1868 — Tom Dula is hanged for murder

Tom Dula was a former Confederate soldier who was executed for the murder of one Laura Foster. However, there are a number of irregularities in the prosecution’s case, notably that although Laura was murdered in Wilkes County, North Carolina, Dula was tried, convicted, and hung in Statesville.

The evidence against Dula was almost entirely circumstantial: while he had threatened to kill whoever had infected him with the pox, it is not clear that he blamed Foster for this; and while he was found hiding out under an assumed name by the lynch mob, he clearly had reason to fear such a mob. Many of the details of the life of Tom Dula, nowadays better remembered as Tom Dooley from the folk songs about him, remain obscure – in no small part due to the inaccuracies of the folk songs.

Referenced in:
Tom Dooley — Neil Young

1960 — The NAB announces fines for DJs found accepting payola

While there had been rumours about payola in the music industry for years, the practice became more prevalent in the 1950s as radio overtook jukeboxes as the primary way music was listened to. In 1959, the US Senate began to investigate these claims, dragging the whole sordid practice of pay for play into the light. DJs testified to taking payments of as much as $22,000 to play songs, and careers were ruined and reputations tarnished.

In an effort to combat the public reaction to the scandal, the National Association of Broadcasters announced heavy fines for DJs caught accepting such bribes. Later, they restructured the industry to make programme directors at each station instead responsible for deciding what to play – a decision that actually made payola easier for the record labels. It is widely believed that the practice of payola continues to this day with little change other than that the DJs no longer see a dime from it.

Referenced in:
Payola Blues — Neil Young
Pull My Strings — Dead Kennedys
We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel

1520 – Moctezuma II, Tlatoani of the Aztecs, dies

Moctezuma II had the extreme misfortune to be the Tlatoani (ruler or king) of the Aztec Empire at the time when Hernan Cortez and his men landed in Mexico. For a number of reasons – but mostly the technological superiority of the Spaniards – it was under his rule that the Aztec Empire fell to the Spaniards (although Moctezuma and several of his successors were maintained as puppet rulers by the Spanish for a time).

Moctezuma died a broken man, having lost his entire empire in all but name, and fearing for what would become of his people and their culture in the face of the rapacity and missionary fervour of their Spanish conquerors.

Referenced in:

Cortez the Killer — Neil Young

1990 – Kurt Cobain commits suicide

To his fans, and most other people for that matter, he must have seemed on top of the world. Why wouldn’t he? He was the lead singer and songwriter of Nirvana, the leader and figurehead of the Grunge movement (the reigning style of music and fashion), and considered as important culturally as Lennon or McCartney had been.

But Lennon and McCartney didn’t suffer from depression. Stardom seemed an unwanted distraction for Cobain – it was certainly an unwanted pressure. We may never know exactly what pushed him over the edge into absolute despair, but something did. Likely factors – most of which were exacerbated by his depression and its other symptoms, even while they too were symptoms – include Cobain’s drug use, his physical weariness after a long tour and bouts of illness, the sad state of his marriage to Courtney Love, and his long term depression.

His body was discovered on April 8, 1990. He had shot himself after taking a large dose of heroin (and possibly some diazepam) and writing a suicide note. The coroner later estimated that he had died on April 5. He was survived by his wife and daughter, his bandmates in Nirvana, the Grunge movement, and a number of urban myths that he had been murdered.

Referenced in:

Let Me In — REM
About a Boy — Patti Smith
Mighty K.C. — For Squirrels
Innocent — Our Lady Peace
Sleeps with Angels — Neil Young
You Were Right — Badly Drawn Boy
Too Cool Queenie — Stone Temple Pilots
Californication — Red Hot Chili Peppers
Rock And Roll Hall Of Death — Mitch Benn And The Distractions

1519 – Hernan Cortes lands in Mexico

Hernan Cortes was 34 years old when he led the Spanish Conquistador invasion of Mexico. The initial landing took place on the Yucatan Peninsula, in what was then Maya territory. Cortes’ force was only 500 strong, but they were armed with muskets and cannons, as compared to the arrows and spears used by their opponents.

Although initially peaceful, Cortes’ mission was one of conquest, and would eventually result in the destruction of the Aztec nation and its tributaries, and the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

Referenced in:

Cortez the Killer — Neil Young
Short Memory — Midnight Oil
Monetzuma Was a Man of Faith — Andy Prieboy

1970 – Neil Young releases ‘Southern Man’

Neil Young, that ageless and eternal figure of musical protest, has rarely attracted more controversy than in 1970, when he released “Southern Man”. Nearly six minutes long, it expressed Young’s contempt for slavery and slaverholders in his trademark hard rock style, and left no one with ears to hear in any doubt as to where he stood on the issue of race in America.

Never released as a single (the song appeared as the fourth track of Young’s 1970 album “After the Gold Rush”), its uncompromising lyrics made it one of the best known songs on the album – a notoriety that only grew after Lynyrd Skynyrd prominently criticised the song in their best known song “Sweet Home Alabama”.

Reportedly, there was no particular animosity between Young and the members of Skynyrd regarding the songs, just an honest disagreement of opinions. Indeed, at the time of the plane crash that killed Skynyrd, Young and the band were trying to sync up their schedules so that Young could perform “Sweet Home Alabama” with them sometime.

Referenced in:

Ronnie and Neil — Drive-By Truckers
Sweet Home Alabama — Lynyrd Skynyrd

1969 – The Manson Family carries out the Tate murders

“Now is the time for Helter Skelter.”

With those words, Charles Manson initiated one of his most infamous murder sprees: the Tate killings. Manson despatched Charles Watson, along with three other family members, to the house of Terry Melcher. What no one in the family knew is that the Melcher no longer lived there – the house was now being leased by director Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate. Polanski wasn’t home, but Tate, unluckily for her, was.

Tate and three guests were brutally murdered by the Mansonites, each of them stabbed multiple times. The following night, the family committed another set of murders. On August 16, 25 member of the Manson Family, including all the Tate killers and Manson himself, were arrested. It would take several more months for the police to put it all together – it wasn’t until October that they connected the two different murder sites – but in the end, the murderers would all be caught.

Referenced in:

Mister Manson – Klaatu
DI-1-9026 – J. G. Thirlwell
ATWA – System of a Down
Revolution Blues – Neil Young
Manson Clan – Righteous Pigs
Death Valley ’69 – Sonic Youth
Do The Charles Manson – Necro
Lunatic of God’s Creation – Deicide
Charlie Manson’s Birthday – Otis Ball
Charles in Charge – Ian Brady Bunch
Manson Family Feud – Diesel Queens
Bloodbath in Paradise – Ozzy Osbourne
Charlie Manson Blues – The Flaming Lips
SST Superstar Charles Manson – Ultraviolet Eye
Spahn Ranch (Charles Manson) – Church of Misery