September 23: Happy Birthday Bruce Springsteen and Ray Charles


Today we have the birthdays of some giants from the world of music.  We’ll begin with The Boss.

Bruce Springsteen celebrates his 67th birthday today.  Born, as most know, in New Jersey, he began his career playing at colleges and clubs along the east coast from Massachusetts down to Virginia.  He was signed by Columbia Records and released two albums in 1973, to positive reviews, but initially poor sales.  Given a final chance by Columbia, he worked for over a year on the album that would be his first big hit and his breakthrough:

Born to Run was a big critical and commercial success, and Springsteen has never really looked back.  His career has been a little different from most music superstars’—he has never had a single reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in his career (although the Born in the U.S.A. album produced seven Top Ten singles).  His success is built on albums and concert tours.  And after over 40 years, he seems to still be going pretty strong at both.

Ray Charles (1930-2004) was one of the real pioneers of 20th century popular music.  He did not create soul music single-handed, but no one else did more to fuse R&B, gospel and other sounds into what we think of as soul today.  Although he was blinded by glaucoma at the age of about 6 or 7, that did not stop him from becoming a gifted singer, composer and keyboard player.  In the 1950s he began to have success as an R&B singer, but it was this 1959 tune that was both his first big hit and one of the great soul standards.

Charles probably did his most brilliant work in a period of about a decade, from the mid-fifties to the mid sixties.  However, he continued to record and perform regularly until about a year before his death.

Anthony Mackie turns 38 today.  He made his debut in 8 Mile, had an impressive breakthrough performance in The Hurt Locker in 2009, and plays Sam Wilson/Falcon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  He also is building a solid Broadway and Off-Broadway resume.  Skylar Astin, who turns 29, has played Jesse Swanson in both Pitch Perfect movies.  Anneliese van der Pol was Chelsea Daniels on Disney’s That’s So Raven and has a lengthy list of musical theater credits.  She is 32 today.  Rob James-Collier, who plays Thomas Barrow on Downton Abbey, turns 40 today.

Director Alex Proyas turns 53.  He is known for films such as The Crow, Dark City and Gods of EgyptMary Kay Place, who is 69 today, won an Emmy for Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Norman Lear’s soap opera satire, and appeared in films such as Private Benjamin and The Big ChillRosalind Chao, who celebrates her 59th, played Soon-Lee Klinger on MASH and AfterMASH and Keiko O’Brien on two Star Trek series.  Jason Alexander, who turns 57, played George Costanza on Seinfeld and won a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for Jerome Robbins’ BroadwayChi McBride, who plays Lou Grover on Hawaii Five-0, is 55 today.

For a short while, John Woo, who is 70 today, was the talk of Hollywood.  He made a name in Hong Kong cinema for action films featuring male bonding and prodigious expenditure of ammunition, such as The Killer and Hard Boiled, and then spent about a decade in Hollywood.  He made the well-received action thriller Face/Off, and then the second Mission Impossible film, but returned to Asia after his subsequent American features did not do well.  His biggest project since has been the historical epic Red Cliff.

Now a few more musicians.  Ani DiFranco, who turns 46 today, is a legend in the alternative folk and rock communities.  She has released 16 albums over the years on her own label, Righteous Babe.  Eric Bogle, who celebrates his 72nd, is another folk legend.  His antiwar ballads “No Man’s Land” and “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” have both been covered by more singers than it is convenient to count.  Spanish singer-songwriter Julio Iglesias, who is 73 today, is the best-selling Latin artist in history, with over 100 million records sold worldwide.

Mickey Rooney (1920-2014) was rated the top box office star in Hollywood from 1939-41, a ranking built on his role as Andy Hardy in the Hardy family films and on a series of musicals where he co-starred with Judy Garland.  By the end of World War 2, Rooney was too old to be a juvenile lead, and at 5-2, too short to be an adult leading man, so he fashioned a very long career in character parts.

Walter Pidgeon (1897-1984) had a long film and stage career during which he received Oscar and Tony nominations.  His notable films include How Green Was My Valley, Mrs. Miniver and Advise & Consent.  Colin Blakely (1930-1987) was a character actor who appeared in films featuring four famous fictional detectives: Sherlock Holmes (as Watson in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes), Hercule Poirot (opposite Albert Finney in Murder on the Orient Express and Peter Ustinov in Evil Under the Sun), Philip Marlowe (in the 1978 version of The Big Sleep with Robert Mitchum) and Inspector Jacques Clouseau (in The Pink Panther Strikes Again).  Vienna-born Romy Schneider (1938-1982) worked in German-language films, in Hollywood, and in France.  She is best known for the Austrian Sissi trilogy, playing Empress Elisabeth of Austria, and for What’s New Pussycat?, with Peter O’Toole and Peter Sellers,

Elizabeth Peña (1959-2014) never quite became a star, but was one of the most talented actresses in film for three decades.  In her own words, she often turned down roles because “they wanted me to play what I call ‘Miss Cuchifrito’ types.”  She had good roles in Tortilla Soup and Down and Out in Beverly Hills, and got some of her best roles from John Sayles, who cast her in his short-lived series Shannon’s Deal and later, probably her best role, in Lone Star:

Our final musical legend for today is John Coltrane (1926-1967).  One of the greatest sax players ever, Coltrane became well-known as a sideman during the 1950s, especially for his work with Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis.  He began working as a solo artist in the late fifties and released over twenty albums in about a decade as a solo performer, before his death at 40 from liver cancer.  His style of play changed a great deal over his career, so it’s nearly impossible to pick a single “representative” Coltrane piece.  However, this one is often listed as among his best:

If today is your birthday, congratulations on sharing your big day with these notable names.  Birthday wishes to everyone celebrating a big day today.  Come back tomorrow for more celebrity birthdays.


Posted on September 23, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Wow, really appreciate the shout out to Ani DiFranco! 🙂 Didn’t expect to see her name on the list, and there it was. Cool!


  2. Confession: I have never fully understood the adoration of Bruce Springsteen. That’s probably not going to surprise anyone.

    My introduction to Ray Charles (as well as several other great musicians) was this:

    When I heard they were introducing the Falcon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I had reservations. I like the character, but there has always been a certain amount of cheese inherent to a guy who talks to a pet bird. Anthony Mackie’s charisma does a lot to sell the character in the movies. I’d argue he’s the best super hero sidekick in movies. Is there a lot of competition for that title? Probably not though I imagine Chris O’Donnell would argue otherwise.

    Much like Bruce Springsteen, I didn’t quite understand the fuss over Alex Proyas’ The Crow. But I liked Dark City. I have only watched John Woo’s American movies, so I haven’t seen what I understand to be his best work.

    My best friend my junior year of high school was a big jazz fan. He worshiped John Coltrane.


    • Like you Lebeau my introduction to Ray Charles also was with The Blues Brothers. What would you expect, I was only 8 when I saw it on the big screen. I had no idea that Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Cab Calloway and John Lee Hooker were a big deal then, but when you’re 8 years old you just have no grasp of history yet. It took me a few more years to realize what a big deal these legends were.

      As I watch the Blues Brothers now when I’m older, I have newfound respect for the artists yes, but also for Belushi and especially Aykroyd who at times literally step to the side to let these artists that Aykroyd admired so much shine.


      • My experience was similar. I was a little older. Maybe 10, but I didn’t know any more about the blues than you did at 8. I had no idea what I was going to be seeing. And neither did my parents.

        I remember the experience of seeing The Blues Brothers quite strongly. My dad was a pretty big Belushi fan and he really wanted to see it. For some reason, they decided to take all the kids to the drive-in despite the fact the movie was rated R. I have said before that my dad was exceptionally strict with what we were and were not allowed to watch. The Dukes of Hazard and Love Boat were strictly forbidden, but he took the whole family (which included several kids younger than me) to see The Blues Brothers.

        It was showing with Jaws 2 which I really did not want to see. I was scared silly of Jaws. But my parents assured me that they would show Blues Brothers first and save the scary movie for afterwards. I don’t know why on earth they thought that, but that’s what they told me. Of course they were dead wrong and Jaws 2 played first. I watched a lot of that movie from the back of a station wagon (all the seats folded down) with a blanket over my head. But I got braver as the movie progressed. By the time the shark got electrocuted, I was fully on board.

        Then came The Blues Brothers. Most of my siblings were out cold by the time the second feature started, but I was wide awake. I didn’t really understand what it was I was watching, but as a young boy in Catholic school I was sucked in pretty quickly when a nun started floating around and beating them with a rule. I remember my parents looking horrified that I was watching the “fat penguin” bit, but it’s not like there was anything they could do about it at that point short of leave the drive-in.

        We actually did end up leaving the movie early though. Dad hated getting stuck in traffic, so he left during the big car chase at the end. He asked a neighbor to tell us how the movie ended. I didn’t get to see Aykroyd and Belushi deliver the money to Steven Spielberg’s office until many, many years later. Great movie though. My appreciation has only grown over time. As you point out, it’s fantastic that Aykroyd basically uses his clout to get audiences interested in these amazing musical numbers and then steps off to the side to let legendary performers do their thing.


        • That is a great story Lebeau. No kidding. I do recall seeing The Blues Brothers on the big screen in summer of 1980, but sadly there’s not that good a story behind my viewing like yours. The one aspect that might differentiate from yours is that I am from Chicago, and I can’t tell you how infinitely cool it was as an 8 year old to see Chicago basically turn out to be a 3rd main character in a major Hollywood film. Those old-style police cars in the film? Yep, I used to see those all the time on the South Side of Chicago. My 8 year old self was giddy beyond belief seeing those dozens and dozens of Chicago police cars being destroyed beyond belief in the latter part of the film. To put it in adult terms, it was like watching Chicago police car smashing porn. By the dozens.


        • I can imagine.

          One of my first cars was a Dodge Diplomat which was very much like the police cars used in the movie. My friends and I used to do the whole ““It’s got a cop motor, a 440ci plant. It’s got cop tires, cop suspension, and cop shocks…” bit with regards to that car. When I finally got rid of it I sold it to a relative who used it in a demolition derby which is an appropriate end for my Bluesmobile.


  3. To give an idea of how big a day this is for the music world—you have an artist, Julio Iglesias, who has sold, at the very most conservative estimate I can find, over 50 million records worldwide (probably over 100 million, as I note in the article), and who is the biggest-selling Latin music artist of all time. And he’s the fourth most prominent music figure born today.


  4. For anybody born within the last 30 years or so, it is almost impossible to explain how huge Bruce Springsteen was, especially at his career peak in the mid 80’s. To say that Bruce Springsteen became one of the biggest pop stars on the planet at that time would almost be an understatement.

    As Jestak mentioned Bruce Springsteen’s album Born In The U.S.A. spawned 7 different Billboard Top 10 singles in the mid-80’s. Now sure, on paper that sounds kinda impressive for those of us that listen to Top 40 radio, but what does that really mean?

    Bruce Springsteen was already a well-known name in rock in 1984, but prior to this he only had one Top 10 single to his name (Hungry Heart, which peaked at #5 in 1980). Not exactly the most impressive accomplishments in pop music, right?

    Maybe you could say that Bruce Springsteen hit the jackpot of all jackpots while recording Born In The U.S.A., but all seven singles released (Dancing In The Dark #2, Cover me #7, Born In The U.S.A. #9, I’m On Fire #6, Glory Days #5, I’m Going Down #9, My Hometown #6) were major hit singles all peaking in the Top 10 in 1984/1985.

    To put that in true perspective, since the inception of Billboard’s singles charts in the late 1930’s only three albums have ever obtained 7 Top 10 singles: Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A., and Janet Jackson’s Rhythym Nation.

    Over the year plus that Born In The U.S.A. kept racking up those seven Top 10 singles, the album just kept selling, and selling, and selling. The album stayed in the Top 10 for almost a year and a half, continually selling 100,000 plus copies every week. Today, Born In The U.S.A. has sold over 15 Million copies, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time.

    Numbers alone don’t always explain away a pop cultural phenomenon. But in 1984/1985, Bruce Springsteen was one of the most popular artists on the whole planet.


    • In the 80s, there were, by my counting, four singer who were iconic; Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna and Bruce. For the most part, they were the acts that had staying power into the 90s, though Jackson’s star dimmed fairly quickly. Of them all, Springsteen is still going strong.


  5. Ani DiFranco has always been popular in the area around where I live, since she’s from the Western New York area, especially in the art district of Allentown. She sold her local home to live in New Orleans full -time, but she still has a record company that’s located in Buffalo.
    Ha, last night I caught a clip of an old Johnny Carson show in which he was interviewing Courteney Cox (promoting a show titled, “Misfits of Science”), and she discussed the Bruce Springsteen “Dancing in the Dark” video (which she was known for at the time, and really her introduction, if not her big break). I was thinking of “Born in the U.S.A.” the other day, on how that and Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America” can be really inspirational to a certain kind of person (I’ve found them to be uplifting).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: