College students have been forming a cappella groups since at least the late 1800s, with the Rensselyrics of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute being the oldest known group. (They started out as the RPI Glee Club in 1873.) Women's collegiate groups, though, weren't formed until 1936. (Smith College's Smiffenpoofs were the first.)
Today, college a cappella groups are increasingly popular—Northwestern University has at least 15—and usually known for their fun renditions of classics and current hits. The videos below are just a small sampling of the many collegiate a cappella groups across the country—and the world.
Formed in 1873, RPI's Rensselyrics is the oldest known college a cappella group. Here they're performing Feist's "1234."
Yale's Whiffenpoofs is the longest continuously performing college a cappella group. Cole Porter was a member in 1913. Here they're performing "Haven't Met You Yet" by Michael Bublé.
The Smiffenpoofs formed in 1936 at Smith College after some Smith students were inspired by a Whiffenpoofs performance; they chose a similar name in honor of Yale's group. Here they perform The Beatles' "Because."
Mount Holyoke College's Victory Eights, or V8s, founded in 1942, is the longest continuously performing all-female college a cappella group. Here they perform "Come On Eileen," the Dexys Midnight Runners hit.
Tufts University's oldest a cappella group is The Beelzebubs, an all-male group that formed in 1962. Here they perform Styx's "Come Sail Away."
The Amalgamates is the oldest co-ed a cappella group at Tufts University; they've released 11 albums since their formation in 1984. Here they perform Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance."
Straight No Chaser
Straight No Chaser formed as a student a cappella group at Indiana University in 1996. After a recording of one of their 1998 performances went viral in 2006, the original members landed a record deal. Today, the original members perform and record as Straight No Chaser, while the university's a cappella group performs and records as Indiana Unviersity's Straight No Chaser. Here the original members sing Solomon Linda's "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in a 1998 school performance.
Redefined is a co-ed a cappella group at University of Wisconsin-Madison known for their "Nintendo Medley." This performance of the medley is from their 2009 spring show.
Out of the Blue
Out of the Blue is an all-male a cappella group at the University of Oxford, although membership is not limited to Oxford students. Here they perform Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls." (Look out for the "Harry Potter" at the 00:39 mark.)
Rhythm and Jews
Rhythm and Jews is the University of Chicago's Jewish a cappella group. Here they perform "Schneinu B'Yachad," a variation of The Turtles' "So Happy Together.
Three things usually come to mind when people recall Michael Jackson's stratospheric fame in the 1980s: His music videos were events unto themselves; he toted around a chimp named Bubbles (who once bit Quincy Jones's daughter Rashida); and Jackson was often seen wearing a single white sequined glove.
There's no official count on how many gloves Jackson owned and wore during his career, but one performance-used mitt is now up for sale via GWS Auctions and their Legends of Hollywood & Music Auction. Used by Jackson during his 1997 HIStory tour, the Swarovski crystal-covered glove is unique in that Jackson had it made for his left hand, as he wanted to keep the wedding ring—courtesy of his marriage to nurse Debbie Rowe—visible on his right. (Though wedding rings are traditionally worn on the left hand, Jackson was known to wear his on the right.)
According to Jackson associate John Kehe, Jackson allegedly got the idea for the glove in 1980, when he was touring a production company and saw a film editor at a control panel wearing a white cotton glove. Jackson himself wrote in his autobiography, Moonwalk, that he had been wearing a single glove since the 1970s. Either way, it was Jackson's performance of "Billie Jean" during a television appearance for Motown's 25th anniversary in May 1983 that cemented the accessory in the eyes of the public. That particular glove sold for $350,000 in 2009.
The HIStory glove will be up for auction March 24; pre-bids currently have it in excess of $5000. The Legends of Music and Hollywood Auction is also set to feature a prescription pill bottle once owned by Frank Sinatra and a hairbrush used by Marilyn Monroe.
Johnny Cash, who was born on this day in 1932, once wrote, “I love songs about horses, railroads, land, judgment day, family, hard times, whiskey, courtship, marriage, adultery, separation, murder, war, prison, rambling, damnation, home, salvation, death, pride, humor, piety, rebellion, patriotism, larceny, determination, tragedy, rowdiness, heartbreak and love. And Mother And God."
That sums the Cash discography up pretty well. He covers at least 20 of those themes in the 10 songs below. Here are the backstories behind some of the Man in Black's most famous songs—and maybe a little insight into why he loved those topics so much.
1. "MAN IN BLACK"
In the song, Cash explains that he always wears black to performances and public appearances because of social injustices, “just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back.” It’s a great story, but it’s not 100 percent true. In 2002, he told Larry King that black was his signature color simply because he felt most comfortable in it, although he preferred light blue in summer. “You walk into my clothes closet. It’s dark in there,” he said.
Rolling Stonewrote that the inky wardrobe was also helpful when it came to hiding dirt and dust in the early touring days.
2. "CHICKEN IN BLACK"
Cash didn’t always wear black. In the video above, he’s dressed in bright yellow, accessorized with a powder blue cape.
Sound a little off-brand? It was. In the early ‘80s, Cash felt that Columbia, his record label, was ignoring him and failing to promote his music properly. He decided to record a song so awful that it would force Columbia to cut his contract early. The plan worked, but it came at a price. “He was kind of mocking and dismantling his own legacy,” daughter Rosanne later said. Here’s a sampling of the lyrics, in case the video is too painful to watch: “I put your brain in a chicken last Monday, he’s singing your songs and making lots of money, and I’ve got him signed to a 10-year recording contract.”
3. "I WALK THE LINE"
Written in just 20 minutes, Cash’s (arguably) greatest hit was intended as a reminder to himself to stay faithful to his first wife, Vivian, while he was on the road opening for Elvis in the mid-1950s. "It was kind of a prodding to myself to 'Play it straight, Johnny,'" he once said. According to other interviews, that wasn’t the song’s only meaning: He also meant it as an oath to God. Although Sam Phillips from Sun Records said that he wasn’t interested in gospel songs, Johnny was able to sneak “I Walk the Line” past him with the story about being true to his wife.
4. "A BOY NAMED SUE"
In 1969, Johnny and June threw a party at their house in Hendersonville. As you might imagine, it was a veritable who’s-who of music: Bob Dylan, Graham Nash, Joni Mitchell, Kris Kristofferson, and Shel Silverstein. Everyone debuted a new song at the party—Dylan sang “Lay Lady Lay,” Nash did “Marrakkesh Express,” Kristofferson played “Me and Bobby McGee,” and Mitchell sang “Both Sides Now.” Silverstein, who was a songwriter in addition to an author of children’s books, debuted “A Boy Named Sue.”
When the party was over, June encouraged Johnny to take the lyrics to “Sue” on the plane the next day. They were headed to California to record the famous live At San Quentin album. Johnny wasn’t sure he could learn the lyrics fast enough, but he did—and the inmates went crazy for it. They weren’t the only ones: "A Boy Named Sue" quickly shot to the top of the charts. And not just the country charts—it held the #2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks.
The song was originally inspired by a male friend of Silverstein’s with a somewhat feminine name—Jean Shepherd, the author of A Christmas Story.
5. "RING OF FIRE"
The story behind this one depends on who you believe. The Carter-Cash family has always maintained that June and guitar player Merle Kilgore co-wrote the song about June falling in love with Johnny despite being worried about his drug and alcohol problem.
But according to Johnny’s first wife, Vivian, June had nothing to do with “Ring of Fire.” “The truth is, Johnny wrote that song, while pilled up and drunk, about a certain private female body part,” Vivian wrote in her autobiography. She claims he gave June credit for writing the song because he thought she needed the money.
Either way, June’s sister Anita originally recorded the song. After Johnny had a dream that he was singing it with mariachi horns, he recorded it that way.
6. "THE MAN COMES AROUND"
“Ring of Fire” isn’t the only time Johnny had a dream that inspired a song. In his later years, Cash had a dream that he walked into Buckingham Palace and encountered Queen Elizabeth just sitting on the floor. When she saw him, the Queen said, “Johnny Cash, you’re like a thorn tree in a whirlwind!” Two or three years later, Cash remembered the dream, decided that the reference must be a biblical one, and wrote what he called “my song of the apocalypse”—“The Man Comes Around.”
7. "HEY PORTER"
This one is another early song inspired by Vivian. From the summer of 1951 through the summer of 1954, Cash was deployed in Germany with the Air Force. At the end of three years, he turned down the option to re-enlist, feeling homesick for his girl and his home. On the journey back from Germany, he penned “Hey Porter” about the excitement and relief he felt to finally be coming home.
8. "FOLSOM PRISON BLUES"
After seeing Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison, Cash was inspired to write a song about it. Too bad that song already existed as “Crescent City Blues,” written by Gordon Jenkins.
Jenkins sued for copyright infringement in 1969 and received $75,000. Cash later admitted that he heard the song when he was in the Air Force, but borrowing the tune and some of the lyrics was subconscious; he never meant to rip Jenkins off. Oh, but the famous “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die” line—that was all Johnny.
9. "CRY! CRY! CRY!"
After Cash returned home from the Air Force and signed with Sun Records, he gave Sam Phillips “Hey Porter.” Phillips asked for a ballad for the B-side, so Cash went home and quickly wrote “Cry! Cry! Cry!” literally overnight. It became his first big hit—not bad for an afterthought.
10. "GET RHYTHM"
Though “Get Rhythm” eventually became the B-side for “I Walk the Line,” Cash originally wrote it for Elvis. It might have been recorded by Presley, but when he went to RCA, Sam Phillips refused to let him take “Get Rhythm” with him.