October 7: Happy Birthday John Mellencamp and Toni Braxton
John Mellencamp turns 65 today. During his career, the heartland rocker has also been billed as John or Johnny Cougar and as John Cougar Mellencamp. When he began recording and performing in the 1970s he was seen as a Springsteen clone, but over time he developed his own sound and voice. While Springsteen spoke for and to the urban working class, over time Mellencamp became more a voice for American farmers:
Mellencamp had his greatest success in the 1980s, releasing Top Ten albums like American Fool, Scarecrow and The Lonesome Jubilee, and nine Top Ten singles, including #1 hit “Jack and Diane” and #2 hits “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” and the Grammy-winning “Hurts So Good.” In 1985, Mellencamp, along with Willie Nelson and Neil Young, started the Farm Aid program of regular benefit concerts for American farmers.
Toni Braxton, who is 49 today, was one of the most successful R&B artists of the 1990s, sometimes being called the “Queen of R&B.” She first drew notice for singing a track on the soundtrack for Eddie Murphy’s movie Boomerang, following which LaFace Records released her self-titled first album. It included several charted singles, one of which won Braxton her first Grammy:
Braxton’s next two albums, Secrets and The Heat, were also extremely successful. However, in the 2000s, she had some tough times, having conflicts with her record labels and her manager. Since 2011, she and her four sisters, along with their mother, have been featured in the reality series Braxton Family Values. Her latest album Love, Marriage and Divorce, a collaboration with R&B star Kenneth “Babyface” Edmunds, brought Braxton her seventh Grammy.
Twin brothers Aaron and Shawn Ashmore turn 37 today. Aaron is most famous for playing Jimmy Olson on Smallville and Steve Jinks on Syfy’s Warehouse 13, and now appears on the Canadian series Killjoys. Shawn’s best known role is probably Bobby Drake/Iceman in several of the X-Men films; more recently he starred on Fox’s The Following. Holland Roden, who plays Lydia Martin on MTV’s Teen Wolf, turns 30 today. Allison Munn, who celebrates her 42nd, has been working steadily on television since around 2000, on That ’70s Show, What I Like About You, One Tree Hill, and currently on Nickelodeon’s Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn. Jamie Hector, who turns 41, played Marlo Stanfield on The Wire and currently is seen as Det. Jerry Edgar, Harry Bosch’s partner on Amazon’s Bosch.
Mary Badham, who turns 64, had a very minor film and television career which included one extremely big role—she played Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, receiving a Best Supporting Actress nomination for the role. She is the younger sister of director John Badham. Hugh Fraser, who turns 66, has spent much of his career in British television; American audiences might recognize him as Captain Arthur Hastings from Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Joy Behar, the cohost of ABC’s The View for over 15 years, turns 74 today. Simon Cowell turns 57; he is best known as the sharp-tongued judge of a variety of British and American television talent competitions, most notably American Idol.
Speaking of American Idol, fifth-season winner Taylor Hicks turns 40 today. His short recording career featured the #1 single “Do I Make You Proud.” Other musical birthdays today include country singer Kieran Kane, who turns 67; he and onetime partner Jamie O’Hara had a #1 country hit in “Can’t Stop My Heart from Loving You.” Thom Yorke, the lead vocalist, keyboardist and principal songwriter for Radiohead, turns 48. Radiohead is quite possibly the leading alternative/experimental rock band of the last 25 years. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who turns 61, began performing when he was five years old, and has won 18 Grammys, primarily for classical recordings but some for crossover albums. Ma has often performed and recorded with the Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit, who turns 80 today.
Film composer Marco Beltrami has been Oscar-nominated for his scores for 3:10 to Yuma and The Hurt Locker and scored all of the Scream films. He turns 50 today. Gabriel Yared, also a film composer, celebrates his 67th birthday; he won the Oscar for Best Original Score, as well as a Grammy, for The English Patient, and has been nominated for two additional Oscars. Tim Minchin, who turns 41 today, may be best known as the composer and lyricist for Matilda the Musical, adapted from Roald Dahl’s novel. He is also known for his live comedy-music “cabaret shows.”
Diana Lynn (1926-1971) was generally a supporting player; she had a couple of memorable turns as “younger sister” characters in The Major and the Minor and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek. Vaughn Monroe (1911-1973) was a popular jazz/big band leader who had hits like “Racing With the Moon” and “Riders in the Sky” in the 1940s. Andy Devine (1905-1977) was a film and radio actor known for his work in Westerns; one of his famous roles was as stage driver Buck in Stagecoach. Alfred Drake (1914-1992) was a leading musical theater star of the 1940s and ’50s. He starred in the original Broadway casts of Babes in Arms, Oklahoma!, Kiss Me Kate and Kismet, usually in lead roles, and won a Tony for playing Hajj in Kismet.
June Allyson (1917-2006) became known as a “girl next door” type following her film breakthrough in 1944’s Two Girls and a Sailor. She starred opposite Van Johnson in four additional films, one of which, Too Young to Kiss, brought her a Golden Globe. She also appeared in several musicals, and in the 1950s she was often James Stewart’s leading lady.
Niels Bohr (1885-1962) was one of the giants of 20th century physics, a leader in developing the modern theory of the atom and a contributor to the development of quantum mechanics. He was portrayed onscreen by Stephen Rea in an adaptation of Michael Frayn’s play Copenhagen.
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.