by Robert Wilkinson
Today we send up a big happy birthday to Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, Billy Idol, and Shuggie Otis!
Jonathan Swift (30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745) has been called the greatest prose satirist in the history of Western literature, mainly thanks to works like Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal. Definitely a rabble rouser and gadfly during his life, his works bear the test of time for their depth, insight, and way of framing universal issues. Anyone who could write a work showing us how horses are more evolved than humans deserves a big round of applause!!
Another great satirist who shares this birthday, known for writing “the first great American novel” – “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” is none other than Sam Clemens, aka Mark Twain (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910). "Tom Sawyer" and Huck Finn, along with “Prince and the Pauper” and “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” loom large in the history of American literature, and Twain’s wit throughout his life managed to entertain while usually offending those who were pompous or hypocritical. He had much to say about politicians, mostly skewering them.
Here are a few quotes from the Master, some of which are quite well known:
“A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.“
”Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.“
”Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge.“
”I don't like to commit myself about heaven and hell-you see, I have friends in both places.“
”I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.“
”It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.“
”Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.“
”It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress.“
”Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.“
”Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.“
”My books are like water; those of the great geniuses are wine. (Fortunately) everybody drinks water.“
”Man – a creature made at the end of the week’s work when God was tired.“
”Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she laid an asteroid.“
”Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.“
And since it involves a wisecrack related to my birthday, here’s a final Twain quote for today:
“The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.” (If you don't get the joke, look up what April 1 is known for!)
Now for brief tributes to our rocker birthday boys!
Billy Idol (November 30, 1955) was one of the first generation punk rockers, but distinguished himself and his music from the “thrash and crash” sound of the Sex Pistols, Clash, and other proto-punks. For a brief time he was considered for the frontman job when the surviving Doors were trying out lead singers. I figure just about everyone’s heard at least one of his string of hits, so for your enjoyment, here are a few.
Live in Serbia in 2006, here’s Billy performing his major hit “White Wedding”
Now for some music videos!
For those who want to see what he’s like in a live show, I found two complete concerts!
Here’s the entire hour long Billy Idol live at Rock am Ring 2005
For an encore, the entire 1 hour 45 minute live performance of Billy Idol VH1 Storytellers
We now turn to an incredible talent who is fairly unknown but still rocks out! Shuggie Otis (November 30, 1953) is the son of Johnny Otis, the pioneering R&B bandleader who gave us the immortal “Willie and the Hand Jive,” one of the early rock and roll standards. Shuggie began playing guitar when he was two, and performed professionally with his dad's band at a very young age. Yes, he's what we used to call "a prodigy."
Eventually they wrote a whole bunch of tunes together across several genres, and recorded a lot of brilliant blues, R&B, and boogie music! A master of many styles and instruments, he’s a true virtuoso. I gather he’s finishing his tour of Europe, so if you're near Dublin, it's worth the ticket!
So here’s a taste of this great musical talent. There aren’t any live performances out there, so for now, here are some of his better studio offerings.All of these were made when Shuggie was between 13 and 19 years old. We’ll begin this birthday celebration with a tune written by Shuggie and Johnny Otis with Johnny on the piano and Shuggie on guitar, the great “Cold Shot”
Here are the studio versions of some of Shuggie’s best!
From the Johnny Otis show, Shuggie and Frank Zappa jamming live
You can find out more about Shuggie, his tour, and a whole lot more by going to The Official Shuggie Otis Site.
So from the 17th to the 21st century, a big happy to our quartet of Sagittarius talents! May you all continue to rock on (especially YOU, Sam Clemens! The world needs your sense of humor and irony more than ever!!)
© Copyright 2012 Robert Wilkinson