. 1858 ~ Anton Diabelli, Austria publisher and composer, died at the age of 76. Diabelli was most familiar today as the composer of the waltz on which Ludwig van Beethoven wrote his set of thirty-three Diabelli Variations.
. 1899 ~ Robert Casadesus, French pianist and composer
. 1915 ~ Billie Holiday, American jazz singer, born as Eleanora Fagan. She sang with all the American big band leaders of her day while developing her own intimate style.
. 1919 ~ Ralph Flanagan, Bandleader
. 1920 ~ Ravi Shankar, Indian sitarist and composer
. 1925 ~ David Carr Glover, Piano Educator
. 1934 ~ Victor Feldman, British jazz pianist and drummer
. 1949 ~ Opening day of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “South Pacific”. It was a musical classic of love and war, and it unfolded on a lush tropical island swarming with Seabees, nurses, natives and coconut trees on this night in 1949. Actually, it was not a tropical island, but the stage of the Majestic Theatre in New York City. Ezio Pinza starred as the suave French plantation owner with a shady past and Mary Martin portrayed the bubbly, pretty, but naive Navy nurse. Mary Martin washed her hair a zillion times as she sang, I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Out of My Hair in 1,925 performances.
. 1950 Tony Awards went to the show and its producers, performers, director (Joshua Logan) and composers nine statuettes. It also earned a Pulitzer Prize in the same year and in 1958 was made into a movie.
More about Mary Martin
. 1951 ~ Janis Ian, Singer-songwriter
. 1954 ~ Gee, by The Crows, became the first rhythm and blues single to gain attention on pop music charts.
. 1970 ~ Leif Ove Andsnes, Norwegian pianist
. 1973 ~ Vicki Lawrence got her number one single as The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia made it to the top of the pop charts on this day.
. 1941 ~ Jimmy Lunceford and his orchestra recorded the tune, Battle Axe, for Decca Records. Lunceford began with the Chickasaw Syncopaters, a 10-piece band, in the late 1920s. By 1934, he would add names like Sy Oliver, Willie Smith, Earl Caruthers, Joe Thomas, Al Norris, Moses Allen, and James Crawford to form orchestras that would entertain through the mid-1940s.
. 1944 ~ Diana Ross (Diane Earle), American pop-soul singer with The Supremes
. 1948 ~ Richard Tandy, Bass with Electric Light Orchestra
. 1948 ~ Steven Tyler (Tallarico), Singer with Aerosmith
. 1950 ~ Teddy Pendergrass, American soul singer, songwriter and drummer
. 1950 ~ Alan Silvestri, American film score composer (Back To The Future, Forrest Gump)
. 1968 ~ Kenny Chesney, American singer
. 1974 ~ David Essex received a gold record for the hit, Rock On. Though a million seller, Rock On never made it to number one on the pop-rock charts – stalling at number five. It was on the charts for a total of 14 weeks. Essex portrayed the role of Christ in the London production of Godspell. He starred in several British films in 1970. 1975 ~ Tommy, the film based on the rock opera by the group, The Who, premiered in London.
. 2000 ~ John Corigliano won an Oscar for the score to the movie The Red Violin
. 2015 ~ Joseph Smith died. He was a well-liked, modest and warmly adventurous New York pianist.
Benita Meshulam, a close friend, wrote: “Joe was the most curious musician I have ever known, always looking for forgotten works, studying them thoroughly. He was interested not only in the works but the composers and investigated everything. He was a pianist who didn’t care about the condition of the pianos he performed on. It was his message that he wanted to get across–a real musician’s musician who lived and breathed his art. He was also the kindest and most generous colleague.”
.1897 ~ First performance of Ludwig van Beethoven‘s Symphony No. 4 in B-flat major, Op. 60. It is a symphony in four movements.
. 1835 ~ Eduard Strauss, Austrian composer who, together with brothers Johann Strauss II and Josef Strauss made up the Strauss musical dynasty. He was the son of Johann Strauss I and Maria Anna Streim.
. 1873 ~ Lee Shubert, Broadway producer. Theaters in NY and LA named after him. He died in 1953
. 1907 ~ Jimmy McPartland, Jazz musician: cornetist; played for the Wolverine Orchestra, Embassy Four; bandleader; played at Newport Jazz Festival with wife, Marian
. 1916 ~ Harry James, American jazz trumpeter and bandleader, married to Betty Grable (second of four wives)
. 1918 ~ Lili Boulanger, composer, died at the age of 24
More about Boulanger
. 1933 ~ Cecil Taylor, American jazz pianist and composer
. 1944 ~ Sly Stone, American soul-rock singer and instrumentalist
. 1956 ~ “My Fair Lady” opened at the Mark Hellinger Theater in New York City for 2,715 performances
. 1959 ~ The musical, No Strings, opened on Broadway at the 54th Street Theatre. Richard Kiley and Diahann Carroll starred in the show. Also featured was the show’s composer in an acting role, singing his own lyrics. The composer was Richard Rodgers.
. 1968 ~ LIFE magazine called Jimi Hendrix, “the most spectacular guitarist in the world.”
. 1987 ~ Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Starlight Express” opened on Broadway. This was the first ever roller-skating musical.
. 1964 ~ My Fair Lady, by Lerner and Loewe, opened on Broadway. It ran for 6-1/2 years before 2,717 audiences. It became, thanks to Rex Harrison and an outstanding cast, the longest-running musical to that time.
. 1970 ~ The musical, Purlie, opened a run of 680 continuous performances on Broadway.
. 2001 ~ Ann Sothern died at the age of 92. She was an actress who starred as the saucy, liberated showgirl in MGM’s “Masie” movies during the 1940s and played single working women on TV in “Private Secretary” and “The Ann Southern Show.”
. 1887 ~ Heitor Villa-Lobos, Brazilian composer and collector of Brazilian folk songs
More information about Villa-Lobos
. 1917 ~ The first jazz recording for Victor Records was released. The Original Dixieland ‘Jass’ Band performed on the tune The Dixie Jass Band One Step. The word ‘Jass’ was later changed to ‘Jazz‘.
. 1928 ~ Lou Levy, Pianist with Supersax; recorded with Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Nancy Wilson and Anita O’Day
. 1931 ~ Barry Tuckwell, Austrian French-horn player
. 1931 ~ Without a Song was recorded by Lawrence Tibbett for Victor Records. This wonderful melody came from the film, “The Southerner” and has been a hit for many, including Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.
. 1947 ~ Eddie Hodges, Singer, actor
. 1948 ~ Eddy Grant, Singer, songwriter
. 1950 ~ Eugene Fodor, Violinist, made solo debut at age 10 with the Denver Symphony, won first national competition at age 12, won first prize in International Paganini Competition, won highest prize in International Tchaikovsky Competition
More information about Fodor
. 1958 ~ Andy (Andrew Roy) Gibb, Singer with the Bee Gees, host of TV’s Solid Gold
. 1960 ~ Elvis Presley returned to civilian life after a two-year hitch in the U.S. Army. Not since General Douglas MacArthur returned from battle has a soldier received such publicity. Elvis said he probably would not be growing his famous and long sideburns back, though he did relent in later years.
. 1963 ~ Patsy Cline, Cowboy (Lloyd) Copas and Hankshaw Hawkins were killed in a plane crash at Camden, TN, near Nashville. The famous country music stars were returning from a benefit performance. Cline, the ‘Queen of Country Music’ was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973. Jessica Lange played Patsy in the 1985 biographical film, Sweet Dreams, named after one of Cline’s hugely popular songs. Willie Nelson wrote her biggest hit, Crazy, which become a number one country hit and a top 10 pop song in November, 1961.
. 1969 ~ The rock magazine, Creem, was published for the first time this day.
. 1973 ~ Roberta Flack, riding at #1 on the pop music charts with, Killing Me Softly with His Song, could hardly wait to rip into the fancy frame containing her brand new gold record. She flew to the stereo machine and set the needle down on the shiny surface, only to hear Come Softly to Me. She was so impressed by this unexpected turn of the table that she wound up humming the old Fleetwoods song for three days.
. 2016 ~ Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Austrian conductor, particularly known for his historically informed performances of music from the Classical era and earlier, died at the age of 86
. 1962 ~ Fritz Kreisler died. He was an Austrian-born violinist and composer
. 1966 ~ “Sweet Charity”, with Gwen Verdon, opened at the Palace Theatre in New York City. The musical, by Neil Simon, was an adaptation of the Federico Fellini film, “Notti di Cabiria”. The play ran for 608 performances. In 1969, Hollywood produced a big-budget version of the Broadway musical starring Shirley MacLaine.
. 1973 ~ Johnny Rivers received a gold record for the hit single, Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu. As is tradition, Rivers removed the fragile gold disk from the wooden frame and, as he was putting it on his stereo, had a ferocious sneezing fit and never did find out how his song sounded in solid gold.
. 1977 ~ From the One-Hit Wonder File, this note: Rose Royce earned the #1 spot on the music charts with Car Wash, from the movie of the same name. The song stayed at the peak of the pop charts for one week, then faded away.
. 1981 ~ Cozy (William Randolph) Cole passed away
. 1996 ~ The 6,138th performance of “Cats” was held in London, surpassing the record of Broadway’s longest-running musical, “A Chorus Line”
. 2001 ~ Suzanne Bloch, a concert chamber musician and teacher at the Juilliard School, died at her home. She was 94. Bloch played and taught ancient instruments, in particular the lute, a guitar-like instrument common in 18th-century Europe. Mostly self-taught, she also played the recorder and the virginal, a tiny relative of the harpsichord. Beginning in the late 1930s, she performed frequently in concert, often dressed in Renaissance costume. She taught classes at Juilliard from 1942 to 1985. After marrying Paul Smith, a mathematician who became chairman of Columbia University’s mathematics department, Bloch played chamber music with well-known scientists, including Albert Einstein. Born in Geneva, Bloch moved to New York with her family in 1916, when her musician father, Ernest Bloch, began teaching and conducting in the United States. Bloch promoted her father’s music throughout her life, collecting clippings, writing program notes and founding the Ernest Bloch Society in 1967.
. 2015 ~ Rod McKuen, American singer-songwriter (Jean) and poet, died at the age of 81
. 2019 ~ James Ingram, American R&B singer-songwriter and musician (Just Once), died at the age of 66
On January 18, 1958 Leonard Bernstein began presenting his television series What does music mean? The series ran for 53 programs. Some of the episodes can be found below:
Part 1 What is Classical Music?
Plot: Bernstein conducts Handel’s Water Music and cites it as an indisputable example of classical music. “Exact” is the word that best defines classical music, Bernstein says and he demonstrates with musical illustrations from Bach’s Fourth Brandenburg Concerto, Mozart’s Concerto No. 21 in C Major and The Marriage of Figaro, and Haydn’s Symphony No. 102.
The decline of classical music at the end of the eighteenth century is tied to Beethoven’s innovations and the Romantic movement, and Bernstein conducts Beethoven’s Egmont Overture.
Part 2 What is Melody?
Plot: Bernstein discusses the different forms melody can take, including tune, theme, motive, melodic line and musical phrase. He illustrates by conducting the orchestra in excerpts from Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Hindemith, and Brahms.
Part 3 What is a Mode?
Plot: Bernstein discusses scales, intervals, and tones, and analyzes several pieces, including Debussy’s Fêtes, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and music from the Kinks and the Beatles, to illustrate different modes.
An excerpt from Bernstein’s ballet Fancy Free is also performed.
. 1891 ~ French Composer Leo Delibes died at the age of 54
. 1905 ~ Ernesto Halffter, Spanish composer and conductor
. 1908 ~ Ethel Merman (Zimmerman), American singer of popular music, Tony Award-winning actress (musical), Musical Theater Hall of Fame. She is most famous for Call Me Madam in 1951, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, There’s No Business Like Show Business and Alexander’s Ragtime Band
. 1929 ~ Marilyn Horne, American mezzo-soprano
. 1929 ~ G.T. (Granville) Hogan, Jazz drummer who played with Elmo Hope, Earl Bostic
. 1934 ~ Bob Bogle (Robert Lenard Bogle), Guitarist, bass with The Ventures
. 1938 ~ Béla Bartók and his wife, Ditta performed their first public concert featuring his Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion
. 1938 ~ Benny Goodman and his band, plus a quartet, brought the sound of jazz to Carnegie Hall in New York City. When asked how long an intermission he wanted, he quipped, “I don’t know. How much does Toscanini get?”
. 1942 ~ Bill Francis, Keyboard, singer with Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show
. 1942 ~ Kay Kyser and the band recorded A Zoot Suit for Columbia Records. The tune is about the problems associated with wearing this garish, exaggerated ‘hep’ fashion.
. 1946 ~ Katia Ricciarelli, Italian soprano
. 1946 ~ Ronnie Milsap, Grammy Award-winning singer in 1976, CMA Male Vocalist of the Year (1974, 1976, 1977), CMA Entertainer of the Year (1977), blind since birth, he learned to play several instruments by age 12
. 1957 ~ The Cavern Club opened for business in Liverpool, England. The rock club was just a hangout for commoners. Then, things changed — big time. It all started in the early 1960s when four kids from the neighborhood popped in to jam. They, of course, turned out to be The Beatles.
. 1962 ~ Paul Webb, Bass with Talk Talk
. 1964 ~ “Hello Dolly!” opened at the St. James Theatre in New York City. Carol Channing starred in the role of Mrs. Dolly Levi. The musical was an adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s play, “The Matchmaker”. The show, with an unforgettable title song, was hailed by critics as the “…possible hit of the season.” It was possible, all right. “Hello Dolly!” played for 2,844 performances. And, it returned to Broadway in the 1990s, again starring Carol Channing.
. 1972 ~ David Seville died on this day in Beverly Hills, CA. Born Ross Bagdasarian, the musician was the force, and artist, behind the Alvin and the Chipmunks novelty songs of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.
. 1973 ~ Clara Ward passed away. Ward was an American gospel artist who achieved great artistic and commercial success in the 1940s and 1950s.
. 1976 ~ The album, “Frampton Comes Alive”, was released by Herb Alpert’s A&M Records. The double LP soon reached the top spot of the album charts and stayed perched there for 17 weeks. It sold 19 million copies in its first year.
. 1980 ~ Lin Manuel Miranda, American actor, composer, lyricist (Hamilton)
. 1984 ~ Michael Jackson received eight awards at the 11th annual American Music Awards this night.
. 2001 ~ Eleanor Lawrence, a flutist who played often in chamber music performances and with several orchestras in New York City, died of brain cancer at the age of 64. She is credited with transforming a simple newsletter into an important source for flutists. Lawrence studied the flute at the New England Conservatory with the principal flutist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, James Pappoutsakis. She later studied with flutists from the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera orchestra. She joined the American Symphony Orchestra and the Brooklyn Philharmonic after moving to New York in the 1960s. She played periodically with the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera. Besides performing, Lawrence taught at the Manhattan School of Music. She served three times as the president of the New York Flute Club. She edited The National Flute Association Newsletter, now The Flutist Quarterly, from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, expanding it from a brief information sheet to a publication with regular interviews.
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.
1882 ~ Zoltán Kodály, Hungarian composer and collector of folk songs
More information on Kodály
• 1893 ~ Antonin Dvorák attended the first performance of his New World Symphony at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
• 1899 ~ Sir Noel Coward, British composer of musical comedies, actor and producer
• 1905 ~ Sime Silverman published the first issue of Variety, the weekly showbiz magazine. The first issue was 16 pages in length and sold for a nickel. Variety and Daily Variety are still going strong.
• 1907 ~ Eugene H. Farrar became the first singer to broadcast on radio. He sang from the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York. The song was Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?
• 1940 ~ Bob Crosby and his Bobcats backed up brother Bing as San Antonio Rose was recorded on Decca Records.
• 1960 ~ Lucille Ball took a respite from her weekly TV series to star in the Broadway production of Wildcat, which opened at the Alvin Theatre in New York City. The show ran for 171 performances.
• 1967 ~ The Lemon Pipers released Green Tambourine on an unsuspecting psychedelic world this day. The tune made #1 on February 3, 1968.
• 1971 ~ Melanie (Safka) received a gold record for the single, Brand New Key, about roller skates and love and stuff like that. This one made it to #1 on Christmas Day, 1971.
• 1971 ~ Don McLean’s eight-minute-plus (8:32) version of American Pie was released. It became one of the longest songs with some of the most confusing (pick your favorite interpretation) lyrics to ever hit the pop charts. American Pie hit #1 on January 15, 1972.
• 1972 ~ Paul McCartney’s single, Hi, Hi, Hi, was released. It peaked at #10 on the top tune tabulation (February 3, 1973).
• 2003 ~ Singer and guitarist Gary Stewart, who had a No. 1 country hit in 1975 with She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles), died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 58. A native of Letcher County, Ky., Stewart was a compelling songwriter and performer of guitar-driven, honky-tonk country. His last album, Live at Billy Bob’s Texas, was released in 2003. Besides the 1975 chart-topper, his hits included Drinkin’ Thing and Out of Hand. He worked with Southern rock greats Dickie Betts and Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band on the 1980 album Cactus and a Rose.
• 2017 ~ Z’ev, a percussionist, performer, composer, instrument builder, visual artist, poet and theorist who explored visceral and mystical dimensions of sound — becoming a pioneer of industrial music along the way — died in Chicago, where he lived. He was 66.
• 2017 ~ Keely Smith, American jazz and popular music singer (Mrs. Louis Prima), died from heart failure at the age of 89