1901 — Guiseppe Verdi dies

Alongside Richard Wagner, Verdi was the preeminent composer of operas in his era, with works such as “Aida”, “Il Trovatore” and “La Traviata” to his credit. He was also famed for the “Messa da Requiem”, an oratorio he wrote in tribute to his friend Alessandro Manzoni. Verdi loved the works of Shakespeare, and several of his operas were adaptations of the Bard’s plays.

Verdi is known to have been active in the cause of Italian unification, although he was horrified by the assassination of King Umberto I in 1900. The composer suffered a stroke on January 21, 1901, and clung to life for another six days before dying. His funeral remains the single largest public event in Italian history, and his friend Arturo Toscanini conducted the massed orchestra of musicians from throughout Europe who came to pay tribute to Verdi at it.

Referenced in:

Decomposing Composers — Monty Python

1961 — Soviet submarine S-80 is lost with all hands in the Arctic Sea

Originally launched on October 21, 1950 at Krasnoye Sormovo Factory in Gorky, the S-80 was a Whiskey Class submarine, and was later overhauled between 1957 and 1959. On January 27, 1961, the S-80 was sailing through the Barents Sea (a portion of the Arctic Ocean between the Svalbard Islands and the Arkhangelsk Oblast, directly north of Murmansk). At about 1:27am, the S-80 dropped below snorkel depth, but a mechanical fault caused portions of the submarine to flood.

Alarm spread, but not as quickly as the water and the cascading mechanical faults. In the end, a total of 68 men – the complete complement of officers and crew – lost their lives in the sinking. The S-80 and the men aboard it were not found for seven and a half years.

Referenced in:
Reckless (Don’t Be So) — Australian Crawl

1964 — Mary Whitehouse launches the Clean Up TV Campaign

One of the greatest killjoys ever produced by the British Isles, Mary Whitehouse was a conservative Christian who decided that it was time that someone put their foot down about all the filth on TV – and that that foot was her. She formed the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, an organisation of similarly inclined busybodies who were motivated by the sheer terror that someone, somewhere, might be having a good time. Determined to prevent this shameful occurrence from happening, she mounted a number of campaigns, all of them notable for their censoriousness and not a few of them for their homophobia. It became a badge of honour amongst British entertainers to be criticised by her.

Whitehouse had a day job as a sex education teacher. One assumes that very few of her students ever successfully reproduced.

Referenced in:
Pigs (Three Different Ones) — Pink Floyd