1996 — A statue of Freddie Mercury is unveiled in Montreux

Standing nearly ten feet tall – as is only appropriate for such a larger than life figure – Irena Sedlecka’s sculpture of Freddie Mercury was unveiled five years and one day after his death on the shores of Lake Geneva, in Montreux, Switzerland. It shows Mercury in one of his more iconic images, his cut off mike stand in one hand, and the other thrust into the air, while his face wears an expression of sheer exultation familiar to anyone who ever saw Queen play.

The ceremony was attended by the sculptor, Mercury’s father, his bandmates from Queen Roger Taylor and Brian May, and Montserrat Caballé, with whom he had worked in the last years of his life. The statue stands there still, a tribute to a champion, a man whom even death could not stop.

Referenced in:
No-One But You (Only The Good Die Young) — Queen

1996 — “Happy Gilmore” premieres

Hollywood success continued to elude Adam Sandler with “Happy Gilmore”. The film was commercially successful, but not the breakthrough he had hoped for (that would come two years later with “The Wedding Singer”). Critics were divided over the film, and although it did great business in the USA, it was a flop in international markets.

The tells the story of “Happy” Gilmore, a former ice hockey player who finds a new career in professional golf. Its humour is in Sandler’s signature man-child style, and its plot is as predictable as that of any other Hollywood sports movie.

Referenced in:
The Chanukah Song (Part II) — Adam Sandler

1996 – Ella Fitzgerald dies

Justly referred to as “The First Lady of Song” and “The Queen of Jazz”, Ella Fitzgerald is one of the all time greats. Her voice spanned a range of three octaves, her control had few equals and her ability to improvise as a vocalist was the equal of any of the horn players she sang with.

Born in 1917, her recording career spanned 60 years, in which she sold 40 million copies of her 70-plus albums (6 of which were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame) and won 14 Grammy Awards. Ella was an intensely private woman – even now, it is unclear how many times she married – and she died in the peace and privacy of her own home in Beverly Hills. Her death was marked by numerous tributes from artists who had worked with her or been inspired or influenced by her.

Referenced in:
Woke Up This Morning – Alabama 3

1996 – Xzibit releases “Paparazzi”

The first single from Xzibit’s first album, “Paprazzi” exists to deride those rappers who are not in it for the music, but for the fame and fortune. Xzibit, real name Alvin Nathaniel Joiner, was a big believer in art for art’s sake, and it shows in the lyrics of this song.

The song was a top ten hit on the Billboard US Rap chart, and also in Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland. It made the Billboard US Hot 100 also, reaching a high of 83. Not bad for a first timer.

Referenced in:

Intro / Bomb First (My Second Reply) — Makaveli

1996 — Glenn McGrath bowls 5 for 50

Australia was looking good at the end of day two of the 1996 Boxing Day Test. The West Indian team was 9 for 233, which put them ahead of AUstralia’s first innings total of 219 – but not far, and with only one wicket in hand, everyone knew that they wouldn’t last long into the third day.

Glenn McGrath was a big part of that. Over the first two days of the test, he’d bowled 5 for 50, conceding the lowest average runs per over of any Australian bowler, at 1.66. Althougher this low rate was equalled by Gillepsie, he bowled only 3 overs – McGrath bowled 30.) And he’d managed 11 maiden overs in that time.

Sure enough, the last West Indian wicket of the first innings fell early on the third day of the test – followed by every single Australian wicket. The West Indians were back at bat that afternoon, and handily defeated the Australians with two days to spare.

Referenced in:
The Parable of Glenn McGrath’s Haircut — This Is Serious Mum

1996 – Veronica Guerin is shot and killed

Veronica Guerin was an Irish journalist whose beat was crime. This did not sit well with the criminals whose exploits she covered, even though she used psuedonyms (mostly in order to avoid trouble with Irish libel laws). She received threats to her life and wellbeing, but did not allow this to deter her.

A particular foe of hers was mob boss John Gilligan, who threatened to kill her and rape her son after she confronted him about his wealth and apparent lack of legitimate income. On June 26, 1996, men from his organisation (although, according to Gilligan, acting without his knowledge or consent) shot and killed Guerin in her car.

The murder weapon was never recovered, but an investigation led to several convictions for her murder and for other charges related to their involvement in organised crime. Gilligan was not convicted of the murder, but was put away for drug-related charges.

The most lasting legacy of Guerin’s murder was the formation of the Criminal Assets Bureau, which conducted precisely the sorts of investigation that Guerin had advocated and that led to her death.

Referenced in:

Veronica — Christy Moore
Veronica 1337 — Paul Bowen
Easy To Lose Hope — Eleanor McEvoy
Complaint in the System (Veronica Guerin) — Savatage

1996 – Tupac Shakur changes his professional name to Makaveli

In 1995, Tupac was sent to prison for molestation. While serving his time in Clinton Correctional Facility, he read, among others, Niccolò Machiavelli, which inspired his pseudonym “Makaveli” – under which he released his next album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. He also read Sun Tzu and other works of politics and philosophy.

The album was very different from Tupac’s earlier works, perhaps unsurprisingly given that it was largely inspired by his time in prison. The title was inspired by how long it took him to record the album – 3 days to write and record, 4 more to produce.

By the time it came out, Tupac had been dead for almost two months, fatally shot on September 7.

Referenced in:

Hold ya Head — Makaveli
Introbomb First (My Second Reply) — Makaveli

1996 – Jonathan Melvoin dies of a drug overdose

Jonathan Melvoin was the brother of Susannah and Wendy Melvoin, who were members of Prince’s New Power Generation. He had worked with Prince, and also as a member of the Dickies. At the time of his death, he was touring with the Smashing Pumpkins – Melvoin was a skilled keyboardist.

His death was caused by a heroin overdose, not his first. Melvoin was survived by a wife and child. The Smashing Pumpkins, who had already fired Melvoin for his drug use at the time of his death, were not invited to his funeral.

Referenced in:

Jonathon – Wendy & Lisa
Angel – Sarah McLachlan
The Love We Make – Prince

1996 – LeAnn Rimes releases Blue

LeAnn Rimes didn’t exactly come from nowhere – by the time she released Blue in 1996, she’d been performing and recording for five years. In fact, Blue was her fourth album, and looking likely to be her last – none of its predecessors had charted. But since then, Rimes had changed labels, and decided to go for broke with this album. She moved away from the country sound of her earlier work to a more pop sensibility. This was recognised as the gamble it was, and hopes were not high.

But Blue defied expectations. It went on to become the number one album on the US country music charts, and actually entered the pop charts at number three (which was also the highest point it would reach there). Her two Grammy’s won the following year in the Best New Artist and Best Female Country Vocal Performance categories, were both on the strength of this album.

Referenced in:

One Week – Barenaked Ladies