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Good News in History, November 12



Happy 69th birthday to Baaba Maal, the Senegalese singer and guitarist, who is one of the most important musical exports from the country. Pop culture knows of Maal likely through his provision of the music for Marvel’s Black Panther, but Maal has worked with artists as varied as Mumford & Sons, Taj Mahal, and Peter Gabriel. READ more…

Baaba Maal CC 3.0. Gertrud K

Born in Podor, he helped his father, the muzzein at the local mosque, to perform the calls to prayer, which led to him developing an extremely resonant voice that rarely needed amplification. From his mother, he learned the Yela music of the Tukulor people, a style of west-African song in 3/4 time signature that typified his early work.

He sings in the Pulaar language, and promotes the traditions of the Pulaar-speaking people, who live on either side of the Senegal River in the ancient Senegalese kingdom of Futa Tooro. He selects the traditional instruments based on their relationship to the songs’ message.

His most recent studio album, The Traveller, was received to critical acclaim.

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • The women’s suffrage activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was born in Johnstown, New York, where her lawyer father treated her as he would any son, and encouraged her to enter traditionally male-dominated spheres (1815)
  • Austria became a republic (1918)
  • The Holland Tunnel opened linking New York City to New Jersey (1927); The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opened (1936)
  • First drive-up bank teller windows open at Exchange Nat’l Bank in Chicago (1946)
  • Lech Wałęsa, the Polish Solidarity leader, was released from prison after eleven months (1982)
  • The American Medical Association decreed it unethical for a doctor to refuse to treat someone solely because they have AIDS or HIV (1987)
  • Tim Berners-Lee published his formal proposal for the World Wide Web (1990)
  • Marriage for same-sex couples in Connecticut commenced after the state’s Supreme Court affirmed their right to wed, rather than accept a 2005 civil union decree (2008)
2009 photo by Per Ole Hagen, CC license

Happy 77th Birthday to Neil Young, the Canadian singer-songwriter who is remembered for such songs as Old Man, After the Gold Rush, Heart of Gold, Ohio, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, and Southern Man. He recently married actress Daryl Hannah—and is also a devoted environmentalist and advocate for farmers, as a founding board member of Farm Aid. (1945)

91 years ago today, Abbey Road Studios officially opened for business at 3 Abbey Road, in the City of Westminster, near London.

abbey-road-studiosKnown for innovative recording techniques, it became world known in the 1960s as the creative mecca where Pink Floyd and The Beatles engineered their albums, including the Abbey Road LP—with the famous cover image of the Fab Four in the crosswalk around the corner, where tourists now pose and snap photos by the thousands every day.

Founded by the Gramophone Company, a predecessor of British music company EMI, the studio came under threat of sale to property developers in 2009, but the British government protected the site, granting it English Heritage Grade II status, thereby preserving the building from any major alterations.

In 2011, Abbey Road Studios installed a 24-hour live streaming web camera focused on the historic crosswalk to show tourists trying to recreate the famous Beatles lineup photographed for the Abbey Road album cover. (1931)

On this day 8 years ago, a bike path designed to glow like van Gogh’s Starry Night painting was opened, connecting in a beautiful way the many notable locations of the artist’s life in the Netherlands.

Photo by Studio Roosegaarde, CC license on Flickr

Designed by Daan Roosegaarde, the van Gogh–Roosegaarde cycle path absorbs light during the day but only reveals its magic in the evening. Thousands of twinkling pebbles incorporated into the asphalt lead the viewers from the Dutch city of Eindhoven, alongside two watermills featured in his paintings, to Vincent’s family home in Brabant, and into Nuenen, the place where his first masterpiece, The Potato Eaters, was created. WATCH a video of cyclists riding the starry path, and get more details in the GNN story here. (2014)

182 years ago today, the French sculptor Auguste Rodin was born. Considered the founder of modern sculpture, his world-famous works, such as The Thinker and The Kiss, helped make him one of the few widely known sculptors of art history.

The Thinker; and Rodin in his studio, 1898

Born into a working-class family in Paris, he used a craftsman-like approach in his work. Rodin possessed a unique ability to model a complex, turbulent, and deeply-pocketed surface in clay—and for his style was widely criticized at the time.

In a pivot from tradition, he modeled the human body with naturalism and his sculptures celebrated individual character and physicality. Some of his works also purposely left the viewer with a sense of incompletion. Although Auguste Rodin was sensitive to the controversy surrounding his work, he refused to change his style—and eventually won praise from the artistic community. Sometimes compared with Michelangelo, he received countless requests to make busts of prominent people across Europe and America.

Rodin willed his studio along with the rights to make casts from his plasters to the French government—and because he encouraged the replication of his sculpted work, Rodin’s busts and figures are represented in many public and private collections.

The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke stayed for a year or two with Rodin as his secretary and wrote an extended monologue about the man and his work. (1840)

Also, Happy 79th Birthday to Wallace Shawn, the American character actor, comedian, playwright and essayist.

Photo by Sam Felder, CC license, 2005

His films included the Louis Malle directed comedy-drama My Dinner with Andre, which he co-wrote, Clueless, and Toy Story, for which he voiced the character of Rex. Our favorite was The Princess Bride, during which he delivered the classic line, “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is: Never get involved in a land war in Asia…” He also appeared in dozens of cameo roles featuring his quirky voice and spunky demeanor.

His father was William Shawn, the long-time editor of The New Yorker. He graduated with a B.A. in history from Harvard College, and later studied philosophy, politics and economics, as well as teaching Latin overseas, originally intending to become a diplomat, before becoming an actor in 1979… He authored the 2009 book, Essays, and was also awarded the Obie Award for best playwriting in 1974 for his play Our Late Night. WATCH a sweet interview with Shawn on a front stoop… (1943)


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