On this date in 1992, the Los Angeles riots had the world's attention, breaking out after the four cops on trial for beating Rodney King were acquitted the day before. Property damage has been estimated at $1 billion and 54 people were killed in the mayhem.
There were a lot of important things to come out of the riots, but, in the music world, the greatest tragedy was Madonna's famous bustier was swiped from its case at Frederick's of Hollywood. The black bustier worn by Madonna in the "Open Your Heart" video was stolen from the Frederick's "lingerie museum." It wasn't the only underwear debacle that night — a man who wanted Madonna's bustier found it already stolen, so he instead grabbed a push-up bra worn by Katey "Peg Bundy" Sagal on Married … With Children (he would later return the bra to a church, which returned it to Frederick's). Madonna's bustier was never returned (despite a whopping $1,000 reward), but the Material Girl did give the museum a replacement.
In more serious matters, the rioting created the opportunity for dialogue across the country about race relations. And that dialogue leaked into popular music, as major social issues often do. Songs (from nearly every genre) inspired by the L.A. riots of 1992 include Tom Petty's "Peace in L.A.," Sublime's "April 29, 1992 (Miami)," Dr. Dre's "The Day the Niggaz Took Over," Rancid's "I Wanna Riot," Machine Head's "Real Eyes, Realize, Real Lies," Garth Brooks' "We Shall Be Free," fIRHOSE's "4.29.92," David Bowie's "Black Tie White Noise," Aerosmith's "Livin' on the Edge" and Branford Marsalis' "Simi Valley Blues," the title of which was named after the town in which the police officers were put on trial. L.A. Electronica act Daniel LeDisko named his "band" LA Riots on the 15th anniversary of the riots.
Here was Rap legend Ice Cube's commentary on the riots from his third solo album, 1992's The Predator.
This past weekend, Cube (alongside artists like Cypress Hill and Ras Kass) performed at a concert celebrating West Coast Hip Hop called Krush Groove. At midnight on Saturday (when it was officially April 29, the day rioting started), Cube reportedly asked the crowd to take a moment and remember those frightening days.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 30 birthday include Blues/Gospel singer and guitarist Reverend Gary Davis (1896); Rockabilly/Country singer ("The Battle of New Orleans," "North to Alaska") Johnny Horton (1925); half of the instrumental duo Santo and Johnny ("Sleep Walk"), Johnny Farina (1941); late Folk singer/songwriter and activist Mimi Farina (1945); Dancehall Reggae star Barrington Levy (1964); bassist and original member of Brazilian Metal greats Sepultura, Paulo Jr. (1968); Ohio native and member of "boy band" 98 Degrees, Jeff Timmons (1973); singer/composer/pianist for The Dresden Dolls and solo artist Amanda Fucking Palmer (1976); rapper with G-Unit and solo artist Lloyd Banks (1982); one of the singing kids from Glee, Dianna Agron (1986); and legendary singer/songwriter Willie Nelson (1933).
Nelson is one of those songwriters (like artists from Woody Guthrie to Lennon/McCartney to Bob Marley) who transcends genre tags. Nelson isn't a Country music icon — he's an American music icon.
Before garnering a publishing contract in 1960, Nelson worked as a DJ, played bars and joined Roy Price's band on bass. Songs Nelson wrote for others in the 1960s would become Country music classics — "Hello Walls," "Funny How Time Slips Away" and "Crazy" are just a sampling of his hits from that period.
Nelson had less success as a singer on his own, so he retired and moved to Austin, Texas, in the early ’70s. But Nelson fell in with the Outlaw Country scene and recorded increasingly successful albums, including the classic, Red Headed Stranger. He continued his run into the ’80s with material like "On the Road Again" and "Pancho & Lefty," and also formed supergroup The Highwaymen with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.
Since the ’90s, Nelson has made news headlines with his tax problems and dedication and enthusiasm for smoking weed, but he's also managed to release a few relevant albums that have kept him from having to go on QVC to shill his music.
Here's one of Nelson's early hits, "Crazy" (best known for the version by Patsy Cline), and a clip of Nelson talking about his forthcoming album, Heroes (due May 15). The album will include a strange range of covers — from Bob Wills to Coldplay — as well as a couple of new songs. Happy 79th, Willie!