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Hip-Hop: A Kennedy Center Guide

KC Festival: Hip-Hop: A Kennedy Center Guide
Whenever a generation starts to find its voice, people listen. And nothing today has gotten people’s attention like Hip-Hop. This cultural and artistic movement has emerged to express the hopes, fears, styles, and dreams of a generation.
Hip-Hop, Young Artists, Popular Culture

American Voices

KC Festival: American Voices
Here’s your opportunity to “go backstage” at the Kennedy Center and see and hear about the unique pleasures and pitfalls of classical, musical theater, jazz, gospel, country, and pop singing.
Backstage, Music, Music Legends, Musicals, Opera, Jazz, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Dancers

Article: Do You Wanna Dance?
Want to understand how dance works? Learn the five elements that make up the foundation of this art form: body, action, time, space, and energy
Dance, Ballet, Choreographers, Hip-Hop, Popular Culture, Young Artists

Beethoven graffiti

Collection: Great Composers
Get inside the mind of a composer-- from a popular song, to a Broadway musical, to a symphony, how does a composer write music?
Composers, Jazz, Innovators & Pioneers, Musical Instruments, Music, Music Legends, Opera, Orchestra, Popular Culture

Japanese Noh theater

Collection: Japan
Larger-than-life calligraphy, giant bamboo weaving, and robots both real and toy... experience the vibrant diversity of the arts across Japan.
Japan, Asia, Backstage, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Fashion, Innovators & Pioneers, Musical Instruments, Inventions, Language, Music, Popular Culture, Visual Arts, World Cultures

Hip-Hop

Collection: Hip-Hop Culture
Hip-Hop has blended and transcended its artistic elements to become a means for seeing, celebrating, experiencing, understanding, confronting, and commenting on life and the world. Hip-Hop, in other words, is a way of living—a culture.
Hip-Hop, Choreographers, Dance, Dance Legends, Fashion, Innovators & Pioneers, Language, Music, Poetry, Popular Culture, Theater, Young Artists

Media Arts

Collection: Media Arts Resources
Audio, video, animation, photography, and technology. From Depression-era images that captured the attention of a nation, to student-produced videos on local artists, to how to make your own blood and guts special effects, explore the ever-changing world of media arts.
Rock & Roll, Technology, Television, Popular Culture, Movies & Movie Stars, Music

Kid audience

Article: Taking Kids to Their First Live Show
Family-friendly tips for preparing children for live performing arts events
Music Legends, Popular Culture, Music, Innovators & Pioneers

A Female Singer Performing

Article: Taking Care of Your Vocal Athlete
A resource for parents of young singers with a guide to choosing the right teacher
Musicals, Music, Family, Jazz, Opera, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Candy Advertisement

Grades 6-8 Lesson: Media Awareness: Helping a Product Cross the Finish Line
Students will complete their advertisements, adding in details (such as color and symbols) and background/foreground space on the picture plane.
Popular Culture, Television

Game Advertisement

Grades 6-8 Lesson: Media Awareness: Key Concepts in Advertising
In this second of three lessons, students will continue their exploration of concepts in advertising.
Popular Culture, Television

Toy Advertisement

Grades 6-8 Lesson: Media Awareness: The Basics of Advertising
In the first of these three lessons, students will develop a general understanding of marketing and its influence.
Popular Culture, Television

Portrait of American artist Andy Warhol

Grades 6-8 Lesson: Making the Ordinary Pop
Pop art examines the distinction between "high art" and popular culture, and questions the role of the artist
Popular Culture, Visual Arts

Hip-hop poet

Grades 9-12 Lesson: The Poetics of Hip-Hop
Students will analyze form in Shakespearean sonnets and hip-hop music
Hip-Hop, Poetry, Popular Culture

Writing lyrics

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Learning From Lyrics
Students research contemporary songs (alternative, country, metal, pop, rap, and rock music) to study current social issues.
History, Hip-Hop, Rock & Roll, Folklore, Language, Popular Culture, World Cultures, Blues

Chivalry and Courtly Love

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Chivalry and Courtly Love
Explore the Arthurian codes of chivalry and courtly love in art, modern films, books, and poetry. Examine the way in which these ideals have influenced modern concepts.
Movies & Movie Stars, Literature, America, Theater, Popular Culture

frog prince

Grade 5 Lesson: Finding Your Own Frog Prince
Students will use a traditional tale, “The Frog Prince,” and Jon Scieszka’s variation of it, The Frog Prince Continued, to create improvised scenes and then a book for a mini-musical.
Folklore, Musicals, Popular Culture

Comic Strip

Grades 3-4 Lesson: Creating Comic Strips
In this lesson, each student creates an original comic strip to convey a mathematical concept and explores comics as a form of communication
Literature, Popular Culture, Visual Arts, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Math

What's Going On... Now

Website: What's Going On... Now
The Kennedy Center presents "What's Going On...Now," a national youth campaign to inspire young people to share their art and expression by telling us "How have things changed?" since Marvin Gaye's album "What's Going On" was released.
America, Controversial, Music, Music Legends, History, Young Artists, Popular Culture

Wakamaru

Video: Japanese Robots!
At the forefront of hyperculture, Japan's robots are at once amazing works of art and fantastic feats of engineering. Japan has been at the vanguard of global robot development and technology since the 1970s and continues to invent new ways these machines can aid, entertain, and inspire mankind.
Asia, Visual Arts, Popular Culture, Japan, Innovators & Pioneers, Inventions, Science, Puppets

Shin Tanaka

Video: Shin Tanaka: Paper Toys
Shin Tanaka is a Japanese artist, graffiti writer, paper toy creator, designer who has worked with some of the biggest names in street fashion and designer toys.
Asia, Visual Arts, Japan, Popular Culture

Mayawa Denke

Video: Maywa Denki
Founded in 1993 by two brothers, Maywa Denki is a performance art troupe with a unique style. Each piece of their work is called a "product" and a live performance or exhibition is held as a "product demonstration." Although they're known and appreciated as artists, their promotion strategies are full of variety - besides exhibitions and live stage performances, they produce music, videos, writing, toys, stationery, and electronic devices.
Asia, Visual Arts, Inventions, Japan, Popular Culture, Science

Koji

Video: Koji Kakinuma: Trancework
Calligraphy artist Koji Kakinuma presents one of his trademark innovations, Trancework, in which he paints countless repetitions of a simple, powerful phrase, producing a giant calligraphic work.
Asia, Visual Arts, World Cultures, Japan, Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture

Koji

Video: Koji Kakinuma: Otsukimi
JAPAN! culture + hyperculture was marked by a festive Otsukimi (Japanese moon-viewing) evening featuring a special Millennium Stage performance of Trancework and Eternal Now by shodo performing artist Koji Kakinuma, accompanied by the taiko group AUN.
Asia, Visual Arts, World Cultures, Japan, Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture, Music

Dan-One

Video: Dan-One: Alphabetical Engineer
Graffiti artist Danny ‘Dan-One’ Polonco, a self-described “Alphabetical Engineer,” talks about graffiti art form as a means for self-expression.
Hip-Hop, Popular Culture, Visual Arts

OK Go

Video Series: OK Go @ the Kennedy Center
The band rocks the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage
Music, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Young Artists

Matt Alt

Video Series: Matt Alt: Jumbo Machinders
Matt Alt walks you through his extensive collection and explains the art and history of Japanese jumbo machinder toys.
Japan, Popular Culture, Visual Arts, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Puppets

Swing dance

Video Series: Swing Dance
Get on the dance floor with dance instructors Nina and Bobby! Learn East Coast Swing, Charleston, and Lindy Hop in three instructional videos.
Dance, Music, Jazz, Popular Culture

Stephen Schwartz

Video Series: An Evening with Stephen Schwartz
From his time at Juilliard to his grand success on Broadway, follow the path of Stephen Schwartz, the composer/lyricist of such legendary works as Godspell, Pippin, and his most recent Broadway hit, Wicked. Excerpted from the Kenndey Center event moderated by Michael Kerker, ASCAP Director of Musical Theater, this series invites you into the world of one of the American theater's most talented artists.
Theater, Music, Popular Culture, Broadway, Composers, Musicals, Backstage

Latin Dance

Video Series: Latin Dance Level 2
These five minute Level 2 video lessons will help you learn new moves for four Latin dances: the Merengue, Salsa, Bachata, and Cha Cha Cha. Learn some history of these styles and how to hold while turning.
Dance, Music, Popular Culture, Latin America

Tango Feet

Video Series: Latin Dance Level 1
These five minute video lessons will help you learn three Latin dances: the Merengue, Salsa and Bachata. Learn the history of these styles and how to be a good partner.
Dance, Music, Popular Culture, Latin America

Hand on turntable

Video Series: DJ 101: The Basics
In this podcast series, DJ Kuttin Kandi shows students the basics of Turntablism, how to scratch records as a DJ, and the differences between Vinyl and Digital DJing.
Hip-Hop, Popular Culture

The Flying Legs Crew

Video Series: The Flying Legs Crew
The US Department of State and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts offer professional development opportunities to energize the work of emerging international artists in their own countries by bringing them to the United States and providing them with instructive and informative experiences in their arts discipline, exposure to the creation and performance of world-class art, and opportunities to develop relationships with U.S. arts professionals. This video series captures the sights and sounds of performing artists from Venezuela, Turkey, Bolivia, Palestine, Morocco, and Indonesia.
Dance, Geography, Hip-Hop, Latin America, Music, Popular Culture, World Cultures, Young Artists

Rokafella from Full Circle Productions

Video Series: Hip Hop To Da Head
Members of Full Circle Productions demonstrate different types of hip hop dance and music
Hip-Hop, Popular Culture, Dance, Young Artists

iPass

Flash Interactive: IPASS: Japan! Culture + Hyperculture
This interactive features a comprehensive study of the arts and culture of Japan, ranging from ancient to modern times. It includes an investigation of Japanese art, theater, dance, music, manga, anime, robots, and installations.
Japan, Asia, Music, Popular Culture, Visual Arts, World Cultures

Summon the Heroes: Classical Music to the Rescue!

Audio Series: Summon the Heroes: Classical Music to the Rescue!
Throughout the ages, composers have celebrated the accomplishments of famous heroes through music. What does a hero sound like? Get ready to find out!
Composers, Folklore, Musical Instruments, Music, Orchestra, Popular Culture, Movies & Movie Stars

Florida Field

Audio Series: Touchdown Songs: Music & Football
Music and football are intertwined as we'll hear in this series, narrated by NFL Films composer Tom Hedden.
Music, Sports, Composers, Popular Culture, Television

Blues Journey

Audio Series: Blues Journey
Out of the hardships of Black Americans at the turn of the 20th century came the blues, a music that helped ease their suffering.
Rock & Roll, America, Blues, Geography, Music, Popular Culture

Willie from Blues Journey

Audio: Blues Journey: Page to Stage
Join playwright Jerome Hairson and director Scot Reese as they bring the story of Blues Journey from page to stage, developing the original book of blues lyrics into a fully realized play, rich with musical performances. Blues Journey follows the life of a blues performer as he learns to play, finds fame, and witnesses the blues evolve into rock-and-roll in this world premiere Kennedy Center original production based on the children's book by Walter Dean Myers.
Blues, Music, Theater, Jobs in the Arts, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll, Musicals, Backstage

Lion King on Broadway

Audio: Disney Musicals
In an odd turn, the Broadway musical - exported by Walt Disney to cartoons in the 1930s - was returned to Broadway by Disney in the 1990s.
Broadway, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Musicals, Theater, Popular Culture

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Rock Out
Turn up your favorite tunes and play the air guitar.
Rock & Roll, Music, Popular Culture, Physical Activity, Musical Instruments

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Jim Morrison
"O great creator of being, grant us one more hour to perform our art and perfect our lives."
Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Roy Lichtenstein
"Color is crucial in painting, but it is very hard to talk about."
America, Popular Culture, Visual Arts

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Roy Lichtenstein
"Art doesn't transform. It just plain forms."
America, Popular Culture, Visual Arts

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Frank Zappa
"Music, in performance, is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something."
America, Controversial, Music, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Andy Warhol
"My instinct about painting says, 'if you don't think about it, it's right.'"
America, Controversial, Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture, Visual Arts

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Walt Disney
"It's kind of fun to do the impossible."
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Popular Culture, Television, Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars

Apple iPod

Arts Days: October 23, 2001: Music for the iGeneration
Sleek and slim, with a clean white interface and dial that let users spin through hundreds, even thousands of songs on a whim, the iPod’s arrival heralded a huge shakeup in music—how it was played and how it was made. Not only did portable CD players suddenly seem impossibly clunky, but the tiny gadget-y iPod made it possible to also carry videos, photos, and other types of media in your pocket.

Apple's latest invention revolutionized the portable music player, and what’s more, opened the gates to a whole new music industry to meet demands for digital music downloads. Both record companies and artists had to figure out how to market music for the new digital age. Since the first iPod model debuted on this day in 2001, Apple is the leading seller of MP3 players, as well as digital music, which it sells through its iTunes store.
Inventions, Innovators & Pioneers, Music, Popular Culture

John Wayne

Arts Days: October 24, 1930: The Duke Saddles Up
In The Big Trail, a 23-year-old John Wayne starred as Breck Coleman, a young man heading west on a wagon train. This early, epic Western was the type of movie in which Wayne excelled. He had the rugged good looks, gruff demeanor, and height to carry off the part of a man on a mission to avenge the death of a friend.

The movie—filmed on location all over the American West, which had relatively few people living in it then—was a two-million-dollar flop, largely because the equipment needed to show it best wasn’t installed in many theaters. But Wayne’s cowboy persona appealed to men and women alike, and he went on to become synonymous with the Western movie.
Movies & Movie Stars, America, Popular Culture

The Beach Boys

Arts Days: October 29, 1962: Surf’s Up
The idealized version of 1960s California is a land of endless summer days, pretty girls, and handsome surfer dudes driving to the beach in convertibles. The Beach Boys—the original band included brothers Dennis, Carl and Brian Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and pal, Al Jardine—fed the concept of this picturesque California, as much as they immortalized it in songs like “Fun Fun Fun” and “Good Vibrations.”

The music on their first record, Surfin’ Safari, and all that would follow, featured crisp vocal harmonies, bursts of electric guitar, and uncomplicated themes of falling in love and catching the perfect wave. About 25 years later, the Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Rock & Roll, Music, America, Popular Culture, Young Artists

Orson Welles

Arts Days: October 30, 1938: Fright Night
Horrified people all over the East Coast huddled by their radios and listened fearfully to the newscast of a Martian invasion of Earth. In Grover’s Mills, New Jersey, where the Martians had supposedly landed, people took to the streets with weapons, intent on repelling the invading army.

Soon a mob had assembled, and police were called to subdue the panicked crowd. But there were no Martians, only acting impresario Orson Welles’ overheated imagination. The entire "news broadcast" was only an adaptation of H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds, performed by Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre and airing on CBS. Radio announcers were more careful to insert disclaimers during fictional programs after the War of the Worlds fiasco.
Science Fiction & Fantasy, Theater, Popular Culture

Metallica

Arts Days: October 28, 1981: Rock’s Heavy Hitters
Ten years after Black Sabbath invented heavy metal in the 1970s, Metallica adopted the sound and redefined it. When drummer Lars Ulrich placed an ad in the newspaper in 1981 looking for others to jam with, James Hetfield—who sings and plays guitar—was among those who answered.

Ulrich, Hetfield, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, and bass player Robert Trujillo comprise the current lineup of the band, whose mission is to rock hard and heavy. With recordings like “…And Justice for All” and “St. Anger,” Metallica writes songs on subjects from political strife to love gone wrong, all with a thrashing, uncompromising sound. Make no mistake, Metallica’s music is loud, pounding, and intense—just like the guys in the band.
Rock & Roll, Music, America, Popular Culture

Monty Python's Flying Circus

Arts Days: October 05, 1969: Big Top Laughs
Sprung from the delightfully demented minds of British comedy troupe Monty Python, this TV show pushed the boundaries of humor every which way. The men at the heart of the program—including John Cleese and Eric Idle—used a mixture of bizarre animation, silly skits, innuendo, and deadpan British humor to bring a new form of absurdist comedy to the small screen.

The men dressed as women, broke the fourth wall, bopped each other over the head with fish, and stopped at nothing to wring new laughs out of their rabid fans. This “Circus” ran for 45 episodes, going off the air in 1974. But among those who like to imagine a “Ministry of Silly Walks,” as one popular skit did, its popularity has never waned.
Comedy, Television, Popular Culture

The Jazz Singer

Arts Days: October 06, 1927: You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet!
Goodbye silent film, hello talkie. This movie became the first feature-length film with a soundtrack synchronized to what was happening onscreen. In short, it was the first bona fide “talkie,” the movie that heralded the beginning of the end of the silent film. Al Jolson played Jakie Rabinowitz, a man who yearns to be a jazz singer but whose strict Jewish family disapproves of his creative goals.

Jolson performed some of the songs in the movie in blackface, a tradition left over from minstrelsy. While the practice is considered shameful and improper now, scholars have lauded the movie as “the only film where blackface is central to the narrative development.” For all these reasons, The Jazz Singer continues to be a landmark movie all these years later.
Movies & Movie Stars, Controversial, America, Popular Culture

cd player

Arts Days: October 01, 1982: A Shiny New Music Maker
At $900, the first home CD player had a pretty steep price tag. Still, the sound quality of music on Compact Disc (CD for short) was far superior to that of the cassettes and LPs that had dominated consumers’ stereo systems for years.

CDs hold more minutes of music than any record ever did, and store music in digital format, which helps create that crystal-clear sound quality. They are also relatively hard to scratch or damage, unlike tapes and records. It wasn’t long before the CD player became a must-have stereo component for any serious music buff. Oh, by the way, the first album to be released on CD was Billy Joel's 52nd Street.
Inventions, Innovators & Pioneers, Music, Japan, Popular Culture

peanuts comic

Arts Days: October 02, 1950: Nuts About Peanuts
Charles M. Schultz was the first cartoonist to use his pen to delve into the insecurities and uncertainties of modern life.

Schultz’s questioning of the human condition might not have been so welcome had he not filtered it through his young illustrated characters, who deeply resonated with readers: Charlie Brown, the “every-man” figure, the hapless hero, determined not to give up; Snoopy, the adorable dog-dreamer, who sees things the way they should be, not as they are; plus pals Linus and Schroeder, sister Sally, and, of course, Lucy, the domineering realist, always quick to put Charlie Brown in his place.

“Peanuts” was an enormous success and remains a favorite today; its offshoots include multiple iconic television specials, plays, and ice shows.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, America, Visual Arts, Popular Culture

Mickey Mouse Club

Arts Days: October 03, 1955: It’s Time To Say Hello
Created by Walt Disney, this long-running variety show entertained kids daily with songs, dance numbers, and that special Mouseketeer Roll Call, where the show’s young stars introduced themselves on-camera. These popular young performers, like Annette Funicello and Cubby O’Brien, were among dozens of kids who were cast to perform routines and skits around weekday themes.

For example, Monday was “Fun with Music” day, while Wednesday was “Anything Can Happen” day. The host and lone adult on the show, Jimmie Dodd, was famous for his lessons to viewers about the importance of being kind to others and other moral messages.
Young Artists, Television, Popular Culture

Winnie the Pooh

Arts Days: October 14, 1926: Pooh Power!
The legend of a golden bear named Winnie the Pooh, a boy named Christopher Robin, and an assortment of animal pals has charmed generations of children. Author A.A. Milne based dozens of Pooh tales on his own son and his beloved stuffed bear Winnie.

The first set of these stories, published on this day in 1926, introduced readers to other characters, including Tigger, Kanga, Roo, and Eeyore. Readers were immediately taken by the animals and their shenanigans in the Hundred Acre Wood, catapulting Milne to international fame. The now famous honey-loving Pooh character can be found in countless cartoons, movies, and books.
Literature, Animals, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Popular Culture

Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy

Arts Days: October 15, 1951: Everybody Loves Lucy!
This classic sitcom made household names out of comedienne Lucille Ball, with her flaming red hair and incredibly funny facial expressions, and real-life husband, singer/bandleader Desi Arnaz. I Love Lucy broke television ground in several ways, including its use of multiple cameras to film in front of a live studio audience and its feature of a then uncommon interracial marriage between lead actors (Arnaz being of Cuban descent, Ball being Scottish).

But in the end, it’s Lucy's crazy schemes, from stomping grapes, to selling vitamins, to working on a candy assembly line, that fans embraced and remember best. And, not only did Lucy and Desi star in the most popular TV show of its day, they were shrewd business people, too. Together they launched Desilu Productions and later Desilu Studios, producing and syndicating their various shows.
Comedy, Television, Popular Culture

Cannes Film Festival

Arts Days: September 20, 1946: Stars, Paparazzi, and Cinéma
For 12 days in May, this annual event, set in the luxurious seaside resort of Cannes, France, is a showcase for new movies. While it’s an opportunity to watch films and spot celebrities, the festival began for political reasons. In 1939, Jean Renoir's film The Grand Illusion was passed over at the Venice Film Festival; top honors went to films made by Germany's Ministry of Propaganda and by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's son.

French, British, and American filmmakers withdrew from the competition to protest what they considered an overtly political decision, and the French government agreed to underwrite the cost of a rival film festival that would be free of political bias. At Cannes, films have always been judged on their artistic merits alone.
Art Venues, Europe, Fashion, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

Chuck Jones and Bugs Bunny

Arts Days: September 21, 1912: What’s Up, Chuck?
Here’s a pretty neat line of work: Imagine being the cartoonist who brings characters like Wile E. Coyote and Daffy Duck to life. That was Chuck Jones’ job. During his career, he worked as a cartoonist, screenwriter, and director of animated movies, often “shorts” that appeared before a feature film.

Jones worked on Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons, including “What’s Opera, Doc?” In this hilarious animated classic, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd perform in snippets of famous operas by 19th century composer Richard Wagner. Jones also helped turn the Dr. Seuss book How the Grinch Stole Christmas into a TV show. Jones’ innovative use of humor and characterization helped elevate animation from amusement to art.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Movies & Movie Stars, Comedy, Popular Culture, Television

Conway Twitty, Chubby Checker and Dick Clark doing

Arts Days: September 19, 1960: The Dance Craze Is On
Chubby Checker’s version of this song started a dance revolution. Kids everywhere were dancing the Twist’s signature moves: swiveling hips, stretching out arms, lifting one foot off the floor every now and then. Though the dance was considered fairly provocative, the song’s ascent drove the popularity of the Twist and made it mainstream.

Dance crazes were nothing new: for example, in the 15th century, noblemen and women went crazy for the minuet, while in the 1930s, everybody was doing the jitterbug. Basically, anytime people gather to dance, a new fad could be spawned. Think about that next time you’re dancing with your pals—maybe you will invent the next Mashed Potato or Moonwalk!
Choreographers, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Dance, Music

Star Search

Arts Days: September 17, 1983: Make Me a Star Tonight
Searching for tomorrow’s superstar singers and dancers? Before there was American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, there was Star Search. Ordinary contestants sang, danced, and performed comedy skits on national TV, with judges and a studio audience voting for a winner.

Lots of artists who made it big competed on Star Search, including Christina Aguilera and Rosie O’Donnell. Interestingly, few of the actual winners are household names today. The original show ran until 1995. A new version launched in 2002, but lasted for only two years. American Idol, which also began in 2002, pretty much ate Star Search for lunch.
Art Venues, Comedy, Dance, Music, Popular Culture, Television, Young Artists

Nintendo

Arts Days: September 23, 1889: Game Winners
The company launched over a century ago in Kyoto, Japan, is known today as a pioneer in video games and other home entertainment. Nintendo initially, however, made its mark selling other kinds of products before it found its niche in the gaming industry. At its inception, Nintendo made and marketed playing cards called hanafuda; it soon went on to offer cab services, sell instant rice and other foods, and dabble in other products.

But there’s no doubt the company found its sweet spot when it started selling it's first home video game console, the Famicom (called the Nintendo Entertainment System in the US). Since then, Nintendo has released more than 20 consoles, turning Nintendo into the home-entertainment giant it is today.
Inventions, Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture, Japan

Crayola Crayons

Arts Days: September 30, 1902: Color My World
Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith were a couple of enterprising cousins who took over Binney’s dad’s company, Peekskill Chemical Works, back in 1885. While Peekskill initially made charcoal and other products, the cousins expanded the product line to include black crayons at first, and eventually a whole rainbow’s worth.

Introduced in 1903, the first box of crayons cost a nickel and included red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, brown, and of course, black. It was Binney’s wife who coined the name: “craie” the French word for stick of color, plus “ola,” from oleaginous, a term describing the consistency of the petroleum used in the crayons. Today, the company once known as Binney & Smith is officially Crayola, LLC.
Inventions, Innovators & Pioneers, Visual Arts, Popular Culture

Jim Henson with Muppets

Arts Days: September 24, 1936: TV’s Muppet Man
Perhaps the most famous puppeteer of all, Jim Henson turned the piles of fabric and fur known as Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog, and Ernie (as in Bert and Ernie) into loveable characters. In Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, Henson’s wonderful, wisecracking animal and people puppets educated and entertained children.

It was important to Henson to create work that would appeal to people of every age. His puppets might have been teaching youngsters to count, but he also made sure they threw out a few asides to amuse their parents, too. Nothing gave the modest Mississippi native more pleasure than making people laugh and enjoying the magic of puppetry.
Puppets, Television, Innovators & Pioneers, Comedy, America, Popular Culture

Will Smith

Arts Days: September 25, 1968: Will Power
Will Smith’s many talents, from rapping to acting and producing, have enabled his rise as one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. As part of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Smith and childhood pal Jeff Townes hit big with the song “Parents Just Don’t Understand” in the 1980s. They even won the very first Grammy® awarded to a rap act.

The folks at NBC liked Smith’s appealing persona enough to build a TV show around him; The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ran from 1990–96 and cemented Smith’s reputation as a natural comic. The show served as Smith’s platform to transform himself from hip-hop artist to accredited actor with starring roles in Hollywood blockbusters like Men in Black and Independence Day.
America, Hip-Hop, Music, Popular Culture, Movies & Movie Stars, Young Artists

West Side Story

Arts Days: September 26, 1957: Tonight, Tonight
Behind the hit musical about the rival white “Jets” and the Puerto Rican “Sharks” is an updated, urban retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The inspiration and innovation was provided by a boatload of talent; Stephen Sondheim wrote the sophisticated lyrics, Leonard Bernstein the historic music.

Jerome Robbins directed and choreographed the revolutionary dance sequences like the Shark Girls’ exuberant “America” and the Jets’ “Cool.” Audiences saw how violent gang warfare shattered the dreams of star-crossed lovers Maria and Tony. The musical drew big crowds, shocking them all with the death of two young men at the end of Act One and of Tony at the close of the play. As stunned viewers exited the theater, few doubted the universality of Shakespeare’s love story.
Broadway, Musicals, America, Choreographers, Composers, Controversial, Playwrights & Plays, Shakespeare, Popular Culture

Buddy Holly

Arts Days: September 07, 1937: Rock’s Best Buddy
Buddy Holly started singing and playing instruments as a child. At 18, he heard Elvis Presley perform; later that year, he was opening for Elvis and generating buzz for his rockabilly music, which combined elements of bop, country, and rock.

Though his life ended at age 22 in a plane crash, he had an outsized influence on early rock and roll. For example, along with his band, the Crickets, Holly helped make the standard rock band lineup that has stuck to this day: two guitars, one bass, and drums. He also was one of the first rock-and-rollers to write, produce, sing, AND play on his own songs. And oh boy, did he crank out a lot of rock standards: “Every Day,” “That’ll Be The Day,” and “Peggy Sue” are just a few.
America, Innovators & Pioneers, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Kelly Clarkson

Arts Days: September 04, 2002: Idol Maker
Something like 50 million people were watching the night Kelly Clarkson was chosen the winner of the first season of American Idol. This wildly successful, interactive singing competition counts on viewers calling or texting in votes for their favorite singers to help determine who will make it to the next round.

The popular show helped launch Clarkson’s career, just as it has with other winners in subsequent years. The show’s judges—originally Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul—helped shape viewers’ voting with their blunt feedback on the performances, which can range from pathetic to magnificent.
Television, Popular Culture, Young Artists, Music, America

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Arts Days: September 02, 1995: Rock Solid
With exhibits looking at, say, the life and music of Elvis Presley or the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame aims to celebrate rock music in all its forms. Founded by Jann Wenner, longtime editor of Rolling Stone magazine, the site also collects and preserves rock music through its educational programs and archives.

For years before the actual museum existed, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation nominated musicians to be part of the Hall of Fame. One qualification: artists are only eligible for induction 26 years after their first recording. Those fortunate enough to be inducted have their names added to a spire inside the spectacular glass pyramid designed by architect I.M. Pei.
Art Venues, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Music, Architecture

Star Trek

Arts Days: September 03, 1969: Kirk Out
The creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, had Gulliver’s Travels in mind when he pitched his idea for a new science-fiction TV show to television executives. Featuring William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, and the crew of the Starship Enterprise, the show earned loyal followers; some of whom wrote angry letters when the network put the show in an unpopular time slot.

After it was cancelled the following year, market research showed that in fact Star Trek had been profitable for advertisers, but it was too late to revive it. Still, tons of spin-off shows, from reruns of the original episodes to new programs like Voyager, have capitalized on the public’s early fascination with Roddenberry’s original concept.
Television, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Popular Culture

Roald Dahl

Arts Days: September 13, 1913: What a Dahl
It may come as no surprise to learn that one of young Roald Dahl’s schools was situated near a chocolate factory, and some lucky students got to take part in candy-bar tasting. Yes, the popular children’s writer who authored Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and dreamed up its chocolate bars wrapped in golden tickets clearly drew some of his fantastically inventive tales from his own life experiences.

Dahl also wrote plenty of books and short stories for adults, but his children’s works stand out for their dark humor, startling plot twists, and outrageous characters like greedy Augustus Gloop in Charlie and mean Miss Trunchbull in Matilda—characters who almost always get their come-uppance in the end.
Literature, Popular Culture

Marilyn Monroe

Arts Days: September 15, 1954: The Blonde Bombshell
Standing over a subway grate with a train rushing by below, Marilyn Monroe titillated moviegoers when her skirt blew up in the wind.

The director of The Seven-Year Itch, Billy Wilder, had ordered this scene to be filmed repeatedly. The shooting was taking place at Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street in New York City, and as he ordered more takes, more people gathered around to ogle Monroe. She was one of a long line of movie blondes dating back to Jean Harlow, who appeared in the 1933 film, Bombshell. Movie fans have idolized these golden-haired beauties of film and television. Monroe may well be the most famous of them all.
Controversial, Fashion, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

Oh Susanna

Arts Days: September 11, 1847: America’s First Pop Hit
This American folk tune starts with lines that make absolutely no sense: “The sun so hot I froze to death/Susanna don’t you cry.” Yet Stephen Foster, the songwriter, was probably most concerned with just creating a hummable tune. And that he did. The song tells the story of a man going to New Orleans to see his beloved Susanna.

Filled with desire and longing, the man sings of dreaming of his love at night. Foster intended the song to be sung in minstrel shows, during which white performers often performed in blackface makeup. Traditionally the song is sung with only the accompaniment of a guitar and harmonica.
America, Controversial, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture

Lockers

Arts Days: August 20, 1989: School Daze
Intentionally aimed at a teen audience that might be outgrowing cartoons, Saved by the Bell was filled with appealing actors like Mark-Paul Gosselaar (who played Zack) and Lark Voorhies (Lisa). This pioneer teen show ran for years during prime television-watching hours for kids—Saturday morning.

While critics panned it, pre-teens loved it. The show’s producers introduced topical teen themes and moral lessons, such as how the Bayside High gang coped with bullies and learned about the dangers of drinking and driving. Executives also came up with the idea of reuniting the cast for TV specials and spin-off series like Saved by the Bell: The College Years.
Television, Popular Culture

Bruce Lee Statue in Hong Kong

Arts Days: August 17, 1973: Kung Fu Mania Kicks Off
The violent yet elegant Chinese martial art broadly known as kung fu reached a huge new audience with the release of this film. Bruce Lee, its star and an acclaimed master of several martial arts, shot to international prominence.

Lee’s movie character uses his physical strength and philosophical gifts to dispatch a bad guy named Han, who dwells on a private island. Spectacular fight sequences show Lee dispatching Han and his henchmen with everything from roundhouse kicks to scary claw-like weapons. The action was a bit too rough at times, in fact; several actors were hospitalized during filming.

Though Lee died shortly before the premiere, Enter the Dragon kick-started the kung fu film genre popular to this day.
China, Innovators & Pioneers, Physical Activity, Popular Culture, Movies & Movie Stars

Woodstock Poster

Arts Days: August 18, 1969: Give Peace a Chance
Who knew that a weekend-long, live music festival slated for a farm in upstate New York would become a cultural touchstone for untold numbers of people?

The Yasgur dairy farm north of Woodstock, N.Y., was the scene for the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, a three-day long celebration that featured acts like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, and Carlos Santana. Woodstock, as it came to be known, was attended by half a million people, by some estimates.

Some feared that such a large crowd would lead to roads shutting down from traffic or riots breaking out, but the event was remarkably peaceful, which is just what the organizers had wanted.
Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Art Venues, Music, Popular Culture

Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C.

Arts Days: August 28, 1975: Rock 'n' Rap
When the rock band Aerosmith cut this single in the mid 1970s, they probably didn’t know they were setting the stage for a mash-up of rock and rap a decade down the road.

In 1986, Aerosmith worked with rap duo Run-D.M.C. to make a new version of the song. Its tempo and rapid-fire lyrics lent themselves well to the full rap treatment. Aerosmith’s singer Steven Tyler and both halves of Run-D.M.C.—Joseph “Run” Simmons and Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels—shared singing/rapping duties on the new version.

The fun video for the remake—in which Tyler feigns indignation at the interlopers rapping his song, then dances with them—only helped the song rocket up the charts. It was the first major hit featuring the melding of rock and rap music.
America, Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll, Hip-Hop

Guinnes Book of World Records

Arts Days: August 27, 1955: A Matter of Record
The book that lists the measurements of the world’s tallest man and the greatest number of hot dogs eaten in one minute arose from a friendly argument about which game bird was fastest.

Hugh Beaver, then an executive at Guinness Breweries in England, had the idea to print a reference book listing the kind of random facts debated among friends over beer. He hired twins Norris and Ross McWhirter to write the first Guinness book, which was given away for free. Released in the U.S. the following year, it sold more than 70,000 copies.

Folks couldn’t get enough of reading about the largest ballet class ever held, or the deepest concert (performed 994 feet below sea level!). It’s been updated annually ever since. Oh, and in 2000, the company officially changed its book’s name to Guinness World Records.
Innovators & Pioneers, Inventions, Popular Culture

Madonna

Arts Days: August 16, 1958: Lady Madonna
Madonna Louise Ciccone was born into a large Italian-American family with a strong Catholic faith. Yet she has said that her ethnic and religious roots fed her desire to rebel. Among other things, she dropped out of college to move to New York and dressed provocatively, often mixing religious icons with her revealing stage outfits.

In songs she wrote such as “Like a Prayer” and “Papa Don’t Preach,” Madonna pushed lyrical boundaries; and in her popular videos on MTV, she made polished, sometimes controversial mini-movies to go with her songs.

A string of dance-able hits and a charismatic personality, plus her chameleon-like ability to change her look and style from one record to the next, have made Madonna one of the world’s biggest pop stars.
America, Dance, Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll, Fashion

American Bandstand

Arts Days: August 05, 1957: So You Think You Can Dance?
With a studio set designed for dancing and live music performances, American Bandstand was once every teenager’s must-see TV show.

Every afternoon, host Dick Clark introduced top pop musical guests and conducted audience interviews to get their thoughts on the latest music. To go along with the music, the show featured a cast of “regulars,” a group of attractive local teens who danced their socks off and demonstrated the latest dance moves to the delight of idolizing fans at home.

On this day in 1957, the show’s first national broadcast aired Jerry Lee Lewis playing “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” and teenagers all across the country could be found dancing up a storm.
Rock & Roll, Television, Popular Culture, Young Artists

Andy Warhol

Arts Days: August 06, 1928: Prince of Pop Art
Whether silkscreening, painting, filming, or photographing his subjects, artist Andy Warhol looked at them with a brand-new eye. Though he began his career designing ads and record covers, it’s as a fine artist that his creativity took flight.

Warhol used images of familiar objects—from Campbell’s Soup cans to Brillo dishwashing sponges—to find the artistic qualities in mundane objects and to redefine what constituted art. His work supports “pop art”—a 20th century art movement in which popular culture’s logos, products, and images are used together or separately—and, its creators say, is elevated to something on par with more traditional art.

At the end of the day, Warhol created uniquely American art that commented on our obsession with celebrities and consumerism.
America, Popular Culture, Visual Arts

The Bee Gees

Arts Days: August 07, 1971: Band of Brothers
The wistful ballad “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” topped the U.S. charts on this day. The song was cut off the Bee Gees’ ninth album, Trafalger, and is the perfect showcase of the Australian brothers’ breathy harmonies and synthesizer-heavy arrangements. Brothers Robin, Maurice, and Barry Gibb cultivated a clean-cut image, often sporting matching suits as they sang their pop-rock hits, most of which they wrote themselves.

Not long after this song was released, a producer named Arif Mardin worked with the lads to make their music more danceable. He also encouraged Barry to sing falsetto. Both of these tweaks paved the way for the Bee Gees to reach the pinnacle of their career with “Jive Talkin’,” “You Should be Dancing,” and, of course, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

MTV Logo

Arts Days: August 01, 1981: Video Kills the Radio Star
The original concept for the cable television network MTV—short for Music Television—was simple: the channel featured non-stop, around-the-clock music videos by big name pop stars like Madonna, Depeche Mode, and Michael Jackson.

Overnight, MTV was a hit sensation among young people and grownups alike. As the channel’s influence grew, it became essential for performers to produce a music video to go along with any new song release. Over time, these videos have gotten more and more elaborate, and are produced like mini-movies, complete with incredible sets, costumes, and plots.
Innovators & Pioneers, Rock & Roll, Television, Popular Culture, Music

Alfred Hitchcock

Arts Days: August 13, 1899: Getting Hitched
Film director Alfred Hitchcock often made the viewer’s imagination do the work. Think about Psycho and the famous shower scene and how Anthony Perkins’ character is never actually shown stabbing the shower-taking actress Janet Leigh. Instead, streams of “blood” are shown running down the drain, all while you’re hearing the sounds of shrieking violin strings.

For sheer terror and shock value, without a lot of onscreen gore, few directors can best Hitchcock. From The Birds and North by Northwest to Rear Window and Vertigo, “Hitch” carefully planned out his movies often using music or complete silence to heighten the suspense. How enjoyable, and scary, it is to watch his characters mysteriously revealed, layer by layer, exposed for who they really are.
Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz

Arts Days: August 15, 1939: The Great and Powerful Oz
The Wizard of Oz, based on a book by L. Frank Baum, is one of the most spectacular fantasy musicals Hollywood ever generated. Surely the audience gasped in delight when Dorothy opened the door of her twister-flung farmhouse for her first peek at Oz and the black-and-white image erupted into glorious Technicolor.

Between the antics of the Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man; the green fury of the Wicked Witch of the West; and the bluster of the Wizard himself before he is revealed as a fake, there is much to savor about this gem of Hollywood’s Golden Age. The film went on to be nominated for six Academy Awards.®
Movies & Movie Stars, Musicals, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Popular Culture

MAD magazine

Arts Days: August 12, 1952: It’s a MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD World
Funny, the debut issue of MAD magazine—which was really a comic book back then—came out in August with a cover date of October/November. A man named Harvey Kurtzman wrote almost the entire issue himself, also providing some of the drawings. When MAD later flipped to its magazine format, that’s when its brand of irreverent humor started making fun of all aspects of our culture: movies, politicians, advertising, and celebrity itself.

It spoofed Sports Illustrated as Sports Ill-Stated. It turned Star Wars into Star Roars. It was said you knew a book, movie, or TV show was a success if MAD parodied it. The scathing wit of its illustrators and writers would later influence everybody from the Monty Python gang to today’s satirical news source, The Onion.
Comedy, Popular Culture

Betty Boop

Arts Days: August 09, 1930: The First Boop-Boop-Bee-Doop
Cartoonist Grim Natwick had no idea the little brunette who emerged from under his pen would captivate millions with her squeaky Brooklyn-accented voice and “va va voom” persona.

Betty Boop debuted in the cartoon Dizzy Dishes. She was originally drawn as half French poodle, half human (her famous hoop earrings, for example, were poodle ears in the beginning). But within a couple of years, the poodle parts were ditched, and Betty became the first animated sex symbol.

Modeled on a jazz-era flapper, she sported a large head on a small body, lending her a childlike quality. However, her developed figure and flirty gestures were decidedly those of a grown-up woman.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Popular Culture, Jazz, Movies & Movie Stars

KISS

Arts Days: August 11, 1999: KISS and Makeup
Famous for their elaborate stage makeup and six-inch platform boots, KISS is even better known for their rock music and hits like “Rock and Roll All Nite” and “Beth.” With highly theatrical stage shows featuring fireworks, “thunder and lightning,” and spurts of fake blood, KISS concerts have sold out worldwide since the 1970s.

Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and the rest of the band have sold over 80 million records, making them truly worthy of a coveted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Snow White

Arts Days: December 21, 1937: The Fairest (and First) of Them All
The story of a lovely princess, seven sidekicks, and an evil Queen all played a part in Walt Disney’s initial venture into Technicolor. Based on a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, Snow White was also the first animated feature film made in the U.S. The making of the film was considered an absurd gamble, with its groundbreaking ideas that required the invention of brand-new technology.

Focusing on telling the story rather than garnering laughs, animators made sure the film had all the elements of suspense, comedy, romance, and tragedy of a feature film. The risk paid off. The audience at the premiere loved the film, which included original songs like “Someday My Prince Will Come."
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, America, Popular Culture, Folklore

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Arts Days: December 23, 1954: Water, Water Everywhere
This movie, the first science-fiction film produced by Walt Disney Pictures, has it all: an underwater battle with a giant squid, great dialogue, and stars like Kirk Douglas as Ned Land and James Mason as Captain Nemo. The movie was adapted from a book by the French science fiction author Jules Verne.

It featured Nemo’s fantastic submarine, the Nautilus, which could stay under water for five days, and had onboard equipment to convert seawater into drinking water. To bring Verne’s deep-sea world to life, a staff of hundreds—led by director Richard Fleischer—was required. Lucky folks: They got to do much of the filming in beautiful places in the Bahamas and Jamaica.
Movies & Movie Stars, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stunts & Special Effects, Innovators & Pioneers, Literature, Popular Culture

It's a Wonderful Life

Arts Days: December 20, 1946: The Richest Man in Town
Jimmy Stewart, a 1983 Kennedy Center Honoree, was a very popular actor when he was cast as the likeable George Bailey, the lead role in It’s a Wonderful Life. Director Frank Capra tells the story of a small-town fellow who, through no fault of his own, comes to the end of his rope on Christmas Eve. As he considers suicide, Heaven sends a gentle guardian angel named Clarence to convince him what a good life he really has.

Told mostly through flashbacks, the movie has become essential viewing for many at Christmastime. Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, and the other cast members bring Bedford Falls to life year after year, reminding us all that “no man is a failure who has friends.”
Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, America, Comedy, Family

The Simpsons

Arts Days: December 17, 1989: Springfield Shenanigans
Isn’t it cool that the longest-running American sitcom features an animated mom with a mountain of blue hair? Yes, Marge, Homer, Bart, Lisa, Maggie, and the rest of their gang of neighbors and co-workers in Springfield just happen to be cartoon characters. And they happen to be hilarious, too, as they—helped by the show’s extensive staff of writers—poke fun at American culture and spoof sitcom conventions.

As created by Matt Groening, beer-swilling Homer, sax-playing Lisa and the others muddle through work and school, comment on everything from environmentalism to pop music, and love one another, just like any other normal American family. Blue hair and all.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Comedy, Television, America, Popular Culture, Controversial

NBC

Arts Days: December 30, 1953: Now Brought to You in Living Color
It took decades to hammer out the technology behind transmitting color images to television sets. Among other things, broadcasting companies and the Federal Communications Commission had to agree on a standard way of broadcasting programs. As all that research and legal wrangling was taking place, manufacturers of TV sets were chomping at the bit to bring their products to market quickly.

Admiral had what we call “first mover advantage;” it was the first company to sell color TVs to the general public. Its 15-inch C1617A model cost $1,175, a pretty steep price tag even by today’s standards. Nowadays, of course, 99 percent of American households own a TV, and of those, virtually all are color sets.
Inventions, Television, Popular Culture, America

Loretta Lynn

Arts Days: December 28, 1970: Honky Tonk Woman
No kidding, Loretta Lynn really was the daughter of a coal miner. She grew up in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, the second of eight kids. The family was poor in cash but rich in love, and Lynn’s childhood provided the material she needed to write several of the songs on this record.

Her honesty and emotional delivery delighted her many admirers and converted lots of other people into country music fans. Over the years, this 2003 Kennedy Center Honoree has penned many more songs, often written with a strong feminist perspective, which had been pretty much unheard of in country music until she came around. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” was also the name of Lynn’s autobiography and the movie about her life that stars Sissy Spacek.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Family, Folklore, Music, Popular Culture

Carollers

Arts Days: December 25, 1818: Shhh!
Two Austrians collaborated on the words and music to “Silent Night,” which has become one of the best-loved Christmas carols, sung in churches and by roving carolers the world over. Father Joseph Mohr wrote the lyrics, while an organist named Franz Gruber composed the melody.

On this Christmas night, the two played the song in the Church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, Austria. Surprisingly, while today it’s usually sung at a pace akin to that of a lullaby, the song had a more up-tempo rhythm back then. If you celebrate Christmas with your family, think about offering a round of caroling for your neighbors.
Music, Popular Culture, Europe

The Flamingo Hotel

Arts Days: December 26, 1946: Vegas on the Verge
The gangster Benjamin Siegel—better known as “Bugsy”—was instrumental in the rise of Las Vegas from a patch of desert to an entertainment hub. In early 1946, Siegel met William Wilkerson, who was building a hotel called the Pink Flamingo Hotel and Casino. Siegel’s mentor Meyer Lansky wanted a piece of the Flamingo, and while Siegel initially balked at being away from L.A., he soon became invested in the construction.

He bought building materials on the black market and overrode blueprints for the hotel with his own ideas. Siegel was no architect, though; these decisions ultimately led to huge cost overruns and delays. On opening day, construction racket and drop cloths filled the lobby, and the air-conditioning—a first in this town—was on the fritz.
Art Venues, Popular Culture, Architecture, Controversial, Innovators & Pioneers

“The Howdy Doody Show”

Arts Days: December 27, 1947: Say Kids, What Time Is It?
The freckle-faced marionette Howdy Doody was the star puppet in this early children’s TV show, the very first regular network series to be broadcast in color. Set in the imaginary town of Doodyville, the show also featured human characters like Clarabell the Clown, who communicated with beeps of a horn on his belt and did not speak a word until the final episode of the show.

Then there were the characters that started as puppets but were later performed by people, like Princess Summerfall Winterspring, played by Judy Tyler. Buffalo Bob Smith provided the voice for Howdy, and he would also speak directly to the kids in the on-set “peanut gallery,” and he sang the show’s theme song in every episode.
Comedy, Innovators & Pioneers, Television, Puppets, Popular Culture, Young Artists

Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse

Arts Days: December 05, 1905: Magic’s Original Imagineer
The young Walter Disney loved to draw, so it should come as little surprise that animation became his life’s calling. He also studied art and photography, all of which would come into play as he built the movie company that bears his name. Over the course of his career, Disney worked as an animator, director, screenwriter, voice actor, and producer; he also helped design Disneyland and Disney World, perhaps the most famous theme parks in the world.

Yet, could it be a certain Mouse named Mickey with those iconic round black ears that might be his most famous creation of all?  Probably so, but let’s not forget all of his other achievements: introducing a separate cartoon for each animated movement, adding sound to cartoons, producing the first feature-length animated films, creating new recording techniques, and inventing the multi-plane camera.
Inventions, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Television, Popular Culture, America

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Arts Days: December 06, 1964: Not Your Average Reindeer
The cute star of this TV special was none other than that red-nosed reindeer, who is mocked as a calf for his unusual feature but is ultimately a hero when he bails Santa out of a tight spot on a very important night.

The program was shot using stop-motion, also called stop-action, which is an animation process in which producers make objects—in this case, clay sculptures of reindeer, elves, and other characters—appear to move by adjusting their positions ever so slightly, capturing the configuration on camera, adjusting the models again, filming the new setup, and so on. That’s how the snowman appears to glide across the screen and the reindeer soar through the air. Featuring the voices of folksinger Burl Ives and other recognizable voices, Rudolph is still a hit with kids today each December.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Stunts & Special Effects, Television, Popular Culture

James Brown

Arts Days: December 07, 2003: The Godfather of Soul
Rhythm and blues, funk, gospel, jazz, rock and roll—James Brown took all of these genres and melded them together into an unmistakable blend of music all his own. Dubbing himself “The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business” along the way, he certainly earned that title for his incredibly demanding performances.

During his legendary shows, he did splits, yowled, danced, fell to his knees—and oh yeah, he sang the whole time, too. Brown’s classics include “Papa’s Got a Brand-New Bag” and “Living in America,” to name just two; over the course of his 30-year career, he racked up 98 singles on Billboard’s R&B charts. Of those, 17 of them went to number one.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Blues, Music, Popular Culture

Wax Figures by Marie Tussaud

Arts Days: December 01, 1761: Waxy Lady
Anna Maria Grosholtz—better known as Madame Tussaud—was taught to make life size wax figures by the doctor for whom her mom worked. While the art of creating often eerily lifelike wax versions of people had been around since the Middle Ages, it was Tussaud and her traveling show of wax figures that made viewing such figures a form of “edutainment”—partly a way to learn about famous people of the past and present, partly just plain fun.

While Madame Tussauds’ London museum kicked off the phenomenon—today everybody from Benjamin Franklin to Jennifer Lopez to President Obama is on view at outposts in Shanghai, New York, Amsterdam, and its newest addition, Washington, D.C.
Popular Culture, Visual Arts, Europe

Thriller

Arts Days: December 02, 1982: A Monster Hit
Clocking in at almost 14 minutes, the mini-movie that accompanied Michael Jackson’s hit song “Thriller” was like no music video that had ever come before. Directed by film director John Landis and featuring voiceovers by famed actor Vincent Price, the video starred Michael Jackson as a young man on a date with his sweetie.

A cast of dancing zombies and a teenage werewolf with hideous yellow eyes are just a couple of the surprises filmed by Landis, who co-wrote the video with Michael himself. In December 2009, “Thriller” was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, which referred to it as “the most famous music video of all time."
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

James Dean

Arts Days: December 13, 1950: Rebel Without a Coke
An undiscovered actor named James Dean wound up playing a fun-loving teenager in an early Pepsi commercial. He’s the fellow who whacks the player piano, prompting it to magically play a dance tune. As luck would have it, the handsome Dean caught the eye of folks casting a show called Hill Number One, landing him the part of John the Baptist.

More Hollywood roles followed, then a couple of parts on Broadway. All of these early assignments set the stage for feature roles in East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause, films with which Dean is most closely identified. Seen in his short life as both a heartthrob and an actor who showed great promise, James Dean also came to embody the restless, but idealistic American teenager.
Movies & Movie Stars, Television, Popular Culture, Young Artists, Jobs in the Arts

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Arts Days: December 14, 1987: Turtle Mania
They love pizza, live in New York City’s sewers, and fight crime. And, as any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan will tell you, they are named after four key artists from the Italian Renaissance: Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael. “TMNT” are animated characters, which were created by comic book artists Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, and who made their television debut on this day in 1987.

Identifiable by their different colored masks, these courageous do-gooders battle bad guys with their martial arts skills, all under the watchful eye of their adoptive father, Master Splinter. This successful children’s program only fed the Turtles’ cult following as their likenesses appeared on a mind-boggling array of merchandise from sheets and action figurines to lunchboxes and pajamas. The fearsome foursome remain popular today.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Television, Popular Culture

Charles Perrault

Arts Days: December 12, 1628: Father of Fairy Tales
Not many people can seriously lay claim to inventing an entire literary genre, but Charles Perrault is one exception. Relatively late in life, at age 67, Monsieur Perrault published new versions of old folktales in a slender book aimed at children. Complete with engaging characters, fantasy-laden plots, and moral lessons, the eight “fairy tales” in the book included “La belle au bois dormant,” otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty, and “Le petit chaperon rouge,” or Little Red Riding Hood.

He also used descriptions of actual places in France to embellish the stories; for example, Sleeping Beauty’s castle was based on the Chateau Usse, a real castle in the western part of France that centuries later would inspire Walt Disney himself as he designed castles for his theme parks.
Innovators & Pioneers, Europe, Literature, Popular Culture, Folklore

Rockband

Arts Days: November 20, 2007: Band Aid
First issued for Xbox and PlayStation, this video game lets players indulge in their rock and roll fantasies. Each player is rated on his or her ability to play music notes accurately using peripherals, or devices shaped like drums, guitars, and microphones. The game knows and alerts you when you’re singing off key or falling behind in tempo on the “drum kit.”

A team of players can form a band and compete together, earning points collectively against another team. Rock Band is not just a lot of fun to play, but it's helped expand people’s interest in learning to sing and play actual instruments. So, dream on because you never know, today’s Rock Band players may be tomorrow’s newest rock stars.
Inventions, Rock & Roll, Musical Instruments, Music, Popular Culture

Toy Story

Arts Days: November 21, 1995: Toys Will Be Toys
Once upon a time, there was a boy named Andy who had a room full of toys—playthings that just happen to come to life whenever Andy’s not around. Everyone is happy with the status quo, especially Andy’s favorite toy, Sheriff Woody, who’s the unofficial leader of all the toys. That is until a shiny new astronaut toy named Buzz Lightyear arrives and makes Woody jealous.

Produced by Pixar, Toy Story marked a sea change in animated filmmaking. Using new technologies, about 100 animators completed the film on a $30 million budget, as compared to The Lion King a year earlier, which had used 800 animators and cost $45 million to make. Toy Story's significant impact on the art of animation sparked an entirely new film genre of computer animated movies.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Stunts & Special Effects, Popular Culture

Le Chat Noir

Arts Days: November 18, 1881: Come to the Cabaret
Today you think of these clubs as famous nightspots where celebrities like to hang out in Hollywood or New York. But back in Paris in the late 19th century, they were referred to as cabarets, and Le Chat Noir was perhaps the most legendary. Located in Paris’ fashionable, bohemian Montmartre neighborhood, Le Chat Noir, or “The Black Cat,” was envisioned by owner Rodolphe Salis as part nightclub, part salon.

Seated at crowded tables were well-known Parisian celebrities and their artist associates from around the world. On any given night, you could rub elbows with painter Pablo Picasso, composer Claude Debussy, or perhaps Jane Avril, the can-can dancer whom Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec immortalized in several paintings. They and countless others would talk, drink, flirt, and enjoy live performances. The party lasted until 1897, when the place closed up shop.
Art Venues, Europe, Popular Culture, Musicals

Jukebox

Arts Days: November 23, 1889: Music On Demand
When patrons arrived at San Francisco’s Palais Royal Saloon, they found a curious, cabinet-like object that played music. It was built by the Pacific Phonograph Company and had tubes poking out of it; up to four listeners at a time could pick up a tube and listen to the same tune being played. Of course, they had to drop a coin into a slot near each tube to hear a thing.

The man who installed the jukebox at this bar, Louis Glass, dubbed the machine the “nickel-in-the-slot” player. It was a big hit at the Saloon, and word soon spread from city to city of this amazing song-playing machine. By putting musical choice in the hands of patrons, jukeboxes revolutionized the way people listened to music.
Inventions, Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

A Vogue Fashion Show

Arts Days: November 04, 1914: Fashion Makes a Statement
The “Fashion Fete,” as it was called back then, was conceived by Edna Woolman Chase, an editor at Vogue magazine, the fashion industry’s go-to publication. Chase had a rather noble aim for the event: It was a benefit for French war relief—remember, World War I was raging at the time. The fete, that’s French for “festival,” featured clothes by American designers affiliated with stores like Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman.

With French designers forced to close their Paris showrooms during World War I, Woolman Chase asked American designers to make clothes for models to wear during the event. Within a couple of years, fashion shows featuring models walking up and down catwalks to show onlookers every angle of a new outfit were pretty mainstream and certainly continue to remain popular today.
Fashion, America, Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture

John Barry

Arts Days: November 03, 1933: A Musical Bond
John Barry had been working as a composer and record producer for several years when he caught a lucky, career-making break—he was hired to work on the music for a new movie called Dr. No. This was the first James Bond film ever made, and Barry’s arrangement of the “James Bond Theme” was soon tied to the very successful string of movies, starring Sean Connery as the suave British agent named Bond. James Bond. 

Barry went on to compose the scores for 11 of the next 14 Bond films, as well as music for other popular movies, including The Lion in Winter, Out of Africa, and Dances with Wolves. For these latter three, Barry took home the Oscars® for Best Original Score.
Composers, Music, Movies & Movie Stars, Music Legends, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Mickey Mouse

Arts Days: November 13, 1940: Animation as Art
This artful melding of classical music and animation, Fantasia is perhaps one of the most interesting experiments in the history of feature animation. Walt Disney, fresh from successes like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, wanted to stretch animation beyond its traditional cartoon roots.

The film interpreted classical music through short bursts of animation, creating such classic sequences as Mickey Mouse’s star turn in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the fire and brimstone dance of Night on Bald Mountain. At this premiere, audiences listened to the film through Fantasound, a sound system that enriched the music by making it fuller and more dynamic. In 2000, Disney released a sequel of shorts with similar pairings of music and animation, including Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Music, Popular Culture

Grace Kelly

Arts Days: November 12, 1929: Beauty and Grace
From teenage model to Hollywood actress to the Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly’s life was the stuff of fairy tales. She acted in TV shows, on stage, and in blockbuster movies, like Rear Window and Dial M for Murder.

Directors like Alfred Hitchcock adored Kelly’s golden hair and flawless features, and often cast her as the beautiful, but unattainable dream girl. But she also exhibited considerable acting talent in films like The Country Girl for which she earned an Academy Award® nomination. When she fell in love with and married Monaco’s Prince Rainier, the world—well, maybe just 30 million people—watched the royal wedding in awe on TV.
Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, America, Television, Europe

Rolling Stone Magazine

Arts Days: November 09, 1967: The Bible of Rock
Back then, it featured John Lennon on the cover and looked more like a newspaper than a magazine. The inaugural issue of Rolling Stone aimed to report not only on the performers and trends shaping rock and roll, but also, in the words of founder Jann Wenner, “the things and attitudes that music embraces.” As a result, the magazine has consistently printed long articles about politics, the environment, and other topics as well as influential record reviews and detailed question-and-answer pieces with top artists.

While on-staff at the magazine, photographer Annie Leibovitz helped shape the modern look of the publication. Her photos reveal surprising and controversial sides of world-famous celebrities, created through close collaboration with her subjects.
Rock & Roll, Music, Popular Culture, Literature, Controversial

Billboard Music Chart

Arts Days: July 20, 1940: Top of the Pops
It was called the “Music Popularity Chart,” when Billboard magazine started ranking songs in terms of their airplay and sales. Until then, there was no way to measure the popularity of pop songs relative to one another.

Suddenly record-company executives and musicians alike could keep track of how their songs were faring. They could cheer when their song hit number one—a thrilling moment for anybody. After all, the more a song is played, the more it is being purchased, and the more money the labels make. Well, you get the picture.

What was the first number-one? “I’ll Never Smile Again” by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, with none other than Frank Sinatra singing lead.
Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Steamboat Willie

Arts Days: July 29, 1928: The Mouse That Roared
When Steamboat Willie debuted, it was the third cartoon to feature an early rendition of Mickey Mouse. In this seven-minute animated short directed by Walt Disney, Mickey is steering a steamboat, whistling a happy tune, sassing Captain Pegleg Pete, and trying to impress Minnie Mouse. Most of the short features Mickey creating an impromptu orchestra with a bunch of animals on the boat.

For its significance as a milestone in animation, Steamboat Willie is one of 25 films added to the National Film Registry in 1998.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Innovators & Pioneers, Animals

J.K. Rowling

Arts Days: July 31, 1965: The Magic Touch
Around the world, people of all ages are captivated by the saga of Harry Potter, the young British wizard with the lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. Harry, Hermione, Ron, Voldemort, and legions of other characters brought to life in the seven Harry Potter books, are all from the creative imagination of Joanne Kathleen Rowling.

Many children whose interest in reading was lukewarm found it stoked by the magical adventures of Harry and his gang. They and an incredible assortment of funny ghosts and frightening villains are captured in these fantastical books.
Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature, Popular Culture

A Wild Hare Title Card

Arts Days: July 27, 1940: Whatta Wabbit!
That irrepressible bunny named Bugs first popped out of his hole during a showing of The Wild Hare, only to ask the bumbling hunter Elmer Fudd the immortal question, “What’s up, Doc?”

As originally voiced by Mel Blanc, this rabbit has a wisecracking persona, a Brooklyn accent, and a knack for getting out of tough spots.  And let’s not forget, a penchant for carrots, which he gnaws on contentedly with his enormous buck teeth.

According to TV Guide, Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse are the top two cartoon characters of all time.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Animals

Louis Reard in a bikini

Arts Days: July 05, 1946: Less is More
An automobile engineer in his native country of France, Louis Reard also worked in his mother’s lingerie shop. He was competing with others to create the world’s tiniest swimsuit when he stitched together some pieces of cloth—totaling a mere 30 inches. He proudly debuted the “bikini,” which he named after Bikini Atoll, a tropical island in the Pacific.

At first, he had a hard time finding a woman willing to model the daring little number. But he did and then planned a big party to celebrate. At a pool in Paris, Reard’s model donned the bikini, and it was an instant hit, changing the future of swimwear fashion forever.
Fashion, Popular Culture, Europe

Sony Walkman

Arts Days: July 01, 1979: Whistle While You Walk
For decades, home stereo systems were big and unwieldy, with separate turntables, tape players, speakers, and other components. So when the Japanese corporation Sony developed a portable stereo system it called the Walkman, consumers were skeptical.

Sony embarked on a huge marketing campaign to raise awareness of its little stereo that came with a set of padded earphones and could accommodate a cassette tape. The company hired college kids to walk around busy shopping areas in Tokyo, wearing their Walkmans and offering strangers a chance to listen.

Turns out the sound quality was excellent, and the freedom to carry your tunes with you exhilarating. In changing the way we carry and listen to music, the Walkman set the stage for today’s MP3 players, which manage to make the Walkman look enormous.
Inventions, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Japan, Music

The Rolling Stones I can't get no Satisfaction

Arts Days: July 10, 1965: Satisfaction Guaranteed
That blistering riff from Keith Richards’ guitar kicks off “Satisfaction,” a rock-and-roll song that shook up a lot of teenagers and alarmed some parents with its provocative lyrics. Richards and his fellow Rolling Stone, Mick Jagger, wrote the song together, with Jagger adding lyrics about a very different theme: the push he had seen while in America for material possessions.

The song hit number one on this day and stayed there for a month. It is also an example of the sensation created by a hit record.
Rock & Roll, Controversial, Music, Popular Culture

Harry Houdini

Arts Days: March 24, 1874: Magic Maker
His family immigrated to the U.S. when Harry Houdini (then known as Ehrich Weiss) was just four years old. It wasn’t long before his taste for thrills was cemented; by age nine, he was a trapeze artist. He moved on to simple card tricks, but the magician and “escapologist” was always searching for the next stunt—the trick that would ensure his reputation as the man who routinely cheated death.

Using ingenious props—and sometimes swallowing keys he could spit up on command, or purposely dislocating his shoulders—Houdini upped the ante from, say, escaping from handcuffs to escaping from a straitjacket dangling from a building. Some of his stunts were the result of his superior strength and flexibility. Others made use of illusions or trapdoors. No matter what, his escapades thrilled audiences.
Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture, Controversial, Europe

The King and I

Arts Days: March 29, 1951: Culture Clash
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II had collaborated on five other musicals, including The Sound of Music, by the time they turned out the words and music for The King and I. The musical starred Gertrude Lawrence as Anna, an Englishwoman hired by the King of Siam (today we call it Thailand), to teach reading, writing, and speaking English—to his children.

King Mongkut was played by Yul Brynner, a Russian actor who shaved his head for the stage role. Tackling a range of complex issues, from cultural clashes to gender roles, The King and I included the well-known “Getting to Know You,” a touching song about making new friends. The show ultimately went on to win the Tony Award® for Best Musical.
Broadway, Musicals, Theater, Popular Culture

Aretha Franklin

Arts Days: March 25, 1942: The Queen of Soul
Considered by many to be the greatest singer of all time, Aretha Louise Franklin has wowed audiences with her powerful voice from the time she was a small child singing gospel songs in church. This singer/songwriter has mastered the music of many genres: soul, rock, and jazz among them, racking up 20 Grammy Awards® along the way. Franklin’s also had 20 #1 singles on Billboard’s R&B chart to date.

In 1967, “Respect” rocketed up the charts, vaulting Franklin to superstardom. Though her career lagged in the mid-1970s, she returned to her gospel roots—and to renewed success—with the 1987 album called One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. That same year, the versatile singer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: the first woman to ever achieve that distinction.
America, Music Legends, Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Birthday cake

Arts Days: March 04, 1924: A Song is Born
You’ve probably sung the most popular song in the English language more times than you can count. It’s said that the melody of the tune is borrowed from a song called “Good Morning to All,” written in 1893 by Patty and Mildred Hill, sisters and kindergarten teachers from Kentucky.

All they wanted to do was create a song easy for five-year-olds to sing. They never copyrighted the song, meaning they never registered it as their work. But an editor named Robert Coleman published the song in a book, adding a second verse to the “Good Morning to All” tune that features the words we all know. And from then on, “Happy Birthday” has stuck in a big way.
Music, Popular Culture

Dr. Seuss

Arts Days: March 02, 1904: Doctor of Rhyme
Perhaps no author of children’s books is better loved around the world than Theodor Seuss Geisel, whom you probably know simply as Dr. Seuss. Whether it’s The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss’ many books combined fantastic creatures with fun, often made-up words set to rhythmic patterns that were designed to teach children how to read through simple repetition.

You might think his books were easy to write, but Dr. Seuss often used a form of poetic rhythm called “anapestic tetrameter.” This is a fancy way of saying that in the phrases he dreamed up, two unstressed syllables were followed by one emphasized one. Read these lines from The Cat in the Hat out loud and you might hear what we mean: “Have no fear, said the cat/I will not let you fall/I will hold you up high/As I stand on a ball.” The bolded words are naturally emphasized as you read them aloud.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Innovators & Pioneers, Literature, Poetry, Popular Culture

Girl Playing with Barbies

Arts Days: March 09, 1959: All Dolled Up
As a fashion icon for generations of little girls, Barbie—all eleven-and-a-half inches of her—is without an equal. She was invented by a woman named Ruth Handler, one of the founders of the Mattel Toy Company and mother of a daughter named Barbara (no joke, that’s Barbie’s namesake). Handler was inspired by a German doll named “Bild Lili,” a spin-off of a comic strip. Early Barbies, with their accompanying tagline “teenage fashion model,” were made in Japan and available as blondes or brunettes.

Along with the dolls, Mattel marketed a breathtaking range of clothes sized just for Barbie as diverse as ball gowns to astronaut uniforms. It’s no surprise children still love to dress her up in these fancy outfits, or to find Barbie cruising along in her Jeep to a mall of her very own.
Fashion, Popular Culture

Simon and Garfunkel, Sounds of Silence cover

Arts Days: March 10, 1964: The Silent Sound of Success
After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, singer/songwriter Paul Simon was among the artists who sought to sort through their emotions about the event in a creative way. When he finished writing “The Sounds of Silence,” he showed it to Art Garfunkel, his musical singing partner. The two began performing it in their live shows in and around New York City and also put it on their first album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.

Unfortunately, the record flopped, and the pair broke up. But a year later, the duo’s record producer remixed the song with new instruments, including drums and electric bass and guitar—without asking Simon or Garfunkel. The song rose to number-one, they reunited, and recorded a new full-length album called The Sounds of Silence. It is considered one of the greatest folk rock albums of all times.
Rock & Roll, Music, Popular Culture

Polaroid

Arts Days: February 21, 1947: Say “Cheese!”
Even in the age of the digital camera, there’s still something really cool about shooting a picture with a Polaroid camera and having that snapshot pop into your hand and develop right before your eyes.

But before he invented that instant camera, American inventor Edwin Land worked on polarizing filters for sunglasses, special goggles for troops in combat during World War II, and other products for the company he founded in 1937 called the Polaroid Corporation. After Land showed his instant camera for the first time, his company got busy selling them to department stores. The cameras proved so easy and fun to use—and so affordable—the stores could not keep them from flying off the shelves.
Inventions, Popular Culture, Visual Arts

Elvis Presley

Arts Days: February 22, 1956: King Tops the Charts
It’s no surprise Elvis Presley, or the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” knew how to make an entrance: His first single to enter the music charts, “Heartbreak Hotel,” not only hit the number one spot, it was also the best selling single of the year.

The song introduced Elvis’ original rockabilly sound, or the up-tempo fusion of country and blues music. That combined with his uninhibited stage and television performances quickly made him a household name. Following the release of “Heartbreak Hotel,” Elvis remained influential in rock music for decades.
Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Music

Mister Roger

Arts Days: February 19, 1968: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
With his gentle demeanor and signature cardigan sweater, Fred Rogers has helped generations of children make better sense of the complicated world around them.

Better known to young fans as Mister Rogers, the host speaks directly to children about everything from coping with divorce to a fear of the dark—topics other children’s shows typically avoid. He also hangs out with various puppet and human friends, like Daniel Striped Tiger and Officer Clemmons. Rogers “travels” back and forth between the real world and the Neighborhood of Make-Believe to help children learn to make that important distinction.

Original episodes stopped airing in the summer of 2001, but you can still spend quality time with Mister Rogers in reruns.
Puppets, Popular Culture, Television, Innovators & Pioneers

Saturday Night Fever

Arts Days: February 16, 1979: Disco Fever… Can You Dig It?
Who’d have thought that a movie about a Brooklyn kid in a white suit trying to win dance contests would kick off a disco phenomenon? Well, actor John Travolta boogied down as 19-year-old Tony Manero in this classic movie, whose music—about half of which was performed by the Bee Gees, a trio of brothers from Down Under—swept the nation in 1979, and never really went away.

In songs like “Jive Talkin’” and “You Should Be Dancing,” the Brothers Gibb (get it? B-Gs) exhorted listeners to forget their day-to-day troubles to the flashing lights and thumping tunes of discothèques, which were springing up all over New York City and other urban centers.
Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture, Dance, Music, Movies & Movie Stars

The Phantom

Arts Days: February 17, 1936: The First Masked Man of Mystery
This disguised “ghost who walks” first began rescuing people from the clutches of the bad guy back before Batman, The Lone Ranger, and every other masked crusader that followed. For decades now, Lee Falk’s mysterious masked Phantom has captivated readers around the world with his incredible strength, his trained falcon Fraka, and his unshakeable pursuit of justice for the wronged.

On this day, the Phantom strip was kicked off in print with a story called “The Singh Brotherhood.” It was written and drawn by Falk for two weeks, then taken over for a while by an assistant. In fact, an army of other writers and artists contributed to the strip over the years, mimicking Falk’s style so closely that readers seldom suspected anyone but Falk was doing the work. Even Elizabeth Falk, Lee’s wife, stepped in when he died to finish the stories Lee began before his death: “Terror at the Opera” and “The Kidnappers.”
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture

Johnny Cash

Arts Days: February 26, 1932: The Man in Black
As a child, Johnny Cash “The Man in Black” sang gospel music with his family, but a record producer told him that those gospel tunes just wouldn’t sell. So Cash was spurred to write his first rock-inflected country songs, including “Cry Cry Cry.”

Cash soon signed to Sun Records where he recorded tons of new songs like “I Walk the Line,” a huge hit in 1956. Cash went on to record nearly 100 albums over the course of his career, leaving an indelible mark on American rock, country, folk, and pop music.

And why did he wear black onstage? There’s a clue in the lyrics of his song, “Man in Black”—“I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down/Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town.” Johnny Cash was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1996.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Music, Popular Culture

Youtube

Arts Days: February 15, 2005: Your Fifteen Minutes of Fame
In 1968, American artist Andy Warhol claimed that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

Well, the future is now. The video-sharing website YouTube can make you—and your singing parrot, your foolhardy buddies, or your high-school orchestra playing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony—famous overnight.

Founded by three friends, YouTube makes it possible to view all kinds of interesting arts-related videos, to name just one category that YouTube covers. Viewers who register with the site can rate the videos, share them with friends, and even post them to their Facebook page. You can watch your favorite pop music videos or snippets of a Eugene O’Neill play. Or why not listen to jazz played in a tiny club in Ecuador or catch ballet dancers onstage in Paris, France?

It’s said that tens of thousands of new videos are uploaded to YouTube every single day.
Inventions, Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture, Movies & Movie Stars

United Artists

Arts Days: February 05, 1919: United They Stood
Picture Hollywood back in the 1910s and 20s. In those days, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and D.W. Griffith were kind of like the Julia Roberts, Will Smith, Brad Pitt, and Tom Hanks of today; big-name stars whose appearance in a movie would sell lots of tickets.

Pickford and her pals decided to form a company called United Artists to try to get more money per movie and to have the opportunity to star in movies every year. Plus, they wanted to distribute the movies directly to theaters.

However, the time and expenses required to pull that off soon proved hard to come by, especially with the introduction of sound movies. While UA was eventually a very profitable company, these founders never enjoyed the success they had dreamed of.
Movies & Movie Stars, Innovators & Pioneers, Controversial, Popular Culture

The Beatles

Arts Days: February 07, 1964: Beatlemania, American-Style
Upon exiting New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, the four lads from Liverpool, England, were probably a bit shocked to witness thousands of teenage girls welcoming them by screaming, weeping, and, yes, even fainting.

They came to America to perform on TV’s The Ed Sullivan Show, which promised to introduce the Fab Four to lots of new fans. No doubt British kids were already well aware of the band through hits like “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

Well, it turned out that across the pond, Beatlemania was spreading just as fast. It’s hard to believe, but the show’s producers received 50,000 requests for its little more than 700 seats—more than it had received for Elvis Presley's 1956 debut appearance. That Sunday night, 73 million Americans tuned in and were captured by this British Invasion.
Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Music

Frank Sinatra

Arts Days: February 02, 1940: Hello, Old Blue Eyes
A young crooner from Hoboken, New Jersey, caught a lucky break on this night while performing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

Frank Sinatra, whose vocal prowess, acting chops, and star quality would go on to earn him worldwide fame, was born to Italian immigrants in 1915. After hearing Bing Crosby sing, he worked hard to develop his voice and land local gigs.

While the kind of big-band music Dorsey favored was popular with an older crowd, Sinatra’s charm and talent lured younger people—especially teenage girls who hoped for a glance from the singer with the famous blue eyes. For over six decades, Sinatra’s great gift of combining effortless technique, innovative phrasing, and impeccable taste in song selection made what he did look oh-so easy.
Music Legends, Movies & Movie Stars, Music, Popular Culture

Hedda Hopper

Arts Days: February 14, 1938: The First “Gossip Girl”
Imagine you’re a movie star in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Say you’re spotted out partying on Valentine’s Day with someone other than your sweetheart. You can bet that Hedda Hopper, an actress with a large network of contacts, would have written all about your scandalous escapade in her gossip column.

Today’s celebrity publications like People and Us Magazine owe a huge debt to columnists like Hopper, who started writing decades ago about celebrities’ off-screen shenanigans. Wearing one of her trademark hats, she would go to big Hollywood parties, chat with all the celebrities, and uncover the juiciest news and rumors.
Fashion, Popular Culture, Controversial, Movies & Movie Stars

Fashion

Arts Days: February 11, 1934: Mary Had a Little Skirt
On this very fashionable day, Ms. Quant captured the hearts, and legs, of women. Fashion designer Mary Quant is credited with inventing the miniskirt, one of the clothing articles most closely associated with the swinging 60s.

Ever practical, this designer thought that the skirt would make it easier for women to run after a bus. Quant opened her own boutique in a fashionable section of London, selling clothes she designed herself, including a funky little white collar you could attach to any dress to spiff it up.

But it’s the mini with which she’s forever associated, and which stylish women around the world still wear today.
Innovators & Pioneers, Fashion, Popular Culture, Europe

Roots

Arts Days: January 23, 1977: Rooted in Front of the TV
Nearly 100 million television viewers tuned in to ABC's Roots, a miniseries based on the autobiographical novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley.

Roots traces four generations of Haley's African American family, beginning in 1767 with the character Kunta Kinte, who is captured by slave traders in Gambia, Africa, to the author himself in 20th century America.

The show ran for eight consecutive days and became the most watched program in American television history, captivating audiences across all racial, gender, and ethnic lines. This landmark television event has been called "the single most spectacular educational experience in race relations in America."
Innovators & Pioneers, Television, Popular Culture, Africa, Geography, History, Literature

High School Musical

Arts Days: January 20, 2006: Musical Theater’s Comeback
Sad but true, in a movie age of stunning special effects and computer animation, the days of musical theater seemed to take a back seat.

That is until the jump start sparked by Disney's original television film High School Musical, a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet that tells the story of Troy and Gabriella–two high school juniors from rival cliques that audition together for the high school musical.

The film premiered on this day in 2006 and since then has become a phenomenal sensation around the world.
Movies & Movie Stars, Musicals, Television, Popular Culture, Young Artists

Sundance Film Festival

Arts Days: January 18, 1985: Sun Screened!
The Sundance Film Festival is the largest cinema festival in the United States, established to showcase American-made films and attract filmmakers to the state of Utah.

The first festival was held in 1978, originally known as the Utah/US Film Festival. But thanks to the involvement of actor and Utah resident Robert Redford, as well as the strong, supportive response from Hollywood studios eager for a venue to celebrate their works, the festival was propelled into the national spotlight.

In 1985, the Sundance Institute took over management of the festival, changing its name to the Sundance Film Festival. Today this annual event is the premier showcase for new work by both American and international independent filmmakers.
Inventions, Art Venues, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

Brian Epstein

Arts Days: January 24, 1962: All You Need is Epstein
Hard to imagine, but The Beatles were initially turned away by almost every British record company. It seemed no one could sense their potential—no one except British music entrepreneur Brian Epstein.

While helping to run his family's music stores, Epstein first noticed The Beatles after seeing their posters strewn around Liverpool. Curious, he went to see them perform, and was immediately struck by the group's musical talent and sense of humor and charm on stage. He signed on as their manager, confident the band was destined for international success. He helped mold the group's image, encouraging them to wear suits and ties rather than blue jeans and leather jackets.

For the remainder of his life, Epstein worked closely with The Beatles, who grew to be one of the most commercially successful and critically-acclaimed bands of all time.
Rock & Roll, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture

Princess Victoria of England

Arts Days: January 25, 1858: Nuptial Notes
Wedding bells rang on this day in 1858 at the marriage ceremony of Princess Victoria of England to Prince Friedrich of Prussia.

The princess walked down the aisle to German composer Richard Wagner's "Bridal Chorus," and after saying "I do," she and her new husband exited the church to the sounds of the "Wedding March" by German composer Felix Mendelssohn.

Overnight, these songs became the hot music selections for wedding processionals and recessionals. To this day, both songs remain popular, traditional choices in Western weddings.
Popular Culture, Music, Composers, Orchestra

Apollo Theater

Arts Days: January 26, 1934: Where Stars Are Born…
The Apollo Theater originally opened in 1913 as one of the city's leading burlesque venues for white-only audiences.

In 1932, powerful theatrical landlord Sydney S. Cohen purchased the theater and went to work refurbishing the entire venue. When it reopened its doors in 1934, patrons and performers of all races were welcomed.

The new Apollo Theater featured an "Amateur Night," which invited talented singers and dancers to the stage. "Amateur Night" helped launch the careers of numerous stars, including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Sarah Vaughn, Aretha Franklin, and Lauryn Hill.
Art Venues, Music Legends, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Porky Pig and Daffy Duck

Arts Days: January 06, 1936: Be-Be-Be-Before the Bunny
Moviegoers were introduced to an adorable pink, pudgy, stuttering, Porky Pig in the Warner Brothers cartoon Gold Diggers of '49. Porky was the first animated character created by the studio and was featured in numerous cartoons and shorts, including regular roles in both the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series. He is best known for his signature line that closes all of his cartoons, "Th-th-th-that’s all folks!"
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Comedy, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

Long Playing record

Arts Days: January 04, 1950: The 19 Minute Gift
Before the arrival of the cassette tape and compact disc, the big breakthrough in music recording was the invention of the LP, or long-playing record. Up until this point, the standard record was able to hold only four minutes of music; the LP could play for 23 minutes. Thank you recording company RCA Victor for those extra 19 minutes.
Inventions, Math, Music, Popular Culture

Aretha Franklin

Arts Days: January 03, 1987: Show Some RESPECT
Let's have a standing ovation for "The Queen of Soul," Ms. Aretha Franklin, the first woman to be inducted on this very day into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and for her ability to imbue songs with powerful emotion.

Never confined by musical genre, Franklin has sung the blues, R&B, soul, pop, and rock and roll. She is most recognized for her pioneering 1960s R&B records, many of which are considered among the most important and innovative R&B recordings ever made.

During the late 1960s and early 70s, she was awarded eight consecutive Grammy Awards for Best Female R&B Vocalist. Franklin was also the youngest artist (at 52) to receive a Kennedy Center Honor back in 1994.
Music Legends, Innovators & Pioneers, Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Elvis Presley

Arts Days: January 08, 1935: Hail to the King
Elvis Presley, also known as "The King of Rock 'n' Roll," began playing guitar as a teenager and made his first musical recording in 1953. He was a pioneer of rockabilly, an up-tempo fusion of country and blues music. His original sound and uninhibited stage and television performances made him a household name by 1956, and he remained influential in rock music for decades.

Though his career included numerous film roles, he is best known for his music, including hits like "Heartbreak Hotel," "Love Me Tender," "Don’t Be Cruel," "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock." It is estimated he has sold over one billion record units worldwide, more than anyone in record industry history.
Controversial, Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture

Celluloid Film

Arts Days: January 14, 1873: Better Films Through Chemistry
Cellulose nitrate, or celluloid, was originally trademarked on this day by John Hyatt for use in billiard balls.

Less than ten years later, inventor George Eastman experimented with the compound looking for an alternative to the glass plates used in photography. Eastman discovered celluloid could be melted down into a strong, yet extremely thin film, and in 1885 he introduced the first transparent photographic film.

With this, Thomas Edison’s notable invention, the motion picture camera, was able to record images in 1891, thanks to celluloid’s flexibility and strength. Unfortunately, it was also discovered that celluloid is a highly flammable material. Many lives were lost in theater fires and manufacturing accidents.
Inventions, Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

Hitsville USA, The birthplace of Motown

Arts Days: January 12, 1959: The Sound of Young America
Pioneer record label Motown Records played a major role in the racial integration of popular music. Founded on this day in 1959 by Berry Gordy, it was the first successful record label owned by an African American to primarily feature African American artists.

Among Motown's early artists were Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Four Tops, The Temptations, and The Jackson Five. The label specialized in "The Motown Sound," or pop music characterized by the use of tambourine back beats, prominent and melodic bass guitar chords and structures, and a call and response singing style originated in gospel music.
Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture, Hip-Hop, Rock & Roll, Music Legends, Music

Circus

Arts Days: January 09, 1768: Send in the Clowns
Though acrobats, clowns, trapeze artists, and trained animals all existed before the modern circus, they’d never been under the same roof until Englishman Philip Astley, a former cavalry sergeant major, discovered his ability to perform stunts while standing atop his horse's back.

Realizing his talent’s potential entertainment value, he drew a ring in the ground and invited the public to witness his daring act. His display proved to be popular and Astley readily hired other trick riders, as well as clowns, and musicians to join his show. He built a roof over the ring, which he named Astley's Amphitheatre. Over the next thirty years, Astley took his show on the road and established 18 other circuses in major European cities.
Inventions, Art Venues, Innovators & Pioneers, Stunts & Special Effects, Animals, Europe, Popular Culture, Theater

Evita

Arts Days: January 10, 1996: Evita Hits the Big Screen
Casting catastrophe and celebrity coup? The film adaptation of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1978 Broadway musical Evita stars pop music singer Madonna and Spanish actor and singer Antonio Banderas. The story traces the life of Eva Perón, beloved Argentinean first lady and spiritual leader.

Prior to the film’s release, critics were skeptical of the casting, unsure if Madonna was best suited for the lead role. Evita, however, was warmly received and won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song, and the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture.
Broadway, Controversial, Movies & Movie Stars, Musicals, Latin America, Popular Culture

Jaws

Arts Days: June 20, 1975: Something’s Fishy
When a killer shark decides to vacation at a tourist beach town, you clearly have the makings of the first summer blockbuster action film.

Director Steven Spielberg’s Jaws fast-paced, suspense-filled thriller came ashore on this June day, and caused waves of attention and ticket sales.  Even before the first sight of the lone fin sweeping through the water, composer John Williams’ theme music adds to the film’s sense of impending terror. Audiences quickly covered their eyes as the menacing great white begins to attack innocent swimmers, and as the adventure to track and destroy him tensely unfolds.
Movies & Movie Stars, Stunts & Special Effects, Animals, Composers, Music, Popular Culture

Smokey Robinson

Arts Days: June 19, 1973: That Velvet Voice
He’d been a soulful crooner since he was a kid, singing with other talented teens and later with super groups like The Miracles. But when Smokey Robinson (nicknamed “Smokey Joe” by his uncle) released his first solo recording, Smokey, he was carving a new artistic path for himself. Among the tracks on Smokey was “Sweet Harmony,” a valentine to The Miracles and the pleasures of singing with them.

At the time this record was released, Robinson was also serving as a vice president at Motown Records, the legendary Detroit label founded by Robinson’s close friend Berry Gordy. With his high tenor voice and ability to stir both joy and heartache with his songs, Robinson holds the nickname, “King of Motown.”
America, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Ice Capades

Arts Days: June 16, 1940: Theater on Ice
There was a time when seeing an Ice Capades show was the hottest ticket in town for a family night out. The show featured Olympic skaters and other national champions acting out plays, TV shows, and other stories in elaborate costumes and on skates.

It all started when a group of ice arena managers noticed how much applause the ice-skating demonstrations between hockey segments generated. On this day, Ice Capades mounted its first show in New Orleans. Skating stars of the day were along for the ride on this debut tour of 40 cities across the U.S. As children flocked to these shows with their parents, demand for ice-skating lessons surged. Still, with so much competition for leisure-time activities and dollars, the show’s popularity faded.
Theater, Popular Culture, Stunts & Special Effects

33 1/3 Record

JUne 18: June 18, 1948: More Music
From this day until about 1990, the primary format to sell music was the “LP.”

This black vinyl disc inscribed with grooves, produced music when it spun on a turntable, originally called a phonograph. An engineer who worked at Columbia Records named Peter Goldmark figured out how to fit more music on the LP. Also called “records” or “albums,” LPs could hold up to 30 minutes of music on each side, a huge leap over other formats that might hold three or four minutes’ worth of music per side. (By the way, that 33 and 1/3 measurement refers to the number of revolutions per minute (RPM) required for the music to sound as the performer had intended it to.)

Goldmark’s invention made it much easier for music fans to purchase affordable music and enjoy very good sound quality.
Inventions, Innovators & Pioneers, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Music

Elvis Presley

Arts Days: June 05, 1956: A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On
Oh boy, did people go nuts when Elvis Presley appeared on this variety show hosted by “Uncle Miltie” (a.k.a. comedian Milton Berle). Performing his hit “Hound Dog,” Presley gyrated his hips, swung his arms, and caused kids in the studio audience to scream with delight. However, many parents and press members were scandalized by Presley’s performance; news reports the next day complained that his moves were “obscene.”

Overnight, the rising star earned the nickname “Elvis the Pelvis.” Other TV hosts capitalized on the brouhaha Presley’s appearance had caused by booking him on their shows. Allen, who promised a “cleaned-up” version of Presley’s act, had him singing “Hound Dog” to an actual dog, which Presley went along with in a good-natured way.
Comedy, Innovators & Pioneers, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll, Television

First Drive In

Arts Days: June 06, 1933: In a Parking Lot Near You
When Richard Hollingshead got the notion to create an outdoor theater showing films you could watch from your car, he experimented with cars and equipment in his New Jersey driveway.

First, he mounted a projector on the hood of a car and hung up a screen. Then, Hollingshead rearranged cars until he figured out a way everybody could see from their front or back seats. On this night, cars streamed into the world’s first drive-in to see a movie called Wife Beware. Each car was charged 25 cents for admission. In addition, each rider paid a quarter. Even though Hollingshead placed large speakers near the screen, movie goers parked in the back rows couldn’t hear well.

Still, the idea caught on and drive-ins began popping up everywhere, with 5,000 or so operating at the peak of the craze.
Art Venues, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Innovators & Pioneers

The Musical Grease!

Arts Days: June 07, 1972: Grease is the Word
Nobody thought that a musical about a bunch of working-class 1950s high school kids known as “greasers”—obsessed with fast cars, rock and roll, and each other—would go on to shatter Broadway records for the longest-running show. But it did and 3,388 performances later, Grease was still the word on everyone’s lips. Audiences followed the antics of a cute couple named Danny and Sandy and their pals as they sang and danced through summer-fling memories, teenage disappointments, and promises of eternal friendship.

The play, written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, was loosely based on their own high school experiences and touched on some hard-hitting themes like gang rivalry and teenage pregnancy. But it was the music that had audiences dancing in the aisles and lining up to buy tickets year after year.
Broadway, Musicals, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll, Theater

Bruce Springstein, Born in the USA.

Arts Days: June 04, 1984: Red, White, and Bruce
If you’re not paying attention, the title track for the album, Born in the U.S.A., sounds like a rock anthem celebrating pride in being an American. But a closer listen reveals another message—one that questioned the U.S.’s role in the Vietnam War and reveals a sense of hopelessness. This title song and the others that comprised Springsteen’s seventh album—including “Glory Days,” “My Hometown,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and “I’m Goin’ Down”—were filled with themes of yearning for the past or the search for the American dream.

Born in the U.S.A. was the best-selling record in 1985, one that vaulted Springsteen to a new level of commercial success, fueled by his hours-long live shows with his legendary E Street Band. Springsteen, a 2009 Kennedy Center Honoree, continues to write rock songs that refuse to shy away from complex or controversial themes, from unemployment to religion to relationships.
Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Action Comics #1

Arts Days: June 01, 1938: A Superhero is Born
To readers’ delight, the Action Comics June 1938 issue featured a cover illustration of a certain dark-haired, muscled fellow lifting a car over his head. This was our first peek at Superman, also hailed as “The Man of Steel,” a handsome young man clad in blue tights, a red cape, and a yellow shield bearing the letter “S”—a costume that hasn’t changed all that much in the decades since.

One year later, Superman had a comic book series named after him. Readers, movie buffs, radio junkies, television viewers, and others—have never stopped devouring stories of Superman and his alter ego, Clark Kent.

The character was created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, who imbued Superman with a mission to rid the world of evil using his superhuman strength, X-ray vision, and ironclad moral code.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy, America

Elton John

Arts Days: June 03, 1969: Rocket Man Blasts Off
It’s hard to believe that with more than 200 million records sold, Elton John’s first album Empty Sky made a modest splash in his home country of England. While seven and eight minute songs like “Gulliver” and “Empty Sky” weren’t exactly radio-friendly, you could get a sense of John’s flair for writing a catchy melody—and as seen on the cover photo, his penchant for funky glasses.

His second record, Elton John, was the first to be released in the U.S. and is still often mistaken for his debut record. Even today, the album’s “Your Song” is considered one of John’s greatest hits. By combining songwriting duties with lyricist Bernie Taupin, with whom he began a lifelong creative partnership in 1967, John began a prolific career releasing knockout song after song and selling out stadium shows packed with tens of thousands of avid fans.
Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Music, Popular Culture

Cole Porter

Arts Days: June 09, 1891: The Great American Song Man
Composer/lyricist Cole Porter was playing violin by age six and the piano just two years later. He preferred the piano, and good thing, too. Some of the most sophisticated melodies and wittiest pop standards ever written came from Porter’s genius at the keys, everything from “Night and Day,” and “Begin the Beguine,” to “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,”—songs that have been recorded by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Fred Astaire. Oh, and there were the musical comedy shows he created, too, such as Kiss Me, Kate and Anything Goes, shows that are staged in theaters all over the world still today.

Porter was also one of the authors of “The Great American Songbook,” the body of musical works created for Broadway shows and musical theater between the 1920s and the 60s.
America, Composers, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture, Musicals

Marvin Gaye

Arts Days: May 21, 1971: Soul Man
In the 1950s and 60s, the silky tenor voice of Marvin Gaye moved easily from the pop stylings of “Ain’t That Peculiar” to the lush duet with Tammi Terrell “You’re All I Need to Get By.” But in 1971, Gaye released an album that showcased a new level of artistry and depth. What’s Going On was a concept album filled with songs that tackled the problems of the day: the Vietnam War, racism, environmental damage, unemployment, poverty, and other complex issues.

The album marked a groundbreaking achievement in recording history as Gaye’s phenomenal voice with its three-octave range coupled with difficult social and political issues. What’s more, with this album Gaye resisted Motown’s standard process of separating songwriters, singers, and producers on a project.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Music

Bob Dylan

Arts Days: May 24, 1941: Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man
When Robert Allen Zimmerman changed his name to Bob Dylan he was a young college student playing local coffeehouses. Just like his folk hero Woody Guthrie, Dylan was obsessed with taking a road trip across the country.  And so two years later, Dylan dropped out of school and headed east, winding up in New York City, where he had two goals. First, become a professional musician, and second, meet Guthrie. He managed to do both.

He also managed to challenge the establishment and influence others with both his words and music. With protest songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and social commentaries including 1964's “The Times They Are A-Changin’” Dylan’s distinctive, nasal vocals became the voice of a generation. Bruce Springsteen has said Dylan essentially invented a new sound and “changed the face of rock and roll forever.”
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Music

Ian Fleming

Arts Days: May 28, 1908: The Man With the Golden Pen
It’s hard to imagine that Ian Fleming, the writer who dreamed up the suave secret agent James Bond, also wrote the children’s classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. These literary creations could hardly differ more.

“Bond, James Bond,” is the clever, debonair spy who uses a mind-boggling array of gadgets, weapons, and wildly expensive sports cars to fight lots of different bad guys and gals. Need proof? Check out The Man With the Golden Arm, Goldfinger, or Dr. No, among many others.

Chitty Chitty tells the story of a family whose car has amazing transformative powers. This car can fly, morph into a boat, and bail them out of all kinds of trouble. Well, maybe there is some connection between Fleming’s best-known flights of imagination. There can be little doubt Fleming’s time working for British intelligence inspired his creative writing.
Literature, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Star Wars

Arts Days: May 25, 1977: The Force at the Box Office
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...”

Almost as soon as those ten words began their crawl across movie screens around the U.S., a pop-culture phenomenon was  underway.

The first movie, A New Hope, was later revealed to be Episode IV in a six-episode series that tells the compelling story of good triumphing over evil. A simple-yet-complex science fantasy epic sprung from director George Lucas’ imagination, Star Wars—with its sequels, prequels, books, games, TV shows, and the toys it spawned— has become one of the most successful movie franchises of all time.
Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stunts & Special Effects

Michael Jackson Moonwalks

Arts Days: May 16, 1983: A Marvelous Night for a Moon Dance
The crowd at the Motown 25th Anniversary Special erupted in shrieks. On stage was Michael Jackson, performing his song “Billie Jean.” Jackson spun on his heels, looked both ways, and then seemed to slide backward across the stage as though pulled by an invisible string.

Those who master the move seem to be walking forward and sliding backward at the same time. Others had done the moonwalk, or backslide, but Michael Jackson made the move his very own. Every time he did it, his fans went crazy. As a solo artist, the moonwalk was only one of Jackson's incredible moves; throw in his dance-floor hits like “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” and “Thriller,” his singing, that single, spangled glove, and his mysterious persona, and you had a celebrity of nearly-unparalleled global fame.
Dance Legends, Music Legends, Rock & Roll, Popular Culture, Dance, Music

Grammy

Arts Days: May 04, 1959: A Record-Breaking Event
Only 28 awards categories existed when the first Grammys were handed out at Los Angeles’ Beverly Hills Hotel. Two categories—Best Country & Western Performance and Best Rhythm & Blues Performance—had only one nominee each, which pretty much locked up those winners. Still, the event, then called the Gramophone Awards, sought to recognize the year’s finest vocal, musical, and spoken-word performances.

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the industry group that sponsors the awards, decided from the start that the winners would be chosen by others in the business and that a recording’s popularity on the charts would have no effect on its chances of winning. Nowadays, the Grammys are more than just an awards show, with 108 categories and a global reach.
Popular Culture, Rock & Roll, Music

Multiplane Camera

Arts Days: May 01, 1940: Animation Toon Up
When Walt Disney invented the multiplane camera, the art of animation took an official giant leap forward.

This special camera used stacks of glass. The lower stack was painted with objects that do not move, such as furniture, and the upper stacks displayed figures that do, including a certain famous Mouse. When these elements work together, the result was a screen filled with detailed characters that moved realistically, scenery that cast “shadows,” and the visual richness we’ve since come to take for granted in today’s animation.

In 1937, the short, The Old Mill, became the first animated work created with the multiplane camera. But because it was so expensive to use, from then on Disney and his staff reserved the multiplane camera for feature film projects only.

By the way, the American Film Institute has named Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs the greatest animated film of all time.
Inventions, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

Rajaharischandra

Arts Days: May 03, 1913: Hooray for Bollywood
“Bollywood” is a catchy term for the Hindi-language film industry featuring big dance numbers, lots of emotion, and many attractive actors. The nickname is a play on the words “Hollywood” and “Bombay,” a city in India now known as Mumbai, where most filming takes place.

When Raja Harishchandra premiered on this day, crowds flocked to see the film about an Indian king who sacrifices his kingdom and family in honor of a wise man named Vishvamitra. The silent movie was such a smash that more copies had to be printed. Overnight, the Bollywood phenomenon was born.

Today’s Bollywood movies typically run for two or three hours; are filled with song and dance; tell interwoven stories about boys and girls falling in love; and almost always have a happy ending. Many have become hits around the world. Outside of India, the highest-grossing Bollywood film to date has been Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, filmed in New York City, of all places.


India, Musicals, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, World Cultures

Stevie Wonder

Arts Days: May 13, 1950: Wonder Boy, Wonder Man
Stevland Hardaway Judkins may have been blind from birth, but his musical gifts were beyond compare.

He started playing piano at seven; he learned bass, drums, and harmonica; and he sang in church choirs. At 11, he was heard singing on a street corner by someone who knew someone at Motown Records. Introductions were made, and Little Stevie Wonder, his stage name as a youth, had a record deal and a hit record by the time he was 13 years old.

Wonder has never stopped working: writing songs for others, acting, and making hit record after hit record, including Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, and Songs in the Key of Life. There are 22 Grammy Awards® on the mantel at his house, more than any other won by a solo artist.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

George Lucas

Arts Days: May 14, 1944: Hollywood’s Sky Walker
Growing up on a quiet walnut ranch, George Lucas seemed about as far removed from a life making Hollywood blockbusters as you might imagine. But his career as an award-winning filmmaker was launched at the University of Southern California, where he won a prize for one of his early sci-fi shorts. More career-making breaks followed, including Lucas’s turn directing and helping to write American Graffiti.

But even the film’s hit reception paled in comparison to the attention Lucas got for writing and directing 1977’s Star Wars. The film’s intergalactic storyline and technological achievements piled up Academy Awards® and broke most box-office records. The movie’s sequels and prequels, from The Empire Strikes Back to The Phantom Menace, trace the paths of characters Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader—now household names across the world.
Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stunts & Special Effects, Popular Culture

Karaoke

Arts Days: May 10, 1940: Karaoke King
A self-taught drummer who played with bands in Kobe, Japan, Daisuke Inouye had a light-bulb moment one day when asked to provide music for a corporate party. While he could not accept the gig, he made a recording of music for party-goers to sing along with. It was so well-received that Inouye got the notion to attach an amplifier to a car stereo and fit it with a coin box. That way, people could feed money to sing along with the pop tune of their choice.

This was the first karaoke machine; nowadays, setups are more elaborate. For one thing, there is a color-coded video display of the lyrics to prompt the performer through the song, thousands of pop tracks minus the lead vocal to choose from, and microphones plugged into a public-address system so the entire club can hear the amateur singer do his/her stuff.
Popular Culture, Music, Japan

The Bride of Frankenstein

Arts Days: April 22, 1935: Monster Love
This 1935 horror film opens with an actress playing Mary Shelley, the woman who wrote the book from which the Frankenstein movies are based, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. “Shelley” is explaining what happened when the Monster tells Dr. Frankenstein he wants a mate. While this was a subplot in Shelley’s book, the makers of this movie managed to get a whole motion picture out of it.

The actress who played Mary Shelley—and who played the bride, too—was Elsa Lancaster, and her role vaulted her to stardom. The Monster’s loneliness in the first Frankenstein movie makes us feel sympathetic toward him, and in The Bride of Frankenstein, we also feel a little bit sorry for him when the Bride rejects him shortly after being brought to life by Frankenstein. Still, when he goes on to kill everyone around him and destroy Frankenstein’s laboratory, we’re reminded that this is no ordinary love story.
Tragedy, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Movies & Movie Stars

Willie Nelson

Arts Days: April 30, 1933: Part Hippie, Part Outlaw, All Talent
He’s a songwriter and singer, an activist, actor, and author. And yes, Willie Nelson, whose hit songs run from “Always on My Mind” to “Good Hearted Woman,” is also an American icon. His grandparents got him music lessons through the mail when he was a very young boy, and he landed a spot playing guitar in a band at the ripe old age of nine. In addition to playing and singing his own music, flecked with jazz, folk, and rock influences, Nelson wrote monster hits like “Crazy” and "Pretty Paper.”

He conceived the Farm Aid concerts in 1985 as a way to bring awareness to the financial and agricultural problems faced by American farmers. These concerts were hugely successful and helped pass laws protecting farmers from foreclosure. Wearing his signature long braid down his back, Willie Nelson continues to sell out stadium shows, write music, and support many charity organizations.
Music, Popular Culture, Music Legends

Carrie

Arts Days: April 05, 1974: The King of Scary
Sitting at a desk and using an old typewriter in his trailer in Maine, Stephen King worked nights pouring over Carrie, a freaky story about a teenage girl. He threw the first few pages in the trash, but his wife plucked them out and encouraged him to keep at it. In the book, the title character is teased at school—but when she uses her special psychic powers in order to fight back, mayhem and murder result.

The book launched King’s career as a writer of really, really scary horror and sci-fi novels and short stories. Now, decades and dozens of books later, he’s still writing from his house in Maine, minus the trailer. King’s work ethic is famous; he forces himself to write thousands of words every single day. It’s that dedication that has translated into millions of books being sold to terrified readers everywhere.
America, Literature, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Billie Holiday

Arts Days: April 07, 1915: The Lady Sang the Blues
Although vocally untrained, Billie Holiday possessed talents and characteristics far more critical to singing the blues—a natural ear for music and a life of turmoil and sorrow. Holiday changed the art of pop vocals with her smoky voice, unique word phrasing, and dramatic interpretations of classic songs. Her poignant renditions of love songs and ballads are considered classic; no one “carried a torch” like Holiday.

Discovered singing in a jazz club in the early 1930s, Holiday soon signed a record deal and began collaborations with musicians like Artie Shaw and Lester Young (who nicknamed her “Lady Day”). She shattered racial barriers by being the first black woman to front a big band composed of white musicians and by singing about lynching in the haunting “Strange Fruit.” Songs Holiday wrote with others, like “God Bless the Child,” rocketed to the top of the charts. Sadly, Holiday’s struggles with drug and alcohol addiction led to her untimely death at the age of 44.
Art Venues, Blues, Jazz, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture

Nickelodeon studios

Arts Days: April 01, 1979: I Want My KidTV!
Originally airing only in Ohio, the first cable TV channel “just for kids” was named after old-fashioned movie theaters that showed short films all day long. “Nick” has become a worldwide phenomenon loved by kids of all ages. Whether it’s their gooey green slime or quirky characters including Sponge Bob Squarepants and Carly, Sam, and Freddie, Nickelodeon and its sister channels entertain its dedicated audience with educational programs, silly cartoons, teen shows, and classic TV series.

The Nickelodeon network brand has grown to include Nick Jr., NickToons, Nick at Night, and Noggin, plus you can enjoy the rides featuring Nick stars at theme parks in Europe, Australia, and here in the U.S. It’s Nick—all kids, all the time.
Television, Popular Culture

Marlon Brando and Man

Arts Days: April 03, 1924: The Godfather of Acting
Though he never cared for the glitz and glitter of fame, few would question that Marlon Brando was perhaps the most accomplished actor of his day—or of any period since movie making began. While studying at the Actor’s Studio in New York City, Brando adopted the “method acting approach,” where he disappeared into the fictional characters he was asked to portray.

His unforgettable performances including Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire or Vito Corleone in The Godfather, stuck with viewers long after the movies ended because of Brando’s believable performances. A rebel by reputation, Brando was described by some directors and fellow actors as difficult to get along with while other colleagues said he was funny, generous, and professional. But his reputation didn’t stop him from racking up awards, including winning two Academy Awards® and being nominated for eight.
Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Theater

Supremes

Arts Days: April 08, 1964: Talent Times Three
When another girl group, the Marvelettes, passed over the chance to record “Where Did Our Love Go,” the Supremes—Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard, three teenagers from the gritty streets of Detroit—got their big break. A few months after they recorded the tune, the song hit the top of the U.S. pop and rhythm and blues charts.

That’s how the most popular girl group in history kicked off their hit-generating prowess: “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” and others were not far behind. The Supremes’ star was on the rise. Since then, every all-female group owes a debt to the Supremes.
Music, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors

Arts Days: April 12, 1945: Anime Nation
Anime, a special kind of movie animation unique to Japan and often inspired by Japanese comics called manga, has a huge following these days among kids and grownups alike all over the world. But on this day, when Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors was screened for the first time, director Mitsuyo Seo had just followed the orders he was given by the Japanese government: make a film promoting the heroic exploits of the Japanese navy.

Seo’s 74-minute movie, which features a character named Momotaro— an important figure in Japanese folklore whose name translates to “Peach Boy”—was full of talking animals wearing military uniforms and spouting propaganda. But his creation planted the seeds for decades of anime to come, created now by hand or more often with computer software.
Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Japan

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