Good News in History, April 21

Elvis Presley’s first million-seller, Heartbreak Hotel, reached number one on the Billboard Top 100, dominating the charts for 7 weeks.

The eight-bar blues tune, co-written by Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton—with a credit also going to Presley—was inspired by a newspaper article about the suicide of a lonely man jumping from a hotel window. Featuring guitarist Chet Atkins, and pianist Floyd Cramer, the record achieved feats unheard of, as it reached the top 5 of the Country and Western, Pop, and Rhythm ‘n’ Blues charts simultaneously.

Certified double platinum, Heartbreak Hotel was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and was ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time.’ John Lennon said it made his “hair stand on end,” with all the “bluesy stuff going on”. Keith Richards said that Presley’s sound was the first rock and roll he’d heard, and the “silence” was what impressed him, especially in the song’s open: “Since my baby left…” It was also a “life-changing” experience for George Harrison and Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant. (1956)

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • Traditional date on which Romulus and Remus founded Rome  (753 BC)
  • Women gained voting rights in France (1944)
  • Rollie Fingers of the Milwaukee Brewers became the first pitcher to record 300 saves (1982)
  • Paul McCartney performed for the first time in Brazil at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro for 184,000 fans, smashing box office records and gaining him entry into the Guinness Book of World Records for Largest Concert Audience (1990)

Also, 205 years ago today, Charlotte Bronte, the author of Jane Eyre was born.Charlotte-Bronte-cropped

The novelist and poet was also the sister to Emily Bronte who penned Wuthering Heights, and Anne who also wrote with her sisters from early childhood. When Charlotte was 30, the trio self-financed the publication of their first book, a joint collection of poems. They used fictitious names, to hide the fact that they were women, which would surely be used against them by critics. See more by Charlotte in this book list. (1816)

And, 183 years ago today, John Muir, the naturalist and conservationist known as the “Father of the National Park,” was born. The influential Scottish-American glaciologist and author who was read by millions wrote about nature and his adventures in the Sierra Nevada and his beloved Yosemite. His activism helped to preserve that valley, along with Sequoia National Park and many other wilderness areas. He also co-founded the Sierra Club, which continues his environmental efforts to this day. WATCH a video… (1838)


And, 372 years ago today, in the new American colony of Maryland, the Toleration Act was passed by the Assembly to allow freedom of worship throughout the state. It protected Catholics against Protestant harassment, which had been on the rise since Oliver Cromwell’s power in England increased.

It was the second law requiring religious tolerance in the British colonies (following Rhode Island) and a pioneering statute on the topic of protecting Catholic settlers and those of other religions that did not conform to the dominant Anglicanism of Britain. The Calvert family, who founded Maryland partly as a refuge for English Catholics, sought the enactment of the law. (1649)

31 years ago today, the 24-year-old Irish singer-songwriter Sinéad O’Connor hit No.1 on the US singles chart with her version of Prince’s Nothing Compares To You. She then achieved worldwide success, reaching No.1 in 18 other countries with the help of a poignant video. Shot in Paris, the music video consists almost solely of a close-up on O’Connor’s face as she sings the lyrics. Towards the end of the video, two tears roll down her face. The clip won Best Video at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards—the first video by a female artist to win in this category. WATCH the video… (1990)


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