrote the music for the animated TV classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas and appeared in a number of movies, including the Michael Jordan- Bugs Bunny comedy Space Jam, in which he played a psychiatrist. It was his long-running role as white-bearded, German-accented teacher Shorofsky that brought him to Los Angeles. He played the part for five years on TV. Other TV acting credits included guest appearances on such shows as Hotel, Beauty and the Beast and Tales From the Dark Side. Born Albert Marcuse in Berlin, Hague fled his native Germany for Rome with his mother in 1937 after the Nazis came to power. He eventually settled in the United States, where he studied music at the University of Cincinnati and was adopted by Dr. Elliott B. Hague, an eye surgeon. In recent years, he and his late wife, actress Renee Orin Hague, had a successful cabaret act, appearing at Carnegie Hall two years ago.

.2003 ~ Guy Livingston, a theater maven and journalist who reviewed stage performances for Variety, died. He was 92. After serving in World War II, Livingston became a drama critic for Variety, traveling between Boston and New York reviewing musicals. Later, he became a press agent for many musicals, as well as for musical artists, among them Judy Garland, Nat ‘King’ Cole and Ray Charles.

.2003 ~ Tony Thompson, the driving force behind such groups as Chic and the Power Station, and a drummer whose effortless ability to move from jazz to rock to funk made him a prized session man, died of renal cell cancer. He was 48. The drummer was noted not only for keeping perfect time but also for subtle cymbal syncopation and raw power, talents that kept him in demand as a session player for such stars as Madonna, David Bowie, Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle and Sister Sledge. By the late 1970s, Chic was one of the most popular groups of the disco era. The group sold millions of records beginning with the hit single Dance, Dance, Dance in 1977. Other hits included the singles Le Freak and Good Times and the albums C’est Chic and Risque. After the group disbanded in 1983, Thompson kept busy as a session player, appearing on Sister Sledge’s We Are Family album in 1979, Bowie’s Let’s Dance in 1983 and Madonna’s Like a Virgin in 1984. He also appeared on Mick Jagger’s solo album She’s The Boss in 1985. That same year, Thompson and others formed Power Station. The group’s hits included Some Like it Hot.

Victor Borge’s Birthday!

Victor BorgeVictor 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 theater, 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 Grieg A 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.

Lampooned Hitler

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, BrahmsWagner 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.

Unpredictable Routine

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 this year.

Borge’s birthday

Anniversary of Borge’s death

November 12, 2016 ~ Today in Music History

today

OCMS 1833 ~ Alexander Borodin, Russian composer
More information about Borodin

.1920 ~ Jo Stafford, Singer

.1925 ~ Louis Armstrong recorded “My Heart”, starting a career that brought him worldwide fame.

.1939 ~ Lucia Popp, Czech soprano

.1940 ~ Walt Disney released “Fantasia”. One critic called the film “As terrific as anything that has ever happened on the screen.”

.1941 ~ Hot Lips Page performed the vocal for Artie Shaw’s very long and very slow version of St. James Infirmary on RCA Victor.

.1943 ~ Brian Hyland, Singer

.1943 ~ John Maus, Bass, singer with the trio, The Walker Brothers

.1944 ~ Booker T. Jones, Musician with Booker T and the MG’s

.1945 ~ Neil Young, Canadian folk-rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

.1948 ~ Errol Brown, Songwriter with Tony Wilson singer with Hot Chocolate

.1950 ~ Barbara Fairchild, Singer

.1955 ~ Leslie McKeown, Singer with The Bay City Rollers

.1967 ~ Pearl Bailey took over the lead in the Broadway musical, “Hello Dolly”. ‘Pearlie Mae’ was a smash hit in the role.

.1970 ~ After a successful London run, Anthony Quayle starred in the Broadway opening of “Sleuth”.

.1980 ~ John Lennon’s “Starting Over” was released. John and Yoko were seen kissing on the record cover.

.1983 ~ Lionel Richie began the first of four consecutive weeks at the top of the music charts as All Night Long (All Night) became the most popular song in the U.S.

.2001 ~ Broadway composer Albert Hague, who won a Tony for his work on Redhead and who played the part of cranky music teacher Benjamin Shorofsky in the Fame movie and television series, died of cancer. He was 81. Hague composed the music for many Broadway shows, including The Fig Leaves Are Falling, Plain and Fancy, Cafe Crown and Miss Moffat, which starred Bette Davis. He won his Tony in 1959. He also wrote the music for the animated TV classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas and appeared in a number of movies, including the Michael Jordan- Bugs Bunny comedy Space Jam, in which he played a psychiatrist. It was his long-running role as white-bearded, German-accented teacher Shorofsky that brought him to Los Angeles. He played the part for five years on TV. Other TV acting credits included guest appearances on such shows as Hotel, Beauty and the Beast and Tales From the Dark Side. Born Albert Marcuse in Berlin, Hague fled his native Germany for Rome with his mother in 1937 after the Nazis came to power. He eventually settled in the United States, where he studied music at the University of Cincinnati and was adopted by Dr. Elliott B. Hague, an eye surgeon. In recent years, he and his late wife, actress Renee Orin Hague, had a successful cabaret act, appearing at Carnegie Hall two years ago.

.2003 ~ Guy Livingston, a theater maven and journalist who reviewed stage performances for Variety, died. He was 92. After serving in World War II, Livingston became a drama critic for Variety, traveling between Boston and New York reviewing musicals. Later, he became a press agent for many musicals, as well as for musical artists, among them Judy Garland, Nat ‘King’ Cole and Ray Charles.

.2003 ~ Tony Thompson, the driving force behind such groups as Chic and the Power Station, and a drummer whose effortless ability to move from jazz to rock to funk made him a prized session man, died of renal cell cancer. He was 48. The drummer was noted not only for keeping perfect time but also for subtle cymbal syncopation and raw power, talents that kept him in demand as a session player for such stars as Madonnas, David Bowie, Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle and Sister Sledge. By the late 1970s, Chic was one of the most popular groups of the disco era. The group sold millions of records beginning with the hit single Dance, Dance, Dance in 1977. Other hits included the singles Le Freak and Good Times and the albums C’est Chic and Risque. After the group disbanded in 1983, Thompson kept busy as a session player, appearing on Sister Sledge’s We Are Family album in 1979, Bowie’s Let’s Dance in 1983 and Madonna’s Like a Virgin in 1984. He also appeared on Mick Jagger’s solo album She’s The Boss in 1985. That same year, Thompson and others formed Power Station. The group’s hits included Some Like it Hot.

Happy Birthday, Victor Borge!

Victor BorgeVictor Borge was born in 1909 in Copenhagen, Denmark. He wass 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 obituitary:

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 Grieg A 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.

Lampooned Hitler

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, BrahmsWagner 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.

Unpredictable Routine

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 this year.
Borge’s birthday

Anniversary of Borge’s death

 

November 12 ~ Today in Music

today

 

OCMS 1833 ~ Alexander Borodin, Russian composer
More information about Borodin

.1920 ~ Jo Stafford, Singer

.1925 ~ Louis Armstrong recorded “My Heart”, starting a career that brought him worldwide fame.

.1939 ~ Lucia Popp, Czech soprano

.1940 ~ Walt Disney released “Fantasia”. One critic called the film “As terrific as anything that has ever happened on the screen.”

.1941 ~ Hot Lips Page performed the vocal for Artie Shaw’s very long and very slow version of St. James Infirmary on RCA Victor.

.1943 ~ Brian Hyland, Singer

.1943 ~ John Maus, Bass, singer with the trio, The Walker Brothers

.1944 ~ Booker T. Jones, Musician with Booker T and the MG’s

.1945 ~ Neil Young, Canadian folk-rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, with Crosby,Stills, Nash & Young

.1948 ~ Errol Brown, Songwriter with Tony Wilson singer with Hot Chocolate

.1950 ~ Barbara Fairchild, Singer

.1955 ~ Leslie McKeown, Singer with The Bay City Rollers

.1967 ~ Pearl Bailey took over the lead in the Broadway musical, “Hello Dolly”. ‘Pearlie Mae’ was a smash hit in the role.

.1970 ~ After a successful London run, Anthony Quayle starred in the Broadway opening of “Sleuth”.

.1980 ~ John Lennon’s “Starting Over” was released. John and Yoko were seen kissing on the record cover.

.1983 ~ Lionel Richie began the first of four consecutive weeks at the top of the music charts as All Night Long (All Night) became the most popular song in the U.S.

.2001 ~ Broadway composer Albert Hague, who won a Tony for his work on Redhead and who played the part of cranky music teacher Benjamin Shorofsky in the Fame movie and television series, died of cancer. He was 81. Hague composed the music for many Broadway shows, including The Fig Leaves Are Falling, Plain and Fancy, Cafe Crown and Miss Moffat, which starred Bette Davis. He won his Tony in 1959. He also wrote the music for the animated TV classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas and appeared in a number of movies, including the Michael Jordan- Bugs Bunny comedy Space Jam, in which he played a psychiatrist. It was his long-running role as white-bearded, German-accented teacher Shorofsky that brought him to Los Angeles. He played the part for five years on TV. Other TV acting credits included guest appearances on such shows as Hotel, Beauty and the Beast and Tales From the Dark Side. Born Albert Marcuse in Berlin, Hague fled his native Germany for Rome with his mother in 1937 after the Nazis came to power. He eventually settled in the United States, where he studied music at the University of Cincinnati and was adopted by Dr. Elliott B. Hague, an eye surgeon. In recent years, he and his late wife, actress Renee Orin Hague, had a successful cabaret act, appearing at Carnegie Hall two years ago.

.2003 ~ Guy Livingston, a theater maven and journalist who reviewed stage performances for Variety, died. He was 92. After serving in World War II, Livingston became a drama critic for Variety, traveling between Boston and New York reviewing musicals. Later, he became a press agent for many musicals, as well as for musical artists, among them Judy Garland, Nat ‘King’ Cole and Ray Charles.

.2003 ~ Tony Thompson, the driving force behind such groups as Chic and the Power Station, and a drummer whose effortless ability to move from jazz to rock to funk made him a prized session man, died of renal cell cancer. He was 48. The drummer was noted not only for keeping perfect time but also for subtle cymbal syncopation and raw power, talents that kept him in demand as a session player for such stars as Madonnas, David Bowie, Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle and Sister Sledge. By the late 1970s, Chic was one of the most popular groups of the disco era. The group sold millions of records beginning with the hit single Dance, Dance, Dance in 1977. Other hits included the singles Le Freakand Good Times and the albums C’est Chic and Risque. After the group disbanded in 1983, Thompson kept busy as a session player, appearing on Sister Sledge’s We Are Family album in 1979, Bowie’s Let’s Dance in 1983 and Madonna’s Like a Virgin in 1984. He also appeared on Mick Jagger’s solo album She’s The Boss in 1985. That same year, Thompson and others formed Power Station. The group’s hits included Some Like it Hot.