1976 — Phil Ochs dies

Born on December 19, 1940, Phil Ochs would become one of the best known protest singers in America (although he himself preferred the descriptor ‘topical singer’). He had his roots in the folk scene of Greenwich Village in the early Sixties. Although he never achieved the commercial success of some of his contemporaries, such as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger or Peter, Paul and Mary, he was an influential composer. His song “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” was a popular rallying cry of anti-Vietnam War protests, and was even once broadcast on the news by Walter Cronkite.

Ochs’ life took a turn for the worse in the Seventies. His troubles with bipolar disorder and alcoholism grew worse, and his behaviour grew paranoid and erratic. Ochs hanged himself on April 9, 1976, bitter and disillusioned by the Nixon era and the assassinations of 1968.

Referenced in:
All My Heroes Are Dead — Dar Williams
The Parade’s Still Passing By — Harry Chapin

1976 – Joachim Kroll is arrested for murder

Joachim Kroll was a German serial killer who evaded capture for years by being very careful about where he killed, returning the same locations only after years had passed. With one exception, all of his victims were female, and most of them were children or teenagers. Kroll was a paedophile and a cannibal in addition to his killings – he was in the process of cooking his last victim when he was arrested.

Kroll confessed to 14 killings, but was convicted of only 8 (most likely due to lack of evidence). He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and died still behind bars in 1991. He was not missed.

Referenced in:
Evil Ole Soul — Macabre

1976 — Freddie King dies

The youngest of the “Three Kings” of blues music (along with B.B.King and Albert King), Freddie King was born in Texas in 1934. He was a professional musician for most of his life, releasing 14 studio albums from 1961 to 1975. His best known singles were “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” in 1960, and “Hide Away” in 1961 (a Top 40 hit for him).

He was a hard working man, almost constantly on tour and frequently playing more than 300 times a year. In 1976 he developed stomach ulcers, and later pancreatitis, as a result of his busy schedule and frequent alcohol use. He was only 42 when he died from these later that same year.

Referenced in:
Six Strings Down — Jimmie Vaughan

1976 – Anneliese Michel dies of malnutrition

It’s apalling to think that things like this can still happen: that the combination of religious hysteria and medical mis-diagnosis can still have such dire effects, but even today, the series of events that led to the death of Anneliese Michel could still happen in most Western democracies.

When Anneliese Michel was 16, she had her first epileptic attack. Afterwards, she developed depression, and, as the years went by, began hearing voices, and became suicidal and intolerant of religious objects. It was this last that convinced the self-appointed experts in exorcism that her symptoms were actually those of possession. After a time, even Anneliese agreed with the diagnosis, and petitioned to be exoricsed.

Her death, after months of useless ritual, came from malnutrition and dehydration, and led to a huge public outcry. Her parents and the two priests who had performed the exorcisms were all charged with negligent homicide, and all were convicted of manslaughter. The priests claimed the exorcism as a success, saying that all six of the demons who allegedly possessed Anneliese Michel (including Nero, Adolf Hitler, Judas Iscariot and less famous demons) were banished before her death. In the wake of the case, the Catholic Church tightened both the criteria and the oversight of exorcisms, having belatedly realised that the medieval era was over.

Referenced in:

Annalisa — Public Image Limited

1976 – Air France Flight 139 is hijacked to Entebbe

Air France Flight 139 was carrying 246 passnegers and 12 crew on a routine flight from Athens to Paris when it was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the German Revolutionary Cells. They took the flight to Benghazi in Libya, where it refueled (and a single hostage was released) and then on to Entebbe Airport in Uganda the following day – where Idi Amin’s regime was only too happy to give them aid and support. The hostages were moved from the plane to the airport terminal, and in the following week, more than half the remaining hostages were released, leaving 106, most of them Israelis (and a majority of the crew, who would not abandon their responsibility to the hostages).

As diplomatic talks stalled, and Amin permitted additional terrorists to join the hijackers, the Israeli government decided to take decisive action. On July 4, Israeli forces raided the terminal, freeing the majority of the remaining hostages. Four hostages died (including one who had been released and was then in a Ugandan hospital), and one of the Israeli soldiers was also slain. Seven of the eight hijackers and 45 Ugandan soldiers were also killed. The crew memnbers of the Air France flight, who had remained at their posts throughout it all, were decorated as heroes in France.

Referenced in:

Raid on Entebbe — The Mountain Goats
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1976 – David Bowie releases the album “Station to Station”

David Bowie’s tenth studio album was a transitional work. It built on the funk and soul of his previous album, Young Americans, while moving toward the more krautrock-influenced sound of the so-called ‘Berlin Trilogy’ that was his next three albums (Low, “Heroes” and Lodger). It also introduced his last great character, ‘The Thin White Duke’.

The best-known song from the album in Golden Years, a plastic soul number that was the first recorded track for the album, but the album as a whole is a critical and popular favourite in Bowie’s career. Ironically, it also marks the high point of Bowie’s cocaine addiction and fascination with Nazism, and Bowie himself has described it as soulless.

Referenced in:
Trans-Europe Express – Kraftwerk
Californication – Red Hot Chili Peppers

1976 – Mary Whitehouse sues Gay News

Mary Whitehouse was, depending on your politics, a valiant and untiring defender of moral standards, or an interfering busybody who got off on minding other people’s business.

In 1976, she sued the publishers of the magazine Gay News for printing a poem entitled “The Love that Dares to Speak its Name” by James Kirkup, on the grounds that it was blasphemous. She ultimately won this court case, although the fact that both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Cardinal of London refused to testify on her behalf speaks volumes about just how much distance there was between Whitehouse’s moral standards and those of the wider community, even among other Christians.

Referenced in:

Glad to be Gay ’79 — Tom Robinson Band

1976 – Bruce Jenner wins Gold in the decathlon at Montreal

Born on October 28, 1940 in Mount Kisco, New York, Bruce Jenner attended Graceland College on a football scholarship, until a knee injury forced him to reassess his priorities. With the encouragement of his coach, he took up the decathlon, and represented the US in the event at the Munich Olympics in 1972. He placed tenth, and encouraged by this, devoted himself to training for the 76 Olympics.

At Montreal, as at the Pan-American Games the year before in Mexico City, he placed first, winning the gold medal for America.

He returned home a celebrity, and had a short-lived career as an actor and a celebrity endorser. These days, he makes his living as a motivational speaker.

Referenced in:

Spam – Save Ferris

1976 – The ‘Son of Sam’ killings begin

David Richard Berkowitz was never a well-adjusted man. Born Richard David Falco, he was put up for adoption by his mother and adopted by the Berkowitz’s when he was a week old.

From an early age, he showed above average intelligence – which unfortunately manifested in a loss of interest in learning and a growing tendency towards pyromania. He went to Woodstock in 69, joined the Army in 71 (although he served only in South Korea and the US, never in Vietnam), and upon his discharge in 74, began drifting into cults.

He failed to reconcile with his birth mother that same year, and first attacked another human on Christmas Eve, 1975. His first murder, that of Donna Lauria, took place more than six months later.

As the Son of Sam, Berkowitz terrorised New York City for a little over twelve months until his arrest in August 1976, killing a total of six people and wounding seven others.

Referenced in:

S.O.S. – Camarosmith
I Hear Black – Overkill
Son of Sam – Macabre
Son of Sam – Dead Boys
Son of Sam – Elliott Smith
Son of Sam – Neitherworld
Mr. 44 – Electric Hellfire Club
Jumping at Shadows – Benediction
Ballad to the Son of Sam – Consumers
Son of A Gun (David Berkowitz) – Church of Misery
Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear The Voices) – Hall & Oates

1976 — Howlin’ Wolf dies

Born Chester Arthur Burnett in 1910, there have been few bluesmen to equal to the talent of Howlin’ Wolf. His unusual name derives from his early (and notably unsuccessful) attempts to yodel – he sounded more like a howling wolf, and the name stuck.

Wolf’s career stretched over a quarter of a century, from 1951 until his death. He probably would have had a longer musical career had he not served in the military during World War Two, and his career would no doubt have brought him more joy had his mother not believed it to be ‘devil’s music’. Wolf died in Hines VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois, mourned by a generation of bluesmen he influenced and a legion of fans the world over.

Referenced in:
Woke Up This Morning — Alabama 3