On this day in 1874, the historian Charles A Beard was born. He was a progressive who saw the history of America through the lens of class conflict. This view has fallen out of favor. But his idea applied to the founding of the country seems correct. He argued that there were two revolutions. First, there was the revolution that we all know and love and that is immortalized with singing and a bit of dance in 1776. But there was a second revolution about who should rule. There were those who wanted at least a proto-democracy, as advocated by people like Paine and Madison. And then there were those who wanted a new aristocratic rule, as advocated by people like Adams and Hamilton. I think we can all agree that the results of that revolution are much more a muddle compared to the whole England business.
Beard is also know for his four sentence “lessons of history.” They are more poetic than useful, but I think I glean some insight from it.
- Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad with power.
- The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small.
- The bee fertilizes the flower it robs.
- When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.
Martial arts expert, actor, and hunka hunka burning love Bruce Lee was born in 1940. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of his movies. They are fun but that’s about all. He was, however, a fascinating man with the kind of jumble of beliefs that come being very smart but effectively an amateur intellectual. And I think those the very best kind of people. He was very interested in eastern philosophy of the Krishnamurti kind. But he was also quite clear about his atheism. He was only 32 when he died and as far as I’m concerned, we still don’t know why. The cause of death was cerebral edema (accumulation of fluid in the brain), but I don’t think it is likely to been because of the medication he was on. It’s sad. He should still be with us.
Other birthdays: astronomer Anders Celsius (1701); playwright Fanny Kemble (1809); science fiction writer L Sprague de Camp (1907); author James Agee (1909); illustrator Josh Kirby (1928); film director Kathryn Bigelow (62); Bill Nye the Science Guy (58); and author David Rakoff (1964).
The day, however, belongs to the great guitarist Jimi Hendrix who was born on this day in 1942. Was he really the great guitarist in all history as Rolling Stone would have us believe? Well, I don’t know about that. But he is one of the greatest. And he was also a fine songwriter. And he was a great showman. When you get right down to it, his guitar playing is just blues with a fantastic ear for beautiful melodies. What I think really threw him into another category is his use of the wah-wah pedal. You can really hear it on “Voodoo Child” here in Woodstock:
Happy birthday Jimi Hendrix!