On this day in 1683, the great Baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau was born. He was also a music theorist. This did not get in the way of the art of his work. But it did allow him to push the bounds of the music of the time. A good example of this is the second Trio des Parques in Hippolyte et Aricie:
The great writer William Faulkner was born in 1897. He was an amazing and complex writer. And he really deserved to win this day. But here’s the thing: I don’t enjoy his fiction. I admire it. I wish that I had a small fraction of his talent. But his vision of the world is so unrelentingly negative. I don’t think he was a very happy person. Regardless, it is easy to get lost in his books, and we are all the better for his work.
Other birthdays: film director Robert Bresson (1901); the great composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906); alleged spy Ethel Rosenberg (1915); Christopher Reeve (1952); Married couple Michael Douglas (69) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (44) share a birthday; Mark Hamill (62); and Will Smith (45).
The day, however, belongs to the poet and humorist Shel Silverstein who was born on this day in 1930. He is generally considered a children’s writer, but he didn’t see himself that way and neither do I. To me, he is a guy who wrote stuff for people like me. Silverstein was extremely clever with an unconstrained but very positive id. But his work was also broad. He wrote the hyperactive silliness of Where the Sidewalk Ends and the sweetly profound The Giving Tree and social satire in songs like “The Cover of the Rolling Stone” and “A Boy Named Sue.” Here is the short film The Giving Tree read by Silverstein:
Happy birthday Shel Silverstein!