On this day in 1566, the great English actor Edward Alleyn was born. He was considered the greatest actor of his time, but unlike Richard Burbage, he had little association with Shakespeare. Christopher Marlowe wrote plays specifically for him: Faustus, Tamburlaine, and The Jew of Malta—all of them big characters for a very big actor. Just like Shakespeare, as soon as he had the money, he retired. For these people, the theater apparently had little romance. In fact, from what we know of Marlowe, even in his 20s, he was only writing plays for the money. I suspect that for any of the writers, if they’d had their druthers, they’d have been publishing books of poems. Alleyn went on to be a successful businessman and then a philanthropist, founding Dulwich College and Alleyn’s School.
The Baroque composer Johann Pachelbel was born in 1653. He wrote a whole lot of stuff. And he was quite good. But now, he is best known for one thing: Canon in D Major or as it is now know, “Pachelbel’s Canon.” It is not that it is that great a piece, although it is great. It is just that in 1970, the Jean-Francois Paillard Chamber Orchestra performed their own version with a very compelling pizzicato cello bass that people just went mad for. But here is an equally beautiful, but very different, version done with the original music with period instruments by Voices of Music:
German composer Engelbert Humperdinck was born in 1854. Tarzan writer Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in 1875. The scientist (he crosses boundries) Francis William Aston was born in 1877. He proved the whole number rule—that all the elements are a whole number multiple of the mass of the hydrogen atom. Othmar Schoeck was born in 1886. He was known as a composer of art songs, but here is his very compelling Cello Concerto:
The great actor Richard Farnsworth was born in 1920. Speaking of airplane crashes, boxer Rocky Marciano was born in 1923. The great jazz musician Art Pepper was born in 1925. The United States government in its infinite wisdom kept Pepper in prison for many years of his life because of the drugs that he was addicted to. Here he is doing “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” from his great album Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section:
The day, however, belongs to the labor leader Walter Reuther who was born on this day in 1907. He had what I think was a very common political arc for people of his time. He started as a socialist (even a communist) but after the New Deal came in, he became a liberal. Conservatives tend to vilify FDR for bringing socialism to America. That isn’t true, of course, and that thought is typical of the conservative “all or nothing” mentality. If they thought about it for a moment, they would realize that what FDR did was save capitalism from revolution. People like Reuther thought they wanted socialism, but all they really wanted was a more fair and equitable political and economic system. Is a safety net to avoid the worst excesses of capitalism so much to ask?!
Reuther turned the United Automobile Workers (UAW) into a major force in the United States. He also integrated it with the Democratic Party—where he was a major figure until his death. He was also a prominent supporter of the civil rights movement. He was on stage with Martin Luther King Jr during his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs. He also took part in the Selma to Montgomery March. Unfortunately, he died in a plane crash with his wife and other at the age of 62.
Happy birthday Walter Reuther!