1492 – The Alhambra Decree’s deadline expires

Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon were the joint monarchs of their two kingdoms, and both staunch Catholics, when they issued the Alhambra Decree on March 31, 1492. It required all Jews to remove themselves – or be expelled by force – from the territories claimed by Aragon and Castille. It did leave a loophole, though – a sincere conversion to Catholicism and abandonment of the Jewish faith would permit these Jews to stay.

Few took advantage of the loophole, and of those who did, many practiced only the forms of the Catholic faith, continuing their Judaic practices in private. Of those who left, about half fled to Portugal, and most of the others wound up living in the cities of Salonika, Sarajevo, Izmir, Thessaloniniki or Constantinople, where the exiled Jews, who were predominately Sephardic, mingled with the Mizrahi Jews who already lived there. The Decree was eventually revoked… in 1968. (Yes, you read that right.)

Referenced in:
Harlem Renaissance — Immortal Technique

1964 – Jim Reeves dies

Gentleman Jim Reeves was a popular American recording artist, starting in the 1950s and continuing to regularly chart until the 1980s, two decades after his death. Reeves was one of the foremost musicians playing and writing music in what became known as “the Nashville Sound”, a fusion of country and pop elements of its era, although he also wrote and played straighter country works and even gospel songs.

Reeves died in 1964 at the age of 40, in a plane crash caused by a violent thunderstorm hitting the small plane he was in. His death cast a long shadow over the Nashville Sound, and the subsequent direction of the evolution of country music was changed by his absence – had he remained alive, the Nashville sound and the Bakersfield sounds might well have divergard less, and country as a whole would have become more mainstream years sooner.

Referenced in:

We’ll Remember You — Houston Wells
Jimmy Reeves — Jerry Jerry and the Sons of Rhythm Orchestra
A Tribute to Jim Reeves — Larry Cunningham and the Mighty Avons

1969 – Elvis Presley first dubbed the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”

It may seem unbelievable today, but there was a time when he wasn’t ‘the King’. In fact, there was a time when he was barely even Elvis Presley. In the period from the start of 1967 through to May of 1968, he released 8 singles – only 2 of which made the top 40, and none of which reached higher than number 28. That all changed with his “Comeback Special” in June 1968, the first time he had performed live since 1961. Broadcast on tv, it made him a household name once more, and from that point on, there would be no looking back.

Presley parlayed the success of the special into a residency at the newly opened International Hotel, in Las Vegas. On the day of his first concert there, July 31, 1969, Elvis was asked by a journalist how it felt to be the King of Rock’n’Roll. Elvis pointed at Fats Domino, who was also present: “No,” he said, “that’s the real king of rock and roll.”

Referenced in:

Porcelain Monkey — Warren Zevon

1886 — Franz Liszt dies

Born in Hungary on October 22, 1811, Franz Liszt spent much of his life traveling. A large portion of his adolescence was spent in Paris, and it was here, on April 20, 1832, that he saw the great Paganini playing violin. Liszt was inspired by the master’s performance, and resolved to become as great a pianist as Paganini was a violinist.

By 1835, Liszt was a touring virtuoso and composer, rapidly building a reputation across all of Europe. By 1842, his fame was such that the term Lisztomania had been coined to describe it. He was the John Lennon of his day, although more temperate about comparing himself to Jesus. Liszt donated a large portion of his fees to charity – in fact, by 1857, this portion was virtually the entirety.

After an injury in 1881, Liszt’s health began to decline, and his compositions from this point onward show an increasing preoccupation with mortality. He finally died of pneumonia, although it has been suggested that a certain degree of medical malpractice may have contributed to his demise.

After his death, Liszt’s close friend Camille Saint-Saëns dedicated his third symphony to him in memorial.

Referenced in:

Decomposing Composers — Monty Python