Sunday, May 16, 2021

Music History Today: May 17, 2021

May 17, 2017: Chris Cornell is found dead from an apparent suicide at the age of 52.

Chris Cornell, the unmistakable voice and front-man of the bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, died overnight in Detroit at the age of 52. 

Chris Cornell

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He was discovered just past midnight at the MGM Grand Detroit, according to police. The office of the Wayne County Medical Examiner on Thursday determined the cause of his death to be suicide by hanging, noting that a full autopsy has yet to be completed. 
Read more: NPR

May 17, 1963: It's the very first Monterey Folk Festival, featuring Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul and Mary and Joan Baez.

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan seem to have met at the Monterey Folk Festival, where they sang a duet, “With God on Our Side”, on May 18, 1963. For much of May and June, apparently, Dylan lived with Baez at her home in Carmel. 

May 17, 1963: First Monterey Folk Festival poster

All through August of that year Dylan appeared at Baez’s live concerts as a special guest, performing a half dozen songs, while about half of her set was comprised of things that he had written. Robert Shelton reports that he was actually paid more for his supporting role on her tour than she was. Shelton indicates that he wasn’t that well received at the early shows on the tour, but audience reactions grew better over time. 

Read more: Long and Wasted Year

May,  17, 1969: "The Boxer" by the American music duo Simon & Garfunkel peaks on the US chart at number 7.

Looking at the young man sporting a bowl haircut staring out from the back cover of a 1969 vinyl single, it’s hard to believe that he’s the subject of a song about a bruised and battered pugilist. But “The Boxer” — one of Simon & Garfunkel’s most compositionally ambitious efforts — does indeed tell a semi-autobiographical tale.

Simon & Garfunkel

The dulcet-toned Paul Simon never did moonlight as an indomitable ring-fighter. But in an interview with Playboy magazine, the singer-songwriter revealed that the track was intended as an allegory for his tacit bouts with the music critics who began to attack his reputation in the late 1960s. 

Read more: Financial Times

 

May 17, 1971 The Christian musical Godspell opens at New York's Cherry Lane Theatre. It becomes the third-longest-running off-Broadway production of its day.

Godspell playbil

Godspell was the first major musical theatre offering from three-time Grammy and Academy Award winner, Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin, Children of Eden), and it took the world by storm. Led by the international hit, "Day by Day," Godspell features a parade of beloved songs, including "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord," "Learn Your Lessons Well," "All for the Best," "All Good Gifts," "Turn Back, O Man" and "By My Side." 
Read more: Music Theater International

May 17, 1986: Whitney Houston tops the US music chart with "Greatest Love of All."

In 1977, when his boxing career was still active, Muhammad Ali briefly became a movie star. In director Tom Gries’ 1977 film The Greatest, Ali got the role he was born to play: Himself.

1977 film The Greatest

George Benson, the smooth soul singer and guitarist, recorded “The Greatest Love Of All” for The Greatest. Benson’s “The Greatest Love Of All” wasn’t a huge crossover hit — it peaked at #24 on the Hot 100 — but it reached #2 on the R&B chart. More importantly, Whitney Houston loved it. 

Read more: Stereogum

 

Billie Jean
Chris Cornell

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