December 11 – Berlioz, Sam Cooke, Basil & Yankovic


French composer Hector Berlioz(*) is born a true individual: “his works were considered eccentric or incorrect”.

The most famous is the highly original, almost psychedelic Symphonie Fantastique but don’t miss the magic of the viola part in the symphonic journey of Harold in Italy.

In his mid-20s, Berlioz moves to Italy for two years to win a music prize. He doesn’t like Rome or its music …

Rome is the most stupid and prosaic city I know; it is no place for anyone with head or heart.

… so he spends much of his time in Italy travelling. His experiences there form an important part of his subsequent compositions.

Unfortunately, in 1848 he begins experiencing chronic abdominal pain which resists diagnosis. That, coupled with the loss of many lovers and relatives, understandably causes his output to suffer. An 1867 tour of Russia was lucrative for him, but the winter there damages his health and he dies in 1868.
( Berlioz fansite )

1964 (50 years)

Sam Cooke, R&B, soul singer/songwriter, 33 years old, is supposedly shot dead by the night manager of the fleabag Bates Motel in Los Angeles. ▷Official story ▹

His biggest hits are You Send Me (released Sep. 7, 1957) and Chain Gang (1964). Cooke first appears on CBS TV’s live Ed Sullivan show on November 3, 1957… and gets cut off after five seconds because the show runs out of time! (*)

Cooke makes 29 top-40 hits. In 2004 Rolling Stone ranks him #16 on their 100 Greatest Artists list.

I used to think he was just a great singer. Now I think he’s better than that. Almost nobody since then can touch him. — Art Garfunkel

Sam Cooke was the best singer who ever lived, no contest.
Jerry Wexler, who coined the phrase ‘rhythm and blues’

▷NYT Topics-Cooke ▹ ▷NPR interview ▹


Nearly 40-year-old actress, choreographer Tony Basil, dressed like a high school cheerleader, tops the US charts (UK#2) with the vivacious fun of post-disco, pre-techno teen anthem Mickey.

Hey Mickey, you’re so fine, you’re so fine, you blow my mind, hey Mickey, hey Mickey.
Weird Al

It’s actually a cover of ‘Kitty’, a 1979 release by UK band Racey. Probably not many people recognized Basil from the film Easy Rider, in which she played a prostitute.

Never one to miss a safe bet, parody ninja & accordionist Weird Al soon produces parody song Ricky — and makes his first music video to catch the MTV wave.
Al got his start in 1979 with his My Bologna parody of The Knack.