300 years ago today, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe was first published. Most people consider it the first novel in the English language, it is a fictional autobiography of a castaway who spent 28 years on a remote tropical island, encountering cannibals before ultimately being rescued. Often credited as the beginning of the realistic fiction genre, it became so popular that the book is second only to the bible in its number of translations. Robinson Crusoe was likely based on the life of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish castaway who lived for years on a Pacific island near Chile, which in 1966 was renamed Robinson Crusoe Island. But, Daniel Defoe was more than a storyteller. WATCH a video… (1719)

Defoe defiantly wrote many political tracts touting ideas that often got him into trouble with authorities—and landed him once in prison. One legend told of his serving a sentence in the public square locked in a pillory (the restraining stocks used for humiliation of prisoners). The public so loved him, especially for his satire, they threw flowers instead of rotten food, or worse. Defoe was a prolific and versatile writer, producing more than 300 works on diverse topics, including crime, religion, marriage, psychology, and the supernatural—he even pioneered business and economic journalism. He was also the author of Moll Flanders.

MORE Good News on this Day:

  • The French national anthem, La Marseillaise, was composed by Rouget de Lisle (1792)
  • The first issue of the DC Comics series “Batman” hit newsstands with its #1 issue that featured the sidekick boy wonder Robin, and Batman’s greatest adversary, the Joker (1940)
  • The United Negro College Fund was incorporated (1944)
  • The Liberation of Italy, when Nazi occupation forces exited Milan, is celebrated annually on this day (1945)
  • 50 nations gathered in San Francisco to begin the United Nations Conference on International Organizations (1945)
  • Two Cambridge University scientists published their discovery of the double helix, DNA (deoxyribose nucleic acid), after two months earlier unraveling what they called, “the secret of life” (1953)
  • Israel completed its withdrawal from the Sinai peninsula per the Camp David Accords (1982)
  • James Richardson was freed from a Florida prison 21 years after his wrongfully conviction for murder (1989)
  • The final piece of the Obelisk of Axum was returned to Ethiopia from Rome after being looted in 1937 by the invading Italian army (2005)

Al_Pacino-CC-Thomas Schulz-2004Happy 79th Birthday to actor Al Pacino, whose grandparents came from a town in Sicily named Corleone. Growing up, he was a smoking, drinking teen nicknamed Sonny, but he never skipped an English class. After dropping out of high school, he aimed for a career in the theater, worked odd jobs and was sometimes homeless. It was the 1971 film The Panic in Needle Park, in which he played a heroin addict, that brought Pacino to the attention of director Francis Ford Coppola, who, in 1972, cast him as Michael Corleone in the blockbuster Mafia film, The Godfather. (1940)

And on this day in 1933, Jerry Leiber, a songwriter and producer for Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and The Monkees, was born. Along with his partner Michael Stoller—as part of the famous duo Leiber and Stoller—their hit songs included Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock, Kansas City, On Broadway, There Goes My Baby, Love Potion #9, and Yakety Yak. (Watch an interview from WGBH-TV with the man who died in 2011)

Also, on this day in 1917, the American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald was born.

After tumultuous teenage years in Yonkers, NYC, Fitzgerald found stability in music, both in her gospel church and listening to jazz classics like Louis Armstrong. Known as “The First Lady of Song,” she is beloved for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, three-octave range, and trombone-like improvisational skill, particularly while scat singing. Her rendition of the nursery rhyme “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” helped boost her to national fame, and later collaborations with Armstrong (Dream a Little Dream of Me), The Ink Spots (Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall), and Duke Ellington (It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing), were some of her most notable performances. Fitzgerald’s influence lives on through her albums, which won her thirteen Grammy Awards.

Fitzgerald was a quiet but ardent supporter of many charities and non-profits, and in 1993 established the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation to use the fruits of her success to help people of all races to find rewarding lives through the love of reading and music. She died in her Beverly Hills home in 1996 at the age of 79… Watch a live performance from 1974… (CC Image by Comunicom)

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