On this day in 1714, the great German composer Christoph Willibald Gluck was born. I have a great fondness for him because his Flute Concerto in G was one of the first real pieces of music I ever learned. He composed during one of my very favorite periods: the transition from Baroque to Classical. He’s also very interesting for a curious historical fact. Gluck’s protege was Antonio Salieri. And despite the fact that Mozart disparaged him in one letter to his father as one of the Italians who were holding him back, Salieri was about the least Italian composer of that period. He may have been Italian in birth, but spiritually he was all German. I tend to think he was just that way and that is why he and Gluck hit it off so well. Gluck, like Salieri, was primarily an opera composer. It was the great age of opera. Mozart certainly thought of himself as mostly an opera composer. Yet Beethoven, born only a few years later composed all of one opera. Opera didn’t do well in the early days of the Romantic period. (Actually, I would say that music didn’t do that well in most of the days of the Romantic period, but I don’t want to start a fight.) Here is a fragment from Gluck’s opera Alceste:
And speaking of Germans, the great writer Hermann Hesse was born in 1877. Rene Lacoste, the tennis player who invented those stupid alligator shirts, was born in 1904. He was apparently know as “the alligator” because of his aggressive style of play. Also because he couldn’t move his jaw from side to side. (That’s an alligator joke; look it up!) Bizarre and brilliant science fiction writer Cyril M. Kornbluth was born in 1923.
Civil rights icon, Medgar Evers was born in 1925. It is strange, but no injustice in the world has quite the grip on me as his murder. I find it almost impossible to talk about him and even writing about him makes me upset. I think that an excellent movie could be made based upon his investigation of the torture murder of Emmett Till. I’m surprised that no one has done that. Anyway, if you don’t know about Medgar Evers, you should at least watch this Democracy Now! segment about him on the 50th anniversary of his murder:
And Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas was born in 1932.
Polly ‘Kiss My Grits’ Holliday is 76. Stock car racer and sexist asshole Richard Petty is also 76. Comedian Larry David is 66. One of my favorite character actors, Saul Rubinek is 65. So he won’t be acting anymore. And truly amazing pianist Roy Bittan is 64.
The day, however, belongs to the great Thurgood Marshall, who was born in 1908. He is probably best remembered for being the first African American on the Supreme Court. And in recognition of his service, when he retired, Bush first tried to replace him with Robert Bork. When that didn’t work, we got stuck with Clarence Thomas. If Marshall had just hung on like all the conservative justices and served until he died, Clinton would have been able to replace him. Imagine what a huge difference that would make today. For example, the Voting Rights Act wouldn’t be effectively abolished. Regardless of this, I most remember Marshall for successfully arguing Brown v. Board of Education. He was a great man who would cry to see the way that people like Samuel Alito dump all over his legacy.
Here is a great interview of Mike Wallace with Thurgood Marshall after Brown v. Board of Education:
Happy birthday Thurgood Marshall!
Can you imagine how Mike Wallace’s son Chris would have handled that interview? I don’t think too ill of Chris Wallace, but I feel certain that in the context of the time, his interview would have been something that today we would see as explicitly racist.