It’s a new year. And as we look forward, we also look back.
Anniversaries — what happened 10, 20, 30, 100 years ago — are a good way to gauge where we are now, and where we’ve been. Hard to believe there was ever a time when Star Wars, Sgt. Pepper, Harry Potter or jazz were new. But they were. And not so long ago, either.
Here are 17 pop culture icons having big birthdays in 2017.
Recorded jazz, March 7, 1917: “Livery Stable Blues,” released by the Original Dixieland Jass [sic] Band, doesn’t get high marks from most jazz historians. But it was the first disc to be issued as a “jazz” record, and it was a huge hit, paving the way for others. Later that same year, Wilbur Sweatman’s band became the first African-American musicians to record jazz.
Movies with sound, Oct. 6, 1927: The Jazz Singer was not really the first “talkie” (sound movies had been attempted as early as the 1890s), but it was the film that launched “the talkie revolution.” Once it hit big, silent movies were history.
Spam, July 5, 1937: It’s the mystery meat that’s fun to eat. People developed a taste for this tinned foodstuff during World War II, when other kinds of nourishment were unavailable, and many love it to this day. And as Monty Python discovered, it’s as much fun to say as it is to eat. “Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam …” More recently, we’ve discovered it’s less fun when served online.
Hobbits, Sept. 21, 1937: J.R.R. Tolkien published his children’s book The Hobbit 80 years ago, giving readers their first glimpse of Middle Earth. There would be more to come.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Dec. 21, 1937: The same year as The Hobbit, a different breed of little people heigh-ho’d their way into moviegoers’ hearts. “Snow White” was the first feature-length animated film; it was a game-changer for Disney, and for Hollywood.
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Sept. 18, 1937: This coming-of-age novel by Zora Neale Hurston was ignored by the mainstream press at the time, and patronized by many of Hurston’s fellow — male — Harlem Renaissance writers. Forty years later, it became the cornerstone of a new black literary movement, as women novelists from Alice Walker to Toni Morrison sang its praises.
Casablanca, Nov. 26, 1942: Here’s looking at you, kid. Hollywood’s most beloved love story is still worth toasting, three-quarters of a century later.
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SOURCE: USA Today; The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record, Jim Beckerman