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 Egypt. Mary 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 Chill. Rosalind 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’ Broadway. Chi 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 Ani DiFranco, Anthony Mackie, Bruce Springsteen, Elizabeth Pena, Jason Alexander, John Coltrane, Julio Iglesias, Mary Kay Place, Mickey Rooney, Ray Charles. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.