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The Great Fire of London breaks out. It will burn for three days, consuming 13,200 houses, 87 parish churches, St Paul's Cathedral, and most of the buildings of the City authorities. It is estimated to have destroyed the homes of 70,000 of the City's 80,000 inhabitants. The massive conflagration will inspire numerous songs including the traditional children's song London's Burning, and September 1666 by Al Start
At the end of their ill-fated campaign to conquer Russia, French forces under Napoleon Bonaparte begin their retreat from Moscow. This military action will be immortalised in the Appalachian fiddle tune Bonaparte's Retreat whose structure illustrates the marching men and the sounds of war. Pee Wee King will add a lyric to the tune in 1950 and it will become a popular addition to the repertoire of many country music performers including Glen Campbell and Michael Nesmith.
American forces, commanded by Major General Andrew Jackson, defeat an invading British Army intent on seizing the town of New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. The victory will be celebrated in the popular song The Battle Of New Orleans, recorded by Johnny Horton, Jimmy Driftwood, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and others.
The California Gold Rush begins when gold is found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California, USA. In the next decade, the Gold Rush will attract tens of thousands of prospectors from Latin America, Europe, Australia and Asia, hoping to make their fortunes. The period will be documented in songs such as The Days Of '49, Prospecting Dream and Clementine.
After several months of relatively minor volcanic activity the island of Krakatoa, in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra in Indonesia, is destroyed by a massive volcanic eruption. The eruption will inspire the 1974 track Krakatoa by Styx, and the 1985 song Krakatoa by the English heavy metal band Saxon.
The body of Ellen Smith is found behind the Zinzendorf Hotel in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA, shot through the heart by her lover, the town drunk, Peter DeGraff. Her death will inspire the murder ballad Poor Ellen Smith, which will be recorded by The Stanley Brothers, The Kossoy Sisters, The Kingston Trio, Neko Case and others. Another song on the same theme is The Fate Of Ellen Smith by Green Bailey, recorded in 1928 for Gennett Records.
22-year-old Frankie Baker shoots her lover, Allen Britt [aka Albert Britt] in an apartment at 212 Targee Street, St. Louis, Missouri, USA, for cheating on her with another woman, Nellie Bly [aka Alice Pryor]. Britt will die four days later and the incident will become the basis of the song Frankie And Johnny, which has been recorded in over 250 versions by artists including Jimmie Rodgers (The Singing Brakeman), Lead Belly, Big Bill Broonzy, Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger, Mississippi John Hurt, Charlie Patton, Taj Mahal, Sam Cooke, Lena Horne, Lonnie Donegan, Bob Dylan, Brook Benton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Fats Waller, Van Morrison, Brook Benton, Lindsay Lohan, Jack Johnson and Stevie Wonder.
Kimi Iwasaki is born in a village in the foothills of old Shizuoka prefecture, then called Fujimi-mura, (but now in the Shimizu ward of the city of Shizuoka) in Japan, Asia. It was widely believed that she was adopted at the age of three by an American couple. On the assumption that they took her with th em when they returned to to The USA, the song Akai Kutsu (Red Shoes) will be written about her by the poet Ujo Noguchi and the composer Nagayo Motōri. The song will become hugely popular in Japan but, in fact, Kimi Iwasaki never left Japan, because she died of tuberculosis at the age of nine, which she had contracted before her adoptive parents returned home.
The Cadillac Automobile Company is founded in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Cadillac cars will inspire dozens of songwriters to write songs, including Cadillac Assembly Line by Albert King, Maybellene by Chuck Berry and Cadillac Walk by Moon Martin - to name just a few.
Private William McBride of the Inniskilling Fusiliers is killed during the First World War in the trenches near Authuille, France, Europe. His death will inspire folk songwriter Eric Bogle to write the song No Man's Land aka The Green Fields Of France which has been recorded by, among others, The Fureys, The Dropkick Murphys and Joss Stone And Jeff Beck.
Haile Selassie is crowned Emperor of Ethiopia, Africa. In due course, Selassie will become revered in the Rastafari movement as the returned messiah of the Bible, and numerous songs will be inspired by him, including Selassie Is The Chapel by Bob Marley and Haile Selassie by Bright Eyes. One specific incident in Selassie's life is documented in the 1937 record Selassie Is Held By The Police recorded for Decca Records by The Caresser with Gerald Clark And His Caribbean Serenaders.
The Dionne Quintuplets - the first quintuplets known to survive infancy - are born just outside Callander, near the village of Corbeil, Ontario, Canada. The five girls will become a global sensation and will inspire references in films, tv shows and songs including Hooray For Hollywood [1937] by Johnny Mercer, Look Out for Mr Stork in the animated movie Dumbo [1941], and Stephen Sondheim's list song I'm Still Here [1971] from his musical Follies.
A massive hurricane, which will come to be known as The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, hits the Florida Keys killing 423 people, with bodies eventually being recovered as far away as Flamingo and Cape Sable on the southwest tip of the Florida mainland. The 2003 song Storm Of The Century by Chris Foster is inspired by accounts of this cataclysmic natural event.
Strawberry Field Salvation Army children's home opens in Woolton, a suburb of Liverpool, UK. The place will inspire the 1967 song Strawberry Fields Forever by The Beatles, because John Lennon grew up near the home and one of his childhood treats was the annual summer garden party in the grounds of Strawberry Field. Strawberry Fields, in the plural, was Lennon's nickname for the wooded area behind the building.
Life magazine runs an article about Benny Goodman's band performing at the Madhattan Room in New York City, USA. Goodman's star trumpeter, Harry James, will later turn the title of the article, Life Goes To A Party, into a song.
Two hundred and nine negroes including bandleader Walter Barnes and nine members of his dance orchestra, are killed when the Rhythm Night Club in Natchez, Mississippi, USA, burns down. According to an eyewitness, "Everyone was trying to get out and crushing each other as the fire was burning them. All were crying and yelling and after a while I could smell the burning meat. I hope I never see anything like it again." Howlin' Wolf will commemorate this disaster in his song The Natchez Burning.
The Colonial Sugar Refinery begins mining blue asbestos at Wittenoom Gorge, Pilbara, Western Australia. In the years since, over 2000 workers and residents of Wittenoom have died from asbestos-related diseases. As a result, operations at Wittenoom have come to be regarded as the worst industrial disaster in Australian history. The 1990 song Blue Sky Mine by Midnight Oil is inspired by the disaster.
The musical movie The Gang's All Here, starring Carmen Miranda, is released to cinemas in the USA. The movie will establish the image of Miranda as an exotic singer in a fruit-covered head-dress, and will inspire the 1989 song The Soul Of Carmen Miranda by John Cale and Brian Eno.
Notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone dies aged 48 at his home on Palm Island, Florida, USA. He had long been weak and mentally deficient from the effects of neurosyphilis, and then suffered a stroke, pneumonia and, finally, a cardiac arrest. Capone's life of crime will inspire several songs, including Al Capone [1967] by Prince Buster, Public Enemy No1 [2011] by Megadeth and Al Capone [1987] by Michael Jackson [which later became Smooth Criminal].
The Army-McCarthy hearings, a congressional inquiry into alleged security lapses in the US Army, are broadcast live for the first time on tv from The Senate In Washington, DC, USA, on the ABC and DuMont networks. The hearings will be broadcast for 36 days to an estimated 80m people. The topical song Senator McCarthy Blues by Hal Block with the Tony Borrello Orchestra reveals the extent to which the hearings had a grip on the public imagination. At least two other songs, Point of Order by Stan Freberg and Daws Butler, and Joe McCarthy's Band by Joe Glazer, are also responses to the McCarthy-Army conflict.
The New York Times reviews the recently-published American edition of the John Wyndham science fiction novel The Chrysalids, declaring that it "will be well noted and long remembered". The 1968 song Crown Of Creation by Jefferson Airplane will be inspired by ideas in Wyndham's influential book.
Webb Pierce records Teenage Boogie for Decca Records in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Many years later Marc Bolan will be inspired to write a near-identical song, I Love To Boogie (1976) for his band T.Rex.
A uniquely British musical form, skiffle gets its first television airing in the USA as Lonnie Donegan makes his American TV debut, singing his huge UK hit Rock Island Line on NBC's Perry Como Show in New York City. The song was first recorded in 1934 in a field recording by inmates in an Arkansas State Prison, but Donegan's version is adapted from a 1944 recording by Leadbelly. Intriguingly, though, Donegan's version will inspire New York teenager Phil Spector to acquire a guitar and thus begin the career which will introduce a whole new production style, The Wall Of Sound, to popular music.
A new John Wayne movie, The Searchers, opens at The State Theatre, Lubbock, Texas, USA, for three weeks. While it is there, it is seen by local musicians Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison who are so taken by Wayne's catch-phrase, 'That'll Be The Day', that they write a song of that title when they return home. The title of the same movie will later also inspire the name of a popular Liverpool band of the 1960s.
Marvin Gaye records Hitch Hike for Tamla Records, in Detroit, Michigan, USA. The song's punchy intro will inspire both There She Goes Again by The Velvet Underground and There Is A Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths.
While The Beatles are rehearsing for the BBC-organised Swinging Sound 63, a trad jazz/beat music package at The Royal Albert Hall, London, England, UK, Paul McCartney meets actress Jane Asher, soon to become his girlfriend. She will inspire songs including All My Loving, And I Love Her, I'm Looking Through You, You Won't See Me, We Can Work It Out, Here, There and Everywhere, and For No One. For the record, the Royal Albert Hall show also features Del Shannon, The Springfields, Rolf Harris, Shane Fenton, Kenny Lynch, The Vernons Girls and Lance Percival, and is compered by jazz veteran George Melly. The Rolling Stones also go along to hang out with The Beatles.
Two black males enter the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, New Jersey, USA, where they kill the bartender, James Oliver, and a male customer, Fred Nauyoks. A severely wounded female customer, Hazel Tanis, dies some weeks later. Championship boxer Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter will be arrested and jailed for the crime. Bob Dylan will write the song Hurricane in 1975, insisting that Carter did not commit the murders. Carter will be freed in November 1985 when the convicition is set aside on the grounds that it had been "predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure."
Nico is playing at The Dom, New York City, USA, with Jackson Browne as her accompanying musician. Browne will be inspired by Nico to write his song The Birds Of St. Marks about her.
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Haile Selassie delivers a speech to the United Nations in New York City, USA, pleading for civil rights in Ethiopia. His words in this speech will be adapted by the Barrett brothers as lyrics in the song War, which will be recorded by Bob Marley on his 1976 album Rastaman Vibration.
Over 300 Vietnamese people, mostly women, children, infants and elderly people, are killed in The My Lai Massacre. The killings are carried out by United States Army soldiers of "Charlie" Company of 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the Americal Division. 26 soldiers will be charged with criminal offenses for their actions at My Lai, but only one, Platoon Leader Second Lieutenant William Calley, will be convicted. Found guilty of killing 22 people, he will serve just three and a half years under house arrest. This atrocity inspires several songs, both for and against Calley. Tragically, the best-remembered is perhaps the fiercely patriotic Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley by Shelby Singleton.
Elvis Presley's powerfully emotional response to the previous night's assassination of Robert Kennedy inspires producer Steve Binder to ask Earl Brown to write a song expressing those emotions. Brown will write If I Can Dream.
Actress Sharon Tate and several guests are murdered by members of the Manson Family in her home at 10050 Cielo Drive, Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles, California, USA. Charles Manson, who orchestrated these and other killings, will be sentenced to death in 1971 but his sentence will be reduced to life in prison a year later. Manson's crimes will form the subject matter for many songs including Revolution Blues by Neil Young, Charlie Manson Blues by The Flaming Lips, Bloodbath In Paradise by Ozzy Osbourne, ATWA by System Of A Down, and Sadie by Alkaline Trio.
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David Milgaard is wrongfully convicted of the murder and rape of nursing assistant Gail Miller in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Milgaard is sentenced to life imprisonment. He will spend 23 years in prison, only having his conviction overturned in 1992. Milgaard's story is told in the 1992 song Wheat Kings by The Tragically Hip.
After suffering from a bleeding ulcer for months, Gene Vincent dies of a seizure in Newhall, California, USA. English rock artist Ian Dury, a lifelong Gene Vincent fan will, in due course, be inspired to write the song Sweet Gene Vincent (1979) about his life and death.
Rick Nelson is booed during an oldies show at a Madison Square Garden, New York City, USA, when he plays some of his newer songs. Incensed by the crowd's response, he will pen the song Garden Party, which will go to No6 in the charts in the USA, heralding a new period of success for the former teen idol. [Other acts performing on this night are Chuck Berry, Bobby Rydell, Bo Diddley, The Shirelles, The Coasters and Gary 'US' Bonds.]
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Paul McCartney and his family touch down at Metropolitan Airport, Nashville, Tennessee, USA, at the start of a six week stay on a farm in the neighbouring town of Lebanon. The farm is owned by songwriter Curly Putman Jr, and the McCartneys' time spent there will inspire Paul to write the hit single Junior's Farm.
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When Tom Waits plays at Ebbet's Field, Denver, Colorado, USA, he meets local hipster/dj/musician Chuck E. Weiss. A friendship and a business relationship will blossom, and Weiss will inspire several songs by Waits, including Jitterbug Boy, and one by Rickie Lee Jones, Chuck E's In Love.
Gerry Brown is sworn in as the new Governor of California, in Sacramento, California, USA. Brown's arch-conservative actions while in office will inspire Jello Biafra of punk-rock band The Dead Kennedys to write the song California Uber Alles.
Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo commits the first of 56 murders. He will become known as The Butcher of Rostov and his vile crimes will provide subject matter for such songs as Psychopathy Red by Slayer, Red Ripper Blues [Andrei Chikatilo] by Church of Misery, Sewers by Torture Killer and Ripper von Rostow by Eisblut.
Jean Harris, headmistress of The Madeira School for girls in McLean, Virginia, USA, shoots and kills Dr. Herman Tarnower, creator of The Scarsdale Diet at his home in Purchase, New York State, USA, with her Harrington And Richardson .32-caliber revolver. This celebrated murder will inspire the song Cold Pizza For Breakfast by Christine Lavin.
Mount St. Helens in Skamania County, Washington, USA, erupts into volcanic, lava-spitting action. Numerous songs will be inspired by the eruption including Mount St. Helens Blues by Blue Lights, Volcano Rag by Joe D. Lake and Eruption 1980 by Buddy Foley.
Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue is charged with assaulting a police officer with a deadly weapon, following an incident earlier in the evening outside the Rainbow Bar And Grille in Los Angeles, California, USA. Charges are dropped later in the year, and the incident will be immortalised in the Motley Crue song Knock 'Em Dead, Kid.
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Teenager Wendell Mobley has a daughter, Lexi. The girl dies one year later, but around the time she would have turned 19, memories of her will inspire him to co-write There Goes My Life, which will become a major hit for Kenny Chesney.
Three days of riots begin in the Handsworth area of Birmingham, West Midlands, UK. The riots will inspire the songs Handsworth Riot by Pato Banton and Handsworth Revolution by Steel Pulse.

Actor Yul Brynner dies, aged 65 of lung cancer, in New York City, USA. Although nominally an actor, he is best remembered for his role as King Mongkut in the musical The King And I, both on stage and in the cinema. Songs which drew inspiration from Brynner include One Night In Bangkok from the 1984 muscal Chess (written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA), and the 1987 album track, Yul Brynner Was A Skinhead, by comedy-punk rockers Toy Dolls.
A young girl suffering from memory loss is prevented from committing suicide by jumping from the Severn Bridge, Bristol, England, UK, Europe. A newspaper report of the incident will provoke Fish of UK prog-rock band Marillion to write the songs which will be released as the album Brave.
Bush release a new single, Glycerine. When the song is heard by Billie Myers, she thinks singer Gavin Rossdale is singing "Kiss the Rain". When she learn of her mis-hearing, she decides that Kiss The Rain would be a good song title, and goes on to write a hit single of that title with professional songwriter Desmond Child in 1997.
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23-year-old Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo is shot and killed in New York City, USA, by four plain-clothes Police Department officers who later claim to have mistaken his wallet for a gun. The slaying will inspire the Bruce Springsteen song American Skin [41 Shots].
A series of wildfires begin burning across Southern California. Seventeen fires burn from Santa Barbara to the US-Mexico border, killing nine people and injuring 85, many of whom are firefighters. 3,200 buildings are destroyed along with 522,000 acres of land and forest. The song Grapevine Fires by Death Cab For Cutie is about those fires.
Taylor Swift plays at Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium, Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA, supported by Love And Theft. Swift finds herself very attracted to Stephen Barker Liles, vocalist of Love And Theft, and will be inspired to write the song Hey, Stephen about him. Around the same time, Barker wrote the song Try To Make It Anyway about Swift.
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