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1938 - Blues legend Robert Johnson dies after being poisoned by a jealous man. Like many famous musicians who died young, he was 27 when he passed.

Of course the legend was, he sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads in exchanged for guitar playing skills.

1966 - The Monkees released their first single, "Last Train to Clarksville." Critics called them "The Pre-Fab Four".

The song writing team of Boyce and Hart wrote this as a protest to the Vietnam War. They had to keep this quiet in order to get it recorded, but it is about a guy who gets drafted and goes to fight in the war. The train is taking him to an army base, and he knows he may die in Vietnam. At the end of the song he states, "I don't know if I'm ever coming home."

1969 - During a North American tour Led Zeppelin appeared at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park with Joe Cocker as support. Zeppelin had been asked to perform at Woodstock but due to this gig commitment were unable to attend.

1969 - It's Day 2 of Woodstock, featuring performances by the Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin and Santana. One memorable moment comes during The Who's set, when the activist Abbie Hoffman interrupts their set and grabs the microphone. After saying a few words about fellow activist John Sinclair, Pete Townshend hits him with his guitar. Townshend would later say he didn't know who he was.

1975 - Peter Gabriel split from Genesis. "There was all this big time stuff happening with long tours being planned way in the future, and I just felt I was getting to be part of a machine," Gabriel said in the documentary Genesis: A History. "I felt I was becoming a sort of stereotype, sort of 'rock star,' or falling into wanting that ego gratification. I didn't like myself, I didn't like the situation, and I didn't feel free."

His song "Solsbury Hill" was a rare autobiographical song, dealing with his break as lead singer of the band and anticipation of his new challenge as a solo artist.

1985 - Red Hot Chili Peppers release the cocaine-fueled funk album Freaky Styley, produced by Parliament-Funkadelic founder George Clinton, and welcome back guitarist Hillel Slovak.

The closest the Red Hot Chili Peppers ever came to straight funk, Freaky Styley is the quirkiest, loosest, and most playful album in their long and winding catalog. It's also one of the best, if least heard. It's a cult classic of sorts and a world apart from the where the band would go in later years, for better and for worse.


Madonna is 65. Madonna changed the trajectory of popular music not long after "Borderline" became her first Top Ten hit in 1984. Fusing post-disco dance with effervescent pop, the song was unexpected and fresh, a trick that soon became her signature. Over a career that lasted for decades, Madonna ushered underground sounds into the mainstream, specializing in trends percolating in dance clubs. As she arrived at the dawn of the MTV era, she seized the possibilities of music videos, creating a series of sexy, stylish clips that earned her the reputation of a provocateur while also establishing the network as the bastion for hip culture in the 1980s. Madonna recorded many of the pop anthems that defined that decade -- "Like a Virgin," "Material Girl," "Live to Tell," "Papa Don't Preach," "Open Your Heart," "Like a Prayer," "Express Yourself" -- and in the process she created the archetype of a modern pop star: one whose music was inextricably tied with its visual representation, and one who was loathe to trade upon past glories.

In 1985 she said this: "Manipulating people, that’s what I’m good at"


1977 - Elvis Presley died. Elvis Presley belongs on the short list of artists who changed the course of popular music in the 20th century. He may not have invented rock & roll, but he was indisputably its first rock star, a singer whose charisma was tightly intertwined with his natural talent for a combination that seemed combustible, sexy, and dangerous when Presley seized the imagination of America with four successive number one singles in 1956. Presley spent the next two decades near the top of the charts, weathering changes in fashion, self-inflicted missteps, and comebacks as his music expanded and evolved. Throughout his career, he never abandoned the rock & roll he pioneered on his early singles for Sun Records, but he developed an effective counterpoint to his primal rockabilly by honing a rich, resonant ballad style while also delving into blues, country, and soul, progressions that came into sharp relief with his celebrated "comeback" in the late 1960s.

2018 - Aretha Franklin died in Detroit at the age of 76. She was known as "The Queen of Soul" and one of the best-selling musical artists of all time, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide.

Aretha Franklin was one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as a whole. More than any other performer, she epitomized soul at its most gospel-charged. Her astonishing run of late-'60s hits with Atlantic Records -- "Respect," "I Never Loved a Man," "Chain of Fools," "Baby I Love You," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Think," "The House That Jack Built," and many others -- earned her the title Queen of Soul. Franklin never rested on her laurels. Following the early-'70s LPs Spirit in the Dark and Young, Gifted and Black, she scored more hits on the R&B charts than pop, adeptly following the progression of soul in the '70s and '80s thanks to her collaborations with Curtis Mayfield (1976's Sparkle) and Luther Vandross (1982's Jump to It). Franklin made a triumphant return to pop with 1985's Who's Zoomin' Who? and its Top Ten single "Freeway of Love," which was followed in 1987 by the George Michael duet "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)," which became her first number one hit on the Billboard charts since "Respect" in 1967. Franklin spent the next three decades performing and recording regularly, maintaining her status as the Queen of Soul until her death in 2018.

In 1987, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

On This Day In Music History was sourced from This Day in Music, Song Facts Allmusic, and Wikipedia.


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