March 2: A march on Olympia in 1933 and Kurt Weill's birthday
MARCH 2 — On this day in 1933, 1,200 members of the Depression-era Unemployed Citizens League (UCL) marched on the state capitol in Olympia. The UCL was a democratic socialist organization founded in West Seattle in 1931 as a cooperative labor exchange for the unemployed, and became a voice in city and regional politics.
The marchers wanted the legislators to tax the rich, end foreclosures and help unemployed citizens feed their families. They were met by the Olympia police force, augmented by a group called The American Vigilantes of Thurston County. There was apparently no violence but after a night spent in the rain, surrounded by armed men, the marchers turned around and went home. Assuming they all had homes to go back to…
Composer Kurt Weill, was born on this day in Germany in 1900. He’s best known for his collaboration with playwright, Bertolt Brecht on the musical The Threepenny Opera, the play that gave us the song, "Mack the Knife."
Weill also worked with Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright, Maxwell Anderson, on two musicals—Knickerbocker Holiday and Lost In The Stars, which was an adaptation of Alan Paton’s novel Cry, The Beloved Country, about South African apartheid.
I decided not to play "Mack The Knife" as an example of Weill’s work because most of us are familiar with it — though Louis Armstrong’s version is always worth listening to. Instead, I want to share an all-but-forgotten performance of a lesser-known, but beautiful Weill composition—"Lost In The Stars," recorded in 1945, not by a well-known singer, but by the great American stage and screen actor, Walter Huston — who was the father of film director, John Huston, and grandfather of actress, Angelica Houston.
He might not have a singing voice for the ages, but it’s perfect for this song. "Lost In The Stars" is also the first song I have a clear memory of hearing as a child. Which probably explains…well…something.