On January 27, 1970, John Lennon recorded “Instant Karma” at Abbey Road Studios in London. Fun fact about this song: “Instant Karma” was written, recorded, and released in a period of less than 10 days! It’s one of the fastest-released songs in music history! Lennon was quoted as saying that he “wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch, and we’re putting it out for dinner” (source). This video is from February 11, 1970 on Top of the Pops. Can you believe this is only about two weeks after he wrote and recorded the song? Watch for Yoko Ono knitting blindfolded!
On January 26, 1988, The Phantom of the Opera opened on Broadway, two years after its West End debut. It is the longest running show in Broadway history! It’s been seen by over 130 million people and its worldwide gross is estimated at over $5.6 billon (source)! This video features three of the show’s songs- ”Think of Me”, “The Music of the Night”, and “The Phantom of the Opera”:
Janis Joplin was born on January 19, 1943 in Port Arthur, Texas. She would have turned 71 years old today! Janis was one of my favorite artists to listen to when I was a teenager. I had a giant poster of Janis sitting on her painted Porsche plastered on my bedroom wall amidst glow-in-the-dark stars and would pop in one of her CDs when I wanted something with more soul than The Smashing Pumpkins or No Doubt. Her raspy voice was absolutely unique and her performances were electrifying and captivating! Celebrate her birthday by watching and sharing a few videos of Janis working her magic on stage:
On January 13, 1968, Johnny Cash recorded his 27th album At Folsom Prison live at Folsom State Prison. Some of my favorite songs on the album: “Long Black Veil”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, “Orange Blossom Special” and “Green, Green Grass of Home”. Cash had been interested in this particular prison for over a decade by the time he made At Folsom Prison! In 1951, he watched the film Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison and it inspired him to write his 1955 hit “Folsom Prison Blues”.
On January 6, 1958, Gibson launched its iconic “Flying V” guitar. I share a name (spelled differently) with the wood used to create its futuristic body! “Korina” is a type of mahogany wood from a large tree native to Western Africa. It was also used to make Gibson’s “Explorer” guitars. The 1958 models of both the “Flying V” and “Explorer” are some of the most valuable production-model guitars in the world, in 3rd and 4th place on Vintage Guitar magazine’s “10 Most Valuable Guitars” list. Although the 1958 “Flying V” is now extremely valuable, at the time the guitar wasn’t an immediate success. It was even discontinued in 1959 after poor sales due to its heavy weight and modern design. In the 1960s, Gibson reduced the guitar’s weight by eliminating its curved back and almost immediately, it was in the hands of many notable musicians such as Lonnie Mack (who had also played the 1958 original), Albert King, Dave Davies of the Kinks, and Jimi Hendrix.
Happy Birthday, Flying V!
Happy Birthday, Frank Sinatra! The singer and actor was born Francis Albert “Frank” Sinatra on December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, NJ. He would have turned 98 today! Here are 3 Sinatra performances to watch in his honor:
Happy Birthday, Maria Callas! Maria, one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of all time, would have turned 90 years old today. She was born Maria Anna Sophie Cecilia Kalogeropoulos in NYC to parents George and Evangelia Kalogeropoulos. Her parents had just emigrated from Greece to New York in August of that year! Her father shortened her last name to Callas when she was 6 years old. She began piano lessons at 9 years old and before she was even 16 years old she was accepted into the National Conservatory in Athens. At age 18, she made her professional operatic debut as Beatrice in Boccacio!
Here are 2 incredible Maria Callas videos to watch in her honor today:
American singer/songwriter and guitarist Jeff Buckley was born on November 17, 1966 in Anaheim, California and was raised as Scotty Moorhead. When he was only 8 years old, his biological father, Tim Buckley (a singer/songwriter) died of a drug overdose. After his father’s death, “Scotty” started using his real first name and father’s last name: Jeffrey Scott Buckley. In the 1990s, Jeff was part of the NYC music scene in Lower Manhattan. He was known for playing covers by a diverse mix of artists like Led Zepellin, Bob Dylan, Édith Piaf, Elton John, The Smiths, and Leonard Cohen. “Hallelujah”, his 1994 cover of the 1984 Leonard Cohen song, is probably his best-known. Watch the video below and share in his honor today!
Happy Birthday, Rita Hayworth! Rita was born Margarita Carmen Cansino on October 17, 1918 in Brooklyn, New York. She was one of the biggest stars of the 1940s and her story is fascinating. Today, I came across an article called “Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Rita Hayworth, Tragic Princess” and couldn’t believe how interesting her life was. From her transformation from Latina Margarita into red-headed Rita, to her many rocky marriages and hardships…I hadn’t known about the woman behind the pin-up picture and upbeat dance numbers with Fred Astaire. I just ordered her biography so I can learn more!
Photo by Stephen Danelian. Courtesy of Indiana University.
Cellist Yo-Yo Ma was born on October 7, 1955 in Paris, France. Most likely, you’ve heard of Yo-Yo Ma, as he’s one of the most well-known classical musicians alive. The child prodigy began playing the cello at age 4 and was already performing publicly by age 5. He even played for Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy when he was only 7 years old! Yo-Yo Ma attended Trinity School in NYC, before transferring to the Professional Children’s School and graduating at age 15. He went on to study at Juilliard, Columbia, then Harvard where he received his Bachelor’s degree in 1976.
So how would you recognize Yo-Yo Ma? In addition to many media appearances on television, he’s been featured on many soundtracks, including Seven Years in Tibet; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; and Memoirs of a Geisha. You probably saw him performing with Itzhak Perlman at President Obama’s 2009 Inauguration! He was also the first performer on September 11, 2002 at the site of the World Trade Center, when the names of those killed were read on the first anniversary of the attack.
In honor of his special day, watch a few of Yo-Yo Ma’s performances that showcase his talent:
Tonight, take 10 minutes to sit down and listen to this recording (George is playing the piano!) in his honor:
Ray Charles was born “Ray Charles Robinson” on September 23, 1930 in Albany, GA. He would have turned 83 today! Here are a few of my favorite videos of Ray performing to watch in his honor: