On This Day April 12
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1861 – The Civil War — the bloodiest four years in American history — begins in the early-morning hours when Confederate troops open fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Bay. Neither side anticipated the length of the war nor the devastation that the conflict would bring.
1961 – The Space Race between the U.S. and Soviet Union begins as the Soviets launch Vostok I. Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human in space, making a single orbit around Earth in just under two hours.
1981 – The U.S. achieves a space exploration milestone with the inaugural space shuttle flight. Shuttle Columbia represents the first manned U.S. space mission since Apollo-Soyuz in July 1976. The shuttle is also the first reusable manned spacecraft.
1954 – Bill Haley and his Comets record “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock” at Pythian Temple studios in New York City. The song, widely credited with bringing rock ‘n’ roll into the mainstream, becomes a worldwide No. 1 and the biggest-selling pop single, with sales exceeding 25 million.
1963 – Bob Dylan performs his first major solo concert at Town Hall in Manhattan. Dylan’s 24-song set includes “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Highway 51” and “Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie.”
1973 – Stevie Wonder is just 23 years old when he makes a guest appearance on the children’s television show Sesame Street. Wonder interacts with several beloved characters in segments throughout the program, including Grover, whom he teaches how to sing. He also performs his smash hit, “Superstition.”
1975 – Elton John claims the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks with “Philadelphia Freedom,” a song he wrote for his good friend, international tennis legend Billie Jean King. “Philadelphia Freedom” is the name of the tennis team that King coached at the time.