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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Song Writer, Hoagy Carmichael

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

November 22nd is the birthday of songwriter Hoagy Carmichael, born Hoagland Howard Carmichael in 1899 in Bloomington, Indiana. Hoagy got his nickname from a circus performer who once lived with his family. Carmichael’s parents were a horse-and-buggy driver and a piano player for silent film, and his mother got him started playing the piano when he was six years old. Carmichael joined the Army one day before the end of World War I, then came home to Bloomington to play piano for high school dances.

On visits to Chicago, Carmichael got acquainted with speakeasy jazz and was a fan of King Oliver and Louis Armstrong. The speakeasy scene set him up with a gig smuggling champagne, and he used the money to put himself through law school. Though his parents were supportive of his musical talents, Carmichael was eager to leave his poor roots, especially after his sister died from diphtheria — a “victim of poverty,” Carmichael said.

Law degree in hand, Carmichael barely got the chance to practice. He formed a band, began to write music, and by 1926 had penned his first hit, “Riverboat Shuffle.” After that, Hoagy dove into music full-time. His career took him to New York and eventually to Hollywood, where he wrote for soundtracks and appeared in many films.

His 1929 hit “Star Dust” quickly became a standard. By 1963, “Star Dust” had been recorded more than 500 times — the century’s most recorded song — and its lyrics had been translated into 40 languages. “Star Dust” was named by a friend, who said of the song: “That one’s all the girls, the university, the family, the old golden oak, all the good things gone, all wrapped up in a melody.”

Carmichael wrote “Star Dust” during a nostalgic visit to his alma mater, Indiana University, while recalling an old girlfriend. He said: “This melody was bigger than I. It didn’t seem a part of me. Maybe I hadn’t written it at all […] I wanted to shout back at it. ‘Maybe I didn’t write you, but I found you.’”

Handel Advertises His Wares

Monday, October 30th, 2017

An interesting tidbit from the 18th Century. From my friend, Dan Garshman.

Handel Advertises His Wares

On October 29 in 1739, Mr. George Frideric Handel took out an advertisement, announcing that he was now accepting subscriptions for his new set of 12 Grand Concertos for strings. He had, in fact, finished the first concerto one month before, on September 29th, and spent the next five weeks polishing off the other 11 at the rate of one every two or three days. Handel’s publisher was John Walsh, Jr, who had a shop in London at the sign of the harp and oboe in Catherine Street on the Strand. In addition to being a music publisher, Walsh also billed himself as “instrument maker to his Majesty.” One hundred twenty-two copies of the music were to be printed and sold at a pre-publication price of two guineas each. His Royal Majesty, George II, and the Prince of Wales were not among the initial 100 subscribers, but the list did include three royal princesses and the Duke of Cumberland, and two copies each were sold to the Academy of Music in Dublin and a certain Mr. Charles Jennens. It was Mr. Jennens who was to provide the text for Handel’s next major oratorio, “Messiah,” and the city of Dublin the venue for its famous premiere. So, in 1739, just as today, it pays to advertise!

Louis Armstrong and American music

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

My friend, Dan Garshman, reminded me of this milestone.

Louis Armstrong and American music

On today’s date, July 6, in 1971, jazz great Louis Armstrong died in New York City at the age of 69. He was born in New Orleans, and for years, all the standard reference books listed his birthday as the Fourth of July, 1900. Well, it turned out that wonderfully symbolic date was cooked up by Armstrong’s manager Joe Glaser. Louis himself wasn’t sure when he was born, so the 4th of July seemed as good a date as any, and was accepted as fact for many years. Eventually documents were discovered that proved Armstrong was actually born on August 4, 1901.

Armstrong earned the nickname “Satchmo”-short for “Satchelmouth”-and in later years he was affectionately dubbed “Pops.” If the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns is to be believed, Armstrong was the central figure in the development of jazz in the 20th century.

In the 1960s, radical blacks criticized Armstrong as an “Uncle Tom” too eager to please white audiences, forgetting that it was Armstrong, alone among his jazz peers, who courageously criticized President Eisenhower for not defending the black children attempting to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The British music critic Norman Lebrecht offered this assessment: “Armstrong never bowed his head nor sang from anywhere but the heart. He was a figure of enormous dignity and a musical innovator of universal importance.”

Acknowledging his influence in American concert music, composer Libby Larsen subtitled one of her works, a 1990 Piano Concerto, “Since Armstrong>”

A February Rant

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

February is the shortest month, although a “leap year” with one more day. And I’ve done nothing to discuss the awful situation we are in, at least as I see it. Frankly, it’s too discouraging. But, here goes. How is it, that this once great, wealthy democratic republic can’t come up with even one person of intellect, maturity, and honesty to run for president of the United States? What a group of shameful, avaricious specimens have come forth to lead.

The Democrats: Sanders, an old man preaching socialism or communism or anarchy, I’m not sure which and I suspect neither does he. If he’s elected, the United States will file for bankruptcy within the next five years or sooner. And Hillary Clinton? An old felon, formerly Senator and Secretary of State who has exposed United States government secrets, its intelligence, to hackers all over the globe in order to have information put on her private computer (clearly a felony) so that she could have an easy way to funnel large sums of foreign money into the Clinton Foundation; responsibility for the deaths of six people in Benghazi and lied about these tragic deaths to the victims’ survivors; and much more too long to discuss at this point.

The Republicans ––– initially 16 dimwits and fools and one pediatric neurosurgeon, and now down to four dimwits and one neurosurgeon who should know he’s through, but refuses to accept the reality. And who’s leading this group of dimwits? None other than “The Donald” Trump ––– a fat, bombastic, television star, hotel/gambling mogul and insulting machine, who understands almost nothing about dealing with the crucial issues of the day such as 10-20 million illegal immigrants, our rapid fall into certain insolvency, a psychotic healthcare system known as ObamaCare foisted on us by our present delusional president whose 8 left-leaning years governing the nation he really despises, has been one major reason we have been dumped into our present, almost science fiction dystopian world, and so very, very much more.

But, all is not the fault of politicians. They only help propel our decaying cultural lives ––– the crass, disgraceful music; all manner of drugs; the selling of baby body parts; the degrading films out of Hollywood filled with lurid sex and electrifying violence; the increasing gap between what Peggy Noonan calls the “protected” and the “unprotected;” the overt violence against women and the elderly; the utter decay of our public schools (only +/– 20% of young people know there are three branches of government!); the slow and frightening hell that is our cities at night; the predatory hedge funds that sent millions of people out of their homes to live under the bridges in 2008; and the decay of religion in our lives, the hope that sprung from our faiths seems to have abandoned us; and there is so much more that grabs at our throats, too long to even try to define.

And the world outside ––– the Middle East, Africa, Europe ––– bubbling cauldrons of hate, war, disease and human suffering. And Our failure to lead there.

I see little hope that this nation will turn itself around, be led back to a more sane and congenial state where what is right and moral and good returns to our civil life and allows us once more to lead the world out of this awful morass of the early 21st century. Happy 2016!

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

The End of 2012––– November and December Redux

November and December, 2012, have been dismal, dreary months. November can be claimed (by at least some of us) as “d” and “d” because of the reelection of Obama and a failure to win the Senate. December is “d” and “d” primarily because of the hideous tragedy in Newtown/Sandy Hook where, on December 14th, twenty elementary school children and six teachers were killed by a twenty-year-old lunatic who started his day of slaughter in murdering his mother by shooting her in the face! He used several automatic weapons in his awful rampage. This gruesome event has called forth the anti-gun lobby who wish to ban all guns (can’t do as long as the Constitution is in force ––– although might not be long if our government continues to grow and control our lives) and the NRA idiots who continue to forster guns, hiding behind the Second Amendment, despite that no one can explain the need for automatic weapons for hunting deer.
A new committee has been empowered by the president to investigate gun violence and come up with recommendations. Both sides will chatter, some inconsequential, ineffective bill will be passed, and the mayhem will continue. Why? Because our government is made up of ill-educated ideologues ––– liberal and conservative ––– who don’t give a hoot and a holler about the fate of our nation, but rather how to get reelected and continue to make lots of money so he/she can retire in luxury.
Thus, the other crucial elements in this grotesque episode at Sandy Hook are neglected ––– the need for thousands of new beds for the lunatics that inhabit our society; the gross coarsening of our culture with its objectionable films/plays/games glorifying mayhem with firearms, knives, poisons, blunt instruments; the loss of courtesy in our dealings with our fellow citizens; the absence of dignity in our clothing, our speech, our music; the burgeoning drug culture in our society; and the abysmal lack of knowledge about our history and our traditions.
Perhaps 2013 will be a better year. I doubt it. I think there is no turning back from the debasement of our culture, the heavy hand of our government, and the dangers of the world beyond our borders.
More to come. I’m going to try to fill  up this blog before 1/1/13.


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