Today in Music History - March 17

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Today in Music History for March 17:

In 1899, the classic Neopolitan song "O Sole Mio!" was published. The composer was E. di Campna with words by G. Capurro.

In 1919, Nat King Cole, one of the most popular singers of the 1940s, '50s and '60s, was born in Montgomery, Ala. At 16, he had his own band called "The Royal Dukes." In the early 1940s, Cole began playing at a Hollywood club called the Swanee Inn. At first, Cole and his trio were mainly an instrumental group. But when a customer asked him to sing "Sweet Lorraine," his career as a vocalist was born. Cole signed a contract with Capitol Records, the label he was to remain with throughout his career, and in 1944 had his first hit, "Straighten Up and Fly Right." Among the other hits featuring his warm, smokey vocal stylings were "The Christmas Song" in 1946, "Nature Boy" in 1948 and "Mona Lisa" in 1950. Cole was still hitting the charts in the '60s with such songs as "Ramblin' Rose" and "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer." He died Feb. 15, 1965 of lung cancer.

In 1944, singer-songwriter John Sebastian, founder of "The Lovin' Spoonful," was born in New York. Sebastian formed "The Lovin' Spoonful" in 1964, and they had seven successive top-10 singles in 1965 and '66. They hit No. 1 with "Summer in the City." After the group broke up at the end of the '60s, Sebastian began a moderately successful solo career in 1970 with an appearance at Woodstock. In 1976, he had a No. 1 record with "Welcome Back," the theme from the TV sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter."

In 1962, "Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated" played its first gig at London's Ealing Club. The band, at various times, featured such future stars as Jack Bruce and Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts of "The Rolling Stones."

In 1967, the "Grateful Dead's" self-titled first album was released by Warner Brothers. It was not a commercial success.

In 1968, the "Bee Gees" made their U.S. TV debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show," singing "To Love Somebody" and their current hit "Words."

In 1973, "Pink Floyd" released its concept album "Dark Side of the Moon," now recognized as the longest-charting album in the history of Billboard magazine. It stayed on the Billboard Hot 200 Album chart for a record 741 straight weeks until April, 1988. (It has since reappeared on the chart and as of March 2014, reached a total of 857 weeks.) It resurfaced when Billboard created the Top Pop Catalog Album chart in March, 1991, and has been a mainstay at 1,100 weeks. Total worldwide sales of "Dark Side of the Moon" are more than 45 million.

In 1979, Rickie Lee Jones' self-titled debut album was released. The LP sold a million copies, and the singer-songwriter was hailed as one of the brightest new stars of the year. "Chuck E's in Love" was the hit single from the album.

In 1980, Hugh Farr, an original member of "The Sons of the Pioneers," died at age 76. "The Pioneers," whose members also included Roy Rogers and Bob Nolan, did much radio and recording work in the 1930s and '40s. Their biggest hits were "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and "Cool Water." Roy Rogers soon left the group to concentrate on his movie career, and "The Sons of the Pioneers" appeared in many of his films.

In 1982, Samuel George, lead singer of "The Capitols," was stabbed to death in a family argument in Detroit. "The Capitols" had a top-10 hit in 1966 with a dance tune called "The Cool Jerk."

In 1989, "Tom Cochrane and Red Rider" performed the first of two shows with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. The concerts were recorded and released later in the year as "The Symphony Sessions."

In 1990, Carly Simon, Whitney Houston, "Air Supply," Dionne Warwick and "Milli Vanilli" were among those who turned out in New York for a benefit billed as the single largest fundraising event for AIDS. About $2 million was raised. The concert was sponsored by Arista Records, which was celebrating its 15th anniversary.

In 1996, Elvis sound-alike Terry Stafford, who had a huge hit in 1964 with "Suspicion," died. The song had originally been recorded by Presley two years earlier and was included on his album "Pot Luck." Stafford's singing career was shortlived. By the late 1960s, he was concentrating on songwriting. Among his compositions were "Big in Vegas," a hit for Buck Owens, and George Strait's "Amarillo by Morning."

In 1997, the Recording Industry Association of America announced that the "Eagles" "Greatest Hits" album had tied Michael Jackson's "Thriller" as the all-time best-selling album in the U.S. Each had sold more than 24 million copies. "Thriller" was still the top-seller worldwide, with estimated sales of 46 million copies.

In 1999, Oscar-winning composer Ernest Gold died in Los Angeles of complications from a stroke. He was 77. Gold's most recognized work was the score of the 1960 movie "Exodus," for which he won an Academy Award and two Grammys. The "Exodus" soundtrack album was a huge hit, spending 14 weeks at the top of the Billboard chart. A recording of the "Exodus" theme by the piano duo of "Ferrante and Teicher" made it to No. 2 on the singles chart.

In 2000, Shania Twain's "Come On Over" became the best-selling album in the U.S. by a female artist after being certified for sales of 17 million. It went on to sell over 20 million copies in the U.S. and 39 million worldwide.

In 2004, Courtney Love was arrested for allegedly throwing a microphone stand at a member of the audience at a show in New York. Earlier that day, she had appeared on David Letterman's show and flashed him six times.

In 2005, rapper Lil' Kim was convicted of lying to a grand jury regarding a shooting outside a New York radio station.

In 2008, Paul McCartney's divorce from Heather Mills was settled for US$48.6 million.

In 2010, Taylor Swift became the first solo female to have five top-10 country songs from each of her first two CDs when the title cut from "Fearless" cracked the top-10 on the Billboard Country singles chart.

In 2010, Alex Chilton, the singer and guitarist who had a No. 1 hit as a gravel-voiced teen with "The Letter" for the pop-soul outfit "The Box Tops" and went on to influence a generation of musicians through his work with "Big Star," died in New Orleans. He was 59.

In 2010, songwriter and music producer Rob Fusari filed a $30 million lawsuit in New York City against Grammy Award-winning singer Lady Gaga. He claimed his protege and former girlfriend squeezed him out of her lucrative career after he co-wrote some of her songs, came up with her stage name and helped get her a record deal. She later counter-sued. In September, the two agreed to drop their lawsuits but terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In 2010, Johnnie High, a north Texas country music showman, died at the age of 80 after battling heart disease. The impresario of "Johnnie High's Country Music Revue" began his Saturday show in 1974. He gave Boxcar Willie and LeAnn Rimes, who was then just a child, some of their first stage experience.

In 2011, Ferlin Husky, a pioneering country music entertainer in the 1950s and early '60s known for hits like "Wings of a Dove" and "Gone," died at age 85. He was inducted into Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010 and was one of the first country artists to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


(The Canadian Press)