Music lovers around the world are getting ready to celebrate the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach who was born on March 21, 1685. Most of us are familiar with his music, but how much do we know about his life? I asked my good friend, Mischa Goss, a part time musicologist, to write a brief biography for us. Here it is:
Johann Sebastian Bach has gone down in history as one of the three Bs, but he wasn’t such a bad guy once you got to know him. He was born into a large family of musicians in Eisenach, Germany. His parents had so many children, that when little Johann came along, they called him "The Bach of the Month."
At the tender age of five, he was enrolled in the local music academy where he was an average student -- aka a B minor. On his way to school one day, Johann tripped on a cantata peel and broke his collarbone. While recuperating, the ever-cheerful youngster wrote his first big hit, "The Well-Tempered Clavicle."
Johann graduated from college with a Bach-a-laureate degree and the future looked rosy for a while. Unfortunately, he had a (St. Matthew's) passion for local gaming parlors where he always lost at Parcheesi. His father once asked a neighbor if he had seen Johann and the man said, "Bach gamin’." That signaled the birth of a new game, which is still popular today (if you’re into turning over checker boards).
To break his habit, Johann ran off to a desert island and spent hours scuba diving among the reefs. That's where he wrote most of his coral music and the lively Italian fisherman's song, "Bach-a-la."
Little known fact: Johann Sebastian Bach originated the singing commercial. Written for a popular fast food chain, it was called "The Branden-burger Concerto." It went to the top of the charts after being recorded by Adelina Patty.
Johann married twice and sired 20 children, earning himself a reputation as the local Bach maker. He supported his family by working for different religious institutions and was once asked to write a piece on the Messiah -- but he couldn't get a Handel on it.
Things went downhill after that. Johann lost his job at the Haydn Planetarium and went to work as a harpsichordist at a burlesque joint. It was there that he wrote his "Air on the G String" for Gypsy Rose Leipzig, the most famous stripper of her day. He followed up with "The Ann Corio Oratorio." He also created the signature song for Frank Sonata, the number one crooner of his day. It's called "I Did It Weimar."
Because he was strapped for cash, people thought Johann was a miser. He wasn't cheap -- he was fugal. When it came to satisfying his suite tooth, he usually went for Baroque.
When Johann died in 1750, friends and relatives gathered at his coffin to raise a few steins. Since it was spring and only the dregs of the kegs were left, they had to scrape the bottom of the barrels. Ah yes, Johann Sebastian Bach has left us a lasting legacy. To this day, people still talk about Bach's bier.