1962 — “Green Onions” by Booker T and the MGs reaches #1 on the charts

“Green Onions” is probably the single best known instrumental of the rock era, and routinely appears on lists of the “the greatest songs of all time”. It was originally released as the B-side of “Behave Yourself” in May of 1962, but when its popularity became apparent, the single was re-released with its A and B sides flipped. It peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, but its influence goes way beyond that.

“Green Onions” was composed by the members of Booker T. and MGs (Booker T. Jones, Steve “The Colonel” Cropper, Lewie Steinberg and Al Jackson, jnr. Originally a group of session musicians at Stax Records, they metamorphosed into a successful recording act in their own right, but never had another single as successful as “Green Onions”.

Referenced in:

Green Onions — The Blues Brothers

1833 — Johannes Brahms born

Johannes Brahms is one of the greatest composers in the Classical tradition, while also being strongly influenced by the Baroque composers who preceded him. He was born in Hamburg, Germany, but spent much of his career in Vienna. An accomplished player as well as composer, Brahms premiered many of his own works in his lifetime – a devout perfectionist, he also destroyed many others that were not up to his standards.

Brahms died in 1897, a month short of his 64th birthday. His music lives on, both for its own sake, and in the works of composers he influenced, such as Bartok, Dvorak and Elgar.

Referenced in:

Green Onions — The Blues Brothers

1685 — Johann Sebastian Bach born

One of the greatest of the Baroque composers, Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach (in the duchy of Saxe-Eisenach, now a part of Germany). Even in a family as musical as the Bachs, Johann was a standout – in addition to composing, he was also an accomplished player of the violin, viola, harpsichord and organ (although it was the latter he was most in demand for during his lifetime).

Bach’s compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Mass in B minor, the The Well-Tempered Clavier and over 300 cantatas. He lived to be 65, and was a great influence on the composers who followed him, including Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Mendelssohn.

Referenced in:

Green Onions — The Blues Brothers

1897 — Johannes Brahms dies

A composer of the Romantic school, Johannes Brahms in his 64 years associated with many of the other greats of his era, such as Liszt and Schumann. His works include a dozen sonatas, four symphonies, four concertos, a number of waltzes and a great number of variations, a form which he is particularly known for.

Brahms developed cancer of either the liver or the pancreas which eventually killed him. He is buried in the Zentralfriedhof of Vienna, where he lived in his last years.

Referenced in:

Green Onions — The Blues Brothers
Decomposing Composers — Monty Python

1904 — Mississippi Fred McDowell born

Born Fred McDowell – because few people are cruel enough to name a child Mississippi – he was one of the truly great bluesmen, and one of the very first of North Mississippi bluesmen. He played in what is sometimes called the North Hill Country Blues style, which was low on chord changes, but high on the use of slide guitar. This latter art McDowell cheerfully taught for many years – Bonnie Raitt was one of his students.

That said, and despite his occasional use of an electric guitar, McDowell refused to play rock – in fact, his 1969 album was famously entitled: I Do Not Play No Rock ‘N’ Roll/. He didn’t seem to mind anyone else doing so, though – when the Rolling Stones covered his song “You Gotta Move” in 1971, he was flattered and told folks he quite liked their take on it.

Referenced in:

Green Onions — The Blues Brothers

1770 — Ludwig van Beethoven born

Generally acknowledged to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of the classical composers, Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, in what is now Germany. However, most of his early creative life was spent in Vienna, where he studied music under the tutelage of Joseph Haydn. Exposed to works by other composers of Vienna (notably Mozart and Bach), Beethoven nonetheless developed his own distinctive style.

At the age of 26, Beethoven began to develop tinnitus, an affliction which would slowly rob him of his hearing entirely. Undaunted, he continued to compose, play and conduct music, and many of his greatest works were written at a time when he was either partially or completely deaf.

The date given here for his birth is actually that of his baptism – no conclusive record exists of his actual birth date, although it is unlikely to have been more than a week or so earlier.

Referenced in:

Green Onions — The Blues Brothers

1944 — Glenn Miller disappears

Glenn Miller was one of the most famous band leaders of the Big Band era. His Glenn Miller Orchestra was one of the best known and most popular bands of its time, and Miller was the lead singer, trombonist and principal songwriter for it. Among his songs are such standards as “In the Mood”, “Moonlight Serenade”, “Pennsylvania 6-5000” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo”.

A staunch patriot, Miller attempted to join the US Navy in 1942, but was rejected for being too old (he was 38 at the time). The Air Force proved more welcoming, and although he saw no active duty, Miller was highly active in the Army Air Force Band, quickly becoming its bandleader and performing a weekly radio broadcast as both DJ and leader of the house band.

In 1944, the Army Air Force Band, now a 50 piece ensemble, went to England, where they performed more than 800 engagements over the course of the second half of 1944. Miller also recorded songs in German that were broadcast to Nazi-held regions as propaganda. On the night he disappeared, Miller was flying to the recently-liberated Paris to play for Allied troops there. His plane was lost with all hands as it crossed the English Channel. No trace of the plane or its passengers was ever found. The Glenn Miller Orchestra carries on his Miller’s name to this day.

Referenced in:

Green Onions — The Blues Brothers

1750 — Johann Sebastian Bach dies

One of the best known and most loved composers of all time, Johann Sebastian Bach was 85 years old at the time of his death. In those years, he created such works as the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, The Well-Tempered Clavier, the Mass in B minor, The Art of Fugue, and the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Although he did not create any new forms, his works broadened and deepened the scope of existing forms.

After his death, several of his sons carried on his legacy as composers in their own right, notably Johann Christian Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach and Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. The Bach, it seems, did not stop here.

Referenced in:

Green Onions — The Blues Brothers

1972 — Mississippi Fred McDowell dies

Mississippi Fred McDowell was 68 at the time of his death – he was born, died and was buried in the state that gave him his nickname. Cancer took him, and the world lost a great talent.

McDowell, although often lumped in with the Delta Blues tradition, is more accurately seen as one of the earliest representatives of the distinct yet related North Mississippi Blues tradition. He often served as a mentor to younger musicians – famously, although he always said “I Do Not Play No Rock ‘N’ Roll” (he even released an album with that as its title), he was happy to associate with those who did, notably Bonnie Raitt.

Referenced in:

L.A. Money Train — Rollins Band
Green Onions — The Blues Brothers

1947 — The Marshall Plan is announced

Named for then US Secretary of State George Marshall, the Marshall Plan is one of the largest foreign aid schemes ever put in place by any nation. Beginning in 1948 and ending in 1951, the Marshall Plan gave over 12 billion dollars worth of aid to various Western European nations, intending to help them rebuild after World War Two.

In all, 16 nations – Portugal, Iceland, Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, West Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Greece and Turkey – received differing amounts to assist in reconstruction, particularly of their industrial capacity and general infrastructure. The plan was originally supposed to last until 1953, but America was unable to afford this largesse and the war in Korea at the same time.

Referenced in:

Green Onions — The Blues Brothers

1989 — Irving Berlin dies

Born Israel Isidore Baline, the composer better known as Irving Berlin was 101 years old when he died. His family came to America in 1893, fleeing the anti-Jewish pogroms of Russia. They settled on the Lower East Side of New York City, where the family got involved in music and Irving’s talents as a musician first came to light.

Over the course of his life, he wrote more than 1800 songs, which included the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films, including songs such as “White Christmas” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and such classic musicals as “Annie Get Your Gun”. His music was nominated for Academy Awards on eight separate occasions, but he never won one.

It doesn’t seem to have bothered him much, although he did retire from songwriting in the Sixties and spent the rest of his life in relative obscurity in his beloved New York City.

Referenced in:

Green Onions — The Blues Brothers

1827 — Ludwig van Beethoven dies

Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most well-known composers ever. His Fifth Symphony’s opening bar is perhaps the most recognisable musical passage in Western culture – “da da da DAH!” (It’s also the Morse code for V, which is the Roman numeral for 5. Sam Morse apparently liked complicated puns.)

Born in Bonn, Germany in the year 1770, he would rise from relatively humble beginnings to become one of the great composers of his (or any other) era. In addition to his nine symphonies, he also wrote a wide variety of sonatas, concertos, string quartets and a single opera. Among his better known compositions are “Fur Elise” and the Triple Concerto.

He died on March 26, 1827 in Vienna, after a lengthy series of illnesses that had left him deaf and bedridden. His funeral was a massive undertaking, and mourners lined the streets of Vienna as his body was taken to the cemetery. He left behind him a vast musical legacy, and remains one of the most played and performed of composers even today.

Referenced in:

Green Onions — The Blues Brothers
Decomposing Composers — Monty Python

The Blues Brothers (1980)

VHS | DVD | Blu-Ray | Download

Soundtrack Tracklist:

  1. She Caught The Katy — Jake Blues
  2. Peter Gunn Theme — The Blue Brothers Band
  3. Gimme Some Lovin’ — Jake Blues
  4. Shake A Tail Feather — Ray Charles with Jake & Elwood Blues
  5. Everybody Needs Somebody To Love — Jake & Elwood Blues
  6. The Old Landmark — James Brown
  7. Think — Aretha Franklin
  8. Theme From Rawhide – Elwood & Jake Blues
  9. Minnie The Moocher — Cab Calloway
  10. Sweet Home Chicago – Elwood & Jake Blues
  11. Jailhouse Rock — Jake Blues

Tracks not on Soundtrack: