Berlin, Berlin, wie fahren nach Berlin! Die deutsche Hauptstadt ist für Besucher aus aller Welt so attraktiv wie nie zuvor. Im ersten Halbjahr 2013 reisten 5,3 Millionen Gäste an die Spree. Das ist ein Plus von fünf Prozent im Vergleich zum Vorjahreszeitraum, wie das Amt für Statistik und die Marketinggesellschaft Visit Berlin mitteilten.
Noch größer war der Zuwachs bei den Übernachtungen. Deren Zahl stieg um 9,2 Prozent auf 12,4 Millionen. Berlin schlägt München und Hamburg damit erneut ganz deutlich. In Europa liegt Berlin nach früheren Angaben an dritter Stelle hinter London und Paris.
München zählte nach jüngsten offiziellen Angaben im ersten Halbjahr mehr als 2,9 Millionen Gäste und über 5,9 Millionen Übernachtungen, in Hamburg waren es 2,76 Millionen Gäste und 5,34 Millionen Übernachtungen.
«In jeder einzelnen Minute kommen statistisch gesehen 20 Gäste in unsere Stadt», sagte Berlins Regierender Bürgermeister Klaus Wowereit (SPD) bei der Vorstellung der Halbjahresbilanz. In diesem Jahr werde es wieder einen Besucherrekord geben. «Wir rechnen mit 26 Millionen Übernachtungen.» Im vergangenen Jahr wurden 24,9 Millionen gezählt. Vor 20 Jahren – nicht lange nach dem Mauerfall – waren es erst 7,5 Millionen und vor 10 Jahren 11,4 Millionen.
Berlin belegte bereits zu den Mauerzeiten von 1961 bis 1989 einen gewissen Sonderstatus unter den deutschen Städten, und die Besichtigung des damaligen sog. „Antifaschistische Schutzwalls“ war – zumindest von West-Berlin aus gesehen – ein fester Programmpunkt für Schulklassen, Kegelvereine und ausländische Delegationen auf Berlin-Besuch. Den überragenden touristischen Stellenwert jedoch, den die Stadt mittlerweile inne hat, konnten nach dem Fall ihres wohl weltweit bekanntesten Bauwerks im November `89 weder deren Bewohner noch die Berliner Touristikbranche auch nur im Entferntesten erahnen.
Berlin heute gilt als „in, hip, angesagt, up to date, toll, spitze, amazing, exciting, mola mucho“, jedes Jahr zieht es mehr Besucher und Gäste in die fast schon global als Hort von Kreativität und Experimentierfreude gefeierte Stadt. Nicht wenige, die als Touristen kamen, bleiben länger als geplant oder auch gleich für immer bzw. für einige Jahre. Speziell jüngere Besucher schätzen die vielerorts noch vergleichsweise günstigen Preise in der deutschen Hauptstadt. Auch wenn sich immer mehr alteingesessene Berliner zunehmend und auch zu Recht über steigende Mieten beklagen, ist die sich langsam aber sicher wieder zur Metropole an der Spree entwickelnde Stadt gerade in Bezug auf Wohnkosten zumeist immer noch sehr viel erschwinglicher als etwa London, Paris oder auch New York. Nicht nur das tobende Leben in der Stadt macht den Reiz, sondern Berlin bietet auch ein attraktives Umland. Seen, Weiden und Wälder schaffen ein ansprechendes Ambiente um in eine Berlin Ferienwohnung einzukehren.
Rund 2,7 Mio. Menschen hatten zwischen 1949 und 1961 die DDR und Ost-Berlin verlassen: ein Flüchtlingsstrom, der etwa zur Hälfte aus jungen Leuten unter 25 Jahren bestand und die SED-Führung vor immer größere Schwierigkeiten stellte. Täglich passierten rund eine halbe Million Menschen in beide Richtungen die Sektorengrenzen in Berlin und konnten so die Lebensbedingungen vergleichen. Allein 1960 gingen etwa 200.000 Menschen dauerhaft in den Westen. Die DDR stand kurz vor dem gesellschaftlichen und wirtschaftlichen Zusammenbruch.
Noch am 15. Juni 1961 erklärte der DDR-Staatsratsvorsitzende Walter Ulbricht, niemand habe die Absicht eine Mauer zu errichten [Film 0,81 MB]. Am 12. August 1961 gab der Ministerrat der DDR bekannt: «Zur Unterbindung der feindlichen Tätigkeit der revanchistischen und militaristischen Kräfte Westdeutschlands und West-Berlins wird eine solche Kontrolle an der Grenze der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik einschließlich der Grenze zu den Westsektoren von Groß-Berlin eingeführt, wie sie an den Grenzen jedes souveränen Staates üblich ist.» Dass sich diese Maßnahme in erster Linie gegen die eigene Bevölkerung richtete, der in Zukunft der Grenzübertritt untersagt war, erwähnte der Ministerrat nicht.
In den frühen Morgenstunden des 13. August 1961 [Film 5,80 MB] wurden an der Grenze des sowjetischen Sektors zu West-Berlin provisorische Absperrungen errichtet und an den Verbindungsstraßen das Pflaster aufgerissen. Einheiten der Volkspolizei, der Transportpolizei sowie der sogenannten Betriebskampfgruppen unterbanden jeglichen Verkehr an der Sektorengrenze. Wohl nicht ohne Hintersinn hatte die SED-Führung einen Ferien-Sonntag im Hochsommer für ihre Aktion ausgewählt.
In den nächsten Tagen und Wochen wurden die Stacheldrahtverhaue an der Grenze zu West-Berlin von Ost-Berliner Bauarbeitern unter scharfer Bewachung durch DDR-Grenzposten mit einer Mauer aus Betonplatten und Hohlblocksteinen ersetzt. Wohnhäusern, wie z.B. in der Bernauer Straße, in der die Gehwege zum Bezirk Wedding (West-Berlin), die südliche Häuserzeile aber zum Bezirk Mitte (Ost-Berlin) gehörten, wurden in die Grenzbefestigung einbezogen: Kurzerhand ließ die DDR-Regierung Hauseingänge und Erdgeschoss-Fenster zumauern. Die Bewohner konnten ihre Wohnungen nur noch von der Hofseite betreten, die in Ost-Berlin lag. Bereits im Jahr 1961 kam es zu zahlreichen Zwangsräumungen – nicht nur in der Bernauer Straße, sondern auch in anderen Grenzbereichen.
Durch den Mauerbau wurden von einem Tag auf den anderen Straßen, Plätze und Wohnquartiere geteilt und der Nahverkehr unterbrochen. Am Abend des 13. August sagte der Regierende Bürgermeister Willy Brandt vor dem Abgeordnetenhaus: «(…) Der Senat von Berlin erhebt vor aller Welt Anklage gegen die widerrechtlichen und unmenschlichen Maßnahmen der Spalter Deutschlands, der Bedrücker Ost-Berlins und der Bedroher West-Berlins (…)».
Am 25. Oktober 1961 standen sich amerikanische und sowjetische Panzer am «Ausländerübergang» Friedrichstraße (CheckpointCharlie) gegenüber: DDR-Grenzposten hatten zuvor versucht, Repräsentanten der Westalliierten bei Einfahrt in den sowjetischen Sektor zu kontrollieren. Dieses Vorgehen verstieß in den Augen der Amerikaner gegen das alliierte Recht auf ungehinderte Bewegungsfreiheit in der ganzen Stadt. 16 Stunden standen sich so, nur wenige Meter voneinander entfernt, die beiden Atommächte direkt gegenüber. Für die Zeitgenossen ein Moment allerhöchster Kriegsgefahr. Einen Tag später erfolgt auf beiden Seiten der Rückzug. Durch eine diplomatische Initiative von US-Präsident Kennedy hatte der sowjetische Staats- und Parteichef Chruschtschow für diesmal den Vier-Mächte Status von ganz Berlin bestätigt.
In der Folgezeit wurden die Sperranlagen weiter aus- und umgebaut und das Kontrollsystem an der Grenze perfektioniert. Die innerstädtische Mauer, die Ost- von West-Berlin trennte, hatte eine Länge von 43,1 Kilometern. Der Teil der Sperranlagen, der die übrige DDR an der Grenze zu West-Berlin abriegelte, war 111,9 Kilometer lang. Weit über 100.000 Bürger der DDR versuchten zwischen 1961 und 1988 über die innerdeutsche Grenze oder über die Berliner Mauer zu fliehen. Weit mehr als 600 Menschen wurden von Grenzsoldaten der DDR erschossen oder starben bei Fluchtversuchen; allein an der Berliner Mauer gab es zwischen 1961 und 1989 mindestens 136 Tote.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980)
Win Wenders – Der Himmel über Berlin (1987)
Tom Tykwer – Lola rennt (1998)
Wolfgang Becker – Good Bye, Lenin! (2003)
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck – Das Leben der Anderen (2006)
Franziska Meyer Price – Berlin, Berlin – Der Film (2020)
Burhan Qurbani – Berlin Alexanderplatz (2020)
Lieder über Berlin:
Nina Hagen – Berlin (1992)
Wir tanzen und verfuehren Wir singen und beruehren Wir herrschen und betruegen Wir kriechen und wir luegen We’re loving and romancing We’re singing and we’re dancing We beat it when we need it We’re lying and keep smiling Wir leben bis wir schweben Wir hoffen und wir beten Wir trinken und wir essen Wir lachen und vergessen Was die Leute reden ist wie der Wind Es rauscht and mir vorbei Wir brauchen Worte, die Verbindung schaffen Von vorurteilen frei Berlin!! Berlin!! Ich liebe die Stimmung L’atmosphere c’est tres bizarre Right over here Chez toi at the «Tempodrom» At the «Tunnel» and the «Q» Over here Avec un rendez-vous Toujour retour c’est la vie Ma oui oui oui oui oui oui oui C’est la vie! We all gotta choose If we gonna win or if we gonna lose We all gotta choose If we gonna win or if we gonna lose Berlin!! Berlin!! Osten, Westen werden hell, Ja die grosse Stadt ist schnell! Send me a postcard if you please C’est royale, c’est manifique Osten, Westen werden hell, Ja die grosse Stadt is schnell! Send me a postcard if you please C’est royale, c’est manifique Berlin!! Berlin!! We all gotta choose If we gonna win or if we gonna lose We all gotta choose If we gonna win or if we gonna lose
[Refrain] Wenn man sich schön macht auch wenns hässlich ist Berlin Berlin Berlin Und wenn Stefan plötzlich Steffi ist Berlin Berlin Berlin Wenn man nicht aus Deutschland kommt und trotzdem echt Berliner ist Das ist Berlin Berlin Berlin Berlin Berlin Berlin Oh oh oh oh oh Berlin Berlin Berlin Oh oh oh oh oh Berlin Berlin Berlin
[Refrain] Wenn man sich schön macht auch wenns hässlich ist Berlin Berlin Berlin Und wenn Stefan plötzlich Steffi ist Berlin Berlin Berlin Wenn es alles gibt und du dich fragst wie das zusammen passt Das ist Berlin Berlin Berlin Berlin Berlin Berlin Oh oh oh oh oh Berlin Berlin Berlin Oh oh oh oh oh das ist Berlin Berlin Berlin Wenn es alles gibt und du dich fragst wie das zusammen passt Das ist Berlin Berlin Berlin Berlin Berlin Berlin
Du bist der Hustle von New York, du bist Paris zur Renaissance Du wirkst so primitiv doch schmiedest kulturelles Gold Du bist randvoll mit Action die dich andauernd verändert Du urbanes Paradies – egal, wie man dich dreht und wendet In deinen Mauern steckt Geschichte von Weltkriegen und Ländern Jede noch so harte Krise hast du irgendwie gehandelt DDR-Nostalgie, gepaart mit Fashion Week und Haute Couture Herz der Rebellion, 1. Mai, verschließ die Tür Bist Widersprüchlichkeit – du demonstrierst, du streikst Du warst Kommune 1 – du warst stets am Puls der Zeit Und weil nichts bleibt wie es bleibt – Konvergenz von Politik Einst wich das Berliner Stadtschloss dem Palast der Republik Elektronische Kultur – Berlin Calling in die Welt Bist immer knapp bei Kasse – brauchst immer dringend Geld Ein Leben für den Punk, bist das Kreuzberger Raclette Bist der Darkroom aus’m Berghain im Quartier 206 Du duftest so speziell, dein Geruch macht leute witziger Friedrichshain riecht wie San Francisco in den 70ern Du bist wie du bist, die Stadt unter den Städten Du bist arty Peoples Mekka, Berlin Mitte ist Manhattan Wunderschöne Silhouette … des Sündenbabylons Kudamm ist der Broadway und Kreuzberg die Bronx Doch dich gibt es nicht umsonst, zollst ‘n hohen Preis Du saugst alles in dir auf, ob die Welt das je begreift? Max Schmelings Nummer 1 im Lunapark Halensee Warst Bar 25 Romantik an der Spree Karaokechor im Mauerpark Vergnügungskomitee Du bist Ost und West, du bist Drum’n’Base und Ingwertee Du bist der Herthakahn, der Fernsehturm dein Flaggenmast Hattest schon die Welt zu Gast – bei dir im Admiralspalast Bist die Weltstadt der Kultur und Sinfonie von Großstadt Deine Partitur – so legendär wie Mozart Bist die verlockende Botschaft in den Tiefen des Morasts Schere, Stein, Papier oder Oberbaumer Brückenschlacht Auch wenn du selten lachst – kommst mit jedem klar Der EasyJet-Tourismus – kommt bald auch aus Afrika Egal wo sie auch herkommen, hast sie alle hart gemacht X Generationen um Jahre um den Schlaf gebracht Hauptstadt – Regierungssitz – spielst politisch Schach Bist 24 Stunden wach, die Lichter tanzen in der Nacht Wer kann schon widerstehen, wenn Berlinskaya lacht Hast so vieles zu entdecken, Heimatkunde ist mein Lieblingsfach Egal, was ich schon weiß – du machst mich nur neugieriger Inhaliere stapelweise allerfeinste Berolinika Ich hab es akzeptiert, mein Herz schlägt immer hier Du bist die Liebe meines Lebens, ganz egal, was auch passiert Wie ein blinder Passagier, die Motte in das Licht Und für mich – gibt’s für immer nur noch dich Bin immer wieder überrascht, wie vielen Sprachen du sprichst Zeig dein wahres Gesicht heute Nacht im nackten Abendlicht Dein roughes Tempo – chaotischer als Bangkok Dein schäbiger Charme der sie weltweit alle anlockt Ach mensch Berlin, schon dein Name ist gewaltig Bist eine Blüte, die sich jede Nacht entfaltet Deine Häuser wie Kalligrafie – verwittert und gealtert Postmoderner Stil – historisch umgestaltet Vom Herz alternativ und mit Liebe kontrovers Bist Hauptstadt deutscher Ordnung, aber Ordnung is’ ein Scherz Bist niemals leicht erklärt, dermaßen konträr Du bist einerseits so hart, doch dein Logo ist ein Teddybär Bist das Kunstaushängeschild der ganzen Bundesrepublik Und jeder kleine Fleck der von mir unbesungen blieb Bist Boxhagener Platz, Monbijou und Mauerpark Sitzt mit abgefuckten Chucks im Metropolenaufsichtsrat Dein Ruf hallt um die Welt, irgendwie bist du das neue Rom Warst schon immer eigen, immer anders, immer unkonform Zirkusattraktionen, denkst in andren Dimensionen Anti aus Prinzip, schwimmst gegen, anstatt mit dem Strom Arabische Cafés und die Heimat deutscher Türken Deine schroffe Schönheit – verteilt auf 12 Bezirke Das alte Scheunenviertel wie Soho und Tribeca Kreuzberger Kneipen, verstreut an jeder Ecke Du bist Karl Marx-, Frankfurter- und Landsberger-Allee Hast das breit sein fast erfunden und im Sommer sogar Schnee Auch wenn du das hier hörst, heißt es nicht, dass du’s verstehst Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln – Berlin an der Spree
Ich steh an meiner Ecke und ich sing Mein kleines Liedchen über dich Berlin Noch einmal Ey watn los los der Berliner Dialekt […] wir von unserer Ecke haben großen Durst wir wollen flousen aufm […] kein Gepose auf unsrem Schoße hinten Hände aus den Taschen rein uns los wir essen Ferkel(?) und wir bleiben auf dem Kurs bei allen Frauen dieser Welt- da kein Sturz Wir machens kurz
Berlin! Du bist so wunderbar (3x)
Big up! Berliner Jungen gegen die Mauer im Kopf Berliner Jungen passen nicht in euern Kopf Köpf mich an und wir kommen in buzz [..] Potz blitz! Wir haben alles in der Stadt das ist kein Witz Die Berliner Luft entgeht so nicht Berliner Kids Passendes Stück. Dabei ist, wer vorne sitzt […] Ich frag: was ist der Unterschied von unsrer Art zu Leben und der der Community Es ist doch jeden Tag dasselbe Lied Wir checken Rythm für Beat Denn das ist, was uns liegt Ihr werdet sehn wie viel Wind wir säen Sagt bitte nicht ihr könnt es nicht verstehn Wir sind erwacht und wir werden uns sehn Was uns sowieso gehört, es werden Stürme wehen
El carnaval canario es color, alegría, disfraces, carrozas, murgas, comparsas, espectaculares cabalgatas… Y todo al ritmo de batucada y salsa. Es un carnaval único, no solo porque transforma las calles en una gran fiesta, sino por su ambiente seguro, divertido y desenfadado y, cómo no, por su clima. Las suaves temperaturas de las Islas Canarias permiten vivirlo al aire libre, sin preocuparse lo más mínimo del frío, aunque se celebren en febrero y marzo. Cada isla vive los carnavales a su manera y todos tienen sus peculiaridades. Todos son especiales.
El carnaval de Gran Canaria es uno de los más espectaculares de España. Una gran fiesta, abierta y alegre, que toma las calles de la capital, desde la playa de Las Canteras ‒donde a pleno sol se puede contemplar uno de sus desfiles más carismáticos‒, hasta el precioso barrio de Vegueta. Eso sin olvidar que el centro de la ciudad sigue siendo el reino de los mogollones, las grandes masas de gente disfrazadas que no quieren que pare la fiesta.
Además de la gala de la reina y los concursos de murgas y comparsas, otro de los eventos más populares e internacionales del carnaval grancanario es la gala Drag Queen, donde se elige a la reinona del carnaval, un título al que aspiran candidatos subidos a unas plataformas de vértigo sobre las que realizan coreografías imposibles repletas de creatividad y provocación.
Y para los que quieran vivir los carnavales a pie de playa, el Carnaval Internacional de Maspalomas es la cita perfecta para disfrutar de la fiesta a una temperatura de 22 ºC y al lado de unas dunas increíbles.
El Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife está considerado uno de los mejores del mundo. De hecho, fue declarado ‘Fiesta de Interés Turístico Internacional’. Una gran fiesta que hace especial a Santa Cruz y transforma sus calles en un auténtico espectáculo repleto de alegría, ritmo y bailes. Y tanto de día como de noche, mejor si vas con disfraz y con la cara pintada.
La gala de la reina del carnaval es uno de los acontecimientos más esperados por la espectacularidad de los trajes con los que desfilan las candidatas. Pura fantasía y creatividad, y miles de plumas y lentejuelas en vestidos que pueden llegar a medir más tres metros de altura y pesar hasta 400 kilos de peso.
Dos días clave para los carnavaleros son el día del coso apoteosis del carnaval, un trepidante desfile de carrozas y grupos que transcurre al ritmo contagioso de las comparsas, y el tradicional entierro de la sardina, que se celebra el miércoles de ceniza. Un espectáculo irreverente y desenfadado, pero muy divertido, en el que las viudas lloran porque se acerca el final de la fiesta, aunque todavía quede por delante el carnaval de día y el fin de semana de piñata, que ponen el broche de oro a las celebraciones hasta el año siguiente.
Los carnavales de la isla de La Palma es diferente a los del resto de las islas y uno de los más singulares de España. La diferencia se la da la Fiesta de los Indianos, una celebración inspirada en los canarios que emigraron a Cuba, que tiñe las calles de polvos de talco que se tiran el lunes de carnaval las miles y miles de personas vestidas de blanco que acuden cada año y recorren la calle Real hasta llegar a la plaza de España. Eso sí, lo hacen con sus mejores galas, ‒ellos con guayaberas y ellas con pamelas y vestidos de época‒ al ritmo de guarachas y guajiras que suenan durante todo el día en Santa Cruz de La Palma, una capital coqueta y de aire colonial, que bien vale una visita.
El carnaval de Lanzarote es uno de los más antiguos de Canarias, aunque no tan conocido como el resto. El más destacado es el de su capital, Arrecife, donde las parrandas marineras de los buches y las carrozas, comparsas y batucadas llenan las calles de ritmo, alegría y colorido. En el resto de la isla tampoco decae la fiesta, especialmente en Teguise, que mantiene la tradición de los conocidos como diabletes de Teguise.
El Carnaval de Fuerteventura
Si algo tienen las Islas Canarias es que es una tierra de enormes contrastes. En Fuerteventura, los protagonistas de los carnavales son los arretrancos y los achipencos. Los primeros, unos divertidos vehículos de cuatro ruedas fabricados artesanalmente, y los segundos, unos curiosos artilugios flotantes con los que se hace una de las regatas más extravagantes y divertidas que puedas ver, y que se celebra en Puerto del Rosario, la capital de la isla. ¡Las risas y el buen humor están garantizados!
Además de estas dos citas, quien visite Fuerteventura durante los carnavales también podrá disfrutar de la fiesta y el jolgorio en las calles, de las galas de la reina que se celebran en muchos de sus municipios y de los concursos de murgas que amenizan la fiesta junto con las comparsas.
El Carnaval de La Gomera
El Carnaval de La Gomera es un carnaval tranquilo, sin grandes aglomeraciones. Se concentra sobre todo en San Sebastián, la capital de la isla, y uno de los acontecimientos más populares y esperados es el Día de los Polvos de Talco y Añil, que se celebra el lunes de carnaval. Un gran manto de polvos de talco cubre a los carnavaleros, que van vestidos de blanco, en medio de fiesta, diversión y música de orquesta.
No menos peculiar es el carnaval de la isla de El Hierro, toda una celebración en la que la Fiesta de los Carneros, también conocida como Los Carneros de Tidagay, reúne en Frontera a cientos de jóvenes cubiertos con pieles de carneros, que continúan una tradición que estuvo a punto de perderse pero que, afortunadamente, no cayó en el olvido y hoy sigue viva para deleite de los que puedan disfrutarla.
Carnaval de Cádiz 2023. De Interés Turístico Internacional. Del 16 al 26 de febrero. La ciudad entera se vuelca con el carnaval, es una ocasión perfecta para conocerla y disfrutar del ingenio y la gracia de los gaditanos.
La música carnavalesca se oye por cualquier rincón de la ciudad, se ultiman los detalles de los disfraces (en Cádiz se conocen como «tipo»), algunos de ellos verdaderas obras de arte y el gaditano vive con toda su alma uno de los acontecimientos lúdicos más esperados, quizá de los carnavales españoles el que tiene una imagen más jocosa y divertida.
Frente a la espectacularidad de otros carnavales, la imagen jocosa y divertida del Carnaval de Cádiz lo convierten en una fiesta única, que merece la pena conocer. Durante estos días no faltan otros espectáculos para que la fiesta en Cádiz sea completa.
El Concurso Oficial de Agrupaciones Carnavalescas comenzará el 17 de enero La Gran Final del Gran Teatro Falla se celebrará el 17 de febrero.
Las cuatro modalidades participantes -coros, comparsas, chirigotas y cuartetos-, de las tres categorías -adulto, juvenil e infantil-, presentarán sus coplas ante un jurado para llegar a la Gran Final. Al finalizar la Gran Final comienza la fiesta en la calle.
CHIRIGOTAS, COMPARSAS, COROS Y CUARTETOS
Las Chirigotas. Están compuestas por aproximadamente 12 personas, clasificadas en: Tenores, Segundas y Altos. Los instrumentos que normalmente utilizan son Bombo, Caja y Guitarra; además de aquéllos que puedan corresponderse con el tipo. El repertorio es el mismo que el de las Comparsas: Presentación, Pasodobles, Cuplés y Popurrí. Siendo su fuerte los Cuplés. Suelen ser las agrupaciones más divertidas pues utilizan con frecuencia la sátira y el doble sentido.
Las Comparsas. Cuentan con aproximadamente 14 componentes, clasificados en: Tenores, Segundas, Octavillas y Contraaltos. Los principales instrumentos que utilizan son Bombo, Caja y Guitarra, además de acompañarse con otros relacionados con el tipo.Su repertorio se compone de Presentación, Pasodobles, Cuplés y Popurrí. Destacando los Pasodobles. Son las agrupaciones con apariencia más seria, aunque sus letras no están en absoluto exentas de aspectos críticos y reivindicativos.
Los Coros. El Coro es la agrupación que cuenta con más miembros, aproximadamente cuarenta y cinco personas. Sus componentes suelen clasificarse en Bajos, Segundas, Tenores y Orquesta. Entre los instrumentos que utilizan figuran laúdes, guitarras, bandurrias, así como otros en función del tipo. El repertorio suele estar compuesto por: presentación, tangos, cuplés, y popurrí; siendo los tangos lo más característicos de estas agrupaciones.
Los Cuartetos. Agrupación de tres a cinco componentes. Su repertorio consta de Presentación, Parodia, Cuplés y Popurrí. El plato fuerte de los cuartetos es la Parodia, en la cual representan una historia que suele estar relacionada con el tipo. Como instrumentos sólo cuentan con parejas de palos, con los que se acompañan durante el repertorio, sirviendo además para coordinarlos al cantar. Es una agrupación muy complicada, al tener que actuar con el objeto de hacer reír al público.
El Disfraz es el verdadero rey del carnaval. Bien de forma individual, en pareja, o en grupo; disfrazarse es casi obligado, sobre todo el primer sábado de carnaval. Puedes comprar uno en algunas de las tiendas que se dedican casi en exclusiva a este negocio. Los momentos ideales para lucir tu disfraz son el primer sábado de Carnaval y en cualquiera de las cabalgatas que se celebran.
Carrusel de Coros
Los carruseles de coros se celebran los días festivos del carnaval, tradicionalmente alrededor de la plaza de abastos. Los coros cantan sobre bateas y ofrecen sus tangos a las miles de personas que abarrotan la plaza. El éxito de los carruseles está provocando que se abran nuevos recorridos por otras calles y plazas de la ciudad durante la semana. Si visita Cádiz el primer domingo de Carnaval, no deje de acercarse a presenciarlos, nunca antes de la una de la tarde, y podrá disfrutar de varias horas de alegría. En los numerosos bares de los alrededores podrá saborear los típicos productos de la tierra y hacer un descanso entre las actuaciones.
Dos son las cabalgatas que se celebran durante los carnavales. La del primer domingo recorre la avenida de entrada a la ciudad y congrega a miles de visitantes en un espectáculo lleno de colorido y alegría. Se ha calculado que más de 100.000 personas, entre gaditanos y foráneos, invaden la avenida de acceso a la ciudad, convirtiéndose, muchas veces, en personajes activos en la representación. Este incesante desfile de carrozas, grupos de disfraces y agrupaciones, necesita más de 4 horas en recorrer los, aproximadamente, 3.500m. que abarca su itinerario.La segunda cabalgata, conocida como la “Cabalgata del Humor” se celebra el último domingo y recorre el casco histórico, con la más bullanguera muestra de disfraces y participación callejera que pueda verse.
Las llamadas agrupaciones “ilegales” o, también denominadas, “familiares”, nacieron hace varios años como una forma más de participación popular en el Carnaval. Multitud de charangas compuestas por grupos de amigos, compañeros de trabajo, peñas, familias, etc. rivalizan con las agrupaciones “oficiales en sus repertorios.La puerta del Edificio de Correos, en la plaza de las Flores, se convierte durante el Carnaval en el auténtico “Teatro Falla” de estas agrupaciones.
«Alaaf» und «Helau» – die fünfte Jahreszeit ist in vollem Gange! In vielen Teilen Deutschlands sind die Jecken und Jeckinnen los. Oder sind es die Narren und Närrinnen? Es kursieren so viele Begriffe rund um Karneval, Fasching und Fastnacht. Gibt es da überhaupt einen Unterschied und was sagt man wo? Fragen über Fragen – die Antworten gibt es hier.
SIND KARNEVAL, FASCHING UND FASTNACHT DASSELBE?
Je nachdem, wo gefeiert wird, wird von Karneval, Fasching oder Fastnacht gesprochen. Während im Rheinland und weiten Teilen Norddeutschlands vor allem Karneval gefeiert wird, ist in Teilen Bayerns, Sachsens, Schleswig-Holsteins, Mecklenburg-Vorpommerns und Österreichs überwiegend von Fasching die Rede. Fastnacht wird dagegen hauptsächlich im Südwesten gefeiert. Vor allem in Hessen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Baden-Württemberg und dem Saarland. Dasselbe gilt für Teile Oberbayerns, westliche Gebiete Österreichs, Südtirol, sowie für Luxemburg, Liechtenstein und die Schweiz.
WAS IST DER URSPRUNG VON KARNEVAL UND FASCHING?
Fasching und Karneval bezeichnen grundsätzlich das gleiche Fest und lassen sich sprachwissenschaftlich auf das Fasten zurückführen. Die christliche Fastenzeit von Aschermittwoch bis Ostern hat sich in vielen Kulturen als «fünfte Jahreszeit» etabliert. Sämtliche Bräuche und Traditionen, die um die 40-tägige Fastenzeit herum entstanden sind, werden in Karneval und Co. zum Ausdruck gebracht.
Der Begriff Fasching geht zurück auf das mittelniederdeutsche Wort «Vaschang». Das bedeutet «Ausschank des Fastentrunks» – es geht also um die letzten alkoholischen Getränke vor der Fastenzeit. Im Gegensatz dazu bedeutet Karneval etwas ganz anderes: Die Herkunft ist nicht ganz geklärt, wahrscheinlich ist es vom mittellateinischen «de carne levare ieiunium» – das bedeutet ungefähr «Fasten durch Fleischwegnahme» – zum älteren italienischen «carne vale» – «Fleisch, lebe wohl!» – geworden.
Man könnte nach der Begriffsherkunft also zu folgendem Schluss kommen: Die Rheinländer verabschieden sich fröhlich vom Fleisch, bevor die Fastenzeit beginnt, und die Bayern und Österreicher vom Alkohol.
TRADITIONEN IN DER WINTERAUSTREIBUNG
Doch es gibt auch andere Ursprünge: So soll das Gleichheitsprinzip als wichtiger Feiergrund des Karnevals bereits in der Antike entstanden sein. Frühlingsfeste, bei denen böse Wintergeister vertrieben werden sollten, stehen wiederum im unmittelbaren Zusammenhang mit der Fastnacht. Im Vergleich zum heiteren Karneval ist der eher düstere Charakter der Fastnacht vor allem in der schwäbisch-alemannischen Variante noch heute gut erkennbar.
JECKEN UND NARREN – «HELAU» UND «ALAAF»
Zusätzlich zu den unterschiedlichen Begriffen für die «fünfte Jahreszeit» gibt es noch verschiedene Bezeichnungen für die Teilnehmer der Umzüge: Während im Rheinland die sogenannten Jeckinnen und Jecken durch die Straßen ziehen, treiben in anderen Regionen Närrinnen und Narren ihr Unwesen. Der Ausdruck «Narrenzeit» hat sich hingegen regionsübergreifend als Synonym für die gesamte Karnevalssession etabliert.
Zu den bekanntesten Faschings- oder Karnevalsrufen zählen wohl «Alaaf» und «Helau». Auch hier gibt es wieder regionale Unterschiede: Als kölscher Begriff ist «Alaaf» in erster Linie in der «Hauptstadt des Karnevals» Köln zuhause. Dort schallt es während der Straßenumzüge «Kölle Alaaf», was so viel wie «Köln über alles» bedeutet. Doch auch in Bonn, Aachen, Leverkusen und anderen Regionen im Rheinland ist «Alaaf» der Narrenruf. Auf keinen Fall sollte «Alaaf» dagegen in Düsseldorf gerufen werden. Dort, so wie in Koblenz oder Mainz, ist «Helau» der bevorzugte Narrenruf. «Helau» wiederum könnte eine Abwandlung von «Halleluja» oder «Hölle auf» sein.
«Narri-Narro» heißt es überwiegend in der schwäbisch-alemannischen Fastnacht. Im Saarland ist «Alleh hopp» zu vernehmen. Doch damit nicht genug: in manchen Regionen werden «Ahoi», «Aloha», «Alä», «Hex», «Meck», «Knolli» oder «Wau-Wau» und andere Tierlaute gerufen.
VON WANN BIS WANN IST KARNEVAL?
Ursprünglich galt der Dreikönigstag am 6. Januar als Beginn der Fastnachtszeit. In den meisten schwäbischen Orten ist das heute noch der Fall. Seit dem 19. Jahrhundert beginnt die sogenannte Karnevalssession in vielen Regionen bereits am 11. November, dem Martinstag. Pünktlich um 11.11 Uhr wird vielerorts an diesem Datum die «fünfte Jahreszeit» offiziell verkündet. Hintergrund ist, dass es im Christentum auch vor Weihnachten eine 40-tägige Fastenzeit, ähnlich der Fastenzeit vor Ostern, gibt.
Die Hochphase der Narrenzeit markiert dagegen regionsübergreifend die sogenannte Karnevals-, Fastnachts- oder Faschingswoche. Diese beginnt traditionell mit der Weiberfastnacht und endet am Aschermittwoch. Dazwischen findet mit dem Rosenmontag der Höhepunkt einer jeweiligen Fastnachtszeit oder Karnevalssession statt.
DIE WICHTIGSTEN TERMINE 2023 IM ÜBERBLICK
16. Februar: Weiberfastnacht, je nach Region auch Altweiber, Weiberfasching oder Schmotziger Donnerstag genannt
17. Februar: Karnevalsfreitag, auch Rußiger Freitag genannt
18. Februar: Karnevalssamstag, auch Schmalziger Samstag genannt
19. Februar: Karnevalssonntag, auch Rosensonntag, Tulpensonntag, Fastnachtssonntag oder Faschingssonntag genannt
20. Februar: Rosenmontag
21. Februar: Karnevalsdienstag, auch Faschings-, Fastnachts- oder Veilchendienstag genannt
Die Bezeichnungen können für Verwirrung sorgen. In Nordrhein-Westfalen nennt man die närrische Zeit Karneval. In Rheinland-Pfalz, Hessen und Baden-Württemberg wird dagegen Fastnacht oder Fas(se)nacht gefeiert, während die sogenannte fünfte Jahrszeit vor allem in Bayern und Sachsen als Fasching bekannt ist.
Weiberfastnacht, Weiberfasching oder Unsinniger Donnerstag
Am Donnerstag vor Aschermittwoch haben zumindest in den Narrenhochburgen wie Köln oder München die Frauen die Fäden in der Hand, schließlich soll in dieser Zeit alles anders sein als sonst. Die Rathäuser werden symbolisch von den Frauen gestürmt und die Bürgermeister überreichen die Stadtschlüssel als Zeichen der Kapitulation. Und Männern, die im Anzug unterwegs sind, kann es an diesem Tag passieren, dass ihnen von den Frauen der Schlips abgeschnitten und so symbolisch ein Teil der Macht geraubt wird. Kenner tragen an diesem Tag nicht ihr Lieblingsstück.
„Kamelle, Kamelle“ rufen die Kölner, wenn „de Zoch kütt“ – der Karnevalszug kommt. Gemeint sind kleine, klebrige Bonbons, die traditionell von den Festwagen ins Publikum geworfen werden. Inzwischen werden sie zunehmend von Schokowaffeln, Kaustangen, Popkorn oder Gummibärchen verdrängt. „Kamelle“ ist eine Abwandlung von „Karamelle“, angelehnt an den karamellisierten Zucker bei der klassischen Bonbonmacherei. Der Ursprung dieses exzessiven Verteilens von Süßigkeiten könnte in der bevorstehenden Fastenzeit liegen: Zuvor wollen alle noch einmal naschen.
Die Bütt (rheinisch für Bütte, Bottich oder auch Zuber) ist ein fassförmiges Stehpult. Darin steht der Büttenredner und hält seine bissig-ironische Karnevalsrede. Für die Bezeichnung gibt es gleich mehrere Erklärungsversuche: vom leeren Weinfass, das Anlass zur Bitterkeit gibt, über den Vergleich mit dem Spötter Diogenes, der in seiner legendären Tonne hauste, bis hin zum Bottich, in dem schmutzige Wäsche gewaschen wird.
Ursprünglich waren sie gedacht als Persiflage auf militärischen Prunk. Sie werden an Förderer der Karnevalsgesellschaften und Künstler verliehen. Bekannt ist der „Orden wider den tierischen Ernst“, der vom Aachener Karnevalsverein an Persönlichkeiten des öffentlichen Lebens vergeben wird.
Multiple inventors deserve credit for the technology, which had its origins in the 19th century.
The way people watch television has changed dramatically since the medium first burst onto the scene in the 1940s and ‘50s and forever transformed American life. Decade after decade, TV technology has steadily advanced: Color arrived in the 1960s, followed by cable in the ‘70s, VCRs in the ‘80s and high-definition in the late ‘90s. In the 21st century, viewers are just as likely to watch shows on cell phones, laptops and tablets as on a TV set. Amazingly, however, all these technological changes were essentially just improvements on a basic system that has worked since the late 1930s—with roots reaching even further back than that.
Early TV Technology: Mechanical Spinning Discs
No single inventor deserves credit for the television. The idea was floating around long before the technology existed to make it happen, and many scientists and engineers made contributions that built on each other to eventually produce what we know as TV today.
Television’s origins can be traced to the 1830s and ‘40s, when Samuel F.B. Morse developed the telegraph, the system of sending messages (translated into beeping sounds) along wires. Another important step forward came in 1876 in the form of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, which allowed the human voice to travel through wires over long distances.
Both Bell and Thomas Edison speculated about the possibility of telephone-like devices that could transmit images as well as sounds. But it was a German researcher who took the next important step toward developing the technology that made television possible. In 1884, Paul Nipkow came up with a system of sending images through wires via spinning discs. He called it the electric telescope, but it was essentially an early form of mechanical television.
TV Goes Electronic With Cathode Ray Tubes
In the early 1900s, both Russian physicist Boris Rosing and Scottish engineer Alan Archibald Campbell-Swinton worked independently to improve on Nipkow’s system by replacing the spinning discs with cathode ray tubes, a technology developed earlier by German physicist Karl Braun. Swinton’s system, which placed cathode ray tubes inside the camera that sent a picture, as well as inside the receiver, was essentially the earliest all-electronic television system.
Russian-born engineer Vladimir Zworykin had worked as Rosing’s assistant before both of them emigrated following the Russian Revolution. In 1923, Zworykin was employed at the Pittsburgh-based manufacturing company Westinghouse when he applied for his first television patent, for the “Iconoscope,” which used cathode ray tubes to transmit images.
Meanwhile, Scottish engineer John Baird gave the world’s first demonstration of true television before 50 scientists in central London in 1927. With his new invention, Baird formed the Baird Television Development Company, and in 1928 it achieved the first transatlantic television transmission between London and New York and the first transmission to a ship in mid-Atlantic. Baird is also credited with giving the first demonstration of both color and stereoscopic television.
In 1929, Zworykin demonstrated his all-electronic television system at a convention of radio engineers. In the audience was David Sarnoff, an executive at Radio Corporation of America (RCA), the nation’s biggest communications company at the time. Born into a poor Jewish family in Minsk, Russia, Sarnoff had come to New York City as a child and began his career as a telegraph operator. He was actually on duty on the night of the Titanic disaster; although he likely didn’t—as he later claimed—coordinate distress messages sent to nearby ships, he did help disseminate the names of the survivors.
Utah Inventor Battles Giant Corporation
Sarnoff was among the earliest to see that television, like radio, had enormous potential as a medium for entertainment as well as communication. Named president of RCA in 1930, he hired Zworykin to develop and improve television technology for the company. Meanwhile, an American inventor named Philo Farnsworth had been working on his own television system. Farnsworth, who grew up on a farm in Utah, reportedly came up with his big idea—a vacuum tube that could dissect images into lines, transmit those lines and turn them back into images—while still a teenager in chemistry class.
In 1927, at the age of 21, Farnsworth completed the prototype of the first working fully electronic TV system, based on this “image dissector.” He soon found himself embroiled in a long legal battle with RCA, which claimed Zworykin’s 1923 patent took priority over Farnsworth’s inventions. The U.S. Patent Office ruled in favor of Farnsworth in 1934 (helped in part by an old high school teacher, who had kept a key drawing by the young inventor), and Sarnoff was eventually forced to pay Farnsworth $1 million in licensing fees. Though viewed by many historians as the true father of television, Farnsworth never earned much more from his invention, and was dogged by patent appeal lawsuits from RCA. He later moved on to other fields of research, including nuclear fission, and died in debt in 1971.
Sarnoff, with his company’s marketing might, introduced the public to television in a big way at the World’s Fair in New York City in 1939. Under the umbrella of RCA’s broadcasting division, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), Sarnoff broadcast the fair’s opening ceremonies, including a speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
By the 1950s, television had truly entered the mainstream, with more than half of all American homes owning TV sets by 1955. As the number of consumers expanded, new stations were created and more programs broadcast, and by the end of that decade TV had replaced radio as the main source of home entertainment in the United States. During the 1960 presidential election, the young, handsome John F. Kennedy had a noticeable advantage over his less telegenic opponent, Richard M. Nixon in televised debates, and his victory that fall would bring home for many Americans the transformative impact of the medium.
From the Moon Landing to M*A*S*H, from the Olympics to “The Office,” some of the most critical moments in history and culture have been experienced worldwide thanks to the wondrous invention of television.
The evolution of television has been one full of slow, steady progress. However, there have been definitive moments that have changed technology forever. The first TV, the first “broadcast” of live events to screen, the introduction of “the television show,” and the Streaming Internet have all been significant leaps forward in how television works.
Today, television technology is an integral part of telecommunications and computing. Without it, we would be lost.
What Is a Television System?
It’s a simple question with a surprisingly complex answer. At its core, a “television” is a device that takes electrical input to produce moving images and sound for us to view. A “television system” would be both what we now call television and the camera/producing equipment that captured the original images.
The Etymology of “Television”
The word “television” first appeared in 1907 in the discussion of a theoretical device that transported images across telegraph or telephone wires. Ironically, this prediction was behind the times, as some of the first experiments into television used radio waves from the beginning.
“Tele-” is a prefix that means “far off” or “operating at a distance.” The word “television” was agreed upon quite rapidly, and while other terms like “iconoscope” and “emitron” referred to patented devices that were used in some electronic television systems, television is the one that stuck.
Today, the word “television” takes a slightly more fluid meaning. A “television show” is often considered a series of small entertainment pieces with a throughline or overarching plot. The difference between television and movies is found in the length and serialization of the media, rather than the technology used to broadcast it.
“Television” is now as often watched on phones, computers, and home projectors as it is on the independent devices we call “television sets.” In 2017, only 9 percent of American adults watched television using an antenna, and 61 percent watched it directly from the internet.
The Mechanical Television System
The first device you could call a “television system” under these definitions was created by John Logie Baird. A Scottish engineer, his mechanical television used a spinning “Nipkow disk,” a mechanical device to capture images and convert them to electrical signals. These signals, sent by radio waves, were picked up by a receiving device. Its own disks would spin similarly, illuminated by a neon light to produce a replica of the original images.
Baird’s first public demonstration of his mechanical television system was somewhat prophetically held at a London Department store way back in 1925. Little did he know that television systems would be carefully intertwined with consumerism throughout history.
The evolution of the mechanical television system progressed rapidly and, within three years, Baird’s invention was able to broadcast from London to New York. By 1928, the world’s first television station opened under the name W2XCW. It transmitted 24 vertical lines at 20 frames a second.
Of course, the first device that we today would recognize as television involved the use of Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs). These convex glass-in-box devices shared images captured live on camera, and the resolution was, for its time, incredible.
This modern, electronic television had two fathers working simultaneously and often against each other. They were Philo Farnsworth and Vladimir Zworykin.
Who Invented the First TV?
Traditionally, a self-taught boy from Idaho named Philo Farnsworth is credited for having invented the first TV. But another man, Vladimir Zworykin, also deserves some of the credit. In fact, Farnsworth could not have completed his invention without the help of Zworykin.
How the First Electronic Television Camera Came to Be
Philo Farnsworth claimed to have designed the first electronic television receiver at only 14. Regardless of those personal claims, history records that Farnsworth, at only 21, designed and created a functioning “image dissector” in his small city apartment.
The image dissector “captured images” in a manner not too dissimilar to how our modern digital cameras work today. His tube, which captured 8,000 individual points, could convert the image to electrical waves with no mechanical device required. This miraculous invention led to Farnsworth creating the first all-electronic television system.
Zworykin’s Role in the Developing the First Television
Having escaped to America during the Russian Civil War, Vladimir Zworykin found himself immediately employed by Westinghouse’s electrical engineering firm. He then set to work patenting work he had already produced in showing television images via a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT). He had not, at that point, been able to capture images as well as he could show them.
By 1929, Zworykin worked for the Radio Corporation of America (owned by General Electric and soon to form the National Broadcasting Company). He had already created a simple color television system. Zworykin was convinced that the best camera would also use CRT but never seemed to make it work.
When Was TV Invented?
Despite protestations from both men and multiple drawn-out legal battles over their patents, RCA eventually paid royalties to use Farnsworth’s technology to transmit to Zorykin’s receivers. In 1927, the first TV was invented. For decades after, these electronic televisions changed very little.
When Was The First Television Broadcast?
The first television broadcast was by Georges Rignoux and A. Fournier in Paris in 1909. However, this was the broadcast of a single line. The first broadcast that general audiences would have been wowed by was on March 25, 1925. That is the date John Logie Baird presented his mechanical television.
When television began to change its identity from the engineer’s invention to the new toy for the rich, broadcasts were few and far between. The first television broadcasts were of King George VI’s coronation. The coronation was one of the first television broadcasts to be filmed outside.
In 1939, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) broadcasted the opening of New York’s World’s Fair. This event included a speech from Franklin D. Roosevelt and an appearance by Albert Einstein. By this point, NBC had a regular broadcast of two hours every afternoon and was watched by approximately nineteen thousand people around New York City.
The First Television Networks
The First Television Network was The National Broadcasting Company, a subsidiary of The Radio Corporation of America (or RCA). It started in 1926 as a series of Radio stations in New York and Washington. NBC’s first official broadcast was on November 15, 1926.
NBC started to regularly broadcast television after the 1939 New York World’s Fair. It had approximately one thousand viewers. From this point on, the network would broadcast every day and continues to do so now.
The National Broadcasting Company kept a dominant position among television networks in the United States for decades but always had competition. The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), which had also previously broadcast in radio and mechanical television, turned to all-electronic television systems in 1939. In 1940, it became the first television network to broadcast in color, albeit in a one-off experiment.
The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) was forced to break off from NBC to form its own television network in 1943. This was due to the FCC being concerned that a monopoly was occurring in television.
The three television networks would rule television broadcasting for forty years without competition.
In England, the publicly-owned British Broadcasting Corporation (or BBC) was the only television station available. It started broadcasting television signals in 1929, with John Logie Baird’s experiments, but the official Television Service did not exist until 1936. The BBC would remain the only network in England until 1955.
The First Television Productions
The first made-for-television drama would arguably be a 1928 drama called “The Queen’s Messenger,” written by J. Harley Manners. This live drama presentation included two cameras and was lauded more for the technological marvel than anything else.
The first news broadcasts on television involved news readers repeating what they just had broadcast on radio.
On December 7, 1941, Ray Forrest, one of the first full-time news announcers for television, presented the first news bulletin. The first time that “regularly scheduled programs” were interrupted, his bulletin announced the attack on Pearl Harbor.
This special report for CBS ran for hours, with experts coming into the studio to discuss everything from geography to geopolitics. According to a report CBS gave to the FCC, this unscheduled broadcast “was unquestionably the most stimulating challenge and marked the greatest advance of any single problem faced up to that time.”
After the war, Forrest went on to host one of the first cooking shows on television, “In the Kelvinator Kitchen.”
When Was the First TV Sold?
The first television sets available for anyone were manufactured in 1934 by Telefunken, a subsidiary of the electronics company Siemens. RCA began manufacturing American sets in 1939. They cost around $445 dollars at the time (the American average salary was $35 per month).
TV Becomes Mainstream: The Post-War Boom
After the Second World War, a newly invigorated middle class caused a boom in sales of television sets, and television stations began to broadcast around the clock worldwide.
By the end of the 1940s, audiences were looking to get more from television programming. While news broadcasts would always be important, audiences looked for entertainment that was more than a play that happened to be caught on camera. Experiments from major networks led to significant changes in the type of television programs in existence. Many of these experiments can be seen in the shows of today.
What Was the First TV Show?
The first regularly broadcast TV show was a visual version of the popular radio series, “Texaco Star Theatre.” It began tv broadcasts on June 8, 1948. By this time, there were nearly two hundred thousand television sets in America.
The Rise of The Sitcom
In 1947, DuMont Television Network (partnered with Paramount Pictures) began to air a series of teledramas starring real-life couple Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns. “Mary Kay and Johnny” featured a middle-class American couple facing real-life problems. It was the first show on television to show a couple in bed, as well as a pregnant woman. It was not only the first “sitcom” but the model for all the great sitcoms since.
Three years later, CBS hired a young female actor called Lucille, who had previously been known in Hollywood as “The Queen of the B (movies).” Initially trying her out in other sitcoms, she eventually convinced them that their best show would include her partner, just as Mary Kay and Johnny had.
The show, entitled “I Love Lucy,” became a runaway success and is now considered a cornerstone of television.
Today, “I Love Lucy” has been described as “legitimately the most influential in TV history.” The popularity of reruns led to the concept of “syndication,” an arrangement in which other television stations could purchase the rights to screen reruns of the show.
According to CBS, “I Love Lucy” still makes the company $20 Million a year. Lucille Ball is now considered one of the most important names in the history of the medium.
The “sitcom,” derived from the phrase “situational comedy,” is still one of the most popular forms of television programming.
In 1983, the final episode of the popular sitcom “M*A*S*H” had over one hundred million viewers glued to their screens, a number not beaten for nearly thirty years.
In 1997, Jerry Seinfeld would become the first sit-com star to earn a million dollars per episode. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, a sitcom about the immoral and crazy owners of a bar, is the longest-running live sitcom ever, now into its 15th season.
When Did Color TV Come Out?
The ability of television systems to broadcast and receive color occurred relatively early in the evolution of electronic television. Patents for color television existed from the late nineteenth century, and John Baird regularly broadcast from a color television system in the thirties.
The National Television System Committee (NTSC) met in 1941 to develop a standardized system for television broadcasts, ensuring that all television stations used similar systems to ensure that all television systems could receive them. The committee, created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), would meet again only twelve years later to agree upon a standard for color television.
However, a problem faced by television networks was that color broadcasting required extra radio bandwidth. This bandwidth, the FCC decided, needed to be separate from that which sent black and white television in order for all audiences to receive a broadcast. This NTSC standard was first used for the “Tournament of Roses Parade” in 1954. The color viewing was available to so few systems as a particular receiver was required.
The First TV Remote Control
While the first remote controls were intended for military use, controlling boats and artillery from a distance, entertainment providers soon considered how radio and television systems might use the technology.
What Was The First TV Remote?
The first remote control for television was developed by Zenith in 1950 and was called “Lazy Bones.” It had a wired system and only a single button, which allowed for the changing of channels.
By 1955, however, Zenith had produced a wireless remote that worked by shining light at a receiver on the television. This remote could change channels, turn the tv on and off, and even change the sound. However, being activated by light, ordinary lamps, and sunlight could unintentionally act on the television.
While future remote controls would use ultrasonic frequencies, the use of infra-red light ended up being the standard. The information sent from these devices was often unique to the television system but could offer complex instructions.
Today, all television sets are sold with remote controls as standard, and an inexpensive “universal remote” can be purchased easily online.
The Tonight Show and Late Night Television
After starring in the first American sitcom, Johnny Stearns continued on television by being one of the producers behind “Tonight, Starring Steve Allen,” now known as “The Tonight Show.” This late-night broadcast is the longest-running television talk show still running today.
Prior to “The Tonight Show,” talk shows were already growing popular. “The Ed Sullivan Show” opened in 1948 with a premier that included Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, and a sneak preview of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific.” The show featured serious interviews with its stars and Sullivan was known to have little respect for the young musicians that performed on his show. “The Ed Sullivan Show” lasted until 1971 and is now most remembered for being the show that introduced the United States to “Beatlemania“.
“The Tonight Show” was a more low-brow affair compared to Sullivan, and popularized a number of elements found today in late-night television; opening monolog, live bands, sketch moments with guest stars, and audience participation all found their start in this program.
While popular under Allen, “The Tonight Show” really became a part of history during its epic three-decade run under Johnny Carson. From 1962 to 1992, Carson’s program was less about the intellectual conversation with guests than it was about promotion and spectacle. Carson, to some, “define[d] in a single word what made television different from theater or cinema.”
The Tonight Show still runs today, hosted by Jimmy Fallon, while contemporary competitors include “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert and “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah.
Digital Television Systems
Starting with the first TV, television broadcasts were always analog, which means the radio wave itself contains the information the set needs to create a picture and sound. Image and sound would be directly translated into waves via “modulation” and then reverted back by the receiver through “demodulation”.
A digital radio wave doesn’t contain such complex information, but alternates between two forms, which can be interpreted as zeros and ones. However, this information needs to be “encoded” and “recoded.”
With the rise of low-cost, high-power computing, engineers experimented with the digital broadcast. Digital broadcast “decoding” could be done by a computer chip within the tv set which breaks down the waves into discrete zeroes and ones.
While this could be used to produce greater image quality and clearer audio, it would also require a much higher bandwidth and computing power that was only available in the seventies. The bandwidth required was improved over time with the advent of “compression” algorithms, and television networks could broadcast greater amounts of data to televisions at home.
Digital broadcast of television via cable television began in the mid-nineties, and as of July 2021, no television station in the United States broadcasts in analog.
VHS Brings the Movies to TV
For a very long time, what you saw on television was decided by what the television networks decided to broadcast. While some wealthy people could afford film projectors, the large box in the living room could only show what someone else wanted it to.
Then, in the 1960s, electronics companies began to provide devices that could “record television” onto electromagnetic tapes, which could then be watched through the set at a later time. These “Video Cassette Recorders” were expensive but desired by many. The first Sony VCR cost the same as a new car.
In the late seventies, two companies faced off to determine the standard of home video cassettes in what some referred to as a “format war.”
Sony’s “Betamax” eventually lost to JVC’s “VHS” format due to the latter company’s willingness to make their standard “open” (and not require licensing fees).
VHS machines quickly dropped in price, and soon most homes contained an extra piece of equipment. Contemporary VCRs could record from the television and played portable tapes with other recordings. In California, businessman George Atkinson purchased a library of fifty movies directly from movie companies and then proceeded to start a new industry.
The Birth of Video Rental Companies
For a fee, customers could become members of his “Video Station”. Then, for an additional cost, they could borrow one of the fifty movies to watch at home, before returning. So began the era of the video rental company.
Movie studios were concerned by the concept of home video. They argued that giving people the ability to copy to tape what they are shown constituted theft. These cases reached the Supreme Court, which eventually decided that recording for home consumption was legal.
Studios replied by creating licensing agreements to make video rental a legitimate industry and produce films specifically for home entertainment.
While the first “direct to video” movies were low-budget slashers or pornography, the format became quite popular after the success of Disney’s “Aladdin: Return of Jafar.” This sequel to the popular animated movie sold 1.5 Million copies in its first two days of release.
Home video changed slightly with the advent of digital compression and the rise of optical disc storage.
Soon, networks and film companies could offer high-quality digital television recordings on Digital Versatile Discs (or DVDs). These discs were introduced in the mid-nineties but soon were superseded by high-definition discs.
As possible evidence of karma, it was Sony’s “Blu-Ray” system that won against Toshiba’s “HG DVD” in home video’s second “Format War.” Today, Blu-Rays are the most popular form of physical purchase for home entertainment.
First Satellite TV On July 12, 1962, the Telstar 1 satellite beamed images sent from Andover Earth Station in Maine to the Pleumeur-Bodou Telecom Center in Brittany, France. So marked the birth of satellite television. Only three years later, the first commercial satellite for the purposes of broadcasting was sent into space.
Satellite television systems allowed television networks to broadcast around the world, no matter how far from the rest of society a receiver might be. While owning a personal receiver was, and still is, far more expensive than conventional television, networks took advantage of such systems to offer subscription services that were not available to public consumers. These services were a natural evolution of already existing “cable channels” such as “Home Box Office,” which relied on direct payment from consumers instead of external advertising.
The first live satellite broadcast that was watchable worldwide occurred in June 1967. BBC’s “Our World” employed multiple geostationary satellites to beam a special entertainment event that included the first public performance of “All You Need is Love” by The Beatles.
The Constant Rise and Fall of 3D Television
It is a technology with a long history of attempts and failures and which will likely return one day. “3D Television” refers to television that conveys depth perception, often with the aid of specialized screens or glasses.
It may come as no surprise that the first example of 3D television came from the labs of John Baird. His 1928 presentation bore all the hallmarks of future research into 3D television because the principle has always been the same. Two images are shown at slightly different angles and differences to approximate the different images our two eyes see.
While 3D films have come and gone as gimmicky spectacles, the early 2010s saw a significant spark of excitement for 3D television — all the spectacle of the movies at home. While there was nothing technologically advanced about screening 3D television, broadcasting it required more complexity in standards. At the end of 2010, the DVB-3D standard was introduced, and electronics companies around the world were clambering to get their products into homes.
However, like the 3D crazes in movies every few decades, the home viewer soon grew tired. While 2010 saw the PGA Championship, FIFA World Cup, and Grammy Awards all filmed and broadcast in 3D, channels began to stop offering the service only three years later. By 2017, Sony and LG officially announced they would no longer support 3D for their products.
Some future “visionary” will likely take another shot at 3D television but, by then, there is a very good chance that television will be something very different indeed.
During the late twentieth century, new technologies arose in how television could be presented on the screen. Cathode Ray Tubes had limitations in size, longevity, and cost. The invention of low-cost microchips and the ability to manufacture quite small components led TV manufacturers to look for new technologies.
Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) is a way to present images by having a backlight shine through millions (or even billions) of crystals that can be individually made opaque or translucent using electricity. This method allows the display of images using devices that can be very flat and use little electricity.
While popular in the 20th century for use in clocks and watches, improvements in LCD technology let them become the next way to present images for television. Replacing the old CRT meant televisions were lighter, thinner, and inexpensive to run. Because they did not use phosphorous, images left on the screen could not “burn-in”.
Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) use extremely small “diodes” that light up when electricity passes through them. Like LCD, they are inexpensive, small, and use little electricity. Unlike LCD, they need no backlight. Because LCDs are cheaper to produce, they have been the popular choice in the early 21st century. However, as technology changes, the advantages of LED may eventually lead to it taking over the market.
The Internet Boogeyman
The ability for households to have personal internet access in the nineties led to fear among those in the television industry that it might not be around forever. While many saw this fear as similar to the rise of VHS, others took advantage of the changes.
With internet speeds increasing, the data that was previously sent to the television via radio waves or cables could not be sent through your telephone line. The information you would once need to record onto a video cassette could be “downloaded” to watch in the future. People began acting “outside of the law,”very much like the early video rental stores.
Then, when internet speed reached a point fast enough, something unusual happened.
“Streaming Video” and the rise of YouTube
In 2005, three former employees of the online financial company PayPal created a website that allowed people to upload their home videos to watch online. You didn’t need to download these videos but could watch them “live” as the data was “streamed” to your computer. This means you did not need to wait for a download or use up hard-drive space.
Videos were free to watch but contained advertising and allowed content creators to include ads for which they would be paid a small commission. This “partner program” encouraged a new wave of creators who could make their own content and gain an audience without relying on television networks.
The creators offered a limited release to interested people, and by the time the site officially opened, more than two million videos a day were being added.
Today, creating content on YouTube is big business. With the ability for users to “subscribe” to their favorite creators, the top YouTube stars can earn tens of millions of dollars a year.
Netflix, Amazon, and the New Television Networks
In the late nineties, a new subscription video rental service formed that was seemingly like all those who came after George Atkinson. It had no physical buildings but would rely on people returning the video in the mail before renting the next one. Because videos now came on DVD, postage was cheap, and the company soon rivaled the most prominent video rental chains.
Then in 2007, as people were paying attention to the rise of YouTube, the company took a risk. Using the rental licenses it already had to lend out its movies, it placed them online for consumers to stream directly. It started with 1,000 titles and only allowed 18 hours of streaming per month. This new service was so popular that, by the end of the year, the company had 7.5 million subscribers.
The problem was that, for Netflix, they relied on the same television networks that their company was damaging. If people watched their streaming service more than traditional television, networks would need to increase their fee for licensing their shows to rental companies. In fact, if a network decided to no longer license its content to Netflix, there would be little the company could do.
So, the company started to produce its own material. It hoped to attract even more viewers by investing a large amount of money on new shows like “Daredevil” and the US remake of “House of Cards.” The latter series, which ran from 2013 to 2018, won 34 Emmys, cementing Netflix as a competitor in the television network industry.
In 2021, the company spent $17 Billion on original content and continued to decrease the amount of content purchased from the three major networks.
Other companies took note of the success of Netflix. Amazon, which started life as an online bookstore, and became one of the largest e-commerce platforms globally, began to produce its own original in the same year as Netflix and has since been joined by dozens of other services around the world.
The Future of Television
In some ways, those who feared the internet were right. Today, streaming takes up over a quarter of the audience’s viewing habits, with this number rising every year.
However, this change is less about the media and more about the technology that accesses it. Mechanical Televisions are gone. Analog broadcasts are gone. Eventually, radio-broadcasted television will disappear as well. But television? Those half-hour and one-hour blocks of entertainment, they are not going anywhere.
While slow to react to the internet, the major networks all now have their own streaming services, and new advances in fields like virtual reality mean that television will continue to evolve well into our future.
There’s new evidence that viewing habits can affect your thinking, political preferences, even cognitive ability.
Other than sleeping and working, Americans are more likely to watch television than engage in any other activity.
A wave of new social science research shows that the quality of shows can influence us in important ways, shaping our thinking and political preferences, even affecting our cognitive ability.
In this so-called golden age of television, some critics have pointed out that the best of the form is equivalent to the most enriching novels. And high-quality programming for children can be educational. But the latest evidence also suggests there can be negative consequences to our abundant watching, particularly when the showsare mostly entertainment.
The harm seems to come not so much from the content itself but from the fact that it replaces moreenlighteningways of spending time.
‘Sesame Street’ as a social experiment
Cognitive ability is a complex characteristic that emerges from interactions between biological dispositions, nutrition and health, parenting behaviors, formal and informal educational opportunities, and culture.
Studying the connection between intelligence and television consumption is far from straightforward, but researchers have developed compelling ways to isolate the effects of television.
Some of the best research has been done on the television program “Sesame Street.” The show, which began in 1969, was meant to develop early literacy, numeracy and emotional skills for children of preschool age. A detailed analysis of the show’s content in its first and second years reveals that 80 percent of the program was dedicated to those goals, with the rest meant to entertain.
Researchers randomly assigned groups of low-income children age 3 to 5 into an experimental group and a control group. In the experimental group, parents were given access to the show if they lacked it and encouraged in person once a month to have their children watch the show.
Almost all (93 percent) parents of children in the experimental group reported that their children subsequently watched the show, compared with roughly one-third of children in the control group (35 percent). Among watchers, those in the experimental group also watched more frequently.
Over six months, from November 1970 to May 1971, the experimental group gained 5.4 I.Q. points — a large effect — relative to the control group and showed stronger evidence of learning along several other dimensions. Gains in cognitive performance were especially large for those who viewed the show frequently relative to those who did so rarely or never. A more recent meta-analysis of published research in 15 countries shows that “Sesame Street” has similar effects around the world.
In newly published research, the economists Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine examined longer-term effects of “Sesame Street” by comparing the educational outcomes of children and young adults in counties more or less likely to have access to the program during its early years. They found that children living in counties with better “Sesame Street” coverage were less likely to be held behind a grade level.
Other experimental research is consistent with the original “Sesame Street” findings. Low-income prekindergarten children scored higher on a social competence index six months after being randomly assigned to an experimental group, in which their parents were encouraged to replace age-inappropriate television with educational television.
Less reading and more watching
In Norway, and a handful of other developed countries, average I.Q. scores have declined slightly in recent years, after rising for many decades. This is known as the negative Flynn effect, a variation of the more famous Flynn effect, which is named after the psychologist who first published comprehensive evidence of I.Q. gains over time. Among native Norwegian men taking an exam at age 18 for military conscription, those born in 1974 scored two I.Q. points higher than those born in 1987.
In an academic article published this year, the Norwegian economist Oystein Hernaes and his co-authors attributed some of this decline in I.Q. scores to access to cable television, which also coincided with a sharp decline in reading. After the introduction of cable in 1981, Norwegian teenagers and young adults drastically cut back on daily time spent reading from 1980 to 2000, and increased their time watching TV. Moreover, relative to public television, cable television had far less educational content and was focused on entertainment and advertisements.
To estimate the effect of cable television on I.Q. scores, the Norwegian scholars analyzed data on the introduction of cable network infrastructure by municipality. They calculated years of exposure to cable by considering the age of eventual test takers when cable became available in their municipality. They controlled for any potential geographic bias by comparing siblings with greater or less exposure to cable television based on their age when cable infrastructure was put in.
They estimate that 10 years of exposure to cable television lowered I.Q. scores by 1.8 points. In related research, Mr. Hernaes finds that exposure to cable television reduced voter turnout in local elections.
Art and public health
We know that education increases cognitive ability, so it stands to reason that educational television would also have a positive effect.
Concerns about culture are hardly novel: Plato made a case for regulating the quality of artistic productions to avoid the corruption of youth and weakening of their character. Twenty-three centuries later, it is easier than ever to placate children as well as lose yourself in entertainment options — in the ocean of online videos, podcasts, cable, and streaming shows and movies.
These options are most likely harmless.Some provide relaxation, and others may modestly reshape cultural attitudesfor the better; one study found that the introduction of cable TV empowered women in India. High-quality shows and films can be inspiring, even edifying.
Still, media providers and advertisers compete aggressively for our attention. Most lack the altruistic motivations that guided the producers of the original “Sesame Street.” The evidence from social science suggests that biased or sensationalist news programs may misinform citizens or discourage civic engagement, and that we should also be cautious about what we give up for the sake of entertainment.
Positive And Negative Effects Of Television On Society – 2022 Guide
The media can affect the lives of people, especially children, positively and negatively. This happens in all periods of life and all cultures and areas. Judging by numerous studies on the role of television as a medium in the lives of children and people – today TV is one of the key means of socialization. It influences our behavior, attitudes, and worldviews.
Today, TV is one of the key factors in upbringing and education. It is because it represents a collection of sources of information and entertainment – for all generations and in all world cultures. What are the positive and negative effects of television in society? We will try to explain it in this text.
Impact Of Television: Between Good And Bad
Scientists and the public often have a divided view of the media and the television itself. On the one hand, we consider TV to be very positive. Great hopes and expectations are invested in the idea of media that can enrich children’s lives, change unhealthy behaviors, stimulate imagination and creativity, expand education and knowledge, encourage inclusion and tolerance, reduce disparities between social strata and contribute to the development and civil society.
On the other hand, there are growing concerns that watching television can dull the senses, stifle imagination and spontaneous behavior, produce an insensitivity to the pain of others, encourage destructive behaviors, perpetuate stereotypes, lead to moral decay, suppress local cultures – and contribute to alienation from society.
Therefore, TV can effectively help in teaching certain elements of future schooling programs. This modern type of approach is also associated with developmental communication. Strategies that combine all the advantages and positive aspects of entertainment and education, the so-called ‘edutainment’ (a word made from the terms education and entertainment) – are especially important for children. Thus the appeal and popularity of entertainment are used to achieve social change and promote the well-being of the individual and society.
Good Effects Of Television
When used properly, television can be a wonderful medium. It is just important to choose the right content. A large number of satellite channels today allow us to choose the content we will watch. The content depends on the number of channels and the choices available to you. Satellite TV is very easy to set up and the service technicians you choose to help you with it.
When it comes to this type of choice, you can find out here more information that may be helpful to you. A program that encompasses multiple themes and relationships between characters – is much better than one that contains a monotonous story. The more complex, the better – psychologists say.
Numerous studies show that people who watch documentaries about wildlife and natural beauty – often feel energetic and benevolent. Even looking at photos of nature will lower blood pressure and relax muscle tension.
Good Sides of the TV
1. It Brings Information
Television is a medium that conveys information excellently, whether it is about the wonders of nature, human achievements, or space travel. We have to admit that we learned a lot from television.
2. Helps You Learn Foreign Languages
Some studies are showing an increase in foreign language vocabulary in preschool children, but in adults as well.
3. Good Educational TV Programs Encourage Further Learning
A television program can stimulate an interest in fact-finding, conversation, or some new activity.
4. Encourages Reflection On The World
As your child grows, you will be able to use television pictures and events as a starting point for many discussions about values, sexuality, alcohol/drug use, etc. Television is also the most powerful medium that conveys images of many of the problems that today’s societies face, thus enabling the spread of awareness of many of today’s problems.
The More Complex – The Better
Programs can be educational and inspiring. Sometimes a child will find it easier to understand, for example, the growth of a plant by watching a documentary. Children who watch educational, non-aggressive children’s programs, according to research, show better results in reading and math tests. The more complex things they see on TV – the easier it will be to understand them, some research claims.
Better Learning And Fast Adoption Of Information
Preschoolers who watch informative and educational programs also prefer to watch documentaries in adulthood. Children who watch educational shows in preschool often have better grades, value education more, and are less aggressive, scientists claim.
Negative Sides Of Television
1. Bad Posture
Children who spend a lot of time in front of the screen behave improperly. The Germans tested 1,600 children between the ages of 6 and 17 and concluded that 40% of them could not stand properly, upright.
TV content that is not adequately adapted to certain ages causes changes in the behavior of young people. Namely, watching the explicit content of violence – increases the risk that young people themselves adopt such a form of behavior as ‘normal’. It is similar when it comes to explicit sexual content.
3. Heart Problems
People who did not get enough exercise in childhood are six times more likely to have heart problems in adulthood. Sitting in front of the TV promotes obesity, high blood pressure, and cholesterol – which over time seriously damages health.
4. Speech And Concentration
Children under the age of 12 should not watch television at all – not even age-appropriate programs. According to some U.S. research, it is limiting their development. Experts especially point out the overload of the senses/brain due to constant, rapid changes in shots and scenes.
And How Does That Affect Our Physical Health?
People who spend a lot of time in front of the TV usually exercise a little, are sluggish, sit too much, have a broken posture, have severe back pain, suffer from unhealthy snacks, etc. People usually starve in front of the TV and then cram in unhealthy food – all of which affect blood sugar levels, accelerated weight gain, especially due to fast food.
What Happens To The Brain?
In neurobiology, there is a term called brain plasticity (neuroplasty). It is about the ability of the brain to adapt to the environment. The neurons in our brain are constantly working to ensure that adjustment. Those good sides could be pushed aside over time if we are often exposed (as is the case with TV) to watching alcoholism, murder, crime, lies, gambling, etc.
I wish I was the man with the mechanical heart I’d conquer all my enemies alone I’d tear the guys apart Then scatter the pieces
I wish I was the man in the soundproof booth I wish I had a chance to stump the band Or maybe tell truth And maybe I could win a color television
I really love my–television I love to sit by–television Can’t live without my–television
TV is king You’re my everything
I wish I had the girl with the bouncy hair We’d ride off in a brand new car Or fly a plane somewhere Like probably Jamaica
I brush my teeth, shampoo my hair, and shave my face Apply the necessary aerosol In the appropriate place And we’ll spend the night together watching television
I can’t turn off my–television Don’t really know why–television I understand my–television
You got your works in a drawer and your color’s on track You have to break away but you always come back You make a hundred changes but you’re always the same You make me so excited and you make me so lame You’re just a tube full of gas and a box full of tin But you show me your charms and I want to jump in Oh if only your chassis was covered with skin ‘Cause TV you’re my everything
I really love my–television I love to sit by–television Can’t live without my–television I can’t turn off my–television Don’t really know why–television I understand my–television I really love my–television
There are are relatively few female musicians in jazz. Recordings led by women formed only one-fifth of the top 50 albums NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll over 2017 to 2019, and this seems to be a long-term trend: a survey of British jazz musicians in 2004 suggested 14% were female.
Rather than there being explicit barriers to entry, scholarly attention has focused on gender differences in preferences and socialisation: men seeing concerts as a male space, and male musicians more likely to be encouraged to continue following early experience of playing with others – particularly in terms of learning improvisation and taking a solo from a young age.
It’s a cliché that music is a meritocracy, in which success is seen to arise from a combination of talent and effort. If women are not present in jazz, it is often assumed to be because they cannot play well enough, play the wrong instruments, or simply prefer other musical genres and the cultures around them.
It is likely, though, that some female musicians find the professional environment hostile. In recent years, we’ve seen extensive reporting about sexist assumptions in the jazz industry, as well as accounts of sexual harassment. Clearly, changes are still needed on the industry side. But what about the audiences? Are they helping to shape the sexism that is being reported in jazz?
Interrogating the numbers
Our new research paper combines analysis of John Chilton’s Who’s Who of British Jazz, an archive of career histories from 2004, with data on the recordings made by each of these musicians drawn from the continually updated Lord Discography. We also examine jazz audiences via the government’s 2016 Taking Part survey of cultural participation.
Chilton gives a rich picture of the history of British jazz careers — there is no better single source giving such detail on career histories for a large number of jazz musicians. Careers are generally lifelong, and so we would not expect dramatic shifts to have taken place among the community of professional musicians since his book was published. Taking Part gives more contemporary information on the jazz audience.
Among audiences, the government survey data showed that more men than women report attending jazz concerts, and that the gap is larger for jazz than for rock. By comparison, women are more likely to attend classical concerts than men. Female jazz performers therefore face primarily male audiences, and rely on them to buy recordings too.
For musicians, our analysis suggests that men tended to play with men, and women – represented in yellow in the network diagram below – also tend to play with men. Although there have been celebrated female-led initiatives and female-only bands, women are still dependent on men for their careers. Our longer-run perspective also supports findings from analysis of female representation in jazz festivals published in December 2020.
Part of this lack of women reflects the history of the genre. The world of pre-second world war jazz was overwhelmingly male. It was a time when it was near-taboo for women to play professionally in nightclubs and dance halls, at least outside female-only bands. In earlier decades, many jazz musicians honed their trade in the armed forces. The expansion of jazz tuition by universities made a difference: jazz programmes run by universities were more open to women than informal or military training routes, providing access to networks and credentials.
Instrument choice and audience preferences
There is also some evidence that women are pigeonholed as vocalists: 60% of the female musicians in our dataset are vocalists compared with 2% of male musicians. Moreover, the female musicians in our dataset play slightly fewer instruments on average than the male musicians. Our analysis finds that this lower versatility is in turn associated with making fewer records. Learning fewer instruments in the first place may therefore be one of the reasons for the recording gender gap.
On the recordings side, we see a clear and consistent gap between male and female musicians in the numbers of records made, even when taking training, instrument choice and period of birth into account. This suggests that women face structural constraints in getting recorded, whether due to having shorter careers, or a tendency for male musicians to be selected in preference.
Our triple focus on audiences, collaborations and recordings gives us a new perspective on gender inequalities – one which encourages us to think afresh about how things could be different. Jazz audiences tend to be older and predominantly male. Ultimately, they fund the festivals and recordings which provide opportunities to female artists: their musical preferences and preferred concert experiences matter, and festival programmers have to take them into account.
Assumptions about what the audience wants tend to reproduce the male-dominated world of jazz. Audiences can play a part in challenging these assumptions. They can do this by being open to different live music experiences, and most importantly, by supporting and investing in talented female jazz musicians.
Inroads finally seem possible in what traditionally has been a man’s musical world
The Piacenza Jazz Club in Italy is home to a music school. So when acclaimed pianist and singer Dena DeRose had down time before a recent show there, she perused the books in the teaching studio. Pulling from the shelf one jazz biography after another, she couldn’t find a single one about a woman instrumentalist.
“Some of them were written in the 1990s, and they were still not up to date,” said DeRose. “Women are still not written about in history books. You can count on one hand — Mary Lou Williams or Melba Liston — and they’re not even mentioned.”
For DeRose, who heads the vocal jazz department at the KUG Jazz Institute/University for Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Austria, the book problem encapsulates the continuing challenge for female musicians in an industry dominated by men. It’s also why she was happy to accept Harvard music senior lecturer Yosvany Terry’s invitation last fall to do a residency as part of a year “Celebrating Women in Jazz.” Part of the Learning From Performers Program, the program culminates this week with a visit from award-winning singer and musician Cassandra Wilson, who as a master in residence will be a speaker and performer next week with the Harvard Jazz Bands.
“Women are not celebrated enough, and they are contributing incredibly,” said Terry, who has gigged with DeRose and Wilson. “When you look back in history, there was not only racism for many of these women, but the male-dominated society was even more of a factor. It was rare to find female jazz musicians touring regularly. For women to play an instrument [in bands] is very hard. They have to really work hard to prove they are good musicians, and then face sexism such as ‘Oh, she sounds like a man.’ No, she sounds like an accomplished musician.”
Terry said that, historically, women who pursued careers as jazz musicians were often isolated. Families discouraged their daughters from being part of a music scene laden with sexism, alcohol, and drugs.
As a case in point, there’s the great trombonist Melba Liston, who played in Dizzy Gillespie’s big band with the likes of saxophonists John Coltrane and Paul Gonsalves, and pianist John Lewis. In Linda Dahl’s book “Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen,” Liston, who died in 1999, told the author: “I just had to prove myself, just like Jackie Robinson.”
“It’s not what they intend to do — the brothers would not hurt for nothing. They would give me money, they would take care of me, or anything. But they wouldn’t let me have the job,” Liston told Dahl.
Diana Gerberich hasn’t experienced that kind of sexism in her 21 years, but the baritone saxophonist does appreciate her unique place as the only female member of the Harvard Monday Jazz Band.
“It’s true there still aren’t many women in jazz, but on stage the gender barriers fall away,” said Gerberich, a junior who is concentrating in anthropology. “I’m glad I’m able to be an example and a representative for women in jazz. I also hope to inspire other women who feel like they’re out of place and to show it’s possible to cut through boundaries, enjoy jazz and not worry about gender differences.”
Gerberich, who grew up in Wilbraham, Mass., idolizing Ella Fitzgerald as well as Gerry Mulligan, fell in love with the sax at an early age, saying the brass instrument matched her vivacious personality.
“It tends to be a more prominent instrument in jazz. I’m Italian. I have a very loud voice, and I have a lot of energy,” she said.
Though she originally played classical saxophone, she joined her elementary school jazz band at age 11, drawn to the energy with fellow musicians and the audience.
“In jazz you really get a visual of the audience engaging with the music. For other styles of music, there is less audience interaction,” said Gerberich, who was one of two women in the 2013 National Association for Music Education’s All-National Jazz Band. “I love the personal touch that comes through jazz and the unique style that each musician contributes.”
“I think we’re at a cultural turning point,” said Monson, pointing to a progressive shift in society that she hopes will create more opportunities for women in music. “I’ve been fascinated by the Black Lives Matter movement, which was founded by queer black women. Its mission statement includes transgender people, and you see in the movement people taking that seriously. Also, Beyonce’s “Lemonade” video album brought women and girls to the center of the future of social justice. There are more people speaking up, and this is happening in jazz too.”
Monson, who will interview Wilson on Wednesday at the Leverett House Library Theatre, said many women in jazz still feel “caught between their love of jazz and the way their gender is often considered out of place within it.”
“Many cultural signs work against you. There’s a way in which a man playing a saxophone is cool or more manly. With women, it’s the opposite effect,” she said. “The ethos is if you have enough talent you’re going to be fine, but it takes a certain type of woman to do this.”
One of the interesting things about the rise and rise of jazz education is that it has increasingly had to walk a tightrope between the real world of jazz and jazz as taught in the classroom. A key educational objective is helping young musicians achieve a high standard of professional competence. By the 1980s, educators such as David Baker, Jamey Aebersold and Jerry Coker had written exhaustive textbooks to aid students achieve this end, breaking down the methodology and techniques of jazz improvisation into a series of modules based on quantifiable and analysable aspects of bop. They became the basis for what Gary Burton has described as the means by which students learned ‘how harmony works and what the grammar of this music is in order to play better’.
Jazz music that preceded the emergence of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie receded in importance as this music was deemed irrelevant to students seeking to enter a contemporary music scene. Today, to all intents and purposes, jazz history begins with bebop.
This is a shame, and it loses sight of the fact that the jazz that preceded it was far from trivial. As the inevitable canon formation took place, what emerged was a gendered construction biased towards the male of the species – Wynton Marsalis, for example, endorses this ‘patriarchal continuum’. Although he expresses a deep respect for women as individuals and performers, he emphasises the role of men as carriers of the jazz tradition. Some academics have argued this is part of a contemporary anti-feminist backlash. Who knows? Far more likely is that jazz writing and histories that began emerging in the late 1930s and 40s were by male writers (with the notable exception of Helen Oakley Dance) and tended to be constructed around the ‘great man’ theory of [jazz] history. However, it’s clear that a significant slice of interesting jazz history has gone missing – take the aforementioned Helen Oakley Dance, for example. How many know that she was responsible for introducing pianist Teddy Wilson to Benny Goodman, then a rising star in the jazz firmament? Goodman formed the Benny Goodman Trio with Wilson in 1935, by presenting an interracial group in venues throughout the USA – and if you think American society today has its racial problems, just imagine what it was like back then.
If Goodman was stung by racist comments in the press, he didn’t show it. In 1936 he formed the Benny Goodman Quartet with the addition of Lionel Hampton. Helen Oakley, as she was then, played a powerful role in breaking down segregation. When she helped coordinate Benny Goodman’s landmark 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert, a major event that saw jazz enter a citadel of American culture, she arranged for a contingent of musicians from the orchestras of Count Basie and Duke Ellington to perform with Goodman and his musicians on the Carnegie Hall stage. It was a big statement towards breaking down racial barriers in apartheid America.
Going back a bit further in jazz history, trumpeter Joe ‘King’ Oliver moved to Chicago in 1918, but it wasn’t until 1922 he and his Creole Jazz band became an overnight sensation at Chicago’s Royal Gardens. Pianist in the band was Lil Hardin, who had studied at Fisk University, and when Oliver sent to New Orleans for a young Louis Armstrong, history was made. Their incredible duets became the talk of the town, while Lil and Louis became an item with talk of wedding bells in the air. In 1924, word of Armstrong’s prodigious talent reached New York and Fletcher Henderson, leader of the top black band in New York, sent for him. It’s fair to say Armstrong impressed, the country boy quickly making a name for himself while becoming very popular with the ladies. Word reached Lil. In 1925 she sent a telegram, something along the lines of ‘you get back to Chicago or you’re out of the door’. Louis replied: ‘I’LL BE THERE!’.
Lil was also an entrepreneur, forming a band to feature her husband, whom she billed as ‘The World’s Greatest Trumpet Player’; she was also behind a contract with the OKeh label. Billed as Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five (the band only existed in the recording studio), the Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings are recognised as a foundation stone of jazz, Armstrong convincingly demonstrating jazz as a soloist’s art and influencing the whole history of the music. But what if Lil had chosen to break things off with Louis and he remained in New York living it up? Jazz might have taken a quite different turn.
Another forgotten name from this period was Leora Henderson. She was a trumpeter, arranger, music copyist, had a good business head and was married to Fletcher Henderson. She was the glue that kept the Henderson Orchestra together; her husband was so laid back he was almost horizontal, and after a road accident in 1928 became even more so. It fell to Leora to call rehearsals, hustle for work, organise tours, ‘extract’ and copy individual parts from her husband’s scores. She was the power behind the throne.
If a trumpeter was late for a gig (alcohol was the drug of choice in pre-bop America) Leora stood in: Herman Autrey, who played with Henderson before being featured with Fats Waller; he said she was a better trumpeter than Russell Smith, then regarded a top NYC trumpeter. She is thought to have deputised, uncredited, on several Henderson recordings. The period 1928-34 coincided with Henderson’s most productive period as an arranger, but in 1934 he was forced to disband the Orchestra, and within months a clarinet player called Benny Goodman bought 18 of his arrangements for his own, newly-formed band. Within a year Goodman made a breakthrough to American youth, recognised as the beginning of the Swing Era (or Big Band Era). Goodman commissioned more arrangements, but always gave credit to Henderson for his success. Henderson’s writing style introduced a relaxed ‘swing’ style that provided the blueprint for an era. But if Leora hadn’t kept Fletcher’s show on the road from 1928, jazz history might have been very different.
One of the biggest stars in jazz you never heard of was pianist Hazel Scott. With perfect pitch, she was playing the piano two-handed at the age of three. Her family thought they were witnessing a miracle. At eight she was studying at Juilliard, where the school’s founder chanced on Scott practicing; “I am in the presence of a genius” he’s on record as saying. At age 13, her mother – a musician and friend of Billie Holiday and Lester Young – got her an intermission job at the Roseland Ballroom in NYC. Her first job was to follow the Count Basie Orchestra. Stage fright or not, she brought the house down. She was on her way. When Cafe Society opened in 1938, Scott became the headliner at age 19 – there’s a photo of Count Basie, Teddy Wilson, Scott, Duke Ellington and fellow teenage prodigy Mel Powell gathered around her at the piano.
By now, thanks to Billie Holiday’s encouragement, she was singing too – and very good at it. President Roosevelt’s wife Eleanor, the First Lady, ‘dropped in’ to see her perform and invited her to join her afterwards for supper. Friend to the biggest names in jazz she was just 22 years old and regarded as New York’s Queen of Jazz. She married Congressman Adam Powell, Jr, toured the USA in the 1940s to rave reviews, all the while fighting against discrimination.
The first African American woman to have her own TV show, she was hauled in front of the notorious House of Un-American Activities in 1950. Facing down the now-discredited Senator Joseph McCarthy, who accused her of communist sympathies, she defended herself eloquently, but it destroyed her career. Her TV show was cancelled, concert and nightclubs closed their doors and she moved to Paris. When she returned to the US she had slipped into obscurity, dying in 1981 at the age of 61 from cancer.
Una Mae Carlise was a pianist, singer and another pioneer – she was the first black woman to be credited as the composer of a song on the Billboard chart, and the first to host her own regular nationally broadcast radio show, while also writing for major stars such as Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee.
By comparison, pianist Jutta Hipp came from a different planet. Born in 1925, she taught herself jazz piano growing up in Nazi Germany, where she studied for an art degree. When the war was over, she supported herself as a professional jazz pianist, working with the top German jazzers of the time, Emil and Albert Mangelsdorff, Joki Freund and Hans Koller. In 1955 she moved to New York and was the first woman instrumentalist to record for the Blue Note label. An object of awe in the clubs (she was a strikingly beautiful redhead) she was dubbed the ‘Frauleinwunder’ but she only enjoyed 15 minutes of fame; after three albums for Blue Note, she became difficult to work with, left jazz, turned to drink and in 1958 found work as a seamstress. She died a recluse in 2003, aged 78.
The multi-talented Valaida Snow also experienced life under the Nazis, but in her case, it was from inside a prison. An excellent trumpeter, she played a dozen instruments, sang, danced, did arrangements for her big band and others, and appeared in Hollywood films.
Dubbed ‘Little Louis’ and ‘Queen of the Trumpet’ by none other than WC Handy, as an African American woman top billing in New York and Chicago somehow eluded her, she made no recordings in the US, but moved to Europe where she did and found the stardom she craved. In Denmark when World War II broke out, she was arrested, imprisoned and became ill but by way of prisoner exchange in 1942 she got back to the States. Her health never really recovered and she died in 1956, age 52; but what a life!
Every self-respecting jazz fan has heard of Billie Holiday, but Billie Rogers? From a musical family she had perfect pitch, learned piano, organ, accordion, double bass and soprano sax and, from age eight, trumpet, which became her first instrument. She played in a family band and was discovered by Woody Herman working in a bar in Los Angeles in 1941. He hired her on the spot. Until then Herman had a polite band with a hit ‘Woodchopper’s Ball’.
When Rogers joined, she beefed up the trumpet section, sang and would come down from the horn section as a featured soloist in her own right. She was soon a major draw for the band, featuring on Herman’s now legendary ‘Dancing in The Dawn’. There’s not too much of her on record, this was the AFM recording ban, but there are broadcasts and V Discs that show how she transformed Herman’s band. She left Herman in 1943, but his 1944 band showed her influence with a roaring trumpet section led by Pete Candoli that sent the jazz world on their collective ear. Until Laurie Frink in the 1980s and 1990s, Billie Rogers was the only female to have ever held down a regular chair in the trumpet section of a major US big band. Fair to say there’s a lot more evidence to dispel the great man theory of the jazz canon, but one thing’s sure – jazz history does indeed need revisiting.
We’re often taught to think of jazz’s history as a cavalcade of great men and their bands, but from its beginnings the music was often in the hands of women. Listen to some of the greatest.
Young, female instrumentalists have been establishing a firmer footing in jazz, taking some of the music’s boldest creative steps and organizing for change on a structural level. But this isn’t an entirely new development.
While we’re often taught to think of jazz’s history as a cavalcade of great men and their bands, from its beginnings in the early 20th century women played a range of important roles, including onstage. During World War II, right in the heart of the swing era, all-female bands became a sensation, filling the void left by men in the military. But in fact they were continuing a tradition that had begun in the vaudeville years and continued, albeit to a lesser degree, in jazz’s early decades.
Prevented from taking center stage, many female instrumentalists became composers, arrangers or artists’ managers. Buffeted by sexism from venue owners and record companies in the United States, they often went abroad to pursue careers in Europe or even Asia. As was also true of their male counterparts, the African-American women who helped blaze some of jazz’s earliest trails had to innovate their way around additional roadblocks.
“These jazz women were pioneers, and huge proponents in disseminating jazz and making it a global art form,” said Hannah Grantham, a musicologist at the National Museum of African American History and Culture who studies the work of female jazz musicians and contributed notes to this list. “I don’t think they’ve been given enough credit for that, because of their willingness to go everywhere.”
The piano and organ were considered more socially acceptable instruments for young women to play, and few serious fans of jazz would be unfamiliar with the names Mary Lou Williams, Marian McPartland, Hazel Scott, Shirley Scott or Alice Coltrane. But the ranks of female jazz genius run much deeper than that. Here are 10 performers who made a big impression in their day, but are rarely as remembered as they should be in jazz’s popular history.
Lovie Austin, pianist (1887-1972)
Lil Hardin met her future husband Louis Armstrong in 1922, when he joined her as a member of King Oliver’s famed Creole Jazz Band. Hardin, who studied at Fisk University and had an entrepreneurial streak, helped bring Armstrong forward as a bandleader, serving as his first manager, pianist and frequent co-composer. After they split up around 1930, she found some success with her own big band, but stepped away from performing years later after determining that male promoters would never be willing to promote her on the same level as men.
Valaida Snow, trumpeter (1904-1956)
Valaida Snow’s career was a wildfire: a thing of great expanse and then rapid, wrenching exhaustion. She was a master of the trumpet but played a dozen other instruments, as well as singing, doing arrangements for orchestras, dancing, and appearing prominently in early Hollywood films. When the pioneering blues musician and composer W.C. Handy heard her play, he dubbed her “Queen of the Trumpet.” Denied a proper spotlight in Chicago and New York, Snow became a star abroad, touring for years in East Asia and Europe. She wound up stuck in Denmark during World War II, becoming ill while imprisoned there. She escaped in 1942 and spent the rest of her career back in the United States, although her health never recovered.
Peggy Gilbert, saxophonist (1905-2007)
As a grade-school student in Sioux City, Iowa, Peggy Gilbert quickly became accustomed to cutting against the grain. The daughter of classical musicians, she was told in high school that the saxophone was unsuitable for a young woman — but she taught herself anyway. A year after graduating she started her first band, the Melody Girls. In 1938, outraged at an article in DownBeat magazine headlined “Why Women Musicians Are Inferior,” she penned a retort that the magazine published in full. “A woman has to be a thousand times more talented, has to have a thousand times more initiative even to be recognized as the peer of the least successful man,” she wrote. Talent and initiative were two things Gilbert possessed. She went on to lead ensembles for decades, on the vaudeville circuit and the Los Angeles scene, eventually becoming an official with the musicians’ union there. She continued to perform well into her 90s, and died at 102.
Una Mae Carlisle, pianist (1915-1956)
Just like better-remembered contemporaries such as Fats Waller and Louis Jordan, Una Mae Carlisle made jazz that was also R&B and also pop — before the Billboard charts had effectively codified those genres. She was publicly known best as a singer, but she played virtuosic stride piano and composed prolifically too. Part black and part Native American, Carlisle was a pioneer in various ways, as Ms. Grantham pointed out. Carlisle was the first black woman to be credited as the composer of a song on the Billboard charts, and the first African-American to host her own regular, nationally broadcast radio show. She wrote for stars like Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee, and recorded her own hit singles, often with famous jazz musicians as her accompanists, before illness tragically shortened her career.
Ginger Smock, violinist (1920-1995)
A blazing player whose personality was as big and effusive as her talents, Dorothy Donegan piled her mastery of classical, stride, boogie-woogie and modern jazz piano into boisterous, often ribald performances. An old-school performer at heart, she could amaze and amuse an audience in equal measure. Donegan’s career was book ended by illustrious performances: In 1943, with dreams of becoming a professional classical pianist, she became the first black instrumentalist to give a concert at Orchestra Hall in Chicago. Time magazine covered it, and it set her on a path to renown, although a career in classical music was off-limits because of both her gender and her race. Fifty years later, she performed at the White House for President Bill Clinton. For all her accomplishments, Donegan made it clear in interviews that she felt sexism had prevented her from joining her male contemporaries in the music’s pantheon.
Jutta Hipp, pianist (1925-2003)
Hailing from Leipzig, Germany, Jutta Hipp taught herself jazz as a child growing up in the Third Reich, secretly listening to international radio broadcasts. She was forced to flee her hometown at age 21, after the war left it in ruin; she supported herself by becoming a professional jazz pianist. Hipp eventually became the first woman bandleader to record for Blue Note Records, whose proprietors were German expatriates. But with true stardom escaping her, she eventually abandoned her career as a professional musician for the stability of job working with seamstresses, although she never totally gave up playing.
Clora Bryant, trumpeter (1927-2019)
A self-proclaimed “trumpetiste,” Clora Bryant was part of the first generation of bebop musicians innovating in Los Angeles clubs, and she joined a handful of all-female ensembles in the years during and after World War II. Bryant became a featured soloist in the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the most famous ensemble of its kind, then joined the Queens of Rhythm. Through the esteemed trombonist Melba Liston she met Dizzy Gillespie, who became her mentor. And as her career went on, she mentored countless musicians herself as a respected elder on the L.A. scene.
Bertha Hope Booker, pianist (1936-)
Bertha Hope’s career bloomed alongside that of her husband Elmo Hope, whose economic hard-bop style was not altogether different from hers. They released a joint album together in 1961, but after his untimely death she focused on raising their children, performing intermittently around the New York area and remaining close with many musicians on the scene. Years later, she remarried, to the bassist Walter Booker; since then she has recorded a handful of albums and become a respected elder among younger New York musicians, including the bassist Mimi Jones, who recently made a documentary about her mentor titled “Seeking Hope.”
They hanged a young black man in Lexington, Mississippi. He was castrated, then the mob dragged his mutilated body up and down the street behind a car, as a teenage boy called Riley B. King watched from the sidewalk.
“Where I came from they used to hang them every week,” BB King tells The Blues. “It wasn’t nothing I hadn’t seen before. That was one of the strange things about white people in that area. Usually you had no problems out of a white family. But the guys, the men, they’d hang some youngster, a black boy, nearly every week or so.”
It’s no wonder the blues flourished in a time and place where just having a black face could get you killed. “I grew up knowing that I didn’t have a name but ‘boy’,” says BB. “‘Come here boy! That’s your name.’ There were certain rules you grew up knowing about. If I saw a white man at that time and didn’t know him, I’d get off the street and let him pass by.”
Racism is still prevalent in the Deep South, as it is all over, but attitudes have changed over the years (“I was shocked more than most white people to find we had a black President!” laughs BB) as The King of the Blues was to discover one life-changing date in the late 60s. It’s early in the afternoon on Sunday February 26, 1967. An old International tour bus nicknamed Big Red rolls up to the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, California.
As the bus comes to a halt, BB King and his entourage peer out of its side windows at the ‘same old funky building’ they’ve played countless times before. On this occasion, the clientele strikes them as unusual. Instead of the mature, well-dressed black patrons they’ve played to since forever, there’s a bunch of scruffy white kids lounging around the Fillmore’s entrance.
“They had long hair,” says BB King. “They were sitting out there on the stairs that led to the doorway of the Fillmore. I told my road manager, ‘I think my agent’s made a mistake.’ All these guys, with the long hair, they didn’t seem to be bothered with us at all.”
The Fillmore is run by impresario and promoter Bill Graham. A champion of the counter-culture scene, Graham and his venue host shows by the likes of The Doors and Jefferson Airplane. He will abandon the Auditorium a year after BB plays there to open the larger capacity Fillmore West and Winterland Ballroom venues, both in San Francisco; and the Fillmore East in New York City.
In the meantime, back at the original Fillmore, BB King is looking for answers.
“I sent my road manager and told him to tell Bill Graham I was there but I thought it was the wrong place. So, we were gonna leave,” says BB. “Bill came back out with the road manager, came on the bus and said, ‘You’re at the right place. Get ready and I’ll take you in.’ I followed him into the same old dressing room. I remember that somebody had took a knife and cut the seat. That happened before Bill bought the place but he hadn’t fixed it [laughs]. Anyway, we started to talk and he told me what he wanted me to do.”
BB and his band are the headliners for this ‘one night only’ show with support from psychedelic group Moby Grape and The Steve Miller Blues Band. Miller himself is making his debut at the Fillmore that afternoon. As it dawns on BB that he has been booked to entertain a young, predominantly white rock audience for the first time in his life, he can feel beads of cold sweat running down the back of his neck. His heart begins racing. His throat goes dry.
“I said to Bill, ‘Man, I can’t handle it. You gonna have to get me a bottle,’” he laughs. “I was drinking then. Bill said, ‘Dude, we don’t sell it.’ I said, ‘I didn’t say nuthin’ about selling it. Get me a bottle!’ He looked at me and said, ‘OK’ and sent someone over with a miniature bottle. I wanted to tell them to send it back but I didn’t. I tried to keep my cool.”
While the support acts do their thing BB can only sit and wait. “Bill said, ‘I’ll come back for you when it’s time to go on,’” he says. “So, I grab the bottle and I go glug, glug, glug [laughs], cos I’m nervous as a cat with about six dogs around him. Finally, Bill sent up a message to me to say he’d be up for me in five or 10 minutes. He was a no-nonsense guy. Whatever you had to do you do it and we ok. That’s the way he was.
“So, I sit there like I’m on pins and sure enough he came and got me. I followed him down to where the bandstand was. He walked out on the stage and said ‘Ladies and gentleman… – and I swear, you could hear a pin drop – ‘I bring you The Chairman of the Board, BB King.’ I’ve never been introduced like that before or since.”
BB walks out onto the stage as the auditorium’s floodlights capture a sea of kids rising to their feet.
“When we used to play the Fillmore [when a guy named Charles Sullivan owned it], it had chairs and tables and stuff,” remembers BB. “Now, all the kids were sat on the floor and when Bill mentioned my name they all stood up. For three or four tunes after that time, they would stand up after every tune.”
Nervous to the point of near collapse, BB is suddenly hit by the size of the audience. At this point in his career he is mainly playing small club dates, with around 200 to 250 people in attendance. The Fillmore Auditorium holds more than a 1,000 souls.
The enthusiastic response from the audience, coupled with his nerve-racked demeanour, proves too much for BB to handle and he breaks down. “I was so touched I cried,” he admits. “Cos I was thinking, ‘what am I gonna do with all these kids out here?’ They didn’t know who I was when I was walking through the door, but they had heard of me, they knew about me and for some reason they seemed to think that I was pretty good as a guitarist.”
BB’s stock is running high with young rock fans in the late 60s. It’s just that he doesn’t know it yet. When kids ask white American blues guitarists like Mike Bloomfield (of Paul Butterfield Blues Band fame) how he learned to play the blues the response was invariably, ‘BB King’.
Now, the Fillmore audience has at last had its opportunity to pay respects to The King of the Blues, and as an emotionally drained BB hits his last note of the night, soaks up the applause, then turns to leave the stage, he breaks down once again.
BB broke the seal at the Fillmore Auditorium. All of a sudden there was no such thing as a typical BB King fan or blues listener in general. The whole white audience discovery thing that had already boosted the careers of John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and a host of obscure Delta blues artists dragged out of retirement, had passed BB King by.
The reason for that is that BB was a progressive musician. He moved with the times to keep one step ahead of the needs of his black audiences. They didn’t want a folk blues revival. BB’s audience had sophisticated tastes. They wanted horns, strings, backing singers… the whole nine yards. BB wasn’t about to start looking back.
It’s only in recent years that BB King has even allowed himself to pause and reflect on his illustriuous past. Hence the 2008 opening of his BB King Museum and Delta Interpretive Centre in his old stomping ground of Indianola, Mississippi.
There’s the forthcoming movie – The Life of Riley directed by Jon Brewer – which sees the film maker burrow into every aspect of BB’s past. And there’s this feature, where BB and pals like Eric Clapton, John Mayall, Mick Taylor and others discuss his amazing history and why he’s still so revered 63 years after he cut his first record.
The story begins with BB King’s birth on September 16, 1925. “I was born, according to my dad, between Indianola and Itta Bena in Mississippi,” says BB, who was christened Riley B. King. His father Albert described the exact location of his son’s birthplace (just outside of Berclair in LaFlore County) to BB’s biographer Charles Sawyer, shortly before he died. “My dad led us there by tape recorder. By telling Charles how to get there he was able to lead us – and my bus – all the way to where I was born.”
According to BB, his parents split up when he was around five years old. There was also a brother who died, of whom he has no recollection. His father moved on while his mother, Nora Ella Farr, took the boy Riley to live with his maternal grandmother, Elnora Farr, in Kilmichael, Mississippi. “I had nothing to say about it,” says BB today. “She carried me with her. My mother carried me to church every Sunday too. I didn’t like to go. She made me go cos whatever my mother said to do was done! I loved her but she was strict… very strict.”
Funnily enough, BB’s attitude to Sunday morning scripture meetings soon changed. “I started to see girls,” he laughs. “I would see them sitting down at the front of the pulpit and I got to wanting to go to church! Every time they had a meeting each Sunday I would be one of the first to go in because there was girls there. I’ve liked girls all my life.”
BB was also keen on his pastor, the Reverend Archie Fair – but for very different reasons, obviously. “I liked him because he played guitar,” says BB, of his first stirrings of interest in the instrument. “I liked the way he played, sang and preached in church. He had a style of his own and I liked it.”
BB always gave credit where it was due, claiming that he got his guitar style by trying to sound like T-Bone Walker – and failing. It was also T-Bone that inspired the kid to get an electric guitar, after BB met him at WDIA radio station. The credit for giving him the guitar bug in the first place, however, falls to the good Reverend Fair.
“I remember when he would visit my uncle. My mother’s brother was married to the preacher’s sister. He would always lay his guitar on the bed – the soft parts of the bed – and I’d bother with it while they was eating dinner. The adults would eat first, before they would let us kids eat. Well, one day they got through eating sooner than I thought and they caught me with the guitar. My uncle was a mean guy. He figured he’d get ready to beat me up. My pastor begged him not to bother me. He didn’t, and from that moment I adored Archie Fair [laughs].”
Life for Riley was good for a while, but blues-inspiring heartache was on the way. BB’s mother passed away when he was nine and a half years old. His grandmother died two years later. “I felt deserted,” says BB. “When she died, there was no one to live with that I wanted to live with. My uncle still lived in the area, and I had an aunt that lived in the area, but I didn’t like either of them to live with.”
So Riley spent two years on his own – working as a sharecropper – until his father came back into his life. “When he found out where I was, he came back. I was still a minor. He was married again and had four more kids.”
Albert took his son to his home in Lexington, Mississippi to meet his new siblings: “I had been living with other people all of my life. So I learned to live and tried to get along with everybody because there’s one of me… and four of them.”
Unfortunately, happy families was not on the cards for BB, and he was soon on his own again: “I didn’t like my stepmother,” he explains. “I later found out that she was a good woman. It was me. I didn’t understand her and didn’t like her.”
BB rode his bicycle from Lexington back to Kilmichael, a journey of about 100 miles. “When I got up there all of the blacks had left,” he recalls. “So, I went back to the Delta to pick cotton just as the war was starting. I fell in love with a girl called Martha, did basic training, and got married. I was 18. She was 17.”
King was already singing and playing guitar with gospel group The Famous St. John’s Quartet, based in Inverness, Mississippi, when a silly accident forced him to go on the run to Memphis, Tennessee. He somehow damaged the exhaust on a tractor and, fearing that the plantation owner would ‘kill him’, he took off.
One big misconception that gets on BB’s nerves is his relationship with Delta bluesman Bukka White, with whom he first hooked up on that unscheduled trip to Memphis.“Bukka was not my uncle!” shouts BB, hoping he’s cleared this one up once and for all. “He was my cousin– my mother’s first cousin. My mother’s mother was a sister to his mother [laughs].”
Another popular misconception is that Bukka helped BB get a foothold in the Memphis blues scene on his first visit to the city. “No, he helped me get a job,” BB explains. “I worked for a company called the Newberry Equipment Company. That’s where Bukka was working, so he helped me get a job. I stayed there a long time.” It was, however, apparently Bukka who inspired BB’s sartorial elegance, telling the young musician something along the lines of “When you play the blues, always dress like you’re going to the bank to borrow money.”
Eventually, the misunderstanding over the broken tractor exhaust was settled, via a polite letter courtesy of BB and either $600 or $800 – the exact figure escapes him – and he returned home to his wife and job. He wasn’t back for long, however, before the lure of Memphis proved too strong to resist. This time, though, he was determined to make his way, and money, as well as a musician.
BB found a job on Memphis radio station WDIA – which was the first to be programmed entirely by African-Americans – on Union Avenue.
“I don’t know why, but all of the radio stations east of the Mississippi river started with a W,” says BB, shaking his head. “All of them west of the Mississippi started with a K, I think. I never knew why it was like that but that’s the way it was.”
Speaking of initials, it was while working at the station that young Riley B. King first picked up his ‘Beale Street Blues Boy’ nickname – a reference to the local blues landmark, where he now owns a nightclub. The nickname was later shortened to ‘Blues Boy’, then ‘Bee Bee’ (as seen painted on his guitar amplifier in a photo from the time), before he settled on the now legendary BB.
It wasn’t long until BB decided he wanted to make a record. “I got in touch with a group out of Nashville,” he recalls. “The record company was called Bullet. So, I talked with them, and had my boss out at the radio station talk with them, and they agreed to record me.”
BB recorded four sides at the WDIA station in May or June 1949, for release on the Bullet label. Miss Martha King, When Your Baby Packs Up And Goes, Got the Blues and Take A Swing With Me. All four tracks were recorded with pianist Phineas Newborn, Jr, guitarist Calvin Newborn, tenor saxophonist Ben Branch, trumpet player Thomas Branch, Sammy Jett on trombone, the brilliantly-named Tuff Green on bass and drummer Phineas Newborn, Sr.
The band were all top-notch cats. Sadly, BB’s self-penned tracks were way beneath them, with the man himself admitting they weren’t up to scratch. But as he says, “you can hear what I was trying to get to.”
BB soon found himself being pursued by the Bihari Brothers, the owners of Modern Records. “They found me,” says King. “I was still at the radio station. I stayed at the radio station long after I was sort of popular. Long after. They found me because of Ike Turner. He knew the Bihari Brothers and he sort of worked as a scout for them at the time and he knew me… And I knew him.”
Now, this might be teaching your granny to suck eggs but we should mention that BB King calls whatever Gibson ES-355 semi-acoustic guitar he happens to be using at any given time, Lucille. The reason he does that is the stuff of blues lore… and if you don’t know the story, you should.
Towards the end of 1949, BB is playing a date at a dance hall in Twist, Arkansas. It’s a cold night so, in seemingly typical Arkansas fashion, the hall is being heated by a barrel part-filled with kerosene that has been lit, a fairly common practice at the time. While BB and his band are performing onstage, a fight breaks out between two guys nursing some type of beef. Of course, during the scuffle the blokes knock over the barrel of kerosene. The burning fuel spills out and the building is soon aflame.
BB, along with anyone else with any sense, runs out of the building then remembers that he’s left his Gibson guitar on the stage. He runs back into the hall and grabs his guitar. The next day, King discovers that not only did two people perish in the fire, but the two men who were fighting were fighting for the honour, or otherwise, of a woman called Lucille. King christened the guitar he rescued Lucille, and every one he’s owned since, to remind him never to act so stupid again.
The Bihari Brothers set up some recording time with producer Sam Phillips at his Memphis Recording and Sound Service at 706 Union Avenue – the place that would soon become better known as Sun Studio, the home of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, and the original sound of rockabilly.
BB cut some sides at the studio – including Boogie – until the relationship between the Bihari Brothers and Sam Phillips soured. BB had his own bone to pick with Phillips: “He said something – and I’m quite touchy – he said Howlin’ Wolf was the best blues singer that he had ever recorded. I had been over there too, so I figured he didn’t give a damn about me.” [Phillips to his credit, maintained his belief that Howlin’ Wolf was the greatest ever, right up until his death in 2003.]
As it happens, BB’s first breakthrough hit was in the post. Recorded in the Memphis YMCA in September 1951, Three O’Clock Blues was a song that BB had been practicing for some time: “I had heard Three O’Clock Blues from Lowell Fulson. I got to where I could sing it good, so the Bihari Brothers let me cut it and it was a hit. But what they did – they copyrighted the song as if I had wrote it, but I didn’t. So, it was a big selling record for me. I started then to begin writing songs myself.”
BB’s first bonafide classic the song made an impact on listeners way beyond the airwaves around Memphis.
“I first heard BB King on Three O’Clock Blues,” remembers Blues Breaker boss John Mayall. “I came out of the army in 1955, and up to that point I hadn’t heard him; or heard of him pretty much. Somebody that lived down the road, a West Indian, happened to have a 78 of BB’s record. I was just amazed at his high singing voice. That was the first thing that struck me; and just the way he was playing. It was something very different.”
For Eric Clapton, BB found his groove while working with the Bihari Brothers in the 1950s: “I think he found his voice early on with the guitar,” says Clapton. “If anything, it’s really just become more refined. He doesn’t have to play as much, as he did in the old days. He found a way to condense it. When I first heard him it would have been Sweet16 Part 1 & 2 (recorded in Los Angeles in 1959). It’s a mono recording, and he’s obviously playing live with a big orchestra.
“I immediately recognised that he was playing guitar like he sings. His voice is answering the guitar. No other blues guitar player can do that in the same way. BB sings with his guitar.”
The relationship between BB and the Bihari Brothers ended when he jumped ship to ABC. The reason? The oldest one in the book: money. “I have a friend named Fats Domino,” says BB. “He was on ABC and, at that time, it looked like everything he touched was a hit record. That’s when he told me I was with the wrong people.”
BB lost a certain amount of artistic freedom when he split from the Bihari Brothers, but his association with ABC gave him financial stability and lead to him recording one of the greatest blues records of all time, Live At The Regal. This is the record that drove a bunch of tone hungry English kids crazy in 60s London – and this is the point in the feature where BBs famous fans take over the narration to discuss his influence, legacy and genius.
“There was a now-defunct blues record shop in Lisle Street in Soho, near the old Flamingo Club,” recalls former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor. “All the guitarists used to go there on a Saturday morning – Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, loads of people. They used to import American blues albums and singles. One of the first albums I ever bought was Live At TheRegal, recorded at a famous theatre in Chicago. That was very influential… And an album that’s dear to my heart. That’s BB King in his prime.”
BB’s 1965 Live At The Regal is a career-defining record in much the same way as his later anthem, The Thrill Is Gone. The album is an example of ‘as good as it gets’, thanks to a dynamite performance from BB and his band, captured at the Regal Theater on the South Side of Chicago on November 21, 1964. Aside from BB, the line-up features top-line dudes: Duke Jethro on piano, Kenny Sands on trumpet Johnny Board, Bobby Forte (both tenor sax), bassist Leo Lauchie and drummer Sonny Freeman. BB works the crowd like a pro, pulling screams of ecstasy from the women and howls and hollers from the men.
Curiously, the only person that doesn’t get the album’s significance is BB himself. “I think it’s a good album, yes,” he says, calmly. “But it wasn’t like some people have said, that it was the best thing I’d ever done.”
But for guitarists like Mick Taylor, Live At TheRegal is a masterclass in using the guitar as an extension of the voice. “I thought about it a lot back in the days when I was still learning about blues playing,” says Taylor. “Learning the art of singing and answering what you were singing with a guitar phrase… I think that’s where BB King is a master. He has a great voice, and a great sense of dynamics. He could bring a song right down, and of course his band would follow him. Unlike Albert King’s band; if they missed a beat or were too loud, Albert would turn round and give them the evil eye… a nasty look. I’ve never seen BB King do that.”
“Live At The Regal was like this pivotal musical watershed that took me away from the British Blues – temporarily,” says Joe Bonamassa. “I had just discovered American blues for the very first time, after listening to the English stuff like Clapton, Peter Green, Paul Kossoff and Free, and every incarnation of John Mayall and the Blues Breakers. Live At The Regal was the first American blues album I really liked. It was lively, and big, and had horns.”
“BB King has been a huge influence on me,” says Free and Bad Company vocalist Paul Rodgers. “When I first met Paul Kossoff and he asked if he could get up and jam with me at The Fickle Pickle in Finsbury Park all those many years ago, the first things we played were BB King songs like EveryDay I Have The Blues, off Live At The Regal. Paul introduced me to that record and we really sat and listened to it. One of the things that BB has is a great rapport with the audience.”
If BB was unaware of the effect his records were having on American kids in the late 60s, there’s no way he could have guessed the influence he was exerting over in London. Blues Breakers leader John Mayall had no trouble spotting which of his Holy Trinity of guitarists were feeling BB’s style the most.
“Of the three main guitar players from the English stable – Eric, Peter Green and Mick Taylor – I would say that Eric was most influenced by Freddie King; Mick Taylor was most influenced by Albert King; and Peter Green was most definitely a BB King devotee. He learned how to play as little as possible, and most effectively as possible, in the same way that BB can play one note and you know exactly who it is. So, that was Peter’s goal. I think he learned a great deal from BB.”
“That’s dead right to me… Very observant,” says Eric Clapton.
Mick Taylor, however, is not so sure. “Well, John is entitled to his opinion,” he says. “But I actually think Eric was influenced by Freddie and BB King. BB especially.”
BB has his own opinion on the subject. “I think Eric liked me as a guitarist – he’s a good friend,” he says. “But I don’t think he idolised me like he did with Albert King and Buddy Guy.”
“There’s simplicity and honesty in BB’s playing,” continues Mayall. “What he can do with one note a lot of lesser guitar players would not be able to accomplish playing a million notes a minute. He’s been a great influence on a lot of people I know who have latched onto the fact that it’s not how many notes you play, it is how you play them in order to convey your feelings.”
The old ‘one note’ thing doesn’t half get on some guitar players’ goats, but if there is a blues player that is recognisable from a single pluck, it has to be BB King.
“Yeah, one note is all it takes for BB,” says Eric Clapton. “Often that’s exactly what he’ll do. He’ll slide up to hit the octave to make a point. It’s like an exclamation mark. He’ll sing a phrase, and to punctuate it and give it drama he’ll slide up and hit that octave with just the right amount of vibrato. It’s about economy and power, with the maximum amount of passion.”
“I’d say that’s true, yeah,” agrees Mick Taylor. “His sound is completely unique to him. One or two notes and I know it’s BB. Certainly no more than three! I think his vibrato sets him apart. Eric’s playing and BB King’s playing is similar in that in the sense that they have the same kind of vibrato.”
Eric Clapton remembers the first time he played with BB. Well, a reasonable chunk of it.
“It was during a period when I had become friends with Al Kooper,” he says. “He’d formed this band called Blood, Sweat and Tears, and their debut gig was at the Cafe Au Go-Go [in New York’s Greenwich Village]. So, I’d gone down with Al to see them play. I don’t remember how the jam with BB came about, but there we were, and I’ve seen pictures of us sitting on our amplifiers playing together.
“What I do remember – and it’s sad for the guy – the bass player with Blood, Sweat and Tears – a guy called Jim Fielding I think – managed to stay four bars ahead of everybody, you know, for about half an hour. I thought it was quite an achievement in itself. When you get to the end of a 12-bar sequence, someone will shout and everyone will fall back into the sequence. Well, this guy managed to remain out of sync the whole time.”
“I was 17,” says Texan slide guitar genius Johnny Winter. “It was a club in Belmont, Texas called The Raven. I heard it on the radio that BB King was gonna be there. So, I gotta hear this! I had a fake I.D. and got in.”
Johnny was a fan but he wasn’t there just to listen to his idol play.
“Yeah, I bothered him,” he laughs. “I wanted to see him, but I really wanted him to hear me. I kept sending my band members up to ask him if it was alright if I played.”
What Johnny and his friends didn’t realise is that BB was eyeing them with suspicion. “We were the only white people in the club, and he’d been having tax problems,” laughs Johnny. “He thought we were from the IRS! He finally let me play and I got a standing ovation.”
BB chuckles at the memory; he remembers the encounter well. Not only the fear of undercover tax men, but his first taste of the young guitarist’s playing: “Johnny was good,” he says.
Not only did Johnny and his mates put the wind up poor old BB, he also forgot to bring any gear with him. “Yeah, I didn’t bring my guitar,” continues Johnny. “So I played Lucille!”
Johnny admits that BB went out of his way to accomodate him. “It was very nice of him to let me play cos he didn’t know whether I could play or not,” he says. I remember he kept saying, ‘We have arrangements’. I said, ‘I’ve heard all your records. I know all your arrangements.’
“BB asked to see my union card. He wanted to check me out. It took him a long time before he decided to let me play. I think he was so glad that we weren’t coming to bust him for his taxes; he didn’t care if I could play or not [laughs].”
“I met BB King on May 24, 1990,” says Joe Bonamassa. “I’d just turned 13. I was playing shows in upstate New York. When you’re that young and you play blues music you tend to get a lot of media. Especially how I looked – I was like this pudgy white kid with a Telecaster. I was attracting a decent crowd. Mainly curiosity seekers at that point – when I showed up to these gigs it was kind of like a circus. This one promoter rang my mother one time and booked me to open up for BB King, which was a thrill because about three years before that I had discovered Live At The Regal. To meet him that first time was extraordinarily special for me, because he was one of my musical heroes. When you’re that young and able to meet someone like that, it was really a special thrill. I just thought I’d play the show and then move on, but he ended up calling me back to his dressing room and we had a really lovely chat and I got to sit in with him that night. It was my big break and it totally changed my life. He plucked me out of obscurity. I’ve played shows with BB King pretty much every year for the past 22 years.”
When BB King passes on, sad as it will be, we’ll wager that he’ll be performing onstage, lounging around in his tour bus, or trundling somewhere between the two. While he’s not running at the speed he was when he played 342 shows in one year back in 1956, the man is 86 years of age and still tours his ass off. Like his contemporaries Chuck Berry and Jerry Lewis, the desire to hit the road is undiminished in BB, regardless of age and ill-health (in his case, King has suffered from Type 2 diabetes). He’s never happier than when he’s pulling into a new town and playing shows, spending hours chatting to fans and signing autographs.
While not many of the characters interviewed for this feature – and Jon Brewer’s brilliant film, The Life Of Riley – would expect BB to continue touring the world for much longer, all believe he’ll keep up his commitments in North America. For his part Eric Clapton is adamant that BB will never really put Lucille back in her case for good, unless he really has to. As Slowhand says: “It’s his life. It’s what he does.”
“He’s a trooper!” shouts Paul Rodgers. “He’s played almost every night of the week for years and years. I think he just takes Christmas day off or something ridiculous like that… amazing guy.”
Others that you would consider consummate road warriors are still blown away by BB’s relentless schedule. “I do about 120 gigs a year,” says Johnny Winter. “BB used to play almost every night when he was younger. He played like 350 gigs a year. I don’t know anybody that could play as much as he did. Playing keeps you young.”
When we ask the man himself if he’ll ever stop rolling down the highway he looks us in the eye and replies with a simple “No.”
Ask him how he’d like to be remembered and BB takes a little more time to reach for an answer.
“‘He was a pretty nice guy’,” he says eventually with a grin. “No… something like, ‘He was a son of a bitch but he was himself!‘”
There are those who believed that BB King wasn’t the world’s greatest guitar player, including the man himself. In a recent interview he said:
I call myself a blues singer, but you ain’t never heard me call myself a blues guitar man. Well, that’s because there’s been so many can do it better’n I can, play the blues better’n me.
And his musical vocabulary was limited; King once told Bono: “I’m no good with chords, so what we do is, uh, get somebody else to play chords… I’m horrible with chords”. He even claimed that he couldn’t play and sing at the same time.
Speaking as someone who used to teach guitar, I would agree that BB King wasn’t a particularly technical player. Although he was one of the first guitarists to have hits with single-note electric blues solos, he was followed by a wave of more proficient and versatile practitioners, prominent among them Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Despite this, he continued to play to packed houses well into his 80s and remains one of the most loved and respected guitarists in music history. So what was it about King’s playing that has captivated me and so many others? I think the answer lies the way he never played perfectly in tune.
Like most blues players, King based many of his phrases and licks on the minor pentatonic scale, which is a simple “box shape” on the fingerboard that most electric guitarists learn very early in their careers. Indeed, box shapes are such a simple musical vocabulary that blues guitarists often don’t even need to know the names of the notes they’re playing (in my experience, this fact often comes as a shock to classical musicians).
The minor pentatonic scale – and its close cousin the blues scale – works by omitting some steps from the full minor scale. This simplifies the melodic choices available to the soloist, effectively limiting the musical vocabulary of the melody. But it’s this melodic constraint that I think gave BB King’s playing the opportunity to develop its majestic and expressive style. He was what I like to call a microtonal guitarist – his solos were made more expressive by bending the notes slightly out of tune.
King’s seventh-to-octave licks were sometimes slightly flat, his fifths would sometimes slowly drift toward the note as the string bend was pushed from the note below, and – most importantly – he was a lifelong student of the mysterious “blues third”, the note that can be found somewhere in the cracks between the third step of the minor and major scale.
King’s thirds could be wayward, mischievous, reflective, reckless, argumentative, morose, pensive or accusatory. Take a listen to his performance from Montreux in 1993. At [0:29] the third is sharp, brazenly drawing attention to itself as an almost-wrong E-natural against the brass section’s A flat chord. At [1:21] it’s right in the middle of the cracks, starting angrily on the full minor third and quickly bending upward as the titular “thrill” ride disappears down the road, speeding away from the lyric’s lonely protagonist. At [1:49] there’s a seven-note lick where every note is slightly out of tune, and the thirds drift between major and minor intervals in a way that, to me, resembles the fluctuations of a human voice – followed by an almost silent final minor third, the upward string bend resembling nothing less than an intake of breath.
This is what BB King fans mean when they say he’s speaking through the guitar. The irregularities in his tuning are more than just a stylistic feature – they are the way he communicates musically. The blues genre’s simple chords and predictable note choices are not the point of the performance; they’re just the shape of the picture frame through which King’s artistry can be seen.
And while that agonised “blues face” he pulls when he up-bends a string may be partly showmanship, it is also representative of the incredibly subtle and difficult judgement a great blues player has to make as the string bend approaches the perfectly expressive out-of-tune note.
Still not convinced? Think my analysis represents the over-constructed ramblings of a grieving electric blues fan? Have a listen to these three different King performances.
In 3 o’clock blues (1952), the licks are brash and loud but the microtones are unsubtle, as the 26-year-old King ambitiously shows off his newly-minted technique to the world. In Sweet Little Angel (1964) we hear King the live showman at the height of his powers; the guitar licks respond dynamically to the crowd, as the pitching of the thirds reacts to the auditorium’s screams in real time. The 2006 recording of The Thrill is Gone shows King in his sunset years, with the occasional fluffed note but the microtones and dynamics more varied than ever – the confident maturity of an old man who knows his audience is hanging on his every note.
BB King’s subtle string bends are the sound of a musician completely immersed in his communication medium, speaking a special and unique musical language that he has been inventing for a lifetime. The great man is gone, but his blue notes will live forever.
B.B. King, The Blues, and African American Identity
Last week people across the world mourned the passing of Blues legend B.B. King. His legacy as a musician has been secure for decades. One of the hardest working men in show business (at the least enough of a hard worker to have an excellent show with the hardest working man in show business, James Brown), King’s career is an example of the larger African American experience in music and American entertainment. In my post for today, I am going to consider another part of King’s legacy. Later in his career, B.B. King was gravely concerned about the status of the Blues among African American listeners. Was it still a musical form, by the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, being consumed by African American listeners? Or had it become a genre mainly listened to by white listeners? And, finally, why should this question matter to intellectual historians?
Questions about African American identity and American music have long been a concern for intellectuals, lay listeners of music, and musicians. From Al Jolson’s performances in blackface in the early 20th century, to concerns about the appropriation of “black” music by superstars such as Elvis Presley, to modern-day debates about the merits of white hip hop artists such as Eminem and Iggy Azalea, the interrelated questions of who can perform “black” music and, more importantly, just what constitutes “black” music, has shaped modern American understandings of popular music. The blues has been no less plagued by this question.
As far back as 1979, readers in Ebony magazine were treated to this debate. The timing of this was not a coincidence. Consider the release of a recent book, Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American Southby Charles L. Hughes. In this book, Hughes argues that the 1960s and 1970s were a time in which both the genres of soul and country became places where black and white southerners teased out and re-shaped ideas of southern identity in the post-Civil Rights Movement era. Of course, other historians—Jefferson Cowie in Stayin’ Alive for instance—have also written about the 1970s as a period of cultural ferment in terms of white identity, especially in the American South. Not surprising, then, that the blues would be but one place where questions of identity manifested themselves.
African American blues and rock singers in the 1970s argued whether white performers could correctly “sing” the blues. For Ray Charles, the blues was born “out of a special African-American group experience,” as paraphrased by Hollie I. West, who interviewed Charles. This belief that the blues was special to African Americans precisely because of this relationship to African American history was something for which B.B. King also argued. And if you were black and not listening to the blues—well, various articles also expressed a fear among older African Americans that their legacy and heritage were being forgotten. Take notice of the language from this 1979 essay about white Americans singing the blues: “And while young Whites listen to traditional bluesmen, young Blacks support groups such as Earth, Wind and Fire and the O’Jays, musicians whose flashy style and breezy art fits the contemporary Black lifestyle—and dance steps—of young Blacks more than Muddy Waters’ or Joe Turner’s.” In other words, the question becomes: what does it mean for African American culture when the blues is no longer in vogue?
King himself addressed the question several times during his career. It seemed that Ebony, not surprisingly, did a reflective piece on either him or the blues field itself. By 1990 King was quoted as taking notice of the largely white audiences he was performing for, and later on he argued that the blues was central to the African American experience. King stated: “More than anything else, it is important to study history, to know history,” he says. “To be a black person and sing the blues, you are Black twice. I’ve heard it said, ‘If we don’t know whence we came, we don’t know how to where we are trying to go.’” Where you stand on the blues becomes a statement for how you believe African American society must adapt to the future. It seemed for Charles and King both that the blues was an integral part of African American identity. Without the blues as a glue to hold African American identity together, to serve as a reminder of both good days and bad, the idea of being African American turns to dust—or at least becomes something unrecognizable to members of an earlier generation.
For intellectual historians, the questions raised by Ray Charles, B.B. King, and other musicians—not to mention intellectuals from this era—about the African American experiences become crucial to thinking about other questions plaguing thinkers at the same time. Consider questions about the urban crisis during the 1970s and 1980s. And then tie them back to what Charles and King express, which is a reluctance to celebrate white Americans embracing a “black” art form. While much of that is born out of their own experiences with segregation and the exploitation of black talent and labor in the music industry during much of the 20th century, it’s also an exploration of the questions black intellectuals posed in the 1970s and 1980s about the gains and, yes, inferred losses for African American society due to desegregation. Often black intellectuals, activists, politicians, and community leaders would look back to previous generations and argue, “Those families, those groups were more stable .What happened to us since then?” A nostalgia for a more united black past—one born out of the fires of segregation and, before that, slavery, but lost with the advent of desegregation—permeates much of the language surrounding arguments about the fate of the blues. That’s not to dismiss those concerns. But as intellectual historians we should never forget the importance of music such as the blues to demarcating generational lines of agreement, disagreement, debate, and discussion. Or, at the very least, we should consider them as echoes of larger cultural and intellectual debates—perhaps, even, the echoes wars or fractures of culture.
The science of superstition – and why people believe in the unbelievable
The number 13, black cats, breaking mirrors, or walking under ladders, may all be things you actively avoid – if you’re anything like the 25% of people in the US who consider themselves superstitious.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a particularly superstitious person, you probably say “bless you” when someone sneezes, just in case the devil should decide to steal their soul – as our ancestors thought possible during a sneeze.
Superstition also explains why many buildings do not have a 13th floor – preferring to label it 14, 14A 12B or M (the 13th letter of the alphabet) on elevator button panels because of concerns about superstitious tenants. Indeed, 13% of people in one survey indicated that staying on the 13th floor of a hotel would bother them – and 9% said they would ask for a different room.
On top of this, some airlines such as Air France and Lufthansa, do not have a 13th row. Lufthansa also has no 17th row – because in some countries – such as Italy and Brazil – the typical unlucky number is 17 and not 13.
What is superstition?
Although there is no single definition of superstition, it generally means a belief in supernatural forces – such as fate – the desire to influence unpredictable factors and a need to resolve uncertainty. In this way then, individual beliefs and experiences drive superstitions, which explains why they are generally irrational and often defy current scientific wisdom.
Psychologists who have investigated what role superstitions play, have found that they derive from the assumption that a connection exists between co-occurring, non-related events. For instance, the notion that charms promote good luck, or protect you from bad luck.
For many people, engaging with superstitious behaviours provides a sense of control and reduces anxiety – which is why levels of superstition increase at times of stress and angst. This is particularly the case during times of economic crisis and social uncertainty – notably wars and conflicts. Indeed, Researchers have observed how in Germany between 1918 and 1940 measures of economic threat correlated directly with measures of superstition.
Superstitious beliefs have been shown to help promote a positive mental attitude. Although they can lead to irrational decisions, such as trusting in the merits of good luck and destiny rather than sound decision making.
Carrying charms, wearing certain clothes, visiting places associated with good fortune, preferring specific colours and using particular numbers are all elements of superstition. And although these behaviours and actions can appear trivial, for some people, they can often affect choices made in the real world.
Superstitions can also give rise to the notion that objects and places are cursed. Such as the Annabelle the Doll – who featured in The Conjuring and two other movies – and is said to be inhabited by the spirit of a dead girl. A more traditional illustration is the Curse of the Pharaohs, which is said to be cast upon any person who disturbs the mummy of an Ancient Egyptian person – especially a pharaoh.
Numbers themselves can also often be associated with curses. For example, the figure 666 in a licence plate is often featured in stories of misfortune. The most famous case was the numberplate “ARK 666Y”, which is believed to have caused mysterious vehicle fires and “bad vibes” for passengers.
Superstition is also highly prevalent within sport – especially in highly competitive situations. Four out of five professional athletes report engaging with at least one superstitious behaviour prior to performance. Within sport, superstitions have been shown to reduce tension and provide a sense of control over unpredictable, chance factors.
Superstitions practices tend to vary across sports, but there are similarities. Within football, gymnastics and athletics, for example, competitors reported praying for success, checking appearance in mirror and dressing well to feel better prepared. Players and athletes also engage with personalised actions and behaviours – such as wearing lucky clothes, kit and charms.
Famous sportspeople often display superstitious behaviours. Notably, basketball legend Michael Jordan concealed his lucky North Carolina shorts under his Chicago Bulls team kit. Similarly, the tennis legend Björn Bork, reportedly wore the same brand of shirt when preparing for Wimbledon.
Rafael Nadal has an array of rituals that he performs each time he plays. These include the manner in which he places his water bottles and taking freezing cold showers. Nadal believes these rituals help him to find focus, flow and perform well.
Walking under ladders
What all this shows is that superstitions can provide reassurance and can help to reduce anxiety in some people. But while this may well be true, research has shown that actions associated with superstitions can also become self-reinforcing – in that the behaviour develops into a habit and failure to perform the ritual can actually result in anxiety.
This is even though the actual outcome of an event or situation is still dependent on known factors – rather than unknown supernatural forces. A notion consistent with the often quoted maxim, “the harder you work (practice) the luckier you get”.
If you’d like to know why it’s bad luck to walk under a ladder or to cross paths with a black cat, read on for the back story to some of the most common superstitions…
Most of us probably don’t know why we give a little shudder when we see Friday the 13th looming on the calendar or why we say “bless you” when someone sneezes.But these and other common superstitions typically have a colorful history that dates back centuries.And while some superstitions may be just for fun, others might affect you enough to influence the choices you make.None, though, is based in fact, though many have deep roots in a culture’s tradition and history…
1. Friday the 13th: Bad Luck Many of us can’t help feeling a bit of trepidation when we realize another Friday the 13th is coming up.A fear of the number 13 is one of the most common superstitions around; it’s so widespread that many tall apartment buildings and hotels simply omit labeling their 13th floor. And have you noticed that some airlines don’t have a 13th row?One version of the origin of this superstition is that Judas Iscariot was the 13th guest at the Last Supper and Jesus was crucified on a Friday.Put that together and you have one unlucky day of the year.
2. Itchy Palm: Good Luck There are many variations on this superstition. But the idea of having an itchy palm generally refers to someone who is greedy or has an insatiable desire for money.In Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” Brutus says, “Let me tell you, Cassius, you yourself are much condemned to have an itching palm.”Some believe that if the right palm itches you will meet someone new, while an itchy left palm means that money is coming.Others say that an itchy right palm means money coming in and a left-handed itch foretells money going out.The superstition warns you not to scratch your palm unless you want to counteract the effect. The only way to scratch it without stopping the effect is to use lucky wood or brass.
3. Walking Under a Ladder: Bad Luck It’s common sense to avoid walking under an open ladder for fear of something falling on you, but there are superstitious reasons for avoiding ladders too.The shape of an open ladder is a triangle, which signifies life in some mythologies.When you walk through the triangle, it’s thought that you tempt the Fates. You also run the risk of awakening spirits that live within the triangle, including evil spirits who may not be happy with the disturbance.If you do accidentally walk under a ladder, you can counteract the bad luck by placing your thumb between your index and middle fingers and holding it for at least 5 seconds, orcross the fingers of both hands while calling upon the sign of the cross to protect you from evil.
4. Breaking a Mirror: Bad Luck Many superstitious people say breaking a mirror sets you up for 7 years of bad luck. That may be because 7 years is the time it takes to replace all the cells in your physical body.In a more superstitious time, mirrors were thought to be reflections of the soul. So breaking a mirror was believed to be harmful to the soul.To end the chain of bad luck, take the broken mirror outside and bury it in the moonlight.5. Finding a Horseshoe: Good Luck In many cultures, a horseshoe is the luckiest of all symbols, especially if you find one with the open end pointing toward you.
If you find one of these good-luck charms, pick it up with your right hand, spit on one end, make a wish and toss it over your left shoulder. Then leave it where it lands.Or place a horseshoe over the entrance to your home with the open ends up. This allows the horseshoe to fill with good luck for everyone living there.One superstitious belief says the number of nails left on an abandoned horseshoe reveal how many years of good luck are coming your way.6. Opening an Umbrella Inside: Bad Luck It seems like a no-brainer that opening an umbrella inside brings bad luck, since it presents a risk of breaking valuable items and poking someone in the eye.
But one common superstition holds that because umbrellas shade us from the sun they’re somehow magical.When the umbrella is opened inside – out of the way of sun’s rays – it offends the sun god.It may even signify impending death or ill fortune for both the person who opened it and the people who live within the home.7. Knock Twice on Wood: Reverse Bad Luck The origin of this well-known superstition dates back to a time when some cultures believed that gods lived in trees.To ask the gods for a favor, people would lightly tap the bark of the tree.Then, to say thank you when the favor was granted, a person would knock lightly again on the same tree.
This custom may have also originated with Christians offering thanks for good fortune with this gesture to Jesus Christ, who died on a cross made from wood.8. Tossing Spilled Salt Over Your Shoulder: Good Luck For most of human history, salt has been very valuable; in some places and times, it was worth its weight in gold. One common superstition held that it could purify the soul and ward off evil spirits.So when you spill any amount of salt, you ought to take a pinch and toss it over your left shoulder.By doing this, the superstition says, you drive away any evil spirits attracted to the spill who may want to cause misfortune for the unlucky spiller.
9. Black Cats: Bad Luck This superstition is a tough one for cat lovers to swallow, but in the Middle Ages it was thought that witches kept black cats as companions.Some people even believed that these kitties could turn into witches or demons after 7 years.Powerful men like Hitler and Napoleon Bonaparte may have been prepared to conquer nations, but both were terrified of a black cat.10. Saying “God Bless You”: Good Luck For some, it’s good manners, pure and simple; but blessing someone after he or she sneezes is actually a common superstition.In 6th century Europe, people congratulated anyone who sneezed; they believed the person was expelling evil spirits.
Early Romans believed that a strong sneeze could release your soul into the world and a “bless you” would keep it safely at home.
When the Black Plague hit Europe in 1665, the pope required everyone to be blessed when they sneezed. He believed that a sneeze was a sign the person would likely die soon.
The blessing was usually followed up by making the sign of the cross, for good measure.
Common superstitions still have a place today. After all, you never know when a simple action to counteract bad luck will make you and those around you a little bit luckier.
Superstitions are long-held beliefs that appear to be rooted in coincidence or cultural tradition rather than logic or facts.
Superstitions are often connected to pagan beliefs or religious practices that were widespread in the past.
Our ancestors didn’t come up with superstitions because they were more ignorant or naive than we are, but because they lacked many concrete ways to influence the survival outcomes of their lives. Superstitions offered a way to feel more in control, the same way they do now. That’s why highly educated, sophisticated people still believe in certain superstitions.
Most superstitions are fun and harmless, whether you sincerely believe in them or not. But some superstitions can play into mental health conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Here’s what common superstitions mean and when to be concerned about superstitious behaviors.
Bad omens and good luck:
At some point, black cats became associated with evil forces and shape-shifting witches. In German tradition it’s believed that a black cat crossing your path from left to right is a sign of bad news and death in the near future.
Interestingly, some cultures believe that black cats are a sign of good luck.
Walking under a ladder
When ladders are in use, they create a triangle shape. Cultures such as the ancient Egyptians found triangles to be sacred, and walking under a ladder disrupts the perfect triangle shape.
Walking under ladders is seen to be an act of defiance and an invitation to bad luck.
Breaking a mirror
Looking at your own reflection wasn’t just a way to check yourself out — in ancient cultures, consulting a mirror was a way to consult the future. Looking into a broken mirror would result in a distorted reflection, which would indicate tragedy or bad luck ahead.
In some religious traditions, “12” is regarded as the perfect number. The number that comes after 12 would be regarded as imperfect or defiled.
In early Christian and Nordic traditions, the 13th guest at a table is the one who will bring the whole group down. There’s even a word for fear of the number thirteen, called triskaidekaphobia.
It’s not clear why four-leaf clovers came to mean good luck. Presumably, a four-leaf clover would be an anomaly found in a patch of three-leaf clover, and finding one is a rare occurrence.
The four leaves of the four-leaf clover are meant to symbolize faith, hope, love, and luck.
Crows are scavenger birds and many believe they can sense death before it happens. For this reason, some people believe seeing a lone crow means calamity is eminent.
Knocking on wood
Making a statement like “this will be a good year” was seen to be arrogant and an invitation to meddlesome spirits intent on disrupting your plans.
After making a statement to indicate that you predict good things ahead, it became customary to “knock on wood” of walls or furniture around you as a way to drive off these evil spirits.
Luck in love:
Seeing the bride the night before the wedding
To this day, many soon-to-be spouses avoid seeing each other the night before the wedding.
This tradition may date back to arranged marriages, where spouses would encounter each other for the first time moments before speaking their vows. Keeping the bride and groom apart even right before the wedding was believed to keep both parties from backing out.
Something old, something new
This superstition is more about tradition than it is about luck. Wearing “something old and something new” on your wedding day was a way of honoring the bride’s heritage and carrying the past into the future.
“Something borrowed” invited the bride’s community into her new relationship, and “something blue” was meant to represent love, purity, and fidelity.
Catching the bouquet
During and after the wedding ceremony, women who wanted to get married were desperate to find a way for the new bride’s luck to rub off on them. Marriage was, after all, the only institutional protection women were seen to have access to after a certain age.
Single women would try to take pieces of fabric or petals off the bride’s attire, and often she would turn, throw the bouquet, and flee. The bouquet was seen as a lucky object to the person who could catch it.
The daisy oracle
The old trope of counting off a daisy’s petals to determine if “he loves me, he loves me not” is sometimes called “to pluck the daisy” or “the daisy oracle” originating from a French game.
In the game, the player plucks the petals off a daisy one at a time, alternating “he loves me” or “he loves me not.” When the last petal is pulled, the phrase the player lands on is the answer to the question.
Don’t sit in the corner
Particularly in Russian traditions, single women are encouraged not to sit at the corner during a dinner party. Sitting in the corner, the superstition goes, will “doom” that woman to a life of eternal spinsterhood.
This superstition might just be a matter of practicality, as sitting in the middle of a lively dinner party is a much better way to meet people than sitting at the corner or the end.
Wealth, health, and prosperity:
Anecdotally, itchy hands are supposed to be an indicator that wealth is on its way and you’ll soon be holding money. Of course, it can also mean dry skin or another skin condition.
Salt has long been thought to carry a spiritual energy. Salt, which used to be extremely hard to procure and the only way to safely preserve meat, was so valuable it could be used as a currency.
Spilling salt was seen to be so irresponsible, it was an invitation to catastrophe. Throwing salt over your left shoulder, however, was thought to undo the bad luck of spilling it and restore the balance of things.
Saying “God bless you”
Saying “God bless you” after a person sneezes started before people understood how diseases were transmitted.
Since many people in the Middle Ages were killed by plague, the practice of saying “God bless you” was meant to protect a person who was showing symptoms, like coughing and sneezing.
The blessing may have also been an attempt to keep evil spirits from entering the body after the sneeze, which some believed contained a person’s essence trying to escape.
Old broom in a new home
Bringing an old broom into a new home was thought to transfer bad energy from one place to the next. Similarly, it was considered bad luck to use a broom that was left behind by a home’s previous occupant.
Using a new broom upon moving to a new place was meant to be a cleansing act that purified the residence.
Boil milk and rice
In some cultures, boiling milk and rice is a way to christen a new home. Milk and rice symbolize fullness, prosperity, and wealth being welcomed into the new space.
What causes superstitions?
Superstitions have two main causes: cultural tradition and individual experiences.
If you grew up steeped in the superstitions of a particular culture or religion, you may carry these beliefs forward, even subconsciously.
Superstitions can take the form of sitting in a “lucky” chair when your favorite team is facing their rival, or performing the same series of taps on the plate when it’s your turn up at bat in baseball.
These behaviors are simply ways to soothe anxiety or prepare your brain to concentrate. They’re more like habits that give the person doing them a feeling of control over the unknown.
For example, if you wore your favorite player’s jersey to a football game, and that player scored a touchdown, you may believe that the two circumstances were connected — that one choice (wearing the jersey) caused your desired outcome (the touchdown). You probably know that the two things aren’t linked, but holding on to the belief feels better than letting it go.
One review of literature on thisTrusted Source showed that even though superstitious beliefs don’t necessarily connect to better outcomes for athletes, the placebo effect of belief was enough to make it worth believing.
According to the American Psychological Association, many people know that their superstitious rituals or beliefs are disconnected from reality. But that doesn’t mean that they’re ready to let go of the belief.
One study in 2016 strongly suggests that superstitions are powerful intuitions that our brains don’t want to correct. While the logical part of us may know that our superstitious behaviors don’t affect outcomes, holding on to them is still a way of “playing it safe.”
When superstitions affect mental health
For most people, superstitions are harmless. But there are times when superstitions can become an obstacle in your everyday life.
For people with OCD, superstitions can manifest as fixations. People with OCD may feel unable to be dismissive of superstitious behaviors or beliefs. This can trigger obsessive thoughts or anxiety, among other OCD symptoms. This is sometimes referred to as “magical thinking” OCD.
The social etiquette of blessing someone after they sneeze originates from the ancient belief that one could sneeze out their soul.
Yawning and sneezing were both considered high-risk activities in the time of the ancient Romans and Greeks.
«There are a lot of ancient beliefs in general about a separable soul. It could separate for a brief period of time. When you dream, your soul is out of your body, so it can’t get back in if you’re sneezing,» explained folklore librarian Moira Smith to the Washington Post.
Concerned believers started saying «bless you» as a divine safeguard against wayward souls.
Ancient Egyptians believed umbrellas were royal, and that their shade was sacred. Opening one indoors was considered an insult to the God of the Sun.
Umbrellas were fashioned out of papyrus and peacock feathers, and designed in the likeness of the Egyptian goddess of the sky, Nut. An umbrella’s shade was therefore sacred, and strictly reserved for Egyptian nobility — anyone else who dared to step into the shadowy space was considered sacrilegious.
Opening an umbrella indoors went against its natural purpose, and could consequentially be considered an insult to the God of the Sun, according to some historians.
Pennies were some of the first items treated as representative of the good vs. evil dichotomy.
One of society’s most prevalent dichotomies is that of good versus evil, wherein «good» is associated with concepts such as lightness, luck, beauty, and justice, and «evil» is linked to selfishness, neglect, and immorality.
In ancient societies, people believed that certain metals — such as copper — were gifts from the gods and meant to protect humanity. Therefore, coins such as pennies had lucky properties; however, these same societies also believed in an ever-present battle between good and evil forces.
So, heads-up pennies came to be associated with luck, while the obverse earned a less fortuitous reputation.
In the Middle Ages, people associated black cats with the devil — and therefore tried to exterminate them all.
Back in the fourteenth century, the association between black cats and the devil was so prevalent that people allegedly believed they were causing the Black Death pandemic — and tragically attempted to exterminate them as a result.
Later, when the sixteenth-century hysteria over witchcraft was at its peak, suspicious Europeans associated black cats with so-called witches, believing them to be their «familiars» — and this notion spread all the way to America, during the Salem Witch Trials.
Now, witchcraft and the occult are in vogue; there are even stores dedicated to all things witchy.
The superstition that walking under a ladder is bad luck could stem from the shape a ladder makes when leaning against a wall.
The belief that walking under a ladder is bad luck likely stems from the importance of the number three in certain religions. In Christianity, the doctrine of the trinity is the belief that there exists one God, who is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — and since the trinity is sacred, the number three is sacred by extension, too.
When a ladder leans against a wall, it forms a triangle shape with the wall on which it’s leaning and the ground. Walking underneath the latter could be seen as «breaking» the trinity — a blasphemous offense.
We have divine dinner parties to blame for why we consider the number ’13’ to be unlucky.
Not only was Judas Iscariot — aka the man who betrayed Jesus Christ — the 13th guest to arrive at The Last Supper in the New Testament of the Bible, but Loki, the wily trickster god of Norse mythology, introduced the world to chaos when he arrived as the 13th guest at a divine dinner party, and tricked a fellow guest into shooting the god of joy with an arrow.
Judas can also be blamed for the notion that spilling salt is bad luck.
Take a close look at Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting, «The Last Supper.» Judas Iscariot — the aforementioned unlucky 13th guest at Jesus’ dinner — is depicted knocking salt over on the table with his elbow.
Because Judas betrayed Jesus, the salt he knocked over started getting associated with his misdeeds. Luckily, throwing salt over your left shoulder supposedly blinds the devil and counteracts any bad juju you incur for spilling it in the first place.
Knocking on wood is a tradition that stems from ancient pagan cultures’ belief that spirits and gods resided in trees.
Eve was said to have taken a four-leaf clover out of Eden when she was expelled from paradise.
The odds of finding a four-leaf clover are purportedly one in 10,000, making them exceedingly rare finds. As the legend goes, when Eve learned that she was expelled from paradise, she took a four-leaf clover with in order that she’d never forget the Garden of Eden. Now, four-leaf clovers are symbolic of luck and prosperity.
A Greek astronomer named Ptolemy theorized that the presence of shooting stars meant the gods were peering down from the sky and open to granting our wishes.
According to Ptolemy, the gods had to open up the space that divides the earth sky from the divine sphere in order to watch over humanity. Shooting stars were wont to slip through the great divider, so if you saw one blazing through the night sky, you knew the gods were watching and listening to you.
Genial y sencilla, Joseíto Fernandez concibió su canción, catalogada por los expertos como guajira-son. El autor simplemente quería que su obra hablara de cualquier cubano y que todos la cantaran. Tal como lo quiso, pudo disfrutarlo en vida, así lo reconoció en unas declaraciones a la prensa de su época: “Es una melodía que admite versos de cualquier tipo; compuestos en cuartetas o décimas, y lo mismo felicitábamos a la muchacha de Villa Clara, que pedíamos clemencia para un trabajador cesante, por la CMCO”.
No obstante las múltiples polémicas sobre el origen de este canto y su melodía, sin dudas nacido del folclor cubano, lo cierto es que “La Guantanamera” se transformó en diferentes momentos históricos para ser conocida en el mundo entero, sin perder su simbolismo, inequívoco referente de cubanía.
En las décadas del 30, el 40 y el 50 del siglo pasado, difundida en la radio y la televisión comerciales de entonces, esta canción marcó en Cuba un suceso musical, publicitario y hasta de propaganda política en la denuncia de los asesinatos cometidos por las fuerzas policiales y el ejército de la República en esos años.
El norteamericano Pete Seeger incorporó “La Guantanamera” al repertorio de su grupo, The Weavers ,y el 8 de junio de 1963, durante un concierto en el Carnegie Hall de Nueva York, quedó grabado el tema en un disco de larga duración. Desde ese momento comenzó la popularidad internacional de la obra, que a lo largo del tiempo ha florecido en más de 150 versiones realizadas por reconocidos intérpretes e instrumentistas como el Trío The Sandpipers, Richard Clayderman, Libertad Lamarque, José Feliciano, Tito Puente, Julio Iglesias, Marco Antonio Muñíz, Joan Baez, Los 5 Latinos, Celia Cruz, Compay Segundo, entre otros.
Y como el buen arte trasciende fronteras y diferencias idiomáticas y culturales, también esta canción ha sido versionada como “You only sing when you’re winning” (Sólo cantas cuando estás ganando), uno de los cantos más populares de fútbol entre los aficionados británicos.
A Julián Orbón, músico hispano-cubano, se le atribuye un aporte vital a la composición, el reajuste de la melodía para incorporar los versos sencillos de José Martí, un sello sin igual del contenido patriótico de la canción, a partir de que es Martí el Héroe Nacional Cubano. Tal vez inspirados por el espíritu de fundar la República con Todos y para el bien de Todos, 75 artistas cubanos grabaron “La Guantanamera” en una producción musical que abarcó varias ciudades del mundo.
Esta iniciativa impulsada por la fundación Playing for Change, reunió en Cuba las grabaciones de Carlos Varela, X Alfonso, Síntesis, los pianistas Hernán López Nussa y Michelle Fragoso, Luis Conte en la percusión, Gastón Joya en el bajo y la cantautora Diana Fuentes, además de otros músicos y cantantes; mientras que en Miami grabaron Alexander “Pupi” Carriera, el tresero Joel Peña, la cantante Aymeé Nubiola, Carlos Puig y Luis Bofill. Como resultado se estrenó un videoclip en 2014 homenajeando “La Guantanamera”.
Dentro y fuera de la Isla, esta canción representa a los cubanos y su riquísimo folclor, así como rinde homenaje a la obra poética del más universal de todos los nacidos en la Mayor de las Antillas, quien aseguró que la música es la más bella forma de lo bello.
Lo vimos muchas veces por el barrio de Los Sitios, en Centro Habana. Caminaba con elegancia y ritmo aquel hombre alto y huesudo que, vestido invariablemente de guayabera y pantalón blanco y tocado con un jipijapa auténtico, parecía un Quijote tropical. Era Joseíto Fernández, El Rey de la Melodía, el creador de la famosísima Guajira guantanamera, la pieza musical cubana, junto con El manisero, de Simons, y La comparsa, de Lecuona, más difundida en el mundo.
Esa melodía no es guajira ni tampoco guantanamera. Quiere decir esto que no es oriunda de la provincia cubana de Guantánamo ni pertenece al género musical conocido como guajira. Joseíto Fernández la creó en 1928, en tiempos en que se iniciaba como cantante de sones, y la estrenó en la radio en 1935. Fue, a partir de 1940, el tema que identificó a su orquesta hasta que tres años después el cantante era contratado en exclusiva por una firma jabonera para que la interpretara en el programa radial El suceso del día, que escenificaba hechos de la crónica roja. Un poeta repentista componía la décimas o espinelas que recreaban el suceso criminal, y Joseíto las cantaba incorporándole el conocido estribillo de “Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera”. Aquello llegó a ser tan popular que, aunque el programa desapareció en 1957, todavía se oye decir en Cuba que a alguien le cantaron la Guantanamera cuando ha llevado la peor parte en un incidente desafortunado.
No es esa la Guantanamera que hoy recorre el mundo ni la que se repite en la Isla. Sino la que lleva versos de José Martí. En los años 50 Julián Orbón, compositor español avecindado en La Habana, la versionó con los Versos sencillos del Apóstol de la Independencia de Cuba, cuya métrica se ajustaba a las coplas de ocho compases que interpretaba Joseíto. En 1962, el músico Héctor Ángulo, becado en EE UU por el Gobierno Revolucionario, cantó esa versión en un campamento de verano de ese país. Así la escuchó Pete Seeger y la grabó poco después con el título de La guantanamera.
Sería a partir de esa grabación que algunos musicólogos se aventuraron a decir que Guajira guantanamera era una tonada hecha por el pueblo, un aire folclórico del que Joseíto se había apropiado. No hubo tal cosa. No se trata de un género anónimo, como el guaguancó o el son, sino de una guajira-son escrita en compases de dos por cuatro, a diferencia de las guajiras de Anckermann, que tomó elementos del punto y de la clave de raíces españolas y están escritas en compases de seis por ocho. El hecho de que ningún testimonio literario pruebe su similitud con otra tonada, confirma su originalidad, aunque tenga giros y cadencias parecidos al punto, la guajira y el son.
Hay algo más importante y definitivo. La versión cantada por Seeger tiene los elementos melódicos que se aprecian en la versión de la Guantanamera que para la disquera Víctor hizo Joseíto Fernández con su Orquesta Típica en 1941. En ese mismo año, su autor la registraba con el título de Mi biografía y el subtítulo de Guajira guantanamera.
Para Joseíto fue siempre un honor que versos de Martí se incorporaran a su melodía. Él mismo llegó a cantarla en esa versión y lo hizo como habitualmente se hace en la Isla: incorporando casuísticamente nuevas estrofas martianas y suprimiendo otras, a diferencia de la versión de Seeger, que incluye siempre los mismos versos. Afirmó en una ocasión que la Guantanamera fue siempre una canción protesta, de denuncia, porque recogía la tristeza y la desgracia de un pueblo y que, al pedir bienestar y justicia para ese pueblo, los reclamaba también para sí.
Porque aquel hombre íntegro, complaciente y amable, habanero hasta la muerte, tuvo un origen muy humilde que nunca olvidó. A los doce años había comenzado como aprendiz de zapatero, pero en la Compañía Nacional de Calzado, donde laboraba, solo percibía un peso diario cuando había trabajo, que era durante tres o cuatro meses al año. Vendía periódicos cuando quedaba parado y las serenatas que ofrecía con otros músicos de su edad le ayudaban a acopiar algunos pesos.
Así se convirtió en el cantante del sexteto Juventud Habanera. Trabajó después con otras agrupaciones musicales hasta que alcanzó popularidad con la orquesta de Raymundo Pía. Con ella recorrió la Isla y se presentó en bailes y emisoras radiales. Logró al fin conformar su propia orquesta y fue ahí que empezó a usar como tema la Guajira guantanamera. Con ella, en sus presentaciones en vivo o por radio, lo mismo felicitaba a una muchacha de Cabaiguán por su cumpleaños que pedía clemencia para un chofer de ómnibus involucrado en un accidente de tránsito.
Joseíto Fernández nació el 5 de septiembre de 1908 y murió el 11 de octubre de 1979.
Con los pobres de la tierra Quiero yo mi suerte echar Con los pobres de la tierra Quiero yo mi suerte echar El arroyo de la sierra Me complace mas que el mar El arroyo de la sierra Me complace más que el mar
A tattoo is an ink design inserted into the skin, commonly via a needle. In various forms, it has been used ornamentally and religiously by humans for thousands of years, with examples found on numerous preserved prehistoric specimens. Humans also use identification tattoos on domesticated animals, particularly livestock. Examples can be seen in most human cultures, and despite some social stigma, tattoos are becoming ubiquitous in the West, with an estimated 25% of Americans wearing at least one by the end of the 20th century.
The word is likely related to the Samoan tatau, meaning «to strike or mark.» Tattoos became popularized in the Western world when sailors began to explore the Pacific and return with them. In Japan, where there is a long historical tradition of skin art, the word irezumi refers to traditional Japanese tattoos, while tattoo is used in discussions of other types of tattoo art. Tattoo owners sometimes shorten the word to tat or use the terms ink, art, or work to talk about the designs they wear.
People receive tattoos for a variety of reasons: to identify themselves with a religious or social group, to adorn their bodies, as protective symbols, to cover skin discolorations, or as ongoing art and social projects. Most tattoo artists are themselves heavily tattooed. Some individuals have been forcibly tattooed, most notably victims of the Holocaust and prisoners.
Prehistoric tattoos were likely created by scoring the flesh with knives and rubbing in ink, ash, or another dye agent. These works were probably more susceptible to infection, and also less detailed than modern versions. Most of the extant examples consist of lines and dots on various points of the body. The introduction of needles made from bone and wood to the art of tattoo began hundreds of years ago and made for more precision, less infection, and less painful work. Many traditional tattoos are still hand poked with tools such as animal bone, sharpened bamboo, or steel.
However, Thomas Edison‘s invention of the autographic printer in 1876 paved the way for an electric tattoo machine capable of striking the skin hundreds of times in a minute, making the designs faster and much more widespread. Modern machines are strikingly different in operation than Edison’s invention, although the same basic principle is followed. An electric tattoo machine operates using an electromagnet, and as the circuit is opened and closed, it causes a bar connected to the needle to move. Depending on the speed setting, the needle can move between 80 and 120 times a second, allowing the artist to penetrate the skin without laborious hand work.
A variety of pigments and inks are used in modern tattoo, ranging from traditional black to a wide range of colors. Some of the colors used for pigment may be toxic, raising concerns about extensive color work. If concerned, ask the artist about what pigments he or she is using and whether any adverse reactions to the inks have been noticed. Many tattoos will also require touchup, as exposure to sunlight and water degrades the inks.
When receiving a tattoo, it is important to make sure that proper hygienic measures are taken. Make sure that the studio is clean and that the artist is wearing gloves and using autoclaved needles. Most tattoo artists keep their work areas scrupulously clean, only laying out the materials they need to perform your work. Artists have varying aftercare instructions for a new tattoo, and it is generally advisable to follow the directions for quick, clean, beautiful healing.
A History of Tattooing Traditions Around the World
Tattoos aren’t always taboo. Discover how they developed in nations around the world, across thousands of years.
Tattoos are so commonplace these days—especially in the United States—that only the wildest, most unusual art attracts attention. Full arm sleeves, face ink, and even brands are so omnipresent that it’s hard to recall a time when tattoos were taboo.
According to one 2019 poll, 40% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 have at least one tattoo. For all other age groups, the number only goes down to 30%.
This kind of ubiquity isn’t universal, however, and neither is the blasé attitude toward having something relatively meaningless inked on an arm or a leg.
In many parts of the world, tattoos are still rare. In others, they’re linked to centuries of cultural and religious tradition.
The rise of casual ink in the last 100 years or so is a blip in the much longer scheme of tattoo history. Otzï the Iceman, one of the oldest mummified humans in the world, had more than 61 tattoos and lived sometime between 3350 and 3105 B.C.E.
Archaeologists discovered tattoos on the mummified body of Amunet, an ancient Egyptian priestess of the goddess Hathor, dating between 2134 and 1991 B.C.
Tattooing has differed in practice and purpose over the millennia, but it remains one of the most popular—and oldest—methods of body modification.
Here, take a look at tattooing traditions around the world, from Japanese irezumi to Māori tā moko and Russian temhota.
Tattooing Traditions in Africa
Africa is home to some of the oldest tattoo traditions in the entire world. Archaeologists have found tattoos on ancient Egyptians dating back to 2000 B.C.E. They were almost exclusively found on women. Archaeologists can only speculate about the meaning of these tattoos but, in some instances, they seem to reflect a desire to associate the wearer with a god or goddess (as with Amunet, the priestess). The designs were relatively simple—thin lines, dashes, and dots—but some scholars believe that the placement, often over the abdomen, reflected a desire for the wearer to protect her children in the womb.
Farther south, some cultures practiced skin scarification. This involves cutting away skin with a blade to create scars that form intentional patterns.
In some countries—Nigeria and Burkina Faso, for example—these markings were a means of identification, to indicate citizenship with a particular tribe.
The practice declined rapidly in the 20th century. However, scarification still appears in some regions, especially among older people.
Tattoos of Southeast Asia & the Indian Subcontinent
The sacred, often geometric patterns, hand engraved on the skin by Buddhist monks, were originally meant to provide strength and protection to the wearer. (Angelina Jolie’s sak yant tattoo is arguably one of the most famous present-day examples.)
In the Philippines, batok is a general term for the tattoo style worn by indigenous tribes.
The process of receiving a batok tattoo is very painful and labor intensive. The tattooist taps the design into the skin using a bamboo stick dipped in wet charcoal.
Designs can include geometric patterns, as well as animals and plants native to the islands.
Westerners may also be familiar with the Indian practice of mehndi, which is drawn on the skin with non-permanent henna dye. Mehndi designs, often worn on the hands and arms, are usually ornate and elaborate.
The tradition is still commonly used to commemorate occasions like Hindu weddings and holidays including Diwali, but mehndi is also prevalent in some Muslim communities.
Ink Throughout East Asia
While Southeast Asia has a rich—and culturally accepted—tradition of tattooing, East Asia is a different story. Japan and China, for example, associate tattoos with criminals, and they’re still taboo today. (In contemporary Japan, it’s not uncommon to see signs at pools and gyms warning patrons to cover any visible tattoos.)
Even so, the region has several distinctive styles of ink. Some Japanese gang members, a.k.a. yakuza, are known for having elaborate, brightly colored tattoos that cover their arms, backs, and torsos.
Called irezumi, these designs often include animals, plants, and mythical beasts that you might also find in traditional Japanese woodblock prints. (Though rare, they’re no longer merely the domain of criminals.)
In Taiwan, the indigenous Atayal people are known for a facial tattooing tradition called ptasan. Past recipients previously had to prove they were accomplished at a certain task—weaving or hunting, perhaps—before they could be tattooed.
Men would receive a forehead tattoo upon their coming of age with a chin band added later. Women’s designs usually spanned from their ears down to their lips in a V shape.
As in Japan, modern China isn’t particularly tattoo-friendly. Still, tattooing dates back to ancient times, appearing on mummies from Siberia and Western China.
Known as chi shen, these designs were spiritual in nature and occasionally used to convey social status. (Tattoos of Chinese characters, however, aren’t a traditional form of chi shen and are most commonly seen in the West.)
Designs in Oceania
Australia, New Zealand, and the islands of the South Pacific boast some of the most recognizable tattoo traditions in the world. This is fitting, given that the word “tattoo” derives from the Samoan word tatau, which means “to strike.”
In Samoa, men’s tattoos are called pe’a while women’s are called malu. Both involve intricate black designs usually inked across the arms. For a famous example of a traditional Samoan tattoo, have a look at Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s left arm, which he had inked over 60 hours by a famous Tahitian artist.
The Māori of New Zealand call their form of tattooing tā moko. The practice was originally reserved for high-ranking members of society, and tattooists were considered secret.
Men were usually inked on their faces, thighs, and buttocks, while women wore designs on their chins and lips.
Tā moko is still prevalent today, though it’s now sometimes done with modern tattoo needles rather than the traditional uhi chisel used by past practitioners.
European & Russian Tattoos
Tattooing in Europe dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans but, as in East Asia, they were usually associated with criminals.
According to the historian Herodotus, Greeks learned the tradition of penal tattoos from the Persians and, subsequently, tattooed slaves and enemies. Some of the cultures the conquerors encountered, however, viewed the tattoos as a mark of pride.
More contemporary, Russia has a complex history of tattoos. 20th century prisoners used prison tattoo designs, or temhota, to identify inmates’ crimes and rankings within the Russian penal system.
American sailor tattoos influenced some of the designs—snarling tigers or anchors, for example—while other, more unique motifs indicated specific areas of expertise.
Heavily tattooed mummies from the pre-Incan Chimú civilization have been discovered in Peru, dating back to 1100 A.D. Archaeologists also found ink on bodies from the Bolivian site of Tiwaniku.
Meanwhile in North America, several tribes were known for their tattoo practices.
Some Inuit women had designs tattooed on their face to symbolize their transition from adolescence to adulthood, while the Osage people used tattoos to symbolize humans’ place within the larger cycle of life on Earth.
Warriors within the Haudenosaunee Confederation often wore tattoos, and sometimes used them to keep track of their victories in battle.
Among non-indigenous Americans, tattoos were mostly taboo until the 20th century. At that point they were still mostly seen on sailors and soldiers.
Norman Collins, a.k.a. Sailor Jerry, helped popularize the sailor tattoos that are still common today, including swallows, nautical stars, and pin-up girls.
In the past 20 years, however, tattoo culture in the U.S. has exploded. Certain artists have become famous in their own right. TV networks air multiple reality shows following artists at parlors in Miami, Los Angeles, and New York City.
Celebrities, meanwhile, have popularized tiny tattoos on fingers and hands (see Miley Cyrus), as well as more traditional forms borrowed from other cultures (Jolie’s aforementioned sak yant tattoo is sometimes credited with causing a surge in the practice’s popularity).
Five millennia in, and it looks like tattoos are just getting started.