Musicians, Authors & Artists

All those creative guys and gals who are now mostly dead.

Don’t Get Your Gootch In A Sneedle: It’s Dr. Seuss
Our murky-mooshy humpf-humpf-a-dumpfer of the most bippo-no-bungus author in history.

Only one author in all of history can claim to have won an Academy Award and depicted Hitler as a turtle. That would be Theodore Giesel, more commonly known as “Dr. Seuss,” much less commonly known as “Jimbo the Cave-Diving Monkey Squirrel,” who sold an estimated 600 million books in his career, many of them containing the word “floob-boober-bab-boober-bubs.”

Steven Seagal vs. the Chartreuse Ovums

Giesel began his career as an advertising illustrator for Standard Oil and a product called “Flit,” which was a bug spray you bought in one of those big old-fashioned cartoony bug sprayers that, pumped once, fumigated your entire house, pets and family, as the bugs back then were all communists. He began to use the pseudonym “Seuss” in college (Geisel actually meant to have the name “Seuss” pronounced “Sue-ice.” Lesser known: he also wanted “Dr.” pronounced as “Dee-Arr-Dot.”) During World War II Giesel supported the war effort by drawing posters and working in the animation department of the Air Force, which was housed in the belly of a B-17 and would drop ink wells and derogatory cartoons on the heads of enemy soldiers. After the war he helped produce the decidedly non-kid-oriented documentary Design for Death, which did not star Steven Seagal as an undercover dressmaker in Cold War Moscow, but nevertheless won the Academy Award for “Documentary Not Using Made-Up Words Such As ‘Squitsch’, ‘Grickly Grucktus’, or ‘Gootch’.” It wasn’t until after the war that Seuss’s career began to take off, with a string of hits in the 50s including Horton Hears a Who!, The Cat in the Hat, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas. One of his most popular works was the result of a bet he made with his publisher that he couldn’t write a story using only 50 words, and none of them dirty. Seuss took the bet and wrote Green Eggs and Ham, which ranks 3rd in the most popular children’s books of all time, and contains such famous lines which, for copyright reasons, we cannot reprint here, but go something like:

“Do you prefer
Chartreuse ovums and the cured flesh from a domesticated porcine animal?
I do not prefer them, Sam, the self-aware antagonist
I do not prefer
Chartreuse ovums and the cured flesh from a domesticated porcine animal.”

Sloo-Slunkers and Amphibrachic Tetrameter

[x_pullquote type=”right”]Geisel wrote most of his books with anapestic tetrameter, a particularly virulent form of poetic arthritis that caused him to rhyme in four rhythmic units.[/x_pullquote]Geisel wrote most of his books with anapestic tetrameter, a particularly virulent form of poetic arthritis that caused him to rhyme in four rhythmic units. In later years, such as when he was writing “If I Ran The Circus,” he also suffered from amphibrachic tetrameter, a debilitating attack on the metrical foot consisting of a long syllable between two short syllables. Despite this, he was able to live a full, normal life, although he fathered no children. Most of Geisel’s artwork had a tendency to be somewhat rounded and droopy with no straight lines, indicating that he either was working in a hot studio or his ruler was broken. His post-war work was mostly in black and white sketch form, as color for the book and film industry was still being rationed, as can be seen in every Three Stooges short of the time. Later books, such as 1971’s “The Lorax,” used multiple colors, mixing bright greens, oranges, and purples, because it was the 70s, and no one knew any better because they were too worried about the width of their bell-bottoms. Some of his books have even been turned into full-blown Hollywood-style money-vacuuming motion pictures, which we’re going to pretend never happened, seeing as how none of them can hold a sloo-slunker to the classic Chuck Jones version of “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”

So no matter the color of your sneedle, or if you don’t know your zong from your diffendoofer, or if your turtle is a fascist, or if your belly has a star or just navel fuzz, or if you’re young or really old; I mean, like so old you can remember when there were pay phones, you can still enjoy the work of that guy who’s name I forgot because this sentence was too long.

Photo Credit: Jim Larrison cc

All About Bach: Part 3 (Curse of the Johanns)
The latest and last in our dubiously researched biography of Bach.

Things were going pretty well for Bach in 1720, considering most of the toilets were still outside and iPhones only had 1 inch screens. But then, tragically, Bach’s first wife died while he was on a trip to Carlsbad (not the one with the caverns.) He wasted no time getting his mojo back, however, as he married Anna Magdalena Wilcke the following year, who, although she had the kind of name you had to spell out when asking for restaurant reservations, was a gifted soprano. She was also 17 years younger than Bach, which probably puckered the powdered eyebrows of the local aristocracy, and landed him in the headlines of the local tabloids: “Lokalmatador heiratet junge Küken, damit er mehr Johanns erstellen!” (“Local boy weds young chick so he can make more Johanns!”). And make more they did, as at least 4 more Johanns of various sizes appeared over the next 21 years.

On to Leipzig

In 1723, Bach was appointed Cantor (“Lead Singer”) of the Thomasschule (“Thomas School”) at the Thomaskirche (“Thomas Church”) in “Thomas Town” — sorry, in Leipzig (Official Motto: “Cool! We Have ‘Zig’ In Our Name!”). This began his “choral” phase, where one of his main duties was to compose new “cantatas” (Spanish for “finely milled eighth notes”). Bach composed over 300 cantatas while in Leipzig, although around one hundred have been lost to posterity, which refuses to give them back but is willing to trade for some “Rush: Live” tickets and the Franco-Prussian War. Some of these cantatas include O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort (Oh Ewigkeit, You Dunder Wart!), Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Watch Out, Or You’ll Ruffle All The Stimmes!), and Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (No, Sir; I Do Not Know The Way To Holland).

Choral works including a Mass of something

[pullquote type=”right”]In March 1729, Bach took over the directorship of the Collegium Musicum from Georg Phillip Telemann, who was fired after a losing 1728 season.[/pullquote]In March 1729, Bach took over the directorship of the Collegium Musicum from Georg Phillipp Telemann, who was fired after a losing 1728 season. The Collegium Musicum was a secular performance group which provided Bach with an outlet for his instrumental compositions, as well as more exposure among the public, and important town professionals. It regularly performed in such places as the Café Zimmermann, a local coffeehouse, where young hipsters wearing square spectacles and skinny breeches would comb their beards in appreciation. In 1749, Bach visited King Frederick II at Potsdam (Official Motto: “No, We Don’t Have A Dam Made Entirely Of Pots”), where the King famously challenged Bach to improvise a fugue based on a theme he provided, while juggling 3 china plates and hopping on one leg. Bach was only able to do the fugue part, but it did result in one of his more famous pieces, the Musical Offering, which consisted of fugues, canons, and occasional bursts of small arms fire. His last large work was the Mass in B Minor, considered one of the greatest choral works of all time, along with that boy choir section from You Can’t Always Get Want You Want by The Rolling Stones.

Death brings a Whiter Shade of Pale

As most humans occasionally will, Bach died on July 28, 1750 at the age of 65, just before receiving his first Social Security check for $45.68. He left a legacy of incredibly important works, including Ouvertures, Airs, Gavottes, Passats, Elantras, Bourrées, Settees, Loveseats, Motets, Hotets, Gigues, Pigues and Figues. His Suite No. 3 in D major (BWV 1068, BVD, 10W40 Synthetic Blend) contains an “Air” section, which, as arranged by August Wilhelm, became famously known as Air on the G String, whose title we absolutely refuse to create a joke for. It was famously covered by Procol Harum in its 1967 hit A Whiter Shade of Pale, which really angered Bach, as he could not collect any royalties, being that he was by then completely dead. Although recognized in his lifetime more as a teacher and performer, his stature as a prominent composer began to grow to Shaquille O’Neal-sized importance during the 18th century, as composers such as Felix “The Cat” Mendelssohn began performing his works to enthusiastic crowds, most of them now related to Bach and suspiciously named Johann. Today, he is recognized as one of the most important composers who ever died, leaving a legacy that still has impact on your local NPR station’s playlist today.

All About Bach: Part 2 (Umlauts and Ill-Tempered Claviers)
The continuing story of everyone's favorite musical wig wearer.


In January of 1703, just after graduating from St. Michael’s, Bach was appointed court musician in the chapel of Duke Johann “Wayne” Ernst III in Weimar (Official Motto: “Pronounce The ‘W’ Like a ‘V’ You Stupid American”). While there, his reputation as a keyboardist began to spread, and he became the organist at St. Boniface’s in Arnstadt, his only request being that he never have to play “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”. St. Boniface boasted a new organ that used the “modern tempered” system which allowed a wide range of keys to be used, some of them even in tune. However, things became tense between Bach and his employer, as Bach complained about the quality of singers in his choir (some were actually mannikins from the local wedding dress shop) and his employer was upset that Bach took two months off to visit renowned organist Dietrich “Big Fingers” Buxtehude in Lübeck, a city known mostly for its cool umlaut. In 1706 Bach took another organist job at St. Blasius (Patron Saint of Apathy) church in Mühlhausen (Official Motto: “Lübeck Stole Our Umlaut Idea”). This job offered him better pay, improved conditions, a padded organ bench, a mannikin-less choir, and a bunch of surly teenagers to pump the organ. It was during his stay at Mulhausen that Bach married his second cousin Maria Barbara Bach, a crafty move by her, in that it kept her from not having to change her last name on her driver’s license. They had seven children, who were also conveniently named Bach, some of whom also became important composers, but we can’t talk about them, because we have to keep this under 700 words.

Fist fights and ill-tempered claviers

Bach left Mülhausen in 1708, as the city was running out of teenagers with strong legs, and returned to Weimar, where he took a job again with the Third Duke Johann Ernst, this time as organist as well as Konzertmeister (“Master of the Konzerts”). During this time he composed mostly keyboard and orchestral works, being particularly attracted to the Italian style, in which one or more solo instruments alternate section-by-section with the full orchestra throughout a movement, and then join together at the end for a massive, on-stage fist fight. It was here that he began to assemble the preludes and fugues that would become one of his signature works. He called it “The Well-Tempered Clavier“, because the ill-tempered claviers were just too hard to train, and would tend to bite during long movements. There were two volumes; each contained a prelude and a fugue in every major and minor key, and few other keys only dogs can hear. Eventually, Bach fell out of favor at Weimar, and was dismissed, even being jailed for a period, possibly for harboring a distempered clavier.

Suites and dances

From here, Bach accepted a job as Kapellmeister in Köthen (Official Motto: “The H May Be Silent But We Got Us An Umlaut”) for Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen. Most of his work here was secular and included orchestral suites, cello suites, toot suites, and suites with a pull out sofa. This was also where he composed the famous “Brandenburg Concertos“, so named because “Köthen Concertos” was too hard to spell on typewriters without umlaut keys. Bach also began to embrace dance music, composing such hits as “Get Off Your Corset And Dance”, “Fräulein’s Be All Up In My Wig” (Feat. Fourth Duke Archibald of Baden-Baden) and “My Umlaut Can Take Ü There, Liebchen” (Feat. “Bourgeois Breeches”).

But although Bach may have been king of the dance floor, tragedy and some new Johann’s were looming in his future.

NEXT TIME: Leipzig (Official Motto: “Cool! We Have ‘Zig’ In Our Name!”)

All About Bach: Part 1 (Attack of the Germanes)
Our dubiously-researched look at the greatest composer ever named Johann. (Sorry, Strauss.)

When you think of the name Bach, you probably think of that hard candy your grandma kept in the dish by the breadbox that you couldn’t have until after dinner, but that’s called Brach’s, which of course isn’t germane to our story. But, speaking of Germanes, did you know that the Jackson Five never recorded a single Bach song? And that Bach was actually BORN a Germane? Well, now that you’re totally confused, you’re in the right mode for a musical adventure we’re calling “Bach To The Future”, because we really want to get hammered in the comments section.

Early Life, Including a Gardening Metaphor

[su_pullquote align=”right”]They instructed Bach at an early age in the fundamentals of music, such as how to trick your bass player into buying a van for your gigs, and where to get the cheapest band t-shirts printed.[/pullquote]Johann Sebastian Bach, like most composers, was born. His particular birth area was called Eisenach, Germany, known mostly for the very poor Italian joke involving its name (“Luigi, Eisenach, butta you no ansa the door”) which we just made up. He was born the youngest of 8 children into a very musical family; his father was the town director and all of his uncles were musicians, and they instructed Bach at an early age in the fundamentals of music, such as how to trick your bass player into buying a van for your gigs, and where to get the cheapest band t-shirts printed. His uncle, Johann Christoph Bach, was already a noted composer, and he also had a cousin, Johann Ludwig Bach, who was also a Johann as well as a renowned violinist. Apparently there was a law in Liepzig that you needed to be named Johann if your name was Bach, as all of his brothers were named Johann, his sister was named Johanna and we suspect his dog was named Johann Dog Bach, and probably barked in counterpoint. Bach flourished in this hothouse of fertile, loamy, musical dirt, reaching rhapsodic roots deep into rich cultural heritage and bursting forth blossoms of notational beauty, to be plucked by, um, the… okay, what were we saying?

Johann, Johann, & Johann

Both of his parents died when he was young, and so he had to move in with his oldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach — say, can someone get a us a Bach genealogy chart, please? Thank you. Good grief; they’re all named Johann. Anyway, his older brother taught him to play the clavichord, kind of a prehistoric piano, and he received training in theology, Latin, Greek, French, and Italian at the local gymnasium, which apparently was staffed with some well-educated boxers. J. C. Bach also introduced him to composers such as Johann Pachelbel, who also founded a German taco restaurant chain, Johann (of course) Jakob Froberger, a bunch of Frenchmen, and the Italian clavieronimist… clavichordalissimo… clavi… clavierist Girolamo Frescobaldi, whose name we will not make a joke about at this time. And from here it was overnight stardom, champagne-filled claviers, screaming courtesans with those weird fake moles on their cheeks, and the knowledge that at least your son won’t be named Johann. Ohwait. Never mind.

High-Jinks and Blue Öyster Cult

Actually, no, like most composers, Bach was not an overnight success, and achieved no real fame during his lifetime, except for maybe having devilish good looks and a righteous wig. He first had to follow what his biography was telling him happened and go to St. Michael’s School in Lüneburg, which, despite the name, has no insane asylums, because we checked. Like most students, he spent his time involved not only with his music studies, but in spirited high-jinks; filling the organ pipes with baby powder, tying the KapellMeister’s wig onto his cat, and taunting rival schools with barbed cheers of Unsere orgel ist viel mehr verfeinert und majestätischer als das Organ, das Ihre Schule besitzt . Und Sie riechen schlecht. (“Our organ is much more refined and majestic than the organ which your school possesses. And you smell bad.”) It was in this rich musical atmosphere that his talent for playing the organ evolved, with all of the double-entendre possibilities this naturally entailed. His next challenge was what to do after graduation. Where would he find work? How would he pay off his student loans? Would he have to live in his parent’s basement and play clavier on weekends in a Blue Öyster Cult tribute band? Find out next time, if we ever finish it.

All About Mozart (Part 3: Figaro Has A Giant Schnoz)
Also, find out how many wigs 800 florins can buy.


1785 saw the beginning of one of Mozart’s more prolific periods. During this time he composed the one act opera Der Schauspieldirektor, a tribute to director Steven Spielberg, after which came a string of his most famous operatic works, including Le nozze di Figaro (“Figaro Has A Giant Schnoz”), and Don Giovanni, based on the life of Miami Vice actor Don Johnson. Mozart found a part-time job in 1787, when he went to work for Emperor Joseph II (named after his father, Joseph I, except with another “I” added) as his chamber composer, which paid just 800 florins (approx. 5 wigs) per year. A young Beethoven traveled to Vienna in 1787 hoping to meet Mozart, and although no reliable records indicate they ever met, unreliable ones indicate they played pool at a bar on the Strauserfennighammerstrasse, where they exchanged hilarious jokes about how squeaky clarinets sound.

Troubled times

[su_pullquote align=”right”]He began to borrow money and suffer from depression, both sure signs that you are a highly successful composer.[/pullquote]Unfortunately, during his final decade, Mozart’s finances and circumstances took a turn for the worse. The onset of the Austro-Turkish War between Australia and bands of well-armed turkeys had affected prosperity in Vienna, and caused Mozart to move his family to the suburbs, next to a 7-Eleven. He began to borrow money and suffer from depression, both sure signs that you are a highly successful composer. Even so, he was able to compose his last 3 symphonies (38, 39 and 40) and one of his last and most famous operas, Cosi fan tutte (“Women be like that; am I right fellas?”) during this period. During the last year if his life he benefited from sales of some of his dance music composed during his time as chamber composer, including Steigen Sie Ihre Perücken und Tanz (“Get Off Your Wigs and Dance”), Tanz wie ein preußischer Taverne Schenke (“Dance Like A Prussian Bar Maid”), Aufstehen (ich fühle mich die win) 18. Jahrhundert Musik Machin (“Get Up [I Feel Like Being an] 18th Century Music Machine”) and Sag es laut – Ich bin ein produktivsten und einflussreichsten Komponisten der Klassik und ich bin stolz (“Say It Loud – I’m a Prolific and Influential Composer of the Classical Era and I’m Proud”). None of these pieces survive, so don’t go looking to prove us wrong.

Death and legacy

Mozart fell ill in late 1791 with what the official records described as “hitziges Frieselfieber”, or “severe miliary fever”, or “we have no idea what ‘miliary’ is”, and “we checked and it’s not supposed to be ‘military'”. Researchers have come up with 118 other possible causes of death, including acute rheumatic fever, streptococcal infection, wig powder poisoning, trichinosis, quatrinosis, and a rare ailment that causes you to die in a way that causes researchers to spend way too much time trying to figure out what it was. Mozart was very prolific in his short life, which is why he probably had so many possible diseases, and composed over 600 pieces of music, many acknowledged as the peak of symphonic, choral, polycarbonate, chamber, operatic and hyperbaric music. He received many awards in his brief lifetime, including the Order of the Golden Spur from Pope Clement XIVIIVX in 1770 for his work on the motion picture Gitem’ Up The Old Sante Fe Trail, and the Oscar for Best Picture (Amadeus) in 1984. Famed composer Joseph Haydn wrote that “posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years.” However, due to an unfortunate English-to-German translation error, this was rendered as “My posterior has not seen a toilet in 100 years.” To this day, for some reason, no one uses padded piano benches in Salzburg.

Wait; what about Salieri?

Antonio (“I Did Not Kill Mozart”) Salieri was popularized in the 1984 movie Amadeus as the man who may have poisoned Mozart out of jealously, rage or some other major emotion composers generally seem to have. However, history has proven this to be false, as history really hates it when it gets things made up about itself. In fact, Antonio (Look, I Really Didn’t Kill Him, It’s A Proven Fact, Look It Up On Wikipedia) Salieri once said, “first the music, then the words,” which, although it doesn’t have anything to do with Mozart, is still kind of a cool quote.

All About Mozart (Part 2: Romance Blossoms under the Potato Flake Plant)
Part two of our fact-dubious look at the greatest composer ever to be named Mozart.


After returning to Austria in 1773, Mozart was hired as a court musician by the ruler of Salzburg, Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo, so named because his parents apparently lost a bet. While most of his peers were having to take jobs working for wig telemarketers, Mozart was able to make a living as a musician and composer, had many fans, and over 10,000 likes on “GesichtBuch” (Facebook). He was able to compose in a variety of genres, including masses, conglomerations, symphonies, sonatas, elantras, serenades, and a few minor skirmishes (Music Historians: “We’re back. You stink.”). But he was dissatisfied with his career in Salzburg, as his pay was low (only 150 florins a year, equal to about 12 Kronenthalers, or 3 Flohrenkrosers, or one extremely well-powdered wig). He really wanted to compose operas, but with the court theatre closing in 1775 and the other local theater only showing “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at midnight, his options were limited. He was able to produce some operas, such as his La finta giardiniera (“That’sa Fine-a Gardenia”), but had to leave Vienna in hopes of finding more permanent success elsewhere. His adventures led him to Munich, which is in Germany, which makes the Autobahn, as well as to Paris and Mannheim, which makes steamrollers. But he was unable to secure a position that satisfied him and paid for his wig powder habit, and had to dejectedly return once more to Salzburg in 1779 on an overnight Megabus (Music Historians: “NONONONONO!”).

More Vienna, plus romance, marriage and potato flake plants

[su_pullquote align=”right”]He soon established himself as a performer, and as the finest keyboard player in Vienna; even better than Klans Franzenheimer, who could play “Chopsticks” with his wig.[/pullquote]After disagreements with Count Arco (kind of a jerk; see above) over payment and whether wig powder is best kept in a tin or a jar, Mozart moved to Vienna, where he set up shop as a freelance composer and performer. He soon established himself as a performer, and as the finest keyboard player in Vienna; even better than Klans Franzenheimer, who could play “Chopsticks” with his wig. In 1782 he finished his famous opera on inter-European transportation, Die Entführung aus dem Serail (“The Future is in High-Speed Rail, People”), which was a huge success throughout German-speaking Europe, but not so big where they only spoke Yiddish. This was the work that finally established him as a successful composer, and got him on the coveted cover of Der Rolling Stein, a local beer aficionado magazine. It was at this time that his social life blossomed as well, as he pursued a relationship with Constanze Weber, a short, volatile, bald woman with glasses (Music Historians: “Really? A Seinfeld joke?”) who was the third of four daughters from the musical Weber family. The courtship did not go smoothly, however, as she was a Yankees fan and he liked the Mets, but even so, they were married on August 4 of 1782, which was, coincidentally, the same day the first potato flake plant was completed in Grand Forks, North Dakota, although 176 years later.

A career in full swing

At around 1784, Mozart met famed composer Joseph Haydn, and the two became best friends, exchanging composition ideas, trading baseball cards and skinny dipping in the local pond at midnight. Haydn was greatly impressed with Mozart, saying, “I have often been flattered by my friends with having some genius, but he was much my superior, except in Grand Theft Auto. I always smoked him in Grand Theft Auto.” Mozart was said to occasionally punch the older composer on the shoulder and call him a “big lug”, but this is either unsubstantiated, a rumor, or both. With the larger income attained from his performances and composition success, Mozart and his wife enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, complete with an expensive apartment, a custom piano, and an original “Amadeus” pinball machine in the rec room. He could now consider himself a successful composer with a rich social life, but, as the old Austrian saying goes, “So wie das Erröten Weide im Frühjahr müssen die schwärende Orange der Winter zu necken, so können Sie erwarten, dass der Teig zu verlieren” (“Just as the blushing willow in spring must tease the festering orange of winter, so may you expect to lose your dough), which may not make sense to us pedestrian Americans, but makes your average Austrian cry.