Today in Pop Culture: Sing Along with History, Volume Two

Published on January 29th, 2016 in: Music, Music Festivals, Today In Pop Culture |

By Jeffery X Martin

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One thing I’ve learned from writing this column is that history, even something as seemingly fluffy as pop culture history, consists mostly of death. It’s depressing. Factual, but depressing as hell. Sometimes, you’ve got to get silly, especially on a Friday.

Can I get a witness?

I think it’s time for another singalong.

1845– Goth culture was born today with the first publication of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Raven.” Poe was a drunken genius, the inventor of the mystery story, and a fashion plate. His squinchy pale face, his droopy mustache, and his predilection for wearing black set the tone for gloomers and the perpetually tortured for decades to come. Maybe not the mustache so much. Poe’s dark Victorian language and habitual forsaking of happy endings have made him a favorite of the dark crowd and English lit geeks. Are you expecting a “nevermore” joke? Ha! Not this time. Instead, you get the Alan Parsons Project.

1861– Kansas is admitted into the United States of America, becoming our 34th state. Founded by frontiersman and violinist Kerry Livgren, Kansas was ratified by Don Kirshner, host of The Midnight Special and owner of his own record label. After adopting their state constitution, they released “Carry On Wayward Son,” which proved to be their breakthrough single. A string of hits followed, until West Virginia was accepted into the union as the 35th state. West Virginia produced no wireless-friendly rock and roll, and that’s how the Civil War started.

1967– San Francisco is home to the Mantra-Rock Dance, organized by the Hare Krishnas. Who knew they could rock outside of finger cymbals? The Grateful Dead played, and so did Janis Joplin and the Big Brother Holding Company. Moby Grape was there, and beat poet Allan Ginsburg sang the Hare Krishna chant on stage. It was a major publicity leap for the religious movement. Media coverage was extensive and positive. Tickets were only $2.50! Can you imagine that? Food, hallucinogenics, good music, and food for that price? Church should be like that all the time.

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