Apr. 7, 2010

Sittin' Alone in the Moonlight

by Bill Monroe

Sittin' alone in the moonlight,
Thinkin' of the days gone by,
Wonderin' about my darlin'.
I can still hear her sayin' good-bye.

Oh, the moon glows pale as I sit here.
Each little star seems to whisper and say,
"Your sweetheart has found another,
And now she is far, far away."

"Sittin' Alone in the Moonlight" by Bill Monroe, from the album "The Music of Bill Monroe." © MCA Records, 1994. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the man who brought us the gossip column: writer and radio commentator Walter Winchell, (books by this author) born in New York City (1897). He started out in vaudeville and contributed gossip to the vaudeville newspaper, then moved on to the New York Daily Mirror. He managed to make friends with everyone from the mafia to J. Edgar Hoover, and to collect plenty of juicy tidbits about them. His radio broadcasts blended news and entertainment, and he had the top-rated radio show for many years.

He said, "Nothing recedes like success."

It's the birthday of Francis Ford Coppola, born in Detroit (1939). He is the director of the trio of Godfather films and Apocalypse Now (1979), which he co-wrote as well as directed, based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1899).

It's the birthday of "Lady Day," jazz singer Billie Holiday, born Eleanora Fagan in Baltimore (1915). The facts of her life are fuzzy because she exaggerated or just made up much of her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues (1956). But there's no doubt that she had a difficult childhood. Her father left and soon her mother did too, to work as a maid, and left her daughter in the care of relatives. She left school after fifth grade and went to work, and she ended up in Harlem. She worked for a brothel and was arrested for prostitution, went to jail, got work waiting tables and sometimes singing as well. When she was 20 years old, she filled in for a better-known performer, and the jazz writer and producer John Hammond heard her. He announced that she was the best singer he had ever heard, and that helped to launch her career. She became famous for her bluesy, intimate versions of jazz songs, and she wrote some of her own, including "God Bless the Child" and "Lady Sings the Blues."

It's the birthday of postmodern novelist and short-story writer Donald Barthelme, (books by this author) born in Philadelphia (1931). He grew up in Texas. During the Korean Conflict, he was drafted into the Amy, but he arrived in Korea the same day that the truce was signed. He loved The New Yorker,and all he wanted was to be a New Yorker writer, so he started writing short stories and sending them to the magazine. And not long after that, they started getting accepted. He went on to publish four novels, including Snow White (1967), a contemporary take on the fairy tale, and many short-story collections, including Come Back, Dr. Caligari (1964) and Sixty Stories (1981). His short stories were usually very short, a style that's sometimes labeled "flash fiction," without the kind of narrative arc that's traditional in stories, and with quirky plots: "Daumier," for example, is the story of a Texas ranch with a herd of beautiful girls instead of cattle.

It's the birthday of poet William Wordsworth, (books by this author) born in Cockermouth, England (1770). His mother died when he was eight, and he went off to school at Hawkshead in the heart of the Lake District. He read some outside of school, but more than reading he liked to wander around the countryside, go walking or riding. When he was 13, his father died, and he was separated from his four siblings, including his beloved Dorothy, his younger sister. But he continued at school, went on to Cambridge, and in 1787 he published his first poem, "Sonnet on Seeing Miss Helen Maria Williams Weep at a Tale of Distress," in European Magazine. It begins:

She wept. — Life's purple tide began to flow
In languid streams through every thrilling vein;
Dim were my swimming eyes — my pulse beat slow,
And my full heart was swell'd to dear delicious pain.

And then, during the summer vacation of 1790, he went on a trip that changed his life, a walking tour through France and Switzerland with a friend from school, Robert Jones. They arrived in France as it was celebrating the Revolution, so for a while Wordsworth was completely absorbed in politics and social issues, but then they continued on to the Alps, where he was overwhelmed by the sublime presence of nature, without any human presence at all. He and his friend got separated from the rest of the group and had to guess at which paths to take, and eventually they realized that the moment they had been waiting for with so much anticipation — cresting and crossing the Alps — they had already done without noticing. And then he wrote about hiking in the Alps, and the disappointment of crossing them without knowing, but he wrote that it taught him:
Our destiny, our nature, and our home,
Is with infinitude — and only there;
With hope it is, hope that can never die,
Effort, and expectation, and desire,
And something evermore about to be.

He wrote about nature and the imagination in poems like "Tintern Abbey" and "The World is Too Much with Us."

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




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