A great actor stole our hearts, a brilliant composer was born and a legendary architect passed away – here are some interesting things that happened on this day in history.
The Eiffel Tower opened
The open-lattice wrought-iron framework of the Eiffel Tower may have been greeted with skepticism at first, but since its opening on March 31, 1889, the building has become known as an architectural marvel.
It all came about when the French government announced a design competition for a monument to be built in honour of the centenary of the French Revolution. The Centennial Committee chose Gustave Eiffel's submission, which promised the world's tallest man-made structure, one that would rise almost 1,000 feet (304 metres) above Paris.
Eiffel was a noted bridge builder, who had also designed the framework for the Statue of Liberty, which had been erected in New York Harbour three years earlier.
Paris’s tower retained its record for a total of 41 years, until the Chrysler Building was finished in New York in 1930.
Jimi Hendrix burned his guitar
Many classic rock fans will remember the moment Jimi Hendrix set fire to his guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, as it was immortalised on film. But the Purple Haze musician had actually done it before, on March 31 that same year, in Finsbury Park, London.
The story goes that while Hendrix was waiting to go on stage, he and Jimi Hendrix Experience manager Chas Chandler had a chat with rock journalist Keith Altham, who mentioned it would be cool if they played with fire while playing the song Fire. The pair decided to go one better and burn the instrument instead.
Hendrix is now known for many things – his musical genius, epic guitar skills and for dying at the mere age of 27 – but what became a ritual act of destruction is what made him really stand out in a very, very busy crowd.
In 2012, the black Fender Stratocaster it is believed Hendrix set fire to in California that year sold at auction for more than £200,000 (Dh909,285).
Toni Morrison won a major award
"It will destroy one family's dream of safety and freedom; it will haunt an entire community for generations and, as related by Ms Morrison, it will reverberate in the readers' minds long after they have finished this book." That was how Michiko Kakutani summed up one event described in American writer Toni Morrison's novel Beloved in her review for The New York Times.
Morrison's work about a former slave in post-Civil War Ohio was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction on March 31, 1988. Before that, it had controversially been overlooked by the National Book Award, a move that saw 48 black writers, including Maya Angelou, write an open letter protesting the fact that Morrison had never won that award, nor a Pulitzer.
The Pulitzer board, however, insisted at the time this letter had no bearing on its decision. Secretary Robert Christopher said: “I think there was some feeling that it would be unfortunate if anyone diluted the value of Toni Morrison’s achievement by suggesting that her prize rested on anything but merit.”
Indeed, Morrison went on to receive a number of prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize in Literature 1993 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was presented to her in 2012 by then president Barack Obama.
Morrison died on August 5 last year.
Heath Ledger captured teenage hearts
Although Australian actor Heath Ledger had been on screens since 1992, it's when the world saw him as the cheeky, rebellious Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You, which came out on March 31,.seven years later, that he captured our hearts and minds. This modernisation of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, starring Ledger and Julia Stiles, the film was and still is one of the most beloved teen rom-coms from the 1990s.
It tells the story of Kat Stratford (Stiles), a tempestuous teenager who isn’t interested in much other than getting into Sarah Lawrence College and fleeing the family home. Her younger sister, Bianca, however, is dying to date class beau Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan) – and their father comes up with a rule that she can date when Kat does.
Bianca hatches a plan to make sure that happens – and, naturally, it all goes wrong (at least at first).
Ledger went on to star in another 15 movies before he died in 2008 aged 28. This includes The Dark Knight, for which he posthumously won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.
Bach was born
Hailing from north Germany, Johann Sebastian Bach was and still is one of the most famous composers of the Baroque period. He's best known for compositions such as the Brandenburg Concertos and the Mass in B Minor.
He was born on March 31, 1685 in Eisenach into a large lineage of musicians. By the time he was 10, he was an orphan, being looked after by his eldest brother, Johann Christoph. It is he who gave Bach his first keyboard lessons, having learnt himself under the tutelage of composer Johann Pachelbel.
By 1703, Bach had been employed as a member of an orchestra by Johann Ernst, duke of Weimar, before he became the organist at Neue Kirche in Arnstadt. He was only 18 years old by this point.
He became a prolific and much-valued organist, but his keyboard music was also treasured. He kept working on his music, composing and releasing new pieces, throughout his life until he died of complications after eye surgery in Leipzig at the age of 65.
A legendary architect passed away
Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid had many accolades under her belt. The British-Iraqi architect, who has been described as “the queen of the curve”, was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004. She was the recipient of the UK’s most prestigious architectural award, the Stirling Prize, in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, Queen Elizabeth II made her a Dame for her services to architecture. And, in 2016, the month before she died, she became the first woman to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Hadid’s company designed some of the most recognisable buildings of our modern skylines. This includes the award-winning London Aquatics Centre in London, England; the Guangzhou Opera House; Florida’s One Thousand Museum; and even Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Bridge, among many, many more.
She was born in 1950 in Baghdad, Iraq and went on to study mathematics at the American University of Beirut before heading to London in 1972 to learn at the Architectural Association School of Architecture.
She quickly earned a reputation for her radical designs and started out by teaching, before going on to build her own firm.
She died on March 31, 2016 of a heart attack in Miami, Florida.