On This Day in Rock & Roll History: May 26

I can’t believe it’s been six weeks since my last installment in this recurring music history feature. And even though to me it feels like I’ve covered so many dates already, the reality is I have more than 300 left to go. Do without further ado, let’s take a look at May 26!

1964: Lenny Kravitz was born in New York City as Leonard Albert Kravitz. He was the only child of actress Roxie Roker and Sy Kravitz, a news producer at NBC Television. Both of his parents have passed away. Kravitz was drawn to music since he was tiny. At age 3, he began using pots and pans as drums, and two years later, he apparently knew he wanted to become a professional musician. After his family had moved to Los Angeles in 1974, Kravitz started listening to rock music like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Creedence Clearwater Revival. When he set out to get a record deal, initially, he was given a hard time, with record labels either telling him he wasn’t “black enough” or “white enough.” Fortunately, Kravitz was able to overcome this BS, and in September 1989 his debut studio album Let Love Rule appeared. He has since released 10 additional studio records, in addition to a greatest hits compilation, as well as various box sets and EPs. My introduction to Kravitz was his sophomore album Mama Said from April 1991. Here’s a great rocker from that record he co-wrote with Slash: Always On the Run.

1967: The Beatles released their eighth studio album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. If I could only choose one of their records, a nearly impossible task, this would be it most days. On other occasions, I might go with Abbey Road or Revolver. You can read more about Sgt. Pepper and why I dig that album here. Following is the record’s grande final A Day in the Life, a tune that was mostly written by John Lennon. Paul McCartney’s main contribution is the middle section.

1969: Janis Joplin made the cover of Newsweek. The headline declared Janis Joplin: Rebirth of Blues. Seventeen months later, on October 4, 1970, Joplin was found dead in her room at the Landmark Motor Hotel in Los Angeles after she had not appeared for a recording session at Sunset Sound Recorders studios. An autopsy by L.A. coroner Thomas Noguchi determined she had passed away from a heroin overdose, possibly compounded by alcohol. Joplin, undoubtedly one of the most compelling female blues vocalists, was only 27 years old.

1972: English rock band Mott the Hoople, which despite their cult status in England were on the verge of disintegration due to lack of commercial viability, recorded All the Young Dudes, a song that had been given to them by one of their fans: David Bowie, who also produced the single, played guitar, sang backing vocals and clapped. All of that happened in the middle of the night at Olympic Studios in London, where Bowie had managed to get them some time. The tune was released on July 28, 1972 and climbed all the way to no. 3 on the UK Singles Chart. In the U.S., All the Young Dudes became a top 40 hit, reaching no. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100. It ended up saving the band and extending their life until 1976.

1973: Deep Purple release Smoke on the Water as the third and final single from their sixth studio album Machine Head, another gem of a record, in my opinion. The tune, which must be a living nightmare of many folks working at guitar stores, was credited to all members of the band at the time: Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice. The song was inspired by a fire at the casino in Montreux, Switzerland on December 4, 1971, where Deep Purple were about to get underway with recording sessions for the Machine Head album. But some stupid with a flare gun/Burned the place to the ground – the night before after a Frank Zappa concert. Perhaps he had not liked Zappa’s performance! Whatever the case may have been, the tragic fire, which claimed all of Zappa’s equipment, led to one of the most iconic rock songs of the ’70s.

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts Music History Calendar; This Day in Music; YouTube

11 thoughts on “On This Day in Rock & Roll History: May 26”

  1. An eventful day in rock and roll history. Lenny Kravitz is 56? .. I think it is safe to say that Sgt. Pepper will remain the most famous album ever- what is #2? Thriller? [not as far as best but most famous?}

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess it all depends how you define “famous.”

      If you go by global sales, according to Wikipedia, the top 3 albums are Thriller (66m) and AC/DC: Back in Black and Meat Loaf: Bat Out of Hell tied at 50m.

      At 32m, Sgt. Pepper falls into the second tier (30-39m), tied with Michael Jackson: Dangerous, Celine Dion: Falling into You, Eagles: Hotel California and Dirty Dancing!😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am not considering sales- it just seems like about every greatest album ever list has Sgt. Pepper at the top. Albums also sold more in volume after The Beatles time. I don’t think it’s even The Beatles greatest album- but it was a game changer.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A busy day… When I heard Let Love Rule by Lenny Kravitz I automatically liked him.

    I do wonder where Janis would be now had she lived.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep. In fact, I understand that’s what some people criticized initially – that he sounds too much like Zeppelin, Hendrix and his other influences.

        Personally, I think it’s silly to accuse an artist for being inspired by other great artists.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The song Let Love Rule had a Beatles ring also but I didn’t mind at all! He never copied any of them…he was just influenced by them which is a good thing to me.

        Liked by 1 person

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