February 26th in history:
On February 26th, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from exile on the island of Elba, off the coast of Italy. He soon returned to power in France before being defeated at Waterloo that same year.
Napoleon sold the Louisiana territory to the United States in 1803. Louisiana became the home of Dixieland music, and on this date in 1917, the Original Dixieland Jass Band made the first jazz recording for the Victor Company.
Musician Fats Domino, a New Orleans native, was born on February 26th, 1928. It’s also the birthday of Minnesota Fats from the movie The Hustler, Jackie Gleason (born 1916). Gleason’s most popular character was Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden from “The Honeymooners.”
Jackie Gleason starred in the movie Gigot as a Frenchman who could not speak. French actor Jean Dujardin won the Best Actor Oscar on February 26th, 2012, for playing a star of silent films in the mostly-silent film The Artist. The French movie, shot in Hollywood, also won the Oscar for Best Picture.
October 19 in history:
Two European kingdoms joined to become Spain as the result of a royal wedding on October 19th, 1469. That’s when Ferdinand of Aragon (he was 17) married Isabella of Castile (she was 18).
Napoleon tried to conquer Russia in 1812, but the Russian Army would not surrender. The French leader and his army spent a month in Moscow, but could not get enough supplies to stay for the winter, so they retreated on October 19th, 1812.
Boxer Evander Holyfield became the undisputed world heavyweight champion in October 1990 by knocking out defending champ Buster Douglas. Holyfield was born on this date in 1962.
It’s also the birthday of actor John Lithgow (1945), known for films such as “The World According to Garp” and his TV role as a visitor from another world on “3rd Rock from the Sun.”
August 20 in history:
A classical song often performed on the 4th of July in America was introduced in Russia on August 20th, 1882. Peter Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” was written in honor of Russia’s fight against Napoleon, but it’s popular in the U.S. because of the cannon shots included in the finale.
The “1812 Overture” probably has been played a few times over radio station WWJ in Detroit. WWJ was America’s first commercial radio station when it took to the air on this date in 1920, using the call letters 8MK.
A couple of musicians who had big radio hits in the 1970s were born on August 20th: Isaac Hayes (1942), who wrote the “Theme from Shaft”; and “Stairway to Heaven” writer and singer Robert Plant (1948).