David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music — Death, Education


• Even after releasing the single “It’s Like That” in March of 1983, the members of the rap group Run-D.M.C. weren’t sure that their music career would continue, so they enrolled in college. Jay “Jam Master Jay” Mizell later explained, “Everyone said rap was a fad. I knew death wasn’t a fad, so I majored in mortuary science.”

• Ludwig van Beethoven died during a tremendous thunderstorm. A lightning bolt flashed across Vienna at 5:45 p.m. on March 26, 1827, and thunder rocked the air. Lying on his deathbed, Beethoven opened his eyes, clenched his fist, shook it at the heavens, and died.


• At age 13, William F. Buckley was sent to an English boarding school, where his piano teacher offered to teach him the first movement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” However, William’s old piano teacher had warned him that playing the “Moonlight Sonata” before one was ready was simply wrong; therefore, he wrote her for permission to learn to play its first movement. Quickly, he received a letter from her in reply, and she did not give him permission to learn the first movement. She explained that if one was unable to learn the difficult third movement, and then one should not learn the first movement. She also explained that the first movement required a “maturity” that William was too young to have acquired. Mr. Buckley writes that this letter helped teach him that “good music is a very serious business.”

• Trey Reely, the band director of Paragould High School in Paragould, Arkansas, follows a tradition of punishing students by telling them to get a pinecone when they do something wrong. Pine trees line the band practice field, and the naughty student runs to the side of the field, picks up a pinecone, and then brings it back. Once, Mr. Reely told the band that he would not keep them late one practice, but he did keep them late; therefore, after practice his students made him get a pinecone.

• A mother once asked George Bernard Shaw what musical instrument her son should learn to play, adding that she hoped that Shaw could specify an instrument which would save her the discomfort of the early learning stage during which her son would not have mastered the instrument. Shaw suggested that her son learn to play the bagpipes, saying they sound exactly the same whether or not the musician knows how to play them.

• As a student, comic singer Anna Russell was so bored with her history lessons that she transformed her notes into jingles, set them to music, and began singing them. When other students found out what she was doing, they also asked for copies of her jingles, and soon the jingles were being sung all over the school. That year’s graduating class was noisy, but it achieved the school’s all-time high scores in history.

• Woody Allen largely taught himself how to play jazz trumpet by listening to and imitating the records of jazz great George Lewis. After Mr. Allen recorded the soundtrack for his movie Sleeperwith the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the New Orleans Funeral and Ragtime Orchestra, trombonist Jim Robinson said to him, “Did anyone ever tell you that you sound like my friend George Lewis?”

• When she was young, Mariah Carey had an unsupportive teacher. Mariah told her teacher that she wanted to be a singer when she grew up, and the teacher snapped, “There are millions of people out there who can sing. What makes you any different? Don’t get your hopes up.” Fortunately, her mother told her to follow her dreams, and Ms. Carey recorded five Number One hits in a row.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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