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Good News in History, October 22



On this day 211 years ago today, Franz Liszt was born in the Hungarian Kingdom. Liszt was considered a piano virtuoso, and left behind a dense body of work replete with new forms of musical composition that changed classical music forever. The largest and best-known portion of Liszt’s music is his original piano work, with Années de pèlerinage (“Years of Pilgrimage”) considered his most stirring. He was not only a composer and piano maestro, but a benefactor and promotor of a who’s who of musical titans including Edvard Grieg, Frédéric Chopin, Richard Wagner, Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, and Robert Glinka. READ more about Liszt… (1811)

Franz Liszt in 1858

At the age of 8, he was already composing simple piano music after picking up the instrument at age 7. He was performing by age 11. As a teenager he moved to Paris and began teaching after his father died, and fell dramatically ill himself such that a death notice was printed in a Paris newspaper.

He pulled through with his abilities intact, and rose to become a famous touring pianist. Liszt was seen as handsome by many, with the German poet Heinrich Heine writing concerning his showmanship during concerts: “How powerful, how shattering was his mere physical appearance.”

After 1842, “Lisztomania”—coined by Heine—swept across Europe. The reception that Liszt enjoyed, as a result, could be described only as hysterical. Women fought over his silk handkerchiefs and velvet gloves, which they ripped to shreds as souvenirs. This atmosphere was fueled in great part by the artist’s mesmeric personality and stage presence.

After this period, he settled in Kyiv, where he gave up touring for good to focus on composition. Finally returning to his native Hungary, he was given a special position at the Royal Academy of Music and government funding to offer virtuoso lessons to 3 students per year. Many consider him the greatest pianist to ever live.

More Good News on this Date:

  • The Metropolitan Opera House opened in New York City featuring Faust (1883)
  • Toastmasters was founded to teach people how to speak in public (1924)
  • Laos gained independence from France (1953)
  • A Canadian Parliamentary Committee selected the design which became the new official Flag of Canada (1964)
  • Red Dye No. 4 was banned by the US Food and Drug Administration after it is discovered that it causes tumors in the bladders of dogs (1976)
  • The high speed TGV railway service from Paris to Lyon was inaugurated (1981)
  • India launched its first unmanned lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 (2008)

56 years ago today, The Supremes became the first female music group to attain a No. 1 seller on the Billboard album chart.

Their ninth studio album for Motown, The Supremes A’ Go-Go LP included the mega hits You Can’t Hurry Love, and Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart. WATCH their live performance of Can’t Hurry Love on the Ed Sullivan show, which helped propel the album to No. 1… (1966)

225 years ago today, Andre-Jacques Garnerin made the first parachute jump from 3,200 feet (1000m) above Paris.

Garnerin’s early design was based on an umbrella-shaped device that would be lifted by a balloon and then descend with a gondola attached to a silk parachute. (1797)

143 years ago today, after frustrating months testing the usual choice, platinum wire, to light an electric bulb, Thomas Edison, decided to try carbonized cotton thread and was finally successful.

The first commercially practical incandescent light bulb lasted 13½ hours before burning out. Edison’s version of the light bulb was able to outstrip the others because of a combination of three factors: an effective incandescent material, a higher vacuum than others were able to achieve (by use of the Sprengel pump) and a high resistance that made power distribution from a centralized source economically viable. (1879)

On this day 6 years ago, a 30-foot-tall totem pole was returned home to its native Alaskan tribe after an 84-year odyssey that landed it in the backyards of some of the most famous Hollywood mansions.

Honolulu Museum of Art

Famed actor John Barrymore, grandfather of actress Drew Barrymore, encountered it in an unoccupied village—and carted it off, later to display it in his California garden until his death in 1943, when horror film legend Vincent Price purchased it.

The totem, probably originally carved in the 1800s was one of only two surviving poles of the many that once stood in the Alaska village. After a flight through Seattle and a voyage to Craig, Alaska, the pole was turned over to the Tlingit tribe. (2015)

And, Happy 83rd Birthday to beloved actor Christopher Lloyd, who played zany characters like Emmett ‘Doc’ Brown in the Back to the Future film series, and the ‘Reverend’ on the sitcom Taxi. His acting and distinctive voice has earned him multiple Emmy Awards and Lloyd took to the stage again this last year in a new play at The Lion Theatre in New York—portraying one of the mainstays of modernism, the troubling literary figure Ezra Pound.

WATCH as Actors Michael J. Fox and Doc Brown reunite on the TODAY show 30 years into the future. (1938)

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