May 19

Amber pages

An obscure reference in an old diary tells me that the Chad Mitchell Trio reached Number 99 in the American pop charts today in 1962, with a song called “John Birch Society”. Not a particularly significant achievement, it must be said, and an unlikely title for a song of whatever ranking. But given the date, I wonder if this is Dylan’s “Talking John Birch Paranoid Blues”, with which he caused such a furore on the Ed Sullivan show, or an entirely different song that he heard and satirised? Look out you commies!

The same diary entry also tells me, but with a "why?", that today is the Feast Day (perhaps the death-day?) of Alcuin, Yorvik scholar and Charlemagne's chief adviser, the man to whom the invention of cursive writing is attributed - alas falsely; at least, he may have invented it for English, or Aenglisch as he would have written it, but cursive writing in other languages had been around for nearly two millennia already.

Ho Chi Minh (Nguyen That Thanh), Vietnamese revolutionary, born t
oday in 1890

Malcolm X (Malcolm Little), Black Muslim leader, born today in 1925

Jose Julian Marti, Cuban author and political activist, leader of the first of Cuba's wars of liberation, killed, today in 1895

T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"), the Samson of the Arab revolt, caused the seven pillars to come crashing down on his own head, today in 1935, riding his motorcycle suicidally into the oblivion of the Dorsestshire countryside. Presumably, based on that famous incident of him putting out a match between two fingers (the corporal who watched him do it then tried it himself and burned his fingers), the trick was not minding.

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