On this day in 1995, Rap star Eazy-E died. The N.W.A. cofounder got sick in late February and went into the hospital from what he believed was an issue with asthma. He was told, instead, that he had AIDS. Less than a month later, he released a public statement announcing that he had been diagnosed with the disease. He died from pneumonia a month after being admitted to the hospital at the age of 31.
The coverage of Eazy's death wasn't like when most famous Hip Hop stars die too young, nor did it approach the level of coverage/impact Magic Johnson's AIDS announcement had a few years earlier. Perhaps it was Eazy's polarizing career, in which he managed to make many enemies, including his pals from N.W.A. Perhaps it was the tales of how he was merely the "money man" in N.W.A., allegedly providing a financial base from his drug/gang activities for the group (and Ruthless Records) as long as he could be a member and his "solo" album (essentially an N.W.A. album, with writing and production contributions from the whole crew) came out first? Maybe it was the back-and-forth beefs with Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and their collaborators, which led many to side with Eazy's foes?
Though he never addressed how he contracted the disease, many assume it was through unprotected sex (Eazy had seven kids with six different women, so his promiscuity and hetero-ness is hard to doubt). Did Eazy's death have a positive impact as a cautionary tale for fellow artists and fans? It's hard to gauge, but the suddenness and unexpectedness of Eazy's passing certainly scared the hell out of a lot of people, including fellow rappers who knew it could have easily been them in his place. There hasn't been another major Rap star who has (at least publicly) acknowledged they are HIV positive since Eazy's death.
Here is a nice homage to Eazy by his daughter E.B. Wright (an aspiring Pop/Rock artist) from XXL magazine's site.
Click on for Born This Day, featuring Diana Ross, Kenny Chesney, Steven Tyler and James Iha.
On this day in 1969, a reported 30,000 people showed up at the Orange Bowl in Miami for the "Rally for Decency," a response to singer Jim Morrison's alleged "indecent exposure " during a concert by classic rockers The Doors three weeks earlier. One of the more infamous arrests in the history of Rock & Roll, an apparently wasted Morrison was reportedly erratic throughout the Miami show; Morrison's people admitted as much, but the evidence that the Lizard King pulled Lil Jim out during the show was never ironclad. Despite tons of photographers in attendance, there wasn't one shot of Morrison whipping it out onstage. (Some in the audience insisted he exposed himself, but others said it appeared Morrison was doing that third grade trick where kids poke their index finger out of their zipper to create the illusion of a penis. Today, it's widely reported that Morrison merely simulated masturbating on stage, which Lady Gaga does every time she goes grocery shopping.)
The Rally for Decency was organized by local teens from an area church in response to the incident. Conservative politicians took great joy in the event; like the right wing "wedge issuing" of today, it was a great way to keep people afraid of scary popular music and rally them to their anti-counterculture side. Morrison's behavior was indicative of the threat Americans faced if the longhairs were not defeated in the culture wars of the time.
Just like when there's a big GOP rally today and you can be sure people like The Statler Brothers and Kid Rock are going to make an appearance, the "decency" rally drew a who's-who of squares — according to a report that ran in The New York Times, the guest list included Kate "God Bless America" Smith, white-bread vocal group The Lettermen, Mickey Mouse Club member Anita Bryant and actor/comedian Jackie Gleason, whose huge appetite for alcohol was not only well known, but celebrated (the famous quote, "I'm no alcoholic. I'm a drunkard. There's a difference. A drunkard doesn't like to go to meetings," is credited to the former Honeymooners star, who, of course, also made threatening your wife with violence a running gag on his hit show.)
At the rally, Gleason expressed some wishful thinking, reportedly saying, ""I believe this kind of movement will snowball across the United States and perhaps around the world." Tricky Dick Nixon (another wonderful example of impeccable morals) also expressed support, writing a letter to the teen who headed up the rally that read, in part, "This very positive approach which focused attention on a number of critical problems confronting society strengthens my belief that the younger generation is our greatest natural resource and therefore of tremendous hope for the future."
Eventual culture war veteran Pat Buchanan (then a Nixon aide) gave Nixon a note during his briefings the day after the rally that showed evidence that the administration's interest was politically motivated. It read, "The pollution of young minds … an extremely popular issue, one on which we can probably get a tremendous majority of Americans" (according to history.com).
The rally, of course, failed to get rid of the evil counterculture. And the world hasn't ended. (Yet.)
Morrison died in Paris in 1971 while his indecency case was being appealed (according to Rolling Stone, he was found guilty of indecent exposure and "open profanity" after his 1970 trial). In December of 2010, Florida's Clemency Board pardoned Morrison at the request of departing Florida governor Charlie Crist.
Here's an hour-long concert by The Doors at the Hollywood Bowl. So as to not cause society to crumble once it is viewed, we scoured the footage thoroughly for any intentional or inadvertent penis flashing. You should be safe.
Click on for Born This Day featuring David Grisman, Damon Albarn and Chaka Khan.
Today marks the 60th anniversary of what is widely considered the first Rock & Roll concert, DJ Alan Freed's deliciously monikered "Moondog Coronation Ball." The concert (co-produced by local record store owner Leo Mintz) was another testament to the underrated importance of Ohio in the development of Rock & Roll, taking place in Cleveland at the Cleveland Arena, which hosted hockey and basketball games (it was demolished in 1977). Freed, of course, was the great Cleveland DJ (and "King of the Moondogers") who was crucial in the popularization of Rock & Roll, introducing both the genre's name and the music to the world through his radio program on AM station WJW.
In an era when segregation was very much prevalent in society, the Moondog Coronation Ball drew attention for its unsegregated bill, featuring both black and white performers, as well as welcoming both black and white fans to attend. (Freed's black fans were reportedly shocked to discover at the concert that the DJ was actually white.) The popularity of this new-fangled Rock & Roll music became apparent the evening of the show when wwaaaaayyy more people showed up for the concert than the arena could accommodate. The arena held just under 10,000 people, but 20,000 turned up, partly due to additional tickets being accidentally printed. Fans stormed the gates, overcrowding the arena and leading the media to call it a "riot" (adding to Rock & Roll's reputation for being "dangerous," which only made it more popular). The Moondog Coronation Ball is still held today, though the excitement level, of course, is a little more muted.
Read more about that historic concert from the BBC (which declares that the Moondog event "laid the foundations for every rock gig that followed, from Woodstock to Glastonbury") here. Here's a clip from a documentary about Freed (the concert is discussed at around the 4:30 mark) by fellow DJ Frank Allan. (Be sure to check out this excellent site maintained by Freed's family about the legendary music man.)
Click on for Born This Day featuring DJ Premier, Solomon Burke, Deryck Whibley and Son House.
On this day in 2003, the Iraq war quagmire began. Depending on where you stand and your perspective of "facts," the war was a) a huge mistake based on fabricated information, b) a nobly-intentioned-attack-turned-Bush-administration-blooper ("Whoops, sorry!"), or c) a perfectly reasonable military operation that spread democracy and made Toby Keith a billionaire.
It is estimated the war has killed well over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and displaced over 2 million. Our government claims that 4,422 Americans have died as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom (and over 31,000 have been injured).
The South Carolina State Legislature marked the beginning of the war by attacking a Country music trio. State Rep. Catherine Ceips introduced a resolution that commanded the Dixie Chicks to apologize to President Bush for daring to say in front of an audience in London that they were embarrassed to be from the same state (Texas) as W.
Chick Natalie Maines DID apologize a week before, saying she should not have been disrespectful to the Prez. But it apparently didn't matter and the Chicks became another tool used to raise support for the war. In an interview with Tom Brokaw a month later, Bush said that the group members had a right to say what they wanted. But, "I don't really care what the Dixie Chicks said. I want to do what I think is right for the American people." Whoopsie.
Despite Bush being the one proved wrong, no one EVER apologized to the Dixie Chicks, who lost a substantial amount of money due to the ginned-up controversy.
On that same day, Bruce Springsteen played a concert in Australia and dedicated "Land of Hope and Dreams" to "innocent Iraqi civilians." He opened the show with his stunning acoustic version of "Born in the U.S.A.," followed by a cover of Edwin Starr's "War (What Is It Good For)."
Click on for Born This Day featuring Chester Bennington, Natacha Atlas, Jerry Reed and Lee "Scratch" Perry.
This date in music history is a sad one, marking the "gone too soon" deaths of several young musicians with a lot ahead of them.
• Guitarist Paul Kossoff was the cofounder of British Rock band Free with singer Paul Rodgers and bassist Andy Fraser. The band's 1970 Fire and Water album spawned the band's best-known song, "All Right Now," but the band split by the end of that year. They reformed in 1972 and put out two more albums before calling it quits for good. Kossoff did solo work, played with many other artists and formed a band called Back Street Crawler. The guitarist was in poor health in the years after Free, reportedly due to drug problems and frustration over the demise of his most successful musical project. Kossoff died on a flight from L.A. to New York in 1976 from heart problems. His father spent the rest of his life campaigning against the perils of drug abuse, even doing a touring one-man show about his son. Kossoff's headstone contains the epitaph, "All Right Now."
Kossoff was 25.
Click on for Born This Day featuring Bun B, Billy Sheehan, Ricky Wilson and Terry Hall:
On this day in 1991, Country superstar Reba McEntire lost eight members of her touring entourage when their charter plane crashed near San Diego, late at night after Reba and the band had performed a corporate gig for IBM. McEntire and her husband received the news at their hotel room nearby where they'd been sleeping. On a recent episode of Oprah's Master Class, hosted by Oprah on the Oprah channel, McEntire recalled the moment she got the news, calling it "the worst thing that's ever happened in my life." She had been extremely close with the musicians and her tour manager, some of whom had been with her for many years.
That October, McEntire released For My Broken Heart, dedicated to her lost friends. The album (her 18th) featured songs about loss and recovery; in the liner notes, McEntire called it "a form of healing for all our broken hearts." The album made it to No. 3 on the overall album charts and No. 1 on the Country charts (pretty much a forgone conclusion when Reba puts out a record); the title track became her 16th No. 1 Country single and the album's "Is There Life Out There" became her 17th.
Click on for Born This Day featuring Flavor Flav, Patty Griffin and "The Hug Guy":
On this day in 2004, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted a fairly heady class of artists, welcoming Traffic, ZZ Top, The Dells, Jackson Browne, Bob Seger, George Harrison and Prince. Prince was inducted by Alicia Keys and the notoriously shy singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist gave a slightly humbled (for Prince, at least), short speech of acceptance (he couldn't resist mentioning his efforts to get out of his contract with Warner Bros. — at least he didn't paint "Slave" on his face again). Below is his speech from that night (from rockhall.com):
"Please be seated. Thank you Alicia ... thank you Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it’s definitely an honor. I don’t want to take up too much time, but I would like to say this. When I first started out in the music industry, I was most concerned with freedom. Freedom to produce, freedom to play all the instruments on my records, freedom to say anything I wanted to, and after much negotiation Warner Brothers Records granted me that freedom and I thank them. Without any real spiritual mentors other than artists ... whose records I admired ... Larry Graham being one of them ... I embarked on a journey more fascinating than I could ever have imagined. But a word to the wise. Without real spiritual mentoring, too much freedom can lead to the soul’s decay. And a word to the young artists ... a real friend or mentor is not on your table. A real friend and mentor cares for your soul as much as they do the other one. This world and its wicked systems becomes harder and harder to deal with without a real friend or mentor. And I wish all of you the best."
Prince's performance during the tribute to Harrison (who had died just a few years before his solo induction) was much ballyhooed for his stunning guitar solo, a reminder of just how multifaceted the eccentric performer's talents really were/are. Check the clip below.
Click on for Born This Day featuring would've-been 100-year-old Lightnin' Hopkins.
On this day in 2001, British Pop Art legend Sir Peter Blake sued EMI for more money for his work on a 1967 album cover. That cover is not only his most well-known piece of art — it's also one of the most well-known album covers in history. Blake and wife Jann Haworth created the collaged crowd scene on the cover of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. And they were paid about $350 for their trouble, according to Blake's suit.
The cover included cultural icons from Stan Laurel, Mae West, Lenny Bruce and Tony Curtis to Aldous Huxley, Dylan Thomas, Bob Dylan, Carl Jung and Shirley Temple. The use of their likenesses reportedly so scared the label (which feared major lawsuits from the "celebrities"), they had to try and seek permission (whenever possible) for use.
Lennon's (possibly joking) suggestion of having Hitler, Gandhi and Jesus represented on the cover also didn't go over well with the label. Gandhi was featured on the original cover, but was removed because it wouldn't be carried in India. Jesus didn't make the cut at all, coming so soon after Lennon's infamous claims of The Beatles being more famous than Him. Hitler was believed to have been edited out, though Blake recently revealed that if you look carefully, Adolf is obscured behind the Fab Four and Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller. Actor Leo Gorcey (one of the Bowery Boys) reportedly wanted $400 for his appearance on the cover — $50 more than what the artists' received for making it — so he was promptly axed from the pic. And Mexican actor/comedian Tin-Tan respectfully declined and asked that a "Tree of Life" be included in his place (it was, featured in the lower right corner).
Here's a good run down of the others that did make the cut. And check out this video montage of outtakes from the famous photo shoot:
Click on for Born This Day featuring Rick Dees and the death of the American novelty tune.
On this day in 1911, pulp fiction/sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard — who would go on to develop the self-help "Dianetics" program as well as found the Scientology religion — was born. Ninety five years later (to the day), one of his disciples, legendary Soul man Isaac Hayes, asked to be released from his contract with South Park (on which he brilliantly voiced the character Chef) following the cartoon's skewering of the Scientology movement. Hayes initially said he didn't mind the pair's satire of his religion, saying they were equal opportunity offenders, but someone from the "church" must've gotten to him, because he gradually shifted that position. Some reports emerged later that Hayes' announcement was written by someone else; essentially "someone quit for him," Fox News reported.
Still, Hayes was granted his release immediately, though creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone brought him back for an episode (with cobbled together audio previously recorded for other shows), essentially to kill his character off. The episode aired a mere nine days after Hayes (or someone representing Hayes) quit the show.
Hayes passed away about two years later from complications from a stroke he suffered about six months after leaving South Park. Fortunately, Hayes' contribution to music was so large, the cartoon mess didn't impact his legacy too much. It still begs the question of what was worse for Hayes' career — Scientology or South Park?
Last year, a former Scientologist revealed a memo he claimed was from a higher up in the church who was "investigating" Parker and Stone, allegedly spying on the duo and their associates to dig up dirt. According to the former church member, the memos also show that the church gave up its investigation after not finding any weaknesses to exploit. The Church of Scientology has been repeatedly accused of such intimidation factors involving critics and former members who talk about the religion.
I, for one, have nothing against Scientology specifically, and wish all Scientologists the best of luck in reaching the highest level of their spirituality and one day meeting the church's alien overlords (or whatever it is they believe). So please don't start spying on me and digging through my garbage. You'll only find discarded debt collection notices, well-used Victoria Secret catalogs and empty beer cans, anyway. Heil, Hubbard!
And let's all remember Hayes as one of the baddest muthas in Soul music history and not the celebrity who was guided/misguided by his chosen spiritual beliefs or that fat cartoon character who falls off a cliff to his gruesome death on South Park. (Though, you have to admit, that "Chocolate Salty Balls" song was the jam.) Here he is in all his glory:
Click on for Born This Day, featuring Mike Stoller, Terence Blanchard and Common.