First timer? In this formerly once-a-day blog (then every-other-day blog and now a two-or-three-times a week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48). I call this “landing.” I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near. I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.
Dan – Here’s one of those fairly rare events: a truly urban landing; in . . . MD; 10/8; 5/10; 7; 155.2. Here’s my landing map:
Here’s a slightly expanded view, showing my proximity to Baltimore:
Here’s a broader view:
I landed in the watershed of the Miller Run; on to a new river, the Patapsco (1084th hit); on to the Baltimore Harbor, which, of course is really part of the Chesapeake.
Here’s my GE shot, showing that I landed just behind a large block of commercial (retail) businesses:
Here’s a Google Map shot, that identifies some of the businesses:
With great excitement, I noted that I had StreetView coverage for the very street upon which I landed. Here’s the shot. X marks my landing!!
So, with no offense meant to Catonsville (which the town I actually landed in), I couldn’t really find much of particular interest. Same for Ellicott City (a nearby suburb). So, since this is the closest I’ve ever come to Baltimore, I figured I’d check it out. Well, as might be expected, there’s an overwhelming amount of information available. Wiki has an extremely lengthy list of famous people from Baltimore. I quickly perused it, and made the following list of people that appeared the most interesting to me:
|“Mama” Cass Elliot
|Edgar Alan Poe
Given the “random” theme of this blog, I thought I’d have my computer randomly chose two of the above people for a little research. The numbers next to the names are in fact, random numbers generated by my computer. Before I generated them, I decided that I’d feature the people with the highest and the lowest random numbers. And the winners are . . . Billie Holiday and Frank Zappa!
Billie had a tough time of it. From Biography.com, about Billie (I shortened the article) :
Born Eleanora Fagan in 1915, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Some sources say Baltimore). One of the most influential jazz singers of all time, Billie Holiday had a thriving career for many years before her battles with substance abuse got the better of her.
Holiday spent much of her childhood in Baltimore, Maryland. Her mother, Sadie, was only a teenager when she had her. Her father is widely believed to be Clarence Holiday, who eventually became a successful jazz musician, playing with the likes of Fletcher Henderson.
In her difficult early life, Holiday found solace in music, singing along to the records of Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong. She followed her mother who had moved to New York City in the late 1920s and worked in a house of prostitution in Harlem for a time. Around 1930, Holiday began singing in local clubs and renamed herself “Billie” after the film star Billie Dove.
At the age of 18, Holiday was discovered by producer John Hammond while she was performing in a Harlem jazz club. Hammond was instrumental in getting Holiday recording work with an up-and-coming clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman.
She married James Monroe in 1941. Already known to drink, Holiday picked up her new husband’s habit of smoking opium. The marriage didn’t last, but Holiday’s problems with substance abuse continued. (They later divorced.)
That same year, Holiday had a hit with “God Bless the Child.” She later signed with Decca Records in 1944 and scored an R&B hit the next year with “Lover Man.” Her boyfriend at the time was trumpeter Joe Guy, and with him she started using heroin. After the death of her mother in October 1945, Holiday began drinking more heavily and escalated her drug use to ease her grief.
She appeared with her idol Louis Armstrong in the 1947 film New Orleans, albeit playing the role of a maid. Unfortunately, Holiday’s drug use caused her a great professional setback that same year. She was arrested and convicted for narcotics possession in 1947. Sentenced to one year and a day of jail time, Holiday went to a federal rehabilitation facility in Alderston, West Virginia.
While her hard living was taking a toll on her voice, Holiday continued to tour and record in the 1950s. In 1954, Holiday had a hugely successful tour of Europe.
Her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues (1956), was written in collaboration by William Dufty. Some of the material included, however, must be taken with a grain of salt. Holiday was in rough shape when she worked with Dufty on the project, and she claimed to have never read the book after it was finished.
Around this time, Holiday became involved with Louis McKay. The two were arrested for narcotics in 1956, and they married in Mexico the following year. Like many other men in her life, McKay used Holiday’s name and money to advance himself.
After years of lackluster performances, she gave her final performance in New York City on May 25, 1959. Not long after this event, Holiday was admitted to the hospital for heart and liver problems. She was so addicted to heroin that she was even arrested for possession while in the hospital. On July 17, 1959, Holiday died from alcohol- and drug-related complications.
More than 3,000 people turned out to say good-bye to Lady Day at her funeral held in St. Paul the Apostle Roman Catholic Church on July 21, 1959. A who’s who of the jazz world attended the solemn occasion.
Her autobiography was made into the 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues with famed singer Diana Ross playing the part of Holiday, which helped renew interest in Holiday’s recordings. In 2000, Billie Holiday was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Diana Ross handling the honors.
Here’s a picture of Billie:
So what about Frank? From Wiki:
Frank Vincent Zappa (1940 – 1993) was an American composer, electric guitarist, record producer, and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa wrote rock, jazz, electronic and orchestral works. He also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. Zappa produced almost all of the more than 60 albums he released with the band Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist.
Frank Zappa was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1940. The family moved often during Zappa’s childhood because his father, a chemist and mathematician, had various jobs in the US defense industry. After a brief time in Florida in the mid-1940s, the family returned to Maryland, where Zappa’s father worked at the Edgewood Arsenal chemical warfare facility at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. Due to their home’s proximity to the arsenal, which stored mustard gas, gas masks were kept in the house in case of an accident. This had a profound effect on the young Zappa: references to germs, germ warfare and other aspects of the defense industry occur throughout his work.
During his childhood Zappa was often sick, suffering from asthma, earaches and sinus problems. A doctor treated the latter by inserting a pellet of radium into each of Zappa’s nostrils; little was known at the time about the potential dangers of being subjected to even small amounts of therapeutic radiation. Nasal imagery and references appear both in his music, lyrics and album covers.
Many of Zappa’s childhood diseases may have arisen from exposure to mustard gas; furthermore, his health worsened when he lived in the Baltimore area. In 1952, his family relocated to California mainly because of Zappa’s health.
While in his teens, he acquired a taste for percussion-based avant-garde composers such as Edgard Varèse and 1950s rhythm and blues music. He began writing classical music in high school, while at the same time playing drums in rhythm and blues bands—he later switched to electric guitar. He was a self-taught composer and performer, and his diverse musical influences led him to create music that was often impossible to categorize.
His 1966 debut album with the Mothers of Invention, Freak Out!, combined songs in conventional rock and roll format with collective improvisations and studio-generated sound collages. His later albums shared this eclectic and experimental approach, irrespective of whether the fundamental format was one of rock, jazz or classical. He wrote the lyrics to all his songs, which—often humorously—reflected his iconoclastic view of established social and political processes, structures and movements. He was a strident critic of mainstream education and organized religion, and a forthright and passionate advocate for freedom of speech, autodidacticism and the abolition of censorship.
Zappa was a highly productive and prolific artist and he gained widespread critical acclaim. Many of his albums are considered essential in rock and jazz history. He is regarded as one of the most original guitarists and composers of his time. He also remains a major influence on musicians and composers. He had some commercial success, particularly in Europe, and for most of his career was able to work as an independent artist. Zappa was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.
In 1967 Zappa married Adelaide Gail Sloatman, with whom he remained until his death from prostate cancer in 1993. They had four children: Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen.
Most of Zappa’s projects came to a halt in 1990, when he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. The disease had been developing unnoticed for ten years and was considered inoperable. After his diagnosis, Zappa devoted most of his energy to modern orchestral synclavier (a sophisticated music synthesize) works. In 1993 he completed Civilization, Phaze III shortly before his death. It was a major synclavier work which he had begun in the 1980s.
Frank Zappa died in 1993 in his home surrounded by his wife and children. At a private ceremony the following day, Zappa was interred in an unmarked grave at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, Los Angeles. On Monday, December 6 his family publicly announced that “Composer Frank Zappa left for his final tour just before 6:00 pm on Saturday”.
Here are several shots of Frank, showing that he had more than one “look:”
That’ll do it. . .
© 2010 A Landing A Day