25 December

Pick a Day

25 DECEMBER

In Music History

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2015 Concussion, a biographical drama starring Will Smith as a doctor who exposes the risk of traumatic brain injuries in football players, debuts in theaters. Soul singer Leon Bridges wrote the tune "So Long" for the movie.

2010 Alanis Morissette gives birth to her first child, a son named Ever Imre. Morissette married the baby's father, rapper Mario "Souleye" Treadway, earlier in the year.

2009 Tony "T-Bone" Bellamy (frontman for Redbone) dies of liver failure in Las Vegas, Nevada, at age 63.

2009 Singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt dies from an overdose of muscle relaxants at age 45.

2008 Bluesman Robert Ward dies from a culmination of health issues, including two strokes, in Dry Branch, Georgia, at age 70.

2008 Eartha Kitt dies of colon cancer in Weston, Connecticut, at age 81.

2006 James Brown, age 73, dies of congestive heart failure resulting from complications of pneumonia.

1998 Singer/actress Damita Jo dies at age 68 following a respiratory illness in Baltimore, Maryland.

1998 Bryan MacLean (guitarist and songwriter for Love), age 52, dies of a heart attack in a Los Angeles restaurant.

1995 Dean Martin, also suffering from lung cancer, dies from acute respiratory failure due to emphysema at age 78. Las Vegas honors the legend by dimming the lights along the city's famous Strip.

1990 Soldiers in South Carolina are treated to a concert by James Brown, who is given a furlough from the work center where he is being detained so he can play for the troops. He includes his patriotic hit "Living In America" in the set.

1981 The J. Geils Band play a gig for prisoners at Boston's Norfolk Correctional Center, with lead singer Peter Wolf telling his captive audience, "We wanna be the first to buy you all a free drink on the outside."

1977 At Ivanhoe's in Huddersfield, the The Sex Pistols play their last UK gig before their split. The show is a charity benefit for firemen who are on strike.

1976 Boston's debut single, "More Than A Feeling," reaches its US chart peak at #5. When it was released, group leader Tom Scholz still had his day job working for Polaroid.

1973 Slade, Suzi Quatro and 10cc are among the performers on the BBC Top Of The Pops Christmas special. The show's dancers do a routine with dogs to Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Get Down," leading to rumors that the "bad dog baby" in the song was Sullivan's misbehaving pooch (it isn't).

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The Sting Revives Ragtime

1973

The Sting, a crime caper starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as con men in 1930s Chicago, debuts in theaters. With Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" as its theme, the film's soundtrack goes to #1 and revives the ragtime genre.

Ragtime music was a curious choice for a film set in 1936. While the genre was wildly popular at the turn of the 20th century, it fell out of favor by the time the Great Depression gripped the nation. In fact, screenwriter David S. Ward musical cues were for vintage Chicago blues numbers to reflect the story's time period, but director George Roy Hill replaced them with the bouncy piano rags of the bygone era. "The film is meant simply as an entertainment, and I wasn't worried about the anachronistic elements," Hill explained. The director had been studying gangster movies of the 1930s to get the right feel for The Sting and liked the way James Cagney's The Public Enemy - a 1931 film set in 1900s Chicago - used Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag." At the same time, a ragtime revival was already brewing thanks to Joshua Rifkin's Grammy-nominated recordings of Joplin's tunes and an acclaimed Joplin-themed concert by the New England Conservatory of Music. Hill enlisted Marvin Hamlisch to adapt Joplin's rags for the movie, including the main theme, "The Entertainer." The composer was hesitant to take on the project until he saw the first cut of the film. He recalled in his 1992 autobiography: "One of the things that drew me to The Sting was that George had been shrewd enough to leave little oases without dialogue for the music. He built montages and sequences into the picture for this purpose. Whenever I see patches in a film that are talkless, I'm in heaven." The music has the same affect on the audience, and the film's soundtrack goes to #1 in the US. Hamlisch's rendering of "The Entertainer" is also a big hit, peaking at #3 on the Hot 100. Aside from its Oscar wins for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, among others, The Sting also earns Hamlisch a trophy for Best Original Score.

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