Musings On Music History: In Which There’s A Private Dancer, A Flea Flicker, And A Rock ‘N’ Roll God

10.14: Buddy Holly opened a show for Bill Haley & His Comets (“Rock Around The Clock”) on this day in 1955. A talent agent caught the set and soon arranged for Holly to cut a demo and sign to Decca Records. Holly’s first hit, “That’ll Be The Day,” came from those demo sessions. Holly’s very short career blossomed soon afterwards. His death, in February 1959, along with Ritchie Havens and the Big Bopper, in a plane crash on a snowy night in Iowa, lives forever as “The Day The Music Died.”

10.15: Tina Turner, not yet your private dancer, finalized her split with Ike Turner on this day in 1976. She’d left her marriage to Ike a few months before that, after an especially violent outburst by Ike, but now the split went all the way through their professional arrangement, as well. Though her career with Ike had yielded many hit songs during its run, it would be another 8 years before Tina would find herself back on top, at the very un-rock ‘n’ roll age of 44, when “What’s Love Got To Do With It” topped the charts in all its ’80s glory and Tina awesomeness. And, ya know, she still rips up the crowds today. We get all googly-eyed just thinking about her. She rocks.

10.16: On this day in 1962, Michael Peter Balzary, aka Flea, was born. One of the most intense and funky bass players ever to slap four strings, Flea’s early penchant for jazz had teachers at his school in Los Angeles singing his praises, calling him the second coming of Herb Alpert. Then Flea became friends with a couple of Cali kids by the names of Anthony Kiedis, from whom he would get his nickname due to his intense and bouncy energy, and Hillel Slovak. They would eventually become The Red Hot Chili Peppers, sometimes wearing nothing but socks in one strategic area while playing shows, and conquer the known world with their hybrid of George Clinton space funk, Sex Pistol-esque punk, and heavy metal thunder. [more]

10.16: CCR, better known as Creedence Clearwater Revival, split on this day in 1972. Though their peak only lasted a couple of years, the ride they found themselves on rarely stopped to let them breath. They charted five Top Ten albums in two years (!), from ’69-’70. That’s a lot of studio work, on top of the non-stop touring. Perhaps that’s why tension built and boiled over into animosity and in-fighting, leading to the dissolution of one of the ’60s most well-received bands. They weren’t like the hippy-dippy, peace and love crowd, living on psychedelics and wine and notions of everyone loving one another. CCR’s roots in working-class neighborhoods and American roots music shone through in their tales of gothic bayous and war, both civil and foreign, their stories of growing up without a silver spoon and working for a living. John Fogerty’s straightforward, yet emotional, voice and lyrics heralded something different on the horizon of rock, making room for the likes of Bruce Springsteen and John Mellncamp.

10.17: Ready or not, on this day in 1972, Wyclef Jean was born. The man with the plan, Wyclef’s musical and production skills anchored his band The Fugees and helped them score one of the best-selling hip-hop albums in history, appropriately titled The Score. Wyclef went on to much solo success after the dissolution of the band, but as far as we’re concerned, The Score is the one that will be remembered. That album still gives us goose bumps today when we sit down for a listen. For that, we say, “Happy Birthday, Wyclef!”

10.18:“Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N’ Roll!” Man, what an amazing birthday we have for you today. The one and only Chuck Berry joined us on this day, all the way back in 1926. He is one of the originals, probably the first to put all of the pieces together and make sweet, sweet rock ‘n’ roll. Bringing together boogie woogie, rockabilly, gospel, jazz, country, and blues, Chuck exploded onto the scene in 1955 with “Maybellene.” From “Johnny B. Goode” to “No Particular Place To Go,” Mr. Charles Edward Anderson Berry is a true originator, influencing everyone from Keith Richards to Jerry Garcia, Angus Young to Pete Townsend. And ya know what? He’s still rocking out today. The man is 87 and still playing those licks like it’s 1955![more]

10.20: October 20th is the birthdate of two electric music superstars. Tom Petty (1953) and Snoop Dogg (1972) were both born today. On first glance, you might think these two fellas are about as different from one another as two musicians could possibly be. Both, however, represented their respective towns better than any other residents before them. Petty, straight out of Gainesville, Florida, took garage rock out of the garage and into the arena, leading a charge against the rock bombast that dominated the airwaves of the day. Snoop Dog, straight out of the LBC, Long Beach, California, brought one of the most laid-back and recognizable flows ever heard to hip-hop, lending even more credence to California’s burgeoning scene. These guys are both representin’, for sure.

10.20: This day in 1977 saw one of the most devastating plane crashes in rock history, as the chartered plane of Lynyrd Skynyrd crashed into a Mississippi swamp, killing lead vocalist and songwriter Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and his sister, back-up singer Cassie Gaines. Establishing mainstream acceptance of southern rock at the same time they transcended it, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s success owed much to Ronnie Van Zant. Without him, it could not continue. Yeah, the band reformed in 1987 with Jimmy, Ronnie’s brother, up front, but that incarnation proved, and still proves, to be more of a tribute band than anything else. Ronnie’s beautifully gruff voice and down-to-earth lyrics formed the foundations for Lynyrd Skynrd’s biggest hits, such as “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” as well as their simply flat-out amazing songs, such as “Tuesday’s Gone” and “The Ballad of Curtis Loew.”