1991 – Freddie Mercury dies

A true giant of popular music, and the possessor of one of the finest voices ever to grace a song, Freddie Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, died at the age of 45 after a protracted struggle with AIDS. An openly gay man, Mercury had contracted the disease some years earlier, being diagnosed in 1987, but chose to conceal his illness from all but his nearest and dearest, including the other three members of Queen, until relatively shortly before his death. This desire for privacy has unfortunately tainted his legacy somewhat, as he arguably could have done much to promote awareness of AIDS had he announced his infection sooner – although this would likely have taken a greater toll on his health and seen him die even sooner.

Mercury left behind him an incredible range of musical accomplishments, both as singer and songwriter. In particular, he wrote 10 of the 17 songs on Queen’s Greatest Hits volume one: “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Seven Seas of Rhye”, “Killer Queen”, “Somebody to Love”, “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy”, “We Are the Champions”, “Bicycle Race”, “Don’t Stop Me Now”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Play the Game” – all of them still played frequently on radio to this day. He was also a consumate showman in concert, rivalled only by Bowie and Jagger in his ability to charm a crowd.

Referenced in:

No-One But You (Only The Good Die Young) — Queen
Rock And Roll Hall Of Death — Mitch Benn And The Distractions

1859 — “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin is first published

One of the most controversial books in the world, On the Origin of Species (often called Origin of the Species is one of the foundational texts of modern science. Not only is almost the entirety of modern biology built on its foundation, but it remains an excellent (if imperfect) example of the scientific method.

Charles Darwin had spent many years developing this theory, beginning with initial observations in 1835 during his voyage on the Beagle, and working on it in earnest for more than 15 years prior to publication. Darwin was entirely unprepared for the controversy he kicked off, although one suspects that he’d merely be saddened and confused by the low esteem in which a majority of Americans currently hold his theory.

Referenced in:

Soldiers of Christ — Jill Sobule

1993 – Albert Collins dies

Albert Collins was one of the truly great bluesmen. From the early days of his career, in 1952, through to his death 41 years later, he became so associated with his chosen guitar – the Fender Telecaster – that he was frequently known as the Master of the Telecaster.

He was 61 years old at the time of his death. He had been diagnosed in August of 1993 with lung cancer, and the prognosis was not good. The cancer had already metastasized at the time it was detected, and he was given four months to live. Collins’ last recordings date from September of that year, with portions of Live ’92/’93 recorded at his last concerts.

Referenced in:

Six Strings Down — Jimmie Vaughan

1971 – D.B. Cooper hijacks a plane, gets the money, and is never heard from again

It is one of few truly great unsolved crimes. The facts are as follows:

The man who gave his name as ‘Dan Cooper’ (the ‘DB’ monicker is based on later errors in the media, but has become more widely known) boarded Flight 305 in Portland, Oregon, bound for Seattle. Using the threat of a bomb in his suitcase, Cooper hijacked the plane shortly after take off.

It landed in Seattle, where Cooper released the passengers unharmed in exchange for his ransom demands being met: $200,000 in unmarked bills and 4 parachutes. After taking on these items, Cooper directed the crew to take off once more, and fly to Reno, Nevada.

During this second flight, he sent all the crew to the cockpit, and parachuted from the plane with the money. He was never apprehended, and although approximately $5000 was later found in the area that he parachuted into, nothing else ever was. Cooper has never been identified, and his true name may never be known. The FBI has stated that it believes him to have died upon landing, and decayed to nothing before he could be found. Of course, they also claimed that he was rude and abusive in conversations with them, which is at variance with the recollections of the crew members who heard these conversations, so it’s possible that the Bureau may be engaged in a certain amount of ass-covering.

Referenced in:

DB Cooper – Senses Fail
Dan Cooper – End of a Year
D. B. Cooper. – Todd Snider
D.B. Cooper – Everything is Fine
Bag Full of Money – Roger McGuinn
D. B. Cooper – Streetside Symphony
Vapor Trails and Light – Everything is Fine
The Ballad of D. B. Cooper – Chuck Brodsky
D.B. Cooper: Where Are You? – Judy Sword