May 11, 2000

Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home?

by Hughie Cannon

Broadcast Date: THURSDAY: May 11, 2000

Poem: a jug band lyric, "Bill Bailey, Won?t You Please Come Home?" by Hughie Cannon.

It's the birthday of anthropologist MARJORIE SHOSTAK, born in Brooklyn, New York (1945). Her degree was in literature, and she went out to study in the Kalahari Desert only when her anthropologist husband went there to do research. It's there that she met the Bush people and found her life's work. She learned their language, with its complicated clicking sounds, by pointing to things. By the end of her life, she knew it well enough that the !Kung ["!" indicates a click] women considered her one of them. Her main contribution to anthropology is a book called Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman(1981).

It's the birthday of novelist and short-story writer STANLEY (Lawrence) ELKIN, born in New York City (1930). He contracted multiple sclerosis midway through his life, but the disease didn't stop him from teaching and writing — in fact, he used it in his books. George Mills (1982) touches on the absurdity of being middle-aged and one of "Jerry's Kids." The Magic Kingdom (1985) describes a bunch of kids with terminal diseases who are taken to a place like Disney World — the novel manages to be touching and funny, and not at all sentimental. Many consider his best book to be Mrs. Ted Bliss, published in 1995, after he died.

It's the birthday of comedian MORT SAHL, born in Montreal, Canada (1927). His autobiography was entitled Heartland (1976). He said, "Liberals feel unworthy of their possessions. Conservatives feel they deserve everything they've stolen."

It's the birthday of songwriter IRVING BERLIN, born Israel Baline, in Tyumen, Russia, near the Siberian border (1888). His father was a cantor and made a living killing chickens according to Jewish law. To escape the pogroms, the family immigrated to New York when the boy was about five, and he went to work at the age of 14 to earn money singing in saloons and restaurants. He was 23 when he published his first big hit — "Alexander's Ragtime Band" — and from then on, the hits never seemed to stop. He wrote the best non-religious Christmas song, "White Christmas," the best Easter song, "Easter Parade," as well as "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "God Bless America." Berlin lived to the age of 101.

It's the birthday of another songwriter, SEPTIMUS WINNER, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1827). Like Irving Berlin, most of what he knew about music was self-taught. He didn?t write as many great hits, but he did write one, "Listen to the Mocking Bird" which sold at least 25 million copies.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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