May 3rd, 2012 By Mike Breen | Music | Posted In: Music History, Music News

This Date in Music History: May 3

Tragic Rock star electrocution deaths and the endurance of Pete Seeger's music


On this date in 1972, Les Harvey — guitarist for the Scottish band (which many believed would become huge) Stone the Crows — died on stage when he was electrocuted by a microphone. He reportedly died when he touched the (probably) ungrounded mic and his guitar at the same time during soundcheck (with what many believe were wet hands).

Harvey is a member of the sad club of rockers who died at the age of 27. He's also a member of a smaller club of known musicians who died from electrocution.

Keith Relf, singer for The Yardbirds, died in 1976 at the age of 33 after being electrocuted by an (again) ungrounded electric guitar.

John Rostill was the bassist for the British Pop group that gave Cliff Richard to the world, The Shadows (he was also a member of Zoot Money Quartet alongside future Police guitarist Andy Summers). Rostill was found dead in 1973, electrocuted by a guitar that was (again!) believed to be improperly grounded.

French Pop singer/songwriter Claude Francois — who cowrote the classic Sinatra tune "My Way" and sold over 70 million records in his career — died in 1978 at the age of 39.

Francois returned to his Paris abode after recording a BBC special and was standing in a full bathtub when he tried to adjust a light on the wall above the tub. He was electrocuted and died. As far as I know, everything was properly grounded in the bathroom.

Lessons: Bathtubs and electronics don't mix. And always make sure your equipment is grounded before touching anything.

Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 3 birthday include singer/actor Bing Crosby (1903); early Blues musician and slide guitarist Homesick James (1914); late Funk superhero James Brown (1933); Pop star with the Four Seasons, Frankie Valii (1934); bassist for proto-Garage band The Troggs ("Wild Thing"), Pete Staples (1944); Soft Rock superstar Christopher Cross (1951); singer for Nu Metal band Saliva, Josey Scott (1971); singer/guitarist for Indie Rock favorites Interpol, Paul Banks (1978); and Folk legend Pete Seeger (1919).

Seeger — who will be awarded a "Distinguished Service" honor from the American Academy of Arts and Letters on May 16 — popped up in the news recently in a manner befitting the revolutionary singer/songwriter who penned (or co-penned) standards like "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?," "If I Had Hammer" and "Turn, Turn, Turn!" He also popularized the spiritual "We Shall Overcome," which became the Civil Rights Movement's theme song.

Seeger's social consciousness in song was used once again in a powerful way last week when tens of thousands of Norwegians joined together for a marathon singalong of his song, "My Rainbow Race" (the Norwegian version is called "Children of the Rainbow") as a way to protest/heckle admitted mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik during his trial for murdering 77 people last summer. Breivek had previously dissed the song because it "brainwashed" children into believing that things like cultural diversity and racial harmony are good. He said, in court, that the song was brought to schools by "cultural Marxists."

"The curriculum is stripped of knowledge relating to the codes of honor that have been so important for Europe for thousands of years,” Breivik said. “They put up these songs and propaganda films to get students to despise their forefathers.”

Here's Lillebjørn Nilsen leading the singalong (he popularized the original Norwegian version).

05.04.2012 at 09:55 Reply

Concerning multi-culturalism:  I think the main thing that having different ethnic groups who differ significantly in some politically important dimension (like socio/economic position in a free-market economy)within the same political system does is close off poltical debate in a society.  An individual's political beliefs are basically decided at birth by which identity group they were born into.  A truly remarkable factoid I saw yesterday from one of the main polling groups was that black youths 18-29 support Obama 76-1 over Romney.

Granted, blacks have a unique history in America which may be able to partially explain that rather shocking figure but similarly huge disparties in political party identification can be found in other groups who also have noticeably different socio-economic performance than the majority community- like Hispanics.  And I don't think most people (including most liberals who actually took time to really think about it)think the socio/economic performance of the various identity groups will change much in the short or medium term.  So an obvious uptick in left-wing politics, right?  But I've been thinking about this a little lately and I think it is quite possible that instead of the country's politics naturally moving leftward, the white conservatives will remain as stubborn as all people seem to be poltically and just stay very conservative on all major policy matters and attempt to thwart the liberal agenda with the Senate filibuster.  There seems to maybe be enough firm conservative states in the South, rural Midwest, the Plains, and upper Mountain West to make the strategy (of basically shutting down the national government to any ambitious projects)work.  So, I say all this just to point out that in the end multi-culturalism may most meaningfully just result in the end of politics (or democratic politics anyways)in a country.