Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Frankfort, KY for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Maryville, TN for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Fort Lauderdale, FL for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Palm Desert, CA
Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Palm Desert, CA for a performance of holiday songs, humor and The News from Lake Wobegon.
Town Hall, New York City
A Prairie Home Companion American Revival comes to Town Hall in New York City with Christine DiGiallonardo, Heather Masse, Rob Fisher and the Demitasse Orchestra, Rich Dworsky, Walter Bobbie, Sue Scott, Fred Newman and Tim Russell.
Everyone is Afraid of Something
by Dannye Romine Powell
Once I was afraid of ghosts, of the dark,
of climbing down from the highest
limb of the backyard oak. Now I’m afraid
my son will die alone in his apartment.
I’m afraid when I break down the door,
I’ll find him among the empties-bloated,
discolored, his face a stranger’s face.
My granddaughter is afraid of blood
and spider webs and of messing up.
Also bees. Especially bees. Everyone,
she says, is afraid of something.
Another fear of mine: that it will fall to me
to tell this child her father is dead.
Perhaps I should begin today stringing
her a necklace of bees. When they sting
and welts quilt her face, when her lips
whiten and swell, I’ll take her
by the shoulders. Child, listen to me.
One day, you’ll see. These stings
Are nothing. Nothing at all.
Dannye Romine Powell, “Everyone Is Afraid of Something” from A Necklace of Bees. Copyright © 2008 by The University of Arkansas Press. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC, on behalf of the publishers, www.uapress.com. (buy now)
Today is the birthday of singer and songwriter Richard Steven Valenzuela (1941), born in Pacoima, a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. He’s better known as “Ritchie Valens” and you’ve probably danced along to two of his biggest hits: “La Bamba” and “Donna.” Ritchie Valens’s career only lasted eight months. He died in a plane crash in Iowa in 1959 alongside fellow 1950s rockers Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. He was only 17.
Ritchie Valens grew up listening to traditional Mexican mariachi music and flamenco guitar, but he also soaked up a lot of R & B and jump blues. When he was five his dad bought him a trumpet and Ritchie taught himself to play the drums. By the time he was a teenager he was giving impromptu concerts in the bleachers at his high school, earning him the nickname “Little Richard of San Fernando.” A local band called The Silhouettes asked him to join them. He made his public debut on October 19, 1957, and when a record producer came calling, Richard Valenzuela followed. The producer shortened his first name to Ritchie and his last name to Valens.
Ritchie Valens had a girlfriend named Donna. They’d dated about a year before deciding to see other people. One night he called her up and sang a song he’d written about missing her. She liked it but didn’t think much of it until several months later when she was driving in a car with friends and the song came on the radio, and she realized her boyfriend was about to become famous. Donna became famous too: even Elvis Presley had his bodyguard try to arrange a date with her. Pretty soon Valens dropped out of high school to go on tour. He appeared on The Perry Como Show and American Bandstand.
Ritchie Valens biggest hit was “La Bamba,” a hard-driving, peppy song he sung entirely in Spanish. The song is a traditional Mexican folk song dating back to the 1830s that’s popular at dances, weddings, and festive dinners. In Mexico it was mostly played on a small guitar and with a harp as an accompaniment. Valens grew up in an English-speaking household and wasn’t fluent in Spanish so he learned the words phonetically, getting the lyrics from his aunt. The song became a massive hit with Valens becoming a pioneer for mixing traditionally Latin sounds with rock music.
During his lifetime Ritchie Valens only recorded two albums and 33 songs.
It’s the 36th birthday of actress Lena Dunham (books by this author), born in New York City (1986). Dunham is also writer, producer, director, and star of the popular HBO show Girls. Girls first aired in 2012 and its finale aired in April 2017. Dunham’s work with the show earned her the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing of a Comedy Series in 2013, making her the honor’s first female recipient. That same year Dunham was included in TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World list. “I think if you feel like you were born to write,” Dunham said, “then you probably were.”
It’s the birthday of the woman The London Times called “the leading Scottish poet of her generation:” Kathleen Jamie (books by this author), born in Renfrewshire, Scotland (1962). Her family didn’t keep a lot of books, although her mother would check out thrillers from the library. There were two copies of the poems of Robert Burns, prizes given to Jamie’s parents when they were still at school. She started writing poetry in high school and, when she was 19, used money from a writing award to travel around the Himalayas. The next year, when she was still in college studying philosophy, she published her first book of poems, Black Spiders (1982). Her latest is a collection of poems titled The Bonniest Companie (2015).
“When we were young, we were told that poetry is about voice, about finding a voice and speaking with this voice, but the older I get I think it’s not about voice, it’s about listening and the art of listening, listening with attention. I don’t just mean with the ear; bringing the quality of attention to the world. The writers I like best are those who attend.”
It was on this day in 1940 that Winston Churchill gave his first speech as prime minister to the House of Commons. Three days earlier he had taken over the job from Neville Chamberlain, who resigned. Chamberlain was a controversial leader — he had signed the Munich Agreement in September of 1938, ceding a region of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, a decision that Churchill highly criticized at the time. After Chamberlain’s decision Churchill had said in a speech to the House of Commons: “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war.” Sure enough, one year later Britain declared war on Germany, and eight months after that Chamberlain stepped aside.
So, although the 65-year-old Churchill had been a politician for more than 30 years and delivered plenty of speeches to the House of Commons, this was his first as prime minister. Churchill’s reception from the House of Commons was not particularly enthusiastic — plenty of Conservative members wanted Chamberlain to stay on as prime minister. But the speech Churchill gave is considered one of his greatest. He said:
“I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.’ We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime.”
Churchill wrote more than 40 books — histories, biographies, memoirs, and even a novel. He is the only British prime minister who has received the Nobel Prize in literature.
It’s the birthday of novelist Daphne du Maurier (books by this author), born in London (1907). Her father was a famous actor-manager and her mother was an actress. She grew up in a world of privilege — she spent her childhood sailing, traveling, and writing stories. One day she and her sister found an abandoned mansion called Menabilly near their family’s home in Cornwall and du Maurier was fascinated by the gloomy stone building near the sea.
Her grandfather was a novelist and cartoonist and it was partly because of her family connections that du Maurier’s first novel, The Loving Spirit (1931), was published when she was just 24 years old. An army major named Frederick Browning read The Loving Spirit and loved it. He was particularly dazzled by du Maurier’s descriptions of the Cornish coast and, since he was an avid sailor, he took his boat to Cornwall to see the coast for himself. When he heard that the author of the book was nearby he went to visit du Maurier, and three months later they were married.
A few years later she was in Egypt, where her husband was stationed. She hated everything about Cairo and was desperately homesick; she admitted later that she missed Cornwall even more than she missed her children, who had stayed behind in England with their nanny. In addition to her homesickness she was brooding over her jealousy of a woman named Jan Ricardo, a glamorous woman who had been her husband’s first fiancée but had committed suicide. Du Maurier had found a couple of Ricardo’s notes to her husband, which she had signed in a beautiful script with a big, curlicue “R” in her signature.
Du Maurier began a new novel. She wrote in her notebook:
“Very roughly the book will be about the influence of a first wife on a second […] she is dead before the book opens. Little by little I want to build up the character of the first in the mind of the second […] until wife 2 is haunted day and night […] a tragedy is looming very close and CRASH! BANG! something happens.”
She struggled to work in the heat, her fingers sticking to her typewriter keys, and she ended up throwing her first attempt in the trash.
She left Egypt, and back in England the book came together quickly. She based the house in her novel on a mansion she had visited as a girl where she remembered meeting a tall, menacing housekeeper — but for the mood and setting she drew on Menabilly, the crumbling estate she had discovered many years before. In her novel Menabilly became the estate of Manderley and the opening sentence of her new novel was “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” The narrator of the novel is the second Mrs. de Winter, whose first name is never given; but the first Mrs. de Winter, now dead, gives her name to the title of the book: Rebecca. When Rebecca (1938) was published, it became an immediate best-seller. Du Maurier made enough money from the novel, and Alfred Hitchcock’s film based on it, to buy Menabilly herself. She called it her “rat-filled ruin,” and slowly fixed it up.
Du Maurier’s other books included Jamaica Inn (1936), Hungry Hill (1943), and The Birds and Other Stories (1963).
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®