Above: Schubert at sixteen.
ON THIS DATE in 1797, Franz Schubert was born. At seventeen in 1814 he composed “Gretchen am Spinnrade,” considered the first modern German art song. Based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust I, the song expresses a simple village maiden’s rush of emotions after Faust has kissed her in a garden house. Richard Capell in Schubert’s Songs (1957) called “Gretchen am Spinnrade” “Schubert’s first masterpiece” and said “there had been nothing at all like it in music before.”
One year later, the eighteen-year-old Schubert composed 140 songs, including ““Erlkönig,” also based on a work by Goethe. A one-person mini-opera, “Erlkönig” tells of a father’s ride through the night trying to save his child from the king of the elves. Immensely popular during the 19th-century, the haunting “Erlkonig” has been called “easily the most familiar single piece from the German song repertory.”
ON THIS DATE in 1961, the Shirelles reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” co-written by eighteen-year-old Carole King (above). Shirley Owens, nineteen, sang lead vocals on the first song by an all-girl group to reach number one.
Attending Queens College in Brooklyn, King and Gerry Goffin met, got married, and started writing songs together. The two worked other jobs — she as a secretary, he as a chemist — until selling “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” to song publisher Don Kirshner, who gave them both a $10,000 advance for the risqué tune about post-coital reservations from a night of love.
The first hit for the King-Goffin team was far from their last. King composed the melodies and Goffin supplied the lyrics for numerous early ’60s hits, including Bobby Vee’s “Take Good Care of My Baby,” Little Eva’s “The Locomotion,” and Steve Lawrence’s “Go Away Little Girl” — all number-one hits in 1961 and ’62. King divorced Goffin in 1968 and released Tapestry in 1971, an album that spent 17 weeks at number one, sold 25 million copies worldwide, and brought the singer-songwriter four Grammy awards.
The Shirelles recorded five more top-10 singles in 1961 and 1962, including “Soldier Boy,” a number one hit for three weeks in May of 1962.
Above: A child-labor parade for silkworkers in 1913, with inset of Hannah Silverman.
ON THIS DATE in 1896, Hannah Silverman was born. At seventeen, she was one of the leaders of the Paterson (New Jersey) Silk Strike of 1913. International Workers of the World founder Bill Haywood called Hannah the “greatest little IWW woman in America,” and labor activist Helen Gurley Flynn called her “the heroine of this strike.” An assistant prosecutor, meanwhile, labeled her a “little agitator,” and a judge called her an “impudent girl.”
By the second week of the strike, which began on February 25, some 24,000 workers had walked off their jobs, shutting down 300 silk mills. Silverman emerged as a leader of the strikers, who were seeking eight-hour workdays and minimum pay of $12 a week, due to her public-speaking skills and passion. Addressing a crowd of 20,000 striking workers one Sunday she said, “I’ve been to county jail three times already, but they can’t keep me away from the picket lines!” The Paterson Daily News called Silverman “one of the leading lights in the present strike,” and The New York Times found her “pretty and intelligent” and a “match” for prosecutors in courtroom savvy.
Stretching over six long months, the silk-workers strike ended in defeat for the workers. It took until 1919 for silk mill employees to receive an eight-hour workday. Silverman’s labor activism ended with the close of the strike. She died in 1960 at the age of sixty-four.
ON THIS DATE in 2006, seventeen-year-old Kevin Stephan used the Heimlich maneuver to save the life of a nurse who’d saved his life seven years earlier.
One day in 1999, eleven-year-old Stephan took an accidental blow to the chest while serving as a batboy at a baseball game in Buffalo, New York. Penny Brown, a nurse in the stands, rushed to revive Stephan. She used CPR to restart his heart and save his life.
Fast forward to January 27, 2006: Stephan was washing dishes at the Hillview Restaurant in Depew, New York, when Penny Brown, in the dining room, started choking on her food. The restaurant manager called for Stephan, a volunteer firefighter trained in lifesaving techniques. The teenager applied the Heimlich maneuver to Brown and, after two thrusts, the food was dislodged.
After the woman recovered, Stephan realized it was the nurse who’d saved his life seven years earlier. “It’s almost unbelievable,” he told ABC News.
ON THIS DATE 25 years ago (1989), fifteen-year-old Savion Glover appeared in the Broadway musical Black and Blue, which opened at the Minskoff Theater and played for 829 performances. Glover and and two other teenage dancers brought down the house, said The New York Times, by tapping up and down a stairway to the tune of “Rhythm Is Our Business.”
One month later Glover starred with Gregory Hines in the movie, Tap. “He is as dazzling and inventive a performer as ever, a dancer whose irrepressible physical expansiveness gives him a soaring look,” The Times said in 1991, the year Glover won a Martin Luther King Outstanding Youth Award. “Dance seems to flow out of him, with an endearing lack of assumption.”
Glover was just twelve when he made his Broadway debut as the title character in The Tap Dance Kid. He won a Tony award for choreographing 1996’s Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk, a musical he co-created with George C. Wolfe. “My style is young,” Glover has said. “I feel like it’s one of my responsibilities to keep the dance alive, to keep it out there.”