30 Fast & Furious Facts for the Ultimate Fan

Do you live your life a quarter mile at a time, just like Dom Toretto? In celebration of the 15th anniversary of The Fast and the Furious, the first installment in the franchise, here are some facts about the first six adventures of Dom and his crew.

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

1. THE STORY WAS INSPIRED BY A MAGAZINE ARTICLE.

The May 1998 issue of Vibe magazine featured an article by Ken Li titled “Racer X” that chronicled illegal street racing in Queens, New York. Producers optioned the article for a movie adaptation that became The Fast and the Furious.

2. THE FILM'S TITLE WAS PURCHASED FROM LEGENDARY B-MOVIE DIRECTOR ROGER CORMAN.

Throughout filming, the movie had the working title Redline—which in racing refers to the maximum rate of speed a car can go—before the filmmakers settled on calling it The Fast & The Furious. There was only one problem: That title was owned by B-movie director Roger Corman, who produced a racing movie of the same name in 1955. Instead of having the filmmakers pay for the rights to the name, Corman traded the movie title for some stock footage owned by Universal Studios.

3. THE MOVIE HAS GARNERED SOME FAMILIAR AND UNFAMILIAR COMPARISONS.

The filmmakers of The Fast and the Furious pitched the movie as West Side Story with cars instead of singing, and also incorporated themes and situations found in movies like the surfing action classic Point Break and the undercover crime drama Donnie Brasco.

Director Rob Cohen modeled the film’s third act chases through the Los Angeles hills on similar San Francisco-set scenes in the 1968 car-chase classic Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen. Cohen loved the movie so much that he cast actor Paul Walker because he thought he resembled Bullitt’s lead actor.    

FUN FACT: Eagle-eyed fans of this movie and Point Break will notice that Dom and Brian visit a restaurant called Neptune’s Net about midway through the movie. The real-life restaurant, located along Malibu’s Pacific Coast Highway, is the same restaurant where Lori Petty's character, Tyler, works in Point Break

4. THEY USED REAL STREET RACERS FOR MOST OF THE RACE SCENES.

Cohen (who visited real illegal street races in preparation for directing the movie and who can also be seen in a small cameo as the pizza delivery guy trying to get through the crowd of cars during the first racing scene) enlisted the help of 200 souped-up cars driven by actual illegal street racers for the initial racing scenes.

5. THE REAL ACTORS PUT THE PEDAL TO THE METAL … KIND OF.

In order to have the real actors behind the wheel of cars going upwards of 80 to 100 miles per hour, a special rig was built by second unit director and stunt coordinator Mic Rodgers that the filmmakers dubbed the “Mic Rig.” It consisted of a high-powered truck with a long chassis in the back on which the bodies of the custom cars in the movie could be interchanged. A stunt driver drove the high-speed truck while the actors were behind the wheel of the dummy car in back, which made it look like they were really driving at dangerous speeds. 

END CREDIT SEQUENCE: Dom can be seen evading the cops and driving through Baja, Mexico. This footage and the 1970 Chevelle SS he drives will be seen again eight years later in the fourth installment of the franchise, Fast & Furious

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

1. IT’S TECHNICALLY THE THIRD MOVIE (CHRONOLOGICALLY).

A six-minute short film called the Turbo-Charged Prelude was made in 2003 and bridges the gap between the events of the first and second movies. The short shows Walker as O’Connor evading police after the first movie and making his way across the country to Miami, winning countless street races along the way. Actress Minka Kelly (in an uncredited role) stars as the woman who helps him.

2. TWO PEOPLE FROM THE FIRST MOVIE DECIDED NOT TO RETURN.

Vin Diesel declined to appear in the sequel despite being offered $25 million to reprise his role because he was not happy with the script. Instead he and director Rob Cohen, who also didn’t return for the sequel, made the 2002 extreme sports star/secret agent movie, xXx. In the final drafts of the script, Dom’s character was refashioned into Tyrese Gibson’s character, Roman Pearce. It’s the only movie in the Fast & Furious franchise in which Diesel does not appear. 

John Singleton, previously known for making movies like Boyz n the Hood and the remake of Shaft, stepped into the director’s seat for 2 Fast 2 Furious, which was his first PG-13-rated movie. Singleton would bring back a few people he had worked with previously: Gibson (who plays Roman) appeared in Singleton’s 2001 movie Baby Boy; Cole Hauser (who plays the villain) appeared in his 1995 movie Higher Learning; and Mark Boone Junior (who has a small role as a corrupt cop) appeared in the 1997 movie Rosewood

3. SINGLETON HAD THREE SPECIFIC INSPIRATIONS FOR HIS SEQUEL.

He attempted to base the tone and the aesthetic of the movie on Japanese anime, an updated version of Speed Racer cartoons from the ‘60s, and the Playstation video game series “Gran Turismo.” 

4. THEY USED SOME PRETTY NOTABLE LOCATIONS.

The movie shot on location in Miami, Florida. The South Beach house owned by Hauser’s villain, Carter Verone, once belonged to Sylvester Stallone. At the time of filming, however, the house was owned by Singleton’s friend, who let the production shoot there for free. 

5. THE ACTORS DID THEIR OWN STUNTS … SOMETIMES.

Paul Walker, who returned as the cop-turned-outlaw Brian O’Connor for the sequel and who goes by the street name “Bullitt” after one of the inspirations for the first installment, actually did some of his own car stunts in the movie. 

The skid into frame in the Nissan Skyline GT-R following his character’s first race at the beginning of the movie was done by Walker himself, and the high-speed 180-degree turn in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII during the highway chase at the end of the movie was Walker's work as well. 

FUN FACT: In the highway chase after the Ford Mustang gets crushed by the tractor trailer truck, the Chevy Corvette crashing into the wreckage was a mistake and wasn’t supposed to happen, but they kept it in the movie anyway. 

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

1. IT’S THE THIRD MOVIE IN THE SERIES, BUT THE SIXTH MOVIE CHRONOLOGICALLY.

This may get a little technical here, but real Fastards (a.k.a. Fast fans) know that Tokyo Drift takes place after Fast & Furious 6. The character of Han is introduced and dies in Tokyo Drift, but miraculously shows up alive and well in the subsequent movie, Fast & Furious. This is because the fourth through sixth movies in the series take place chronologically before Tokyo Drift

How do we know? In a bit of retroactive continuity, the mid-credits sequence in Fast & Furious 6 shows Han’s death in the Tokyo streets is actually caused by Deckard Shaw (played by Jason Statham), the brother of the villain in Fast & Furious 6 who is out for revenge for his brother’s death at the hands of Dom and his crew! This means that the chronological order of the feature length movies so far is 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 3, 7. 

2. A NEW DIRECTOR TOOK OVER AND CAST FAMILIAR FACES IN NEW ROLES.

This is director Justin Lin’s first foray into the Fast & Furious saga (he would also go on to direct movies 4 through 6), and the first movie in the series to feature a new cast of characters. Lin, who started out small with his 2002 Sundance hit Better Luck Tomorrow, went on to make his first studio movie in 2006 with Annapolis before getting the Tokyo Drift gig. He populated the new movie with familiar actors: Brian Goodman (who plays Sean’s father) had previously appeared in Annapolis, while Sung Kang (who plays Han) and Jason Tobin (who plays Earl, one of Sean’s friends) both appeared in Better Luck Tomorrow (funnily enough, Annapolis also starred Tyrese Gibson and Jordana Brewster, who also appeared in the previous and subsequent Fast movies).     

3. IT WAS A BIG-BUDGET STUDIO MOVIE THAT USED SOME INDIE TECHNIQUES TO GET CERTAIN SHOTS.

The movie was shot primarily on location in Tokyo, which doesn’t grant filming permits. So for many shots, including the ones of lead actor Lucas Black wandering around highly populated areas like Shibuya Crossing, the director and a minimal crew just shot Black amongst real pedestrians until the police shut the production down. To make sure Lin wouldn’t get into trouble or thrown in jail and have the production halted, he had the production manager trick the police by telling them that he was the director and not Lin. 

4. THE REAL DRIFT KING MAKES A CAMEO.

Although actor Brian Tee plays D.K. (a.k.a. “Drift King”) in the movie, the real-life drift king, Japanese racing legend Keiichi Tsuchiya, makes a small appearance as the fisherman in the blue jacket who makes fun of Sean as he’s learning to drift near the fish market. Tsuchiya himself performed most of the scenes of Sean learning how to drift.

5. VIN DIESEL AGREED TO DO HIS CAMEO FOR FREE, BUT UNDER ONE CONDITION.

Lin convinced Diesel to reprise his role as Dom Toretto after showing Diesel an early rough cut of Tokyo Drift. The actor would ultimately do the cameo for free but made a deal with Universal Studios: in lieu of an acting fee, Universal would have to give him and his production company the rights to the character Riddick from 2000’s Pitch Black and 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick

Diesel wanted to make a third entry in that franchise, but Universal stalled a new movie because The Chronicles of Riddick bombed at the box office. In the end, Diesel did the cameo, Universal gave him the Riddick rights, Diesel would go on to make a third Riddick movie in 2013, and he would be repositioned as the main character in the Fast franchise from then on. 

Fast & Furious (2009)

1. THEY GOT THE GANG BACK TOGETHER.

2009’s Fast & Furious was the first direct sequel to the events in the first film in the saga. Vin Diesel returned full-time after his cameo in Tokyo Drift, but also picked up the reins as the film’s producer for the first time (he’d go on to produce the subsequent films in the series as well). 

It was also the first time in eight years that Diesel, Walker, and Jordana Brewster had appeared on-screen together as their characters since the first film. Though Michelle Rodriguez returned as Letty Ortiz, Diesel is the only original cast member she shares screen time with, because her character (allegedly) dies off-screen after the opening sequence.

2. IT’S TECHNICALLY THE FIFTH MOVIE CHRONOLOGICALLY.

Diesel himself wrote, produced, directed, and starred in a 20-minute short film entitled Los Bandoleros with Rodriguez, Sun Kang, Tego Calderón, Don Omar, and Mirtha Michelle appearing again as Dom’s gang in the Dominican Republic. The film shows the backstory of how the characters came together, leading into the tanker truck heist that begins Fast & Furious

3. WALKER’S CHARACTER WAS GOING TO BE IN A VERY DIFFERENT SITUATION.

The screenwriters originally envisioned Walker’s cop character, last seen letting Diesel’s character escape police at the end of the first movie, as a convict locked up in jail. His introductory foot chase sequence was going to be a jailbreak before subsequent drafts of the screenplay changed him back into a reformed F.B.I. agent as seen in the final film. 

4. THEY HAD OPEN CASTING CALLS FOR CARS.

On top of regular actor casting calls, director Justin Lin, returning from Tokyo Drift, held open casting calls for cars to potentially appear in the film as well. They would post a meet-up place for people to bring their cars and the filmmakers would select drivers and cars for background sequences as needed. 

5. THERE WERE NO FULLY CGI CARS IN THE TUNNEL CHASE.

Contrary to popular belief, there were no fully-CGI cars in the smuggling sequences, which were inspired by real-life smuggling tunnels used by drug cartels in Guanajuato, Mexico. 

The production actually built out sparse areas to stand in for the tunnels in a large warehouse in San Pedro, California, and blocked out the paths for each actual car using orange road cones. The dirt, walls, and pillars of the smuggling tunnels were then added with CGI in post-production. 

Fast Five (2011)

1. THEY SPENT A LOT OF MONEY ON THE SET PIECES.

With Fast Five, director Justin Lin wanted to transition the series into more action-oriented territory, and wanted to outdo anything already seen in the previous movies by planning out set pieces that cost some serious cash. The train-heist sequence alone cost $25 million to create, and involved the production buying out a 600-yard stretch of train tracks in Arizona (standing in for Brazil) as well as an entire train in order to be able to destroy it.  

The studio initially told Lin the sequence would cost too much and told him to scrap the idea, but he showed them an entirely pre-visualized sequence using storyboards and computer re-creations for them to put up the money to shoot the sequence.

FUN FACT: Han's full name is "Han Seoul-Oh," an obvious nod to the Star Wars character Han Solo. His full name hadn't been previously mentioned before showing up in the background on Hobbs' team's computer screens during Fast Five.

2. LIN GOT HIS ENSEMBLE EXPERIENCE FROM DOING TV.

Though he’d directed ensembles in the previous two Fast & Furious movies and his debut movie Better Luck Tomorrow, Fast Five proved to be Lin’s biggest movie yet in terms of on-screen characters (there are 10 main characters in Dom’s gang alone). Lin attributes directing three episodes of the TV comedy Community in between Fast & Furious and Fast Five with getting him acclimated to being able to successfully shoot and keep track of such a large amount of speaking characters.

3. BRAZIL IS ACTUALLY PUERTO RICO … AND A COUPLE OF OTHER PLACES

Lin wanted to shoot entirely on location in Rio de Janeiro, but it proved too costly and dangerous. Scenes were shot in Rio (most notably the favela chase sequence), but the majority of the scenes that took place in Brazil in the movie were shot in San Juan, Puerto Rico (the vault heist) and in Atlanta (the street races). These cities were not only cheaper to shoot in, but were better suited for the safety regulations and logistical planning the production warranted for its action scenes.

FUN FACT: The setting of Fast Five is foreshadowed in the beginning of Fast & Furious when Letty tells Dom, “I hear Rio is good this time of year,” while the pair ponder where to escape to next. 

4. WE HAVE FACEBOOK TO THANK FOR HELPING CAST DWAYNE “THE ROCK” JOHNSON.

Prior to creating the fifth movie in the franchise, Diesel reached out to fans on his official Facebook page asking for potential ideas of where the story could go, and someone suggested writing a role for Johnson as the bad guy. During the writing phase the filmmakers reached out to Johnson to play Hobbs (he was the only choice to play the role); he agreed to sign on, and the rest is social networking history.    

5. THE PRODUCTION GOT CRAFTY FOR THE VAULT HEIST.

The logistics of the vault heist were so difficult that, like the train sequence, the scene was almost scrapped entirely. To portray a large vault being dragged by Diesel and Walker’s characters on-screen, six separate vaults were built to accommodate certain shots that were needed, including a full-size vault and a lightweight vault that could be easily towed. 

The primary stand-in vault used was actually a shortened pick-up truck chassis with a vault-shaped case that fit over it. In essence the vault was a steerable single-driver mini-car hooked to Walker and Diesel’s cars to make it look like their characters were dragging it. 

END CREDITS SEQUENCE: Eva Mendes reprises her role as U.S. Customs Agent Monica Fuentes from 2 Fast 2 Furious to let Agent Hobbs know that Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty, who was previously thought dead in Fast & Furious, is in fact alive. Rodriguez wasn’t told that her character was going to be resurrected until she saw Fast Five for herself, and the filmmakers called her after the release of the movie to ask if she would reprise her role in the next movie. Good thing she said yes!

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

1. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE LAST MOVIE IN AN UNOFFICIAL TRILOGY.

Lin, who returned for the last time as director, and screenwriter Chris Morgan envisioned the sixth installment to be the concluding movie in an unofficial story arc that began with the fourth movie, Fast & Furious. Though the series is usually lampooned because of its irregular naming conventions, they wanted to officially call it Furious Six (after Fast & Furious, and Fast Five) for a cohesive series of titles. The idea was nixed by the studio because of marketing concerns that audiences wouldn’t understand what Furious Six meant, so they made the official title Fast & Furious 6. Lin sort of won out in the end though, as the title card on the movie itself only reads Furious 6

2. IT COULD HAVE BEEN TWO MOVIES.

During early stages of development, Furious 6 was initially going to be split into two installments shot simultaneously with the first entitled The Fast and the second entitled The Furious. The tank sequence would have been the end of The Fast and the plane sequence would have capped off The Furious, but eventually the storyline was whittled down enough to fit into one (extremely action-packed) movie.

3. THE TANK SEQUENCE WAS NEARLY ALL PRACTICAL EFFECTS.

Originally the tank sequence was supposed to take place in the streets of London, and the production planned to re-create 12 city blocks on a soundstage to shoot what they needed (London city officials wouldn’t grant the production access to city roads because the Olympics were happening at the same time they shot the movie, so most of the street scenes were shot in Glasgow, Scotland as a stand-in for the UK capital).

When that proved unfeasible they moved the sequence to Spain when they secured and were given free rein to shoot on a newly built and unopened stretch of highway in Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Ninety percent of the shots of the tank were the real thing; other shots used a lightweight tank with a fake turret, while others used a truck outfitted with fake tank treads to get low angle shots. 

4. THE FINAL PLANE SEQUENCE WAS ALMOST IN FAST FIVE.

The harrowing sequence was originally supposed to be the ending of Fast Five, and got so far into the production process of that movie that is was storyboarded and pre-visualized before being scrapped for budgetary reasons. The leftover storyboards and pre-viz were simply grafted on to Furious 6 and updated to account for new characters and the new movie’s plot. 

5. THE RUNWAY IN THE PLANE SEQUENCE WAS EXTREMELY LONG.

Though the production used movie magic, some suspension of disbelief, and multiple passes over three weeks to shoot the final plane sequence, the runway as is in the final movie would allegedly be 28.829 miles long if calculated out correctly.   

END CREDIT SEQUENCE: Han’s death from Tokyo Drift is caused by Jason Statham’s character, Deckard Shaw, the brother of Luke Evans' Furious 6 villain, Owen Shaw (who previously mentioned his brother in the scene where he confronts Dom after his street race with Letty), which leads directly into the plot of Furious 7

Additional Sources: Blu-ray special features.

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18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
iStock
iStock

Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

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Rosé Wine Glass
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Nerf SurgeFire
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Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

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4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

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6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
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7. UNA GRILL; $139

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MoMA Shop

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8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

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Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
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Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

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Dog Corn Holders
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14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

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15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

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Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

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Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

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Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

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Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
11 Things You Might Not Know About Johann Sebastian Bach
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images

Johann Sebastian Bach is everywhere. Weddings? Bach. Haunted houses? Bach. Church? Bach. Shredding electric guitar solos? Look, it’s Bach! The Baroque composer produced more than 1100 works, from liturgical organ pieces to secular cantatas for orchestra, and his ideas about musical form and harmony continue to influence generations of music-makers. Here are 11 things you might not know about the man behind the music.

1. PEOPLE DISAGREE ABOUT WHEN TO CELEBRATE HIS BIRTHDAY.

Some people celebrate Bach’s birthday on March 21. Other people light the candles on March 31. The correct date depends on whom you ask. Bach was born in Thuringia in 1685, when the German state was still observing the Julian calendar. Today, we use the Gregorian calendar, which shifted the dates by 11 days. And while most biographies opt for the March 31 date, Bach scholar Christopher Wolff firmly roots for Team 21. “True, his life was actually 11 days longer because Protestant Germany adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1700,” he told Classical MPR, “but with the legal stipulation that all dates prior to Dec. 31, 1699, remain valid.”

2. HE WAS THE CENTER OF A MUSICAL DYNASTY.

Bach’s great-grandfather was a piper. His grandfather was a court musician. His father was a violinist, organist, court trumpeter, and kettledrum player. At least two of his uncles were composers. He had five brothers—all named Johann—and the three who lived to adulthood became musicians. J.S. Bach also had 20 children, and, of those who lived past childhood, at least five became professional composers. According to the Nekrolog, an obituary written by Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, "[S]tarting with Veit Bach, the founding father of this family, all his descendants, down to the seventh generation, have dedicated themselves to the profession of music, with only a few exceptions."

3. BACH TOOK A MUSICAL PILGRIMAGE THAT PUTS EVERY ROAD TRIP TO WOODSTOCK TO SHAME.

In 1705, 20-year-old Bach walked 280 miles—that's right, walked—from the city of Arnstadt to Lübeck in northern Germany to hear a concert by the influential organist and composer Dieterich Buxtehude. He stuck around for four months to study with the musician [PDF]. Bach hoped to succeed Buxtehude as the organist of Lübeck's St. Mary's Church, but marriage to one of Buxtehude's daughters was a prerequisite to taking over the job. Bach declined, and walked back home.

4. HE BRAWLED WITH HIS STUDENTS.

One of Bach’s first jobs was as a church organist in Arnstadt. When he signed up for the role, nobody told him he also had to teach a student choir and orchestra, a responsibility Bach hated. Not one to mince words, Bach one day lost patience with a error-prone bassoonist, Johann Geyersbach, and called him a zippelfagottist—that is, a “nanny-goat bassoonist.” Those were fighting words. Days later, Geyersbach attacked Bach with a walking stick. Bach pulled a dagger. The rumble escalated into a full-blown scrum that required the two be pulled apart.

5. BACH SPENT 30 DAYS IN JAIL FOR QUITTING HIS JOB.

When Bach took a job in 1708 as a chamber musician in the court of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, he once again assumed a slew of responsibilities that he never signed up for. This time, he took it in stride, believing his hard work would lead to his promotion to kapellmeister (music director). But after five years, the top job was handed to the former kapellmeister’s son. Furious, Bach resigned and joined a rival court. As retribution, the duke jailed him for four weeks. Bach spent his time in the slammer writing preludes for organ.

6. THE BRANDENBURG CONCERTOS WERE A FAILED JOB APPLICATION.

Around 1721, Bach was the head of court music for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen. Unfortunately, the composer reportedly didn’t get along with the prince’s new wife, and he started looking for a new gig. (Notice a pattern?) Bach polished some manuscripts that had been sitting around and mailed them to a potential employer, Christian Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg. That package, which included the Brandenburg Concertos—now considered some of the most important orchestral compositions of the Baroque era—failed to get Bach the job [PDF].

7. HE WROTE ONE OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST COFFEE JINGLES.

Bach apparently loved coffee enough to write a song about it: "Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht" ("Be still, stop chattering"). Performed in 1735 at Zimmerman’s coffee house in Leipzig, the song is about a coffee-obsessed woman whose father wants her to stop drinking the caffeinated stuff. She rebels and sings this stanza:

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes
More delicious than a thousand kisses
Milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, I have to have coffee,
And, if someone wants to pamper me,
Ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!

8. IF BACH CHALLENGED YOU TO A KEYBOARD DUEL, YOU WERE GUARANTEED TO BE EMBARRASSED.

In 1717, Louis Marchand, a harpsichordist from France, was invited to play for Augustus, Elector of Saxony, and performed so well that he was offered a position playing for the court. This annoyed the court’s concertmaster, who found Marchand arrogant and insufferable. To scare the French harpsichordist away, the concertmaster hatched a plan with his friend, J.S. Bach: a keyboard duel. Bach and Marchand would improvise over a number of different styles, and the winner would take home 500 talers. But when Marchand learned just how talented Bach was, he hightailed it out of town.

9. SOME OF HIS MUSIC MAY HAVE BEEN COMPOSED TO HELP INSOMNIA.

Some people are ashamed to admit that classical music, especially the Baroque style, makes them sleepy. Be ashamed no more! According to Bach’s earliest biographer, the Goldberg Variations were composed to help Count Hermann Karl von Keyserling overcome insomnia. (This story, to be fair, is disputed.) Whatever the truth, it hasn’t stopped the Andersson Dance troupe from presenting a fantastic Goldberg-based tour of performances called “Ternary Patterns for Insomnia.” Sleep researchers have also suggested studying the tunes’ effects on sleeplessness [PDF].

10. HE WAS BLINDED BY BOTCHED EYE SURGERY.

When Bach was 65, he had eye surgery. The “couching” procedure, which was performed by a traveling surgeon named John Taylor, involved shoving the cataract deep into the eye with a blunt instrument. Post-op, Taylor gave the composer eye drops that contained pigeon blood, mercury, and pulverized sugar. It didn’t work. Bach went blind and died shortly after. Meanwhile, Taylor moved on to botch more musical surgeries. He would perform the same procedure on the composer George Frideric Handel, who also went blind.

11. NOBODY IS 100 PERCENT CONFIDENT THAT BACH IS BURIED IN HIS GRAVE.

In 1894, the pastor of St. John’s Church in Leipzig wanted to move the composer’s body out of the church graveyard to a more dignified setting. There was one small problem: Bach had been buried in an unmarked grave, as was common for regular folks at the time. According to craniologist Wilhelm His, a dig crew tried its best to find the composer but instead found “heaps of bones, some in many layers lying on top of each other, some mixed in with the remains of coffins, others already smashed by the hacking of the diggers.” The team later claimed to find Bach’s box, but there’s doubt they found the right (de)composer. Today, Bach supposedly resides in Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church.

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