Today in History: April 15

Joey Ramone died 15 years ago today.

The Ramones made an artistic statement out of the concept of limitations—both self-imposed limitations (two-minute songs) and those forced on them by the fact that none of the members knew much more about music than they wanted to be stars by making music—and that statement still reverberates, almost 40 years on. I just listened to a eulogy for Joey Ramone by Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, and Jello is as moving about Joey Ramone as Jello Biafra will ever allow himself to be.

In his huge book about punk rock and its antecedents, “Lipstick Traces,” Greil Marcus mentions the Ramones but once, in a tossed-off joke that is both punk in its sharp shot and a bit of a punking-out: “‘Beat on the brat/With a baseball bat’—what could be more punk than that? Not stopping there—and that is where the Ramones stopped for years.” Yet Joey Ramone, so awkward on stage that he owned it, unschooled in singing yet embodying a sound, really had aspirations, which he met, as a crooner (“What a Wonderful World” below the fold):

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“A Dictionary of the English Language,” the first major dictionary in English, was published on this date in 1755. Compiled and written by Dr. Samuel Johnson, his 40,000-word, two-volume work was instantly hailed as an exemplary achievement. My essay, “Time and Dr. Johnson.”

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President Abraham Lincoln died nine hours after he was shot at a performance of “Our American Cousin” on this date in 1865. Andrew Johnson was sworn in as president hours later.

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Ray Kroc opened the ninth McDonald’s—his first McDonald’s—on this date in 1955. It was in Des Plaines, Illinois, and the company dates its birth as a restaurant chain to the opening of this one location.

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The first Broadway run of Meredith Willson’s musical “The Music Man,” ended on this date 55 years ago. The show had lasted for three and a half years, 1375 performances, neither of which is a record or even approaches one, but the show yielded many songs that entered the American songbook almost immediately, like “Till There Was You”:

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Jean Genet died 30 years ago today.

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Leonardo da Vinci was born on this date in 1452. Henry James was born in 1843 on this date. Elizabeth Montgomery would be 83 today.

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Sir Neville Marriner is 92 today. Roy Clark is 83. “Dueling Banjos,” with Roy Clark on the right:

Claudia Cardinale is 78. Jeffrey Howard Archer, Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare, is 76. Dave Edmunds is 72. Emma Thompson is 57. Samantha Fox is 50. Dara Torres is 49. Seth Rogen is 34. Emma Watson is 26 today.

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  1. loisajay · April 15, 2016

    Just like Booker T’s ‘Green Onions,’ I never ever tire of ‘Dueling Banjos.’ Thanks, Mark!


  2. Pingback: Today in History: May 19 | The Gad About Town

Please comment here. Thank you, Mark.

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