July 6th in history:
One of the worst circus fires in U.S. history occurred on July 6th, 1944, in Hartford, Connecticut. More than 160 people died and hundreds more were injured when the Ringling Brothers big top caught fire and collapsed within minutes. Two young people who survived the Hartford fire and later became famous were actor Charles Nelson Reilly and drummer Hal Blaine.
Among the many famous performers Blaine worked with on records was John Lennon. On this date in 1957, 16-year-old Lennon and his band the Quarrymen were about to perform at a church social in Liverpool, England when he was introduced to 15-year-old Paul McCartney. Only seven years later, Lennon and McCartney became movie stars when the first Beatles movie, “A Hard Day’s Night,” premiered in England on July 6th, 1964.
On the day that “A Hard Day’s Night” made its debut, future president George Walker Bush turned 18. His father, George Herbert Walker Bush, was running for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas that year. The older Bush lost that election, but he rose through Republican ranks to become vice president under Ronald Reagan, and then president himself. First Lady Nancy Reagan, born July 6th, 1921, was Ronald Reagan’s second wife, and he was the first divorced man to be elected president.
When England’s Henry VIII wanted to end his first marriage to wed Anne Boleyn, one of his chief opponents was Lord Chancellor Thomas More. For opposing the king, More eventually was convicted of treason, and was beheaded on July 6th, 1535.
March 25th in history:
March 25th is the date when U.S. Customs agents seized more than 500 copies of the Allen Ginsberg poem “Howl” that were being imported from England. The poem had been declared obscene. Sources disagree on what year the seizure happened, 1955 or 1957.
Ginsberg was one of many celebrities who helped John Lennon and Yoko Ono record “Give Peace a Chance.” The song was written during John and Yoko’s Bed-in for Peace, which began at the Amsterdam Hilton on this day in 1969.
March 25th is the birthday of two famous people with ties to John Lennon. Elton John (1947) recorded “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” with Lennon, and invited the ex-Beatle to perform on stage at a 1974 concert. It was Lennon’s last live performance. Howard Cosell (1918) once interviewed Lennon on “Monday Night Football,” and announced Lennon’s death in 1980 during a football broadcast.
One of Elton John’s early hit songs was “Rocket Man.” He shares a March 25th birthday with astronaut Jim Lovell (born 1928). Lovell is best remembered for commanding the Apollo 13 flight of 1970, bringing it back to Earth after a spacecraft explosion on the way to the moon. He was also aboard Apollo 8, the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon.
December 8 in history:
On the last day of his life…December 8th, 1980…John Lennon posed nude for Rolling Stone magazine. The photo of Lennon curled up and kissing his clothed wife, Yoko Ono, was used for the magazine cover after Lennon was shot and killed on December 8th in New York by an obsessed fan. That day, Lennon’s new single “(Just Like) Starting Over” was the number 3 song in the U.S. It rose to number 1 by the end of December.
John Lennon was the only Beatle who did not appear on “Saturday Night Live” during his lifetime. Ringo Starr is the only Beatle who has hosted SNL, and that happened on December 8th, 1984. Ringo’s monologue featured a duet with “Sammy Davis Jr.” (played by Billy Crystal).
On that night, the real Sammy Davis Jr. was celebrating his 59th birthday. Sammy’s career included movies, Broadway, and hit songs like “The Candy Man,” but he’s also famous as a member of the Hollywood “Rat Pack” along with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
On December 8th, 1963, Sinatra’s 19-year-old son Frank Jr. was kidnapped from a resort at Lake Tahoe. The younger Sinatra was released near Los Angeles two days later, after his father paid a ransom of $240,000. Three men eventually were convicted of the kidnapping.
November 9 in history:
Germany has had its share of political upheavals on November 9th…
Kaiser Wilhelm II stepped down from his post as German emperor on November 9th of 1918, ending a 30-year reign. The armistice to end the first World War was reached two days later.
The new German government that replaced the monarchy did not please one Adolf Hitler. He and hundreds of Nazi party members attempted an overthrow of the Bavarian government in 1923 with an uprising known as the Beer Hall Putsch. The revolt was put down by police in the streets of Munich on November 9th.
The Communist government of East Germany which came after Hitler’s reign during World War Two was starting to fall apart in 1989 when it bowed to pressure from the public and allowed people to pass freely through the Berlin Wall. After that announcement on the 9th of November, Germans began breaking down the wall which had divided the free and Communist portions of Berlin since the 1960’s.
The 1967 military comedy “How I Won the War” featured John Lennon of the Beatles as an English soldier serving in WWII. A photo of a short-haired Lennon in his soldier costume appeared on the cover of the first Rolling Stone magazine, issued on this date in ’67.
October 9 in history:
The Washington Monument opened to the public on October 9th, 1888, 40 years after construction began. The project was halted for many years because of a lack of funding and the intervention of the Civil War. The observation deck 500 feet above the ground was the highest man-made tourist spot in the world…for only seven months, until the Eiffel Tower opened in Paris.
The Eiffel Tower was built for a world’s fair celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution. The guillotine became a symbol of the Revolution, and was the official method of execution in France for almost 200 years. On this date in 1981, France ended beheadings by guillotine as it abolished the national death penalty.
“You’d better keep your head, little girl” is a line from “Run For Your Life,” a song by John Lennon about a man warning his girlfriend not to cheat on him. John’s more uplifting tunes include many love songs written with Paul McCartney, and solo songs such as “Imagine.” Lennon was born October 9th, 1940. It’s also the birthday of another man named John who performed with a famous British rock band of the Sixties, John Entwistle of The Who (1944).