1997 – Jeff Buckley dies

Jeff Buckley’s career was really only just starting at the point where he died. He’d released one album, which had done well for him, especially his cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (although ironically, it was not released as a single until long after his death, it’s probably still Buckley’s best known work).

Despite the inevitable rumours in such cases, an autopsy showed that Buckley was not drunk or on drugs at the time of his death, and he had not seemed to be suffering any unusual stress or depression. He simply drowned by accident while swimming in a quiet bay of the Mississippi near Memphis, Tennessee. His body was not recovered until June 4, however, which left plenty of time to speculate before the truth could be discovered.

Referenced in:

Memphis — PJ Harvey
A Body Goes Down — Duncan Sheik
Memphis Skyline — Rufus Wainwright

1953 – Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reach the top of Mt Everest

After an ascent lasting more than two months, Hillary and Norgay made their final camp about 300 metres below the summit of Everest on the night of May 28, 1953. The next day, they made the relatively short ascent to the top of the mountain, the highest in the world.

Hillary claimed that the two set foot on the summit at the same time, but Norgay has always claimed that Hillary was first. And while Hillary took Norgay’s photo at the top of the world, he would not let Norgay take his. Some people are just too damned modest for their own good.

Referenced in:

(He’ll Never Be An) Old Man River — This Is Serious Mum

1844 – James K. Polk receives the Democratic Party’s Candidacy for U.S. President

This time around, there’s no better way to tell it than with the actual lyrics. All you need is a little scene setting – it’s the Democratic Convention of 1844, in Baltimore:

In 1844, the Democrats were split.
The three nominees for the presidential candidate
Were Martin Van Buren, a former president and an abolitionist
James Buchanan, a moderate
Louis Cass, a general and expansionist.
From Nashville came a dark horse riding up:
He was James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

Austere, severe, he held few people dear
His oratory filled his foes with fear.
The factions soon agreed:
He’s just the man we need
To bring about victory,
Fulfil our manifest destiny,
And annex the land the Mexicans command.
And when the votes were cast the winner was
Mister James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

And there you have it 🙂

Referenced in:
James K. Polk – They Might Be Giants

I don’t intend to make a habit of simply quoting large slabs of lyrics here – it’s lazy, for one thing – but on this occasion, I felt an exception had to be made. There’s no way I could have summarised the same information as lucidly or as elegantly as this.