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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January 17, 1969

Welcome to the third installment of the Tuesday Timeline on the blog, the weekly instance in which we flash back to a time in history to discuss some subject that occurred on this date some time ago.

As it turns out, January 17 is one of those dates in which a LOT happened. In various years, there seemed to be some major event that happened in history in both the world of entertainment, and the world of news. I really didn't have too much shortage of topics to choose from for today.

I happened to click on Wikipedia, just to look over some of the historical events of January 17 over the years, and here's what I came up with.

On this date in...

1991 – Operation Desert Storm begins.

1994 – A magnitude 6.7 earthquake strikes near Northridge, California early in the morning, causing twenty billion dollars in damage, and killing 57 people, with thousands more sustaining injuries.

1995 – Just one year after the Northridge quake, a powerful 7.3 quake hits the country of Japan, near the city of Kobe. Over six thousand people lose their lives in the quake, and was considered to be one of Japan's biggest earthquakes before the series of quakes the country endured in 2011.

1998 – The first reports of the affair between American president Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky were published by Matt Drudge.

There were also a number of events that happened on this date in the entertainment industry as well. For instance, if you are living in Australia right now, you might be interested in knowing that back on this day in 1988, the drama serial “Home And Away” premiered on Australia's Seven Network. We mourned the loss of American actor Richard Crenna, who died on this day in 2003.

And many celebrities happen to celebrate a January 17 birthdate. Jim Carrey, Betty White, Zooey Deschanel, Maksim Chmerkovskiy from 'Dancing With The Stars', Kid Rock, Bangles' lead singer Susanna Hoffs, Muhammad Ali, James Earl Jones, and current First Lady, Michelle Obama are all celebrating a birthday today.

So, as you can see, there was quite a variety of topics that I could have chosen from.

The one I ended up settling on...we'll have to take a trip back in time 43 years to the year of the first man on the moon, the first Woodstock festival, and the year that a family named Brady debuted on the small screen.

Today's Tuesday Timeline date is January 17, 1969.

It was on this date that one English artist would release his very first single in the United States. His second single overall. And it was a single that didn't exactly go over very well. It never charted on the Billboard charts at all. You'd think that this lack of success would make our British singer give up on the chance to become an internationally known music star, but it certainly did not. For while his first hit may not have had a lot of impact on the charts back in 1969, his subsequent releases would eventually garner him a lot of success. He had gold records, platinum records, diamond records. Every kind of record you could imagine, he had it.

By 2008, he was widely regarded as the most successful male solo artist on the Billboard Hot 100 Top All-Time Artists, and third overall behind The Beatles and Madonna (which is funny since he and Madonna are sort of in a little feud right now as I type this). He was an artist that had at least one hit single in North America in almost every single year of the 1970s (the only year he didn't was 1977), nine number one singles in the United States, twice that many in Canada and the United Kingdom, and was part of one of 1994's most successful movie soundtracks.

So, what was the first American single that he released that didn't do so hot? More importantly, who is this artist that I am speaking of?

Well, you can find out below!

ARTIST: Elton John
SONG: Lady Samantha
DATE RELEASED: January 17, 1969

Yes, the artist in question for today's Tuesday Timeline is none other than Reginald Kenneth Dwight...better known to most people as Sir Elton Hercules John CBE.

Given that Elton John was born on March 21, 1947, this would mean that he was just a couple of months shy of his twenty-second birthday when this song was first released.

And, yet, I bet you that the vast majority of you have probably never even heard of a song called 'Lady Samantha', have you? It's okay if you haven't. I admit that I didn't even know that until I started researching this blog topic.

To be fair, 'Lady Samantha' wasn't technically Elton John's first single release. It was actually his second in the United was just the first song that he released in America. But 'Lady Samantha' was just the beginning of what would become one of the most enduring musical partnerships in recent history.

We'll have to go back a little bit further than January 1969 to learn more about this one though.

When Elton was growing up as a young boy, he had always been fascinated by music, and left school early in order to pursue a career in it full-time...a decision that his father wasn't too keen on, despite the fact that both of Elton's parents were both musically inclined themselves and often bought dozens of rock and roll records when Elton was small. His father had tried to convince Elton to take up a more conventional career goal, such as that of a banker or accountant. Could you imagine Elton John doing YOUR taxes?

Needless to say, part of the reason why Elton adopted the elaborate stage costumes and glasses he wore throughout the 1970s was due to the restrictive childhood he lived through.

But Elton proved that he was musically gifted at a young age, learning how to play the piano starting at age three, and winning a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London at just eleven. But Elton's childhood was far from being idyllic, having to bear witness to some rather explosive arguments between his parents before they divorced in 1961. When Elton's mother remarried to a man named Fred Farebrother, they were incredibly supportive of Elton's musical desires, and by the time Elton was fifteen, he was already playing piano at a local pub for some cash, plus tips. In Elton's teenage years, he had also tried his hand at forming a couple of bands, including the Corvettes, and Bluesology. He had also attempted to become the lead singer for other bands like Gentle Giant and King Crimson, but didn't get the job in either band.

But in 1967, Elton John had a chance encounter with the man who would change his professional life for the better.

It all began when he answered an ad in the New Musical Express placed by then A&R managed for Liberty Records, Ray Williams, and at their first meeting, Williams handed him a stack of papers...lyrics written by then unknown Bernie Taupin, who himself had answered the same ad that Elton did. Elton composed the music to go with the lyrics, mailed the composition back to Taupin, and that kicked off a partnership that has lasted almost five decades!

Their first ever work together was on a 1967 song called "Scarecrow", which kicked off their amazing partnership. Six months later, Elton John would permanently drop his original moniker of Reginald Kenneth Dwight, to go by his more well-known name.

Of course, success was fleeting for Elton John at first, and he had to pay his dues just like every other artist had to at the time. In the case of John/Taupin, they started off becoming songwriters for other popular artists at the time, writing hits for Lulu and Roger Cook, and composing an entry for the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest. That same year, Elton John put in a guest appearance as the pianist for the Hollies Top 10 smash posted below.

And also that same year, Elton John recorded the single which was featured up above in this entry...'Lady Samantha', which became his first American release.

Despite the fact that the song was virtually ignored on radio airplay (and by John himself as he hasn't performed the song in concert performances), the song itself was actually critically praised, and became what was known as a 'turntable hit' (a song that was widely requested at dance clubs and jukebox playlists). The song was also covered by American rock band Three Dog Night, and would eventually resurface on the re-release of Elton John's album 'Empty Sky' in 1995.

But while this particular song didn't put Elton John's name on the charts, it did provide an opening. For a year and a half later, towards the end of 1970, Elton John struck gold with a little song known as 'Your Song', which rose to number eight on the charts, and became Elton's very first American Top 10 song.

Over the decades, Elton's had dozens of hits, each one having a distinct meaning and feel, each one having the Bernie Taupin touch.

With hits from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, Elton John has earned his spot as one of the most well-known, well-respected, and well-loved artists of the last century.

And it all began this day in history, 1969.

And, he's...still standing!

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