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A fleet of ships, known as The First Fleet, leaves Portsmouth, Great Britain with a cargo of over 1,000 convicts who will found a penal colony that will become the first European settlement in Australia. They will reach Australia at Botany Bay in mid-January 1788, inspiring the oft-recorded folk song Botany Bay.
Charlotte Corday is beheaded by the guillotine in Paris, France, Europe, for the murder of Jean-Paul Marat. Her story is told in the 1993 song Charlotte Corday by Al Stewart [co-written with Tori Amos].
Roddy McCorley, a prominent participant in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, is executed in the town of Toomebridge, Country Antrim, Northern Ireland, UK, Europe. His exploits and execution will be recorded in the well-known ballad Roddy McCorley, written by Anna Johnston under the pen name Ethna Carbery. It will be re-popularised by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, The Dubliners, The Kingston Trio, and others during the folk music revival of the 1960s, and recorded in 1995 by Shane MacGowan And The Popes. Heather Dale will also record a version for her 2006 album The Hidden Path.
The town of Boston, Massachusetts, USA, is incorporated as a city. The City of Boston will inspire the numerous songs including Boston by The Byrds, Boston Tea Party by Alex Harvey, Boston Rag by Steely Dan, Roadrunner by Jonathan Richman And The Modern Lovers and Boston (Ladies of Cambridge) by Vampire Weekend.
Dmitri Mendeleev presents the first periodic table of the elements to the Russian Chemical Society in St. Petersburg, Russia, Europe. Ninety years later, satirist Tom Lehrer will be inspired to write and record The Elements, which sets the periodic table to music.
Pioneering montain man, trapper and scout Jim Bridger dies, aged 77, on his farm near Kansas City, Missouri, USA. Popular accounts of Bridger's colourful life will inspire the 1960 country song Jim Bridger by Johnny Horton.
Louis "Bull" Martin, a white bartender at the Dryades Street Market, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, shoots and kills octoroon prostitute Ella Speed in her room on Customhouse Street, with a .38 pistol. The incident will inspire a popular folk tune, Ella Speed, recorded by Leadbelly, Mance Lipscomb and others.
The Illinois Central Railroad between Chicago, Illinois, USA, and New Orleans, Louisiana, re-names its premier train from The Chicago And New Orleans Limited to The Panama Limited. Inspired by the train, bluesman Bukka White will write and record his song, The Panama Limited in 1930.
Having been found guilty of murder, labour activist Joe Hill is executed by firing squad in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. It was widely believed that Hill's conviction was wrong and in the years that followed, he became the subject of many songs by Phil Ochs, Josh Joplin, Frank Tovey, Chumbawamba and others. Perhaps the most famous is I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night [aka Joe Hill], which was written as a poem around 1930 by Alfred Hayes, and then turned into a song by in 1936 by Earl Robinson. This song has been sung by Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, The Dubliners and many others.
250 members of The Irish Citizen Army, under James Connolly, take part in the The Easter Rising in Dublin, Eire. Connolly will be executed by a firing squad for taking part. The events of this uprising will inspire the song James Connolly by Black 47.
Sgt. Alvin York of the United States Army shoots dead six German soldiers attacking him and his men near Hill 223 (49.28558°N 4.95242°E) along the Decauville rail-line north of Chatel-Chéhéry, France, Europe. He also leads an assault which cleans out a German machine-gun nest. His bravery will earn him the Medal Of Honour, make him a national hero in the USA, and will inspire the song Sergeant York by country singer Archie Campbell in 1961.
Three black men from the James Robinson Circus are in jail in Duluth, Minnesota, USA, accused of raping a teenage girl. Although a physician's examination found no evidence of rape or assault, a mob breaks them out of jail and lynches them. Postcards with pictures of the hanging will be sold as souvenirs. This incident will serve as the setting of Bob Dylan's epic 1965 song Desolation Row. [Dylan's father was living in Duluth at the time of the lynchings].
Frank Dupree, of Abbeville, South Carolina, USA, who had killed a policeman during a jewelry store robbery in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 15, 1921, is executed for murder. The song Betty And Dupree by Cookie And The Cupcakes and many others, will be inspired by this incident. Other songs based on the same theme are Frank Dupree and Dupree's Diamond Blues by The Grateful Dead.
Australian cricketer Donald Bradman scores 112 runs in a match against England at Melbourne Cricket Ground, thus achieving his first century in a Test Match. Bradman will go on to be regarded as the greatest cricket batsman of his era and will provide the inspiration for such songs as Our Don Bradman by Art Leonard (1930) and Bradman by Paul Kelly (1987).
The deadliest tornado in the history of Virginia, USA, hits Rye Cove School in the Appalachian highlands of Scott County in the southwestern part of the state, killing twelve students and one teacher and injuring fifty-four. Scott County native A. P. Carter, of singing group The Carter Family, will volunteer to help in the wake of the tragedy, and will be inspired to compose The Cyclone of Rye Cove which the group will record later in the year.
The New York Stock Exchange crashes in what will become known as The Crash of '29 or Black Tuesday. This is generally taken as the beginning of The Great Depression that blighted America in the 1930s. The Depression will inspire many songs, including Blind Alfred Reed's 1929 composition How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?; EY Harburg and Jay Gorney's 1932 tune Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? and Do Re Mi by Woody Guthrie.

The Turkish city of Constantinople is re-named Istanbul. This politically-motivated change will inspire the song Istanbul [Not Constantinople] which has been recorded by many artists including The Four Lads, Bing Crosby And Ella Fitzgerald and They Might be Giants.
Two African-American men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, are lynched in Marion, Indiana, USA. Photographs of the lynching will be sold by the thousands, and will inspire school teacher, Abel Meeropol to write the song Strange Fruit, most famously recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939. Strange Fruit is an early example of what will later come to be known as a protest song.
The 1934 Textile Workers Strike begins in the USA. The largest strike in American labour history at the time, it will last for 22 days, and will involve as many as half a million textile workers from New England, the Mid-Atlantic states and the Southern states. The song Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues will be inspired by the strike, and is perhaps best-known in versions by Lead Belly and Pete Seeger.
The first atomic bomb, the first fruits of The Manhattan Project, is detonated at The Bombing and Gunnery Range, Alamogordo, New Mexico, USA. This event and the circumstances surrounding it will become the subject of the 1985 song The Manhattan Project, recorded by Rush. The 2006 Iron Maiden song Brighter Than A Thousand Suns is also about The Manhattan Project.
The movie Knock On Any Door, starring Humphrey Bogart and John Derek, is released to cinemas nationwide in the USA. When country singer Faron Young sees the movie he will be so struck by John Derek's line, 'Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse!' that he will write the song Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young, which will peak at No1 on the Billboard country singles chart in the USA during 1955.
Phil Spector's father, Benjamin, commits suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide fumes in his car, because of insurmountable debt problems. Written on his tombstone will be the words, To Know Him Was To Love Him, prompting Phil to write the song To Know Him Is To Love Him which he will record a decade later with The Teddy Bears, giving him his first hit single.
PC Sidney Miles is shot dead by the sixteen year old Christopher Craig in Croydon, London, England, UK. Tragically, his slow-witted burglary accomplice, Derek Bentley, is wrongly convicted and hanged for the crime. In 1982, Ralph McTell will write the song Bentley And Craig inspired by the incident.
American inventor Walter Frederick Morrison sells the marketing rights of his plastic flying disc toy to the Wham-O toy company, who will re-name it The Frisbee and start a global craze. Australian band The Lucksmiths will be inspired to record their song Frisbee (1996) and the website College Humor will record a heavily ironic ditty called Ultimate Frisbee.
The baseball referendum Taxpayers Committee for Yes on Baseball, is approved by voters in Los Angeles, California, USA. The vote enables The Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team to acquire 352 acres (1.42 km²) of the impoverished Mexican-American community of Chavez Ravine from the City of Los Angeles. This marks the beginning of the destruction of Chavez Ravine to enable the building of what will become Dodger Stadium, the home of the LA Dodgers, after they re-locate from Brooklyn. Ry Cooder's 2005 album Chavez Ravine is inspired by this disgraceful episode in American sporting and social history.
At the end of a four-day search utilising 4000 men, women and children, four year old Steven Walls is found in rough country north-east of Guyra in New England, Australia. The incident will inspire Johnny Ashcroft to write the song Little Boy Lost which will go to number one in Australia.
During a huge public protest outside Davidson Courthouse in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, following the bombing of the home of black lawyer Z. Alexander Looby, a young white man called Guy Carawan strums his guitar and sings an old gospel song, I Will Overcome Some Day, with its lyric changed to We Shall Overcome. Soon the whole crowd is singing along. The civil rights revolution now has its anthem, which will be sung by protest movements worldwide.
Man Of Mystery by The Shadows enters the UK Popular Singles Chart where it will peak at No5, during a fifteen-week run on the chart. This song will inspire the guitar part on the 1977 Elvis Costello hit song Watching The Detectives
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Shirley Bassey enters the UK Singles Chart with What Now My Love for Columbia Records. It will peak at No5 in the chart during a 17-week run. The song will also provide inspiration for the Madness hit, Return Of The Los Palmas Seven
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The Great Train Robbery takes place near Cheddington, England, UK. The robbers stop a Glasgow to London mail train and escape with £2.6m in used bank notes - a record haul at the time. Heavy rock band Mountain will record the song The Great Train Robbery on their 1971 album Nantucket Sleighride.
In 1985, Paul Hardcastle will release a song, Just For Money, about the robbery.
In 2005, Alabama 3, will record a tribute to Bruce Reynolds, who masterminded the robbery, Have You Seen Bruce Richard Reynolds, which was previously recorded by Nigel Denver on his 1967 album Rebellion!. It's worth noting that Alabama 3 harmonica player, Nick Reynolds, is the son of Bruce Reynolds.
The assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, USA, inspired almost as many songs as it did conspiracy theories. Among the most memorable are He Was A Friend Of Mine by The Byrds [and others], Abraham, Martin And John by Marvin Gaye [and others], Dallas 1pm by Saxon and November 22nd 1963 by Destroy All Monsters. And let's not forget JAMES DOTSON - A Tragedy In Dallas, THE JUSTICE BROTHERS - The Tragedy Of John F. Kennedy, THE SOUTHERN GOSPEL BAND - The Death Of John F. Kennedy, HASIL ADKINS - Memories Of Kennedy, JIM KLINK - The Death Of John F. Kennedy, BUDDY PASTUCK - John F. Kennedy, BILL KUSHNER - J.F.K.bAnd That Terrible Day, HONORABLE BOB PETERS - A Sunny Day In Dallas, HAYDEN PRIVETT - The Death Of John F. Kennedy, JOHNNY DEE - A Tribute To President Kennedy, RALPH RYAN - The Death Of John F. Kennedy, LOWELL YODER - Don't Blame The State Of Texas, HASILADKINS - Memories Of Kennedy, JOHNNY TUCKER - Mr. Kennedy, BOBBY JENZEN - Two Brothers, HOMER HENDERSON - Lee Harvey Was A Friend Of Mine.
When A Man Loves A Woman by Percy Sledge enters the UK Pop Singles Chart where it will peak at No4 during a seventeen-week run on the chart. After hearing the song, Gary Brooker of Procol Harum will be inspired to write a similarly styled ballad, to words by lyricist Keith Reid, using a Bach organ melody for the backing. The song will be called A Whiter Shade Of Pale.
Claudette Orbison, the wife of Roy Orbison, dies in a motorcyle crash in Gallatin, Tennessee, USA. Orbison will write It's Too Soon To Know about his feelings. He had previously written Claudette about her.
Beat Generation icon Neal Cassady, an associate of The Grateful Dead, is found in a coma on the railroad tracks between San Miguel de Allende and Celaya in Mexico. He dies later in the day. The previous day, having consumed some seconals and alcohol, he had set out to walk along the railroad in driving rain. His life and death will inspire several songs including Jack And Neal (1977) by Tom Waits, Styrofoam Plates (2001) by Death Cab For Cutie, Neal Cassady Drops Dead (2014) by Morrissey, Neal Cassady (1989) by The Washington Squares.
The New York Times runs a headline including the phrase 'God Is dead', which will inspire Bernie Taupin's lyrics for the song Levon, co-written with Elton John.
Four students are killed on Kent State University campus in Ohio, USA, by National Guard soldiers during an anti-Vietnam war protest. The incident horrifies Neil Young into writing the song Ohio one day later. The Beach Boys will also make reference to the killings in their song Student Demonstration Time.
A sneering review in the New York Times is heavily critical of the debut performance by opera singer Martin Tubridy. When Harry Chapin reads the review he is inspired to write his song Mr. Tanner.
Stevie Wonder marries Syreeta Wright in Burnette Baptist Church, Detroit, Michigan, USA. The couple hold a gala reception for 300 guests (including Berry Gordy) in the Mauna Loa Restaurant, before flying off to Bermuda for their honeymoon. The marriage will last just eighteen months, but Wonder will be inspired by their relationship to write the 1972 song You Are The Sunshine Of My Life about Syreeta.
When The Sweet play at The Grand Hall, Palace Theatre, Kilmarnock, Scotland, the audience is not impressed and begins a barrage of bottles which force the band to flee the stage and leave the hall. The incident will inspire the song Ballroom Blitz, written by Nicky Chinn And Mike Chapman, which Sweet will take to No2 in the UK charts later in the year.
The Comet Kohoutek, sometimes called The Comet Of The Century, is first sighted by Czech astronomer Lobos Kohoutek. It will capture the public imagination and inspire such songs as Kometenmelodie [1973] by Kraftwerk, The Tail Of The Comet Kohoutek [1974] by Burl Ives and Kohoutek [1985] by R.E.M.. It is also thought likely that the Paul Simon song St. Judy's Comet is also about the appearance of Kohoutek.
Joe Strummer of The Clash watches as the Notting Hill Carnival in London, UK, erupts into violence. The incident will inspire Strummer to write the song White Riot.
Teenage schoolgirl Brenda Spencer shoots dead eleven of her schoolmates at Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, California, USA. Asked why, she tells police "I don't like Mondays." Six months later, her statement will be used as the title of a Boomtown Rats' UK No1 single based on the horrific events of this day.
Fast bowler Dennis Lillee becomes Australian Cricket's top wicket-taker, having notched up a total of 249 wickets. He will inspire Men At Work to sing "Hear the cricket calling, switch on the TV, sit and stare for hours, and cheer Dennis Lillee", in their 1983 hit No Restrictions. He will also be mentioned in the Iain Campbell Smith song Blue Guitar, in which the narrator, describing unlikely, fantastic events, sings "I hit a six off Dennis Lillee and I clean bowled Gavaskar".
Sixteen people die off the coast of Cornwall, UK, when the Penlee Lifeboat, Solomon Browne, goes to the aid of the coaster Union Star after its engines fail in heavy seas. The lifeboat had managed to rescue four people but then both vessels were lost with all hands. The 2008 song Solomon Browne by singer-songwriter Seth Lakeman is about the Penlee lifeboat disaster.
BBC tv journalist Michael Buerk reports on the terrible famine that has hit Ethiopia, Africa. The dispatch subsequently airs on 425 stations around the world, and will lead Bob Geldof to organise the Live Aid event and the Band Aid single Do They Know It's Christmas?
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While Slash and Steven Adler of Guns N'Roses are visiting the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, California, USA, home of Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx, their host is overcome by the combination of toxic yuletide liquors and chemicals they are partaking of. As Sixx's pallor becomes increasingly blue, Slash calls for an ambulance, then administers mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Paramedics are able to revive Sixx and take to him hospital where he recovers. Sixx later writes the song Kickstart My Heart, inspired by the incident.
The Berlin Wall is officially opened, allowing refugees to exit directly through crossing points between East Germany and West Germany, Europe, and also allowing private travel through the wall. The Pink Floyd song A Great Day For Freedom is a reflection of the effects of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Heresy by Rush is also about the fall of The Wall, as is I Thought It Was Over by The Feeling. In Memory Of The Martyrs by Barclay James Harvest is about those who lost their lives in earlier years while trying to cross the Berlin Wall.
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Jeremy Wade Delle, a student at Richardson High School, 1250 W. Belt Line Road, Dallas, Texas, USA, shoots himself in the head in front of his classmates. His tragic death will become the subject of the song Jeremy by Pearl Jam.
Rachel Corrie, a 23 year old member of the International Solidarity Movement [ISM] is killed by a bulldozer while acting as a human shield in the Gaza Strip, Israel, Europe. She had been attempting to impede Israeli bulldozers from destroying a house. Just days later, Billy Bragg will adapt Bob Dylan's 1963 protest song The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, to tell Rachel Corrie's story in his song The Lonesome Death Of Rachel Corrie.
In the new edition of Seventeen Magazine, published today, Courtney Love criticises Gwen Stefani with the comment, "Being famous is just like being in high school. But I'm not interested in being the cheerleader. I'm not interested in being Gwen Stefani. She's the cheerleader, and I'm out in the smoker's shed." Angered by the insult, Stefani will be inspired to write her song Hollaback Girl as a rejection of Love's criticism.