Bob Marley died 30 years ago today in Miami at the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, now University of Miami Hospital. I didn’t know this before today, and I wish I’d had more time to put together a post commemorating the great man’s life and all-too-early death from cancer at the age of 36. Miami tends to have Marley on the brain more than most cities because much of his surviving family lives here, because of the annual Marley Fest, and, well, because Miami loves its marijuana. But on this occasion let’s look through the cloud of smoke and pay deep homage to a man who, perhaps more than any other musician in the 20th century, epitomized an entire genre. (At least in pop culture, reggae rose and fell with Tuff Gong.)
To that end, here’s a track I’ve always loved. Feel free to suggest others as a comment and I’ll embed them in the post throughout the rest of today. As anyone who ever spent an evening on the back porch listening to him knows very well, Marley recorded more than enough beautiful music to fill a single day.
On Feb. 25, 1964, in Miami Beach, Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) cashed the biggest mouth-written check in the history of sport when he TKO’d Sonny Liston, knock-out artist and reigning heavyweight world champion, after six rounds.
Absolutely no one has talked more shit — in verse, no less — before a sporting event than the 22-year-old “Louisville Lip” did in the lead up to this legendary fight. Exhibit A, a poem Clay had his sparring partner read on national television the night before the match:
Clay comes out to meet Liston and Liston starts to retreat, if Liston goes back an inch farther he’ll end up in a ringside seat. Clay swings with a left, Clay swings with a right, just look at young Cassius carry the fight. Liston keeps backing but there’s not enough room, it’s a matter of time until Clay lowers the boom. Then Clay lands with a right, what a beautiful swing, and the punch raised the bear clear out of the ring.*
Liston’s response, also delivered by his sparring partner: “Cassius, you’re my million dollar baby, so please don’t let anything happen to you before tomorrow night.”
On Feb. 13, 1964, The Beatles (heard of ‘em?) touched down in Miami and three days later, on Feb. 16, played the second of their three epochal Ed Sullivan Show performances.* Nixon’s waxen bizarro twin (Sullivan) gave the “youngsters” from Liverpool top billing and $10,000 for the three appearances. In exchange, he got the highest ratings in the history of American television, with 40 percent of the U.S. population tuning in for The Beatles’ Miami performance in the Deauville’s Napoleon Room.
Here is the Fab Four’s first set: “She Loves You”, “That Boy”, and “All My Loving”.
Giuseppe "I don't like no peoples" Zangara, FDR's would-be assassin.
We haven’t done a BitD in a while, so we figured we’d reprise it for an event not many people know about. On Feb. 15, 1933, an unemployed brick layer named Giuseppe Zangara fired six shots into a crowd gathered at Bayfront Park to hear President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt give a speech. FDR had just delivered the speech from the backseat of his open touring car (to spare his disabled body the walk to a podium) when Zangara shouted “Too many people are starving!” and opened fire. His bullets missed the president-elect but hit five other people, including the mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, who received a mortal stomach wound.
An excerpt from “FDR escapes assassination in Miami” (history.com):
Several men tackled the assailant and might have beaten him to death if Roosevelt had not intervened, telling the crowd to leave justice to the authorities. Zangara later claimed, “I don’t hate Mr. Roosevelt personally. I hate all officials and anyone who is rich.” He also told the FBI that chronic stomach pain led to his action: “Since my stomach hurt I want to make even with the capitalists by kill the president. My stomach hurt long time.”
FDR comforted Cermak on the ride to the hospital. “Medical staff credited Roosevelt with preventing the mayor from going into shock, thus giving him a better chance at recovery,” according to u-s-history.com.
While the attack ended Cermak’s political career, it worked to FDR’s advantage, as his composure and compassion apparently gave the nation faith in his ability to lead them out of the Great Depression.
As for Zangara, he was initially sentenced to 80 years in prison for attempted murder. But when Cermak later died of his wound, the ineloquent bricklayer (“I don’t like no peoples”) was retried and sentenced to death. On March 5, 1933, Zangara fried in the electric chair.
On Nov. 28, 1969, three months after Woodstock, Janis Joplin, Sly & The Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane and others in that historic lineup came down to Florida for another three-day music festival. The Palm Beach headliner was the Rolling Stones, who six days later would headline the infamous Altamont Speedway Free Festival where four people died, one by stabbing.
Perhaps being historically sandwiched between Woodstock and Altamont is why few seem to remember the Palm Beach Pop Festival (officially, the Palm Beach Music & Art Festival; aka, “Woodstock South”). It’s a shame considering the festival’s all-star lineup — which also included the Chambers Brothers, The Byrds, and Steppenwolf (but notably not Jimi Hendrix) — and the outlandish reports of official local resistance to the influx of 50,000 “long hairs”. Check out this excerpt from a 2009 Palm Beach Post article.
Then-Palm Beach County Sheriff Bill Heidtman vowed to make life miserable for the free-loving, pot-smoking, anti-establishment youngsters who were coming to the Palm Beach Pop Festival. He threatened to herd alligators toward the crowd, gathered on a grassy field at the Palm Beach International Raceway. And he promised to dig out fire ant colonies and relocate them at the venue.
And it wasn’t a warm welcome in another sense: a cold rain swept through over the weekend and turned the grounds into a mud pit. The stouthearted slept atop their cars, but many packed it in and left, so that only about 3,000 people witnessed the Stones’ closing performance.
JFK flashing that famous Brahman smile on the streets of Miami.
Fifty years ago today, presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy went shopping for votes at the 163rd Street Mall, in North Miami Beach. Judging by the text of his stump speech, it was a pretty routine campaign stop, with JFK portraying the dread Nixon as out of touch with the pulse of the country.
Seventy-five years ago today, a soul baby named Sam Moore was born in Miami, and the sawgrass swayed in the humid wind.
Soul Man Sam Moore came up singing gospel on the Miami music scene.
The son of a church deacon and choir singer, Moore grew up belting out gospel in the South and rocking Miami’s local R&B/soul circuit. One night in 1961, he helped a Georgia singer named David Prater through a rendition of Jackie Wilson’s “Doggin’ Around” at the King of Hearts club, “a local bastion of Miami black nightlife,” according to Rob Bowman’s Soulsville U.S.A. Following the performance, the two fiery and symmetric men regularly torched Miami’s music scene as a suit-clad, synchronized duo and eventually caught the attention of Atlantic Records co-owner Jerry Wexler.
It was 165 degrees in the middle of summer. It was hot and they were hot. It was wall-to-wall people. We were the only Caucasians in there [the King of Hearts]. Ahmet [Ertegun, Wexler’s partner at Atlantic] and I are out there boogalooing like fools, sweating and just having a ball. It was so exciting. When I heard them there that night, that’s all she wrote. I signed them up immediately. — from Soulsville U.S.A.
In 1965, Wexler sent “Sam & Dave” to its Memphis affiliate, Stax Records, which boasted songwriters Isaac Hayes and Dave Porter, house band Booker T and the MGs, and God’s gift to ears: Otis Redding. With Stax, Sam & Dave went on to record some of the 60s’ funkiest tracks, including “Hold On! I’m Comin” (1966) and “Soul Man” (1967).
Today marks the 18th anniversary of a good day in Miami Hurricanes history. Coming after an 8-7 win against the Arizona Wildcats that demoted the Canes to #2 in the country, the reigning champs faced the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl on October 3, 1992. Hurricane Andrew had razed swaths of Miami to the ground in late August, and the city was hungry for a win against its state rival.
The Seminoles came into the Orange Bowl ranked #3 in the country. Led by quarterback and future Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward, FSU had won its previous four games. But the Seminoles’ streak was fated to end in agonizing and familiar fashion.
Beaten to death by a nightclub bouncer is, by anyone’s estimation, a bad way to go. On this day in 1987, Jaco Pastorius, a pioneer of the fretless electric bass who grew up in Fort Lauderdale, succumbed to that grim fate when he died in a coma at Broward General Medical Center. Jaco had suffered multiple facial fractures and damage to his right eye and left arm at the hands of Luc Havan, a bouncer at the Midnight Bottle Club who was trained in martial arts. Jaco allegedly had kicked in a glass door after being denied entry to the club, and Havan evidently responded by kicking the shit out of the renowned jazz musician. At the hospital, Jaco fell into a coma and was put on life support. He later suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and died on Sept. 21, 1987, at the age of 35. He is buried at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Cemetery in North Lauderdale.
Havan was charged with second degree murder but copped a manslaughter plea. He served four months of a 22-month prison sentence.
Jaco Pastorius may well have been the last jazz musician of the 20th century to have made a major impact on the musical world at large. Everywhere you go, sometimes it seems like a dozen times a day, in the most unlikely places you hear Jaco’s sound; from the latest tv commercial to bass players of all stripes copping his licks on recordings of all styles, from news broadcasts to famous rock and roll bands, from hip hop samples to personal tribute records, you hear the echoes of that unmistakable sound everywhere.
Forty years ago today, a Miami jury convicted one James Douglas Morrison — better known as the Lizard King, Mr. Mojo Risin, or simply Jim — on misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure and open profanity. The verdict came more than a year after The Doors infamous concert at a converted seaplane hangar in Coconut Grove called the Dinner Key Auditorium, where Jim allegedly whipped out his [insert colloquialism for ‘penis’ here] in front of a crowd of about 12,000 Miami fans.
Whether he actually did any such thing, the “Miami Incident” may never have garnered national headlines if not for the attention of a Miami Herald reporter named Larry Mahoney. An FSU student at the same time as Jim, Mahoney has gone down in “Justice for Jim” circles as the opportunistic muckraker whose exaggerated accounts of the concert goaded goadable Miami politicians into proving their law-enforcement bona fides at Jim’s expense.
Here’s an excerpt of Mahoney’s “Rock Group Fails to Stir A Riot,” from March 3, 1969:
Many of the nearly twelve thousand youths said they found the bearded singer’s exhibition disgusting. Included in the audience were hundreds of unescorted junior and senior high school girls…. Morrison appeared to masturbate in full view of the audience, screamed obscenities, and exposed himself. He also got violent, slugged several [concert promoters], and threw one of them off the stage before he himself was hurled into the crowd.
Many people who were at the concert dispute Mahoney’s rendition (including Bill Campbell, interviewed below, who thought Jim had stuck his finger through his zipper for a lark). What no one disputes is that Jim was damn drunk and screaming damn-drunkenly at the crowd and his band (in this audio recording from the concert, he interrupts “Touch Me” with screams of “It’s all fucked up. You blew it!”). Having missed his flight to Miami from L.A., he had loaded up at several airport lounges and arrived late for the concert. To add to the tension, the concert promoters pulled a fast one on The Doors by booking them at a flat $25,000 fee and then ripping out the auditorium seats so as to double its capacity. If Jim did tussle with “several” concert promoters, that’s probably why.