Today in History: September 19

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
—John Keats, the final stanza of “To Autumn”

John Keats composed “To Autumn,” one of his masterpieces, on this date in 1819.

* * * *
It is the birthday of singer/songwriter/actor/friend of Kermit the Frog/President of ASCAP/recovery advocate Paul Williams today. He is a personal hero of mine.

Whatever one may call a 76-year-old who is still winning awards for new music, is an advocate for recovery, and also testifies before Congress on behalf of song creators, you may as well call that “Paul Williams” from now on, because that is still his day-to-day life.

Further, Mr. Williams appears to have set for himself a personal goal of speaking with (in-person or online) every human being he possibly can meet. That is the only way I can explain him saying kind things to me on my Instagram account via his Instagram account.

I am as awkward around famous people as I am around people people. Even the clunkiness of that sentence captures my general social clunkiness.

It is entirely likely that anyone within reading distance of this blog has met more famous people (and more-famous people) than I have. A well-balanced person treats the waiter like a prince and talks with royalty like they’re the next-door neighbors; I am well-balanced, but not in a good way: famous, infamous, or unknown, I usually treat everyone like he or she is a teacher who has announced a pop quiz that I have not studied for.

Social media has made it easier for people to have certain kinds of encounters with the famous among us; many celebrities and politicians personally run their online fan clubs. Many do not. This has not made these encounters any less attention-grabbing for me when they do happen. (Three of my all-time favorite writers followed my Twitter account, two of them within a week of each other; I was a six-foot-tall cliché of self-importance that week. Two of them have since “unfollowed” me. I was a six-foot-tall cliché of crushed.)

If you have not seen Stephen Kessler’s excellent documentary Paul Williams Still Alive from 2012, you ought to. It is still on Netflix. The trailer (after the jump):

And a recent song from Paul Williams, “Touch,” from Daft Punk’s 2013, Grammy-winning, album, Random Access Memories:

* * * *
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel reunited for a concert in Central Park that 500,000 people attended 35 years ago today. “American Tune”:

* * * *
President James A. Garfield died on this date in 1881, 10 weeks after he was shot.

* * * *
Italo Calvino died on this date in 1985. Orville Redenbacher died in 1995 on this date.

* * * *
William Golding was born on this date in 1911. Paulo Freire was born in 1921 in this date. Mike Royko was born on this date in 1932. Brian Epstein was born 82 years ago today. Cass Elliot was born 75 years ago today. “I’ll Be Seeing You”:

* * * *
Roger Angell is 96 today. He has been published in The New Yorker regularly since 1944 and his most recent article, about baseball, of course, and the New York Mets specifically, was published in that periodical just five days ago, on September 14: “Late and Later.”

James Lipton (Inside the Actors Studio) is 90 today. A recent interview with the eternally young Mr. Lipton: “‘Awards Chatter’ Podcast—James Lipton.”

Adam West is 88. David McCallum is 83. Bill Medley is 76. David Bromberg is 71. Jeremy Irons is 68. Twiggy Lawson is 67. Barry Scheck is 67. Joan Lunden is 66. Daniel Lanois is 65. Nile Rodgers is 64 today. Rex Smith is 61 today. Lita Ford is 58. Cheri Oteri is 54. Ken Rosenthal is 54. Trisha Yearwood is 52. Soledad O’Brien is 50. Jim Abbott is 49. Candy Dulfer is 47. Jimmy Fallon of Saugerties, New York, is 42.

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