On this day in 1374, scholar, poet, humanist, “The Father of Humanism”, “The Father of the Renaissance”, Petrarch died at his home in Arquà Petrarca, Veneto, Italy one day before his 70th birthday. Born Francesco Petrarca on 20 July 1304 in Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy. He rediscovered many Ancient Greek and Roman writers and his belief that there was no real conflict between Classical and Christian thought anticipated the Renaissance spirit. He did not see a conflict between realizing humanity’s potential and having religious faith. Petrarch is perhaps best known for his Il Canzoniere (Song Book) a collection of 366 poems which address his lifelong unrequited love for a mysterious woman named Laura. In many of these he developed and perfected the sonnet form, and the “Petrarchan sonnet” still bears his name. Apparently, on 6 April 1327, Good Friday, the sight of a woman called “Laura” in the church of Sainte-Claire d’Avignon awoke in him a lasting passion. Laura may have been Laura de Noves, the wife of Count Hugues de Sade (an ancestor of the Marquis de Sade). According to his “Secretum”, she refused him for the very proper reason that she was already married to another man. Petrarch channeled his feelings into love poems. Upon her death in 1348, he found that his grief was as difficult to live with as was his former unrequited longing. Later in his “Letter to Posterity”, Petrarch wrote: “In my younger days I struggled constantly with an overwhelming but pure love affair – my only one, and I would have struggled with it longer had not premature death, bitter but salutary for me, extinguished the cooling flames. I certainly wish I could say that I have always been entirely free from desires of the flesh, but I would be lying if I did.” I have always been fascinated by poems and stories inspired by the exquisitely painful longing of unrequited love. Petrarch never married but possibly fathered two children, a son Giovanni and a daughter Francesca, with a woman or women who remain unknown to posterity. The Final Footprint – Petrarch is entombed in the town square of Arquà Petrarca. There is a marble statue of Petrarch on the Uffizi Palace, in Florence. The Romantic composer Franz Liszt set three of Petrarch’s Sonnets (47, 104, and 123) to music for voice, Tre sonetti del Petrarca, which he later would transcribe for solo piano for inclusion in the suite Années de Pèlerinage.
On this day in 1969, teacher, secretary, and political campaign specialist, Mary Jo Kopechne died at the age of 28 in a car accident in Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts while a passenger in a car being driven by U.S. Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy. Born on 26 July 1940 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. On 18 July 1969, Kopechne attended a party on Chappaquiddick Island, off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The celebration was in honor of the dedicated work of the Boiler Room Girls, and was the fourth such reunion of the Robert F. Kennedy campaign workers. Kopechne reportedly left the party at 11:15 p.m. with Robert’s brother Ted, after he offered to drive her to catch the last ferry back to Edgartown, where she was staying. Kennedy drove the 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 off a narrow, unlit bridge, which was without guardrails and was not on the route to Edgartown. The Oldsmobile landed in Poucha Pond and overturned in the water; Kennedy extricated himself from the vehicle and survived, but Kopechne did not. Kennedy failed to report the incident to the authorities until the car and Kopechne’s body were discovered the next morning. The Final Footprint – A private funeral for Kopechne was held on 22 July 1969, at St. Vincent’s Roman Catholic Church in Plymouth, Pennsylvania, attended by Kennedy. She is buried in the parish cemetery on the side of Larksville Mountain.
On this day in 1975, singer and songwriter Lefty Frizzell died at age 47 after a massive stroke. Born William Orville Frizzell on 31 March 1928 in Corsicana, Texas. The Final Footprint – Frizzell was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. In October 1982, Frizzell was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Merle Haggard said “The impact Lefty had on country music is not even measurable. … No one could handle a song like Lefty. He would hold on to each word until he finally decided to drop it and pick up the next one. Most of us learned to sing listening to him.” George Strait recorded a Sanger D. Shafer song called “Lefty’s Gone” on the album Something Special. In addition, Willie Nelson‘s 1977 album, To Lefty From Willie was a tribute to Frizzell and consisted entirely of cover versions of Frizzell songs. Frizzell has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is also in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Fellow Texan Roy Orbison was a devout fan of Frizzell’s sound, and in 1988, as a part of the Traveling Wilburys, he chose the name “Lefty Wilbury” to honor his musical hero.
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