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October 10: Happy Birthday David Lee Roth and Thelonious Monk

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Singer David Lee Roth turns 62 today.  In the early 1970s, while attending Pasadena City College, Roth met a pair of brothers named Eddie and Alex Van Halen.  They soon had formed a band, with Roth as lead singer and lyricist, which eventually was named Van Halen, and after a few years of paying their dues, they released their first album in 1978 and established themselves as one of the leading hard rock bands of the next decade or so.

Van Halen’s sixth album, 1984, was their biggest seller, and produced their only single to reach #1 on the Hot 100:

Pianist and composer Thelonious Monk (1917-1982) was one of the most influential figures in jazz; he is reportedly the most-frequently recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington.  He began performing and recording in the mid-1940s, but it wasn’t until another decade passed that he began to win audiences over (his fellow musicians had always esteemed him).  Among his most-famous compositions were “‘Round Midnight,” “Blue Monk,” and “Straight, No Chaser.”

Monk was at his most creative in the 1940s and ’50s, and continued to record and perform into the early 1970s.  He has probably been more acclaimed after his death than he was in life.  In 2006 he was awarded, posthumously, a special Pulitzer Prize for his contributions to the development of jazz.

Ben Vereen turns 70 today.  Many people first became aware of him from his role in Roots, but he has had a long and distinguished stage and musical theater career, winning a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for Pippin.  Country singer Tanya Tucker had her first hit, “Delta Dawn,” when she was only 13.  She was a regular near the top of the country charts until the late 1990s and continues to record and perform to this day.  Today is her 58th birthday.  Brett Favre, a 3-time NFL MVP who quarterbacked the Green Bay Packers to two Super Bowls, turns 47 today.  Award-winning Bollywood actress Rekha turns 62 today.  Chinese-born actress Bai Ling, whose Hollywood credits include Red Corner and Anna and the King, celebrates her 50th today.

Mario Lopez, who turns 43, was a star on Saved by the Bell and has hosted Extra since 2008.  Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, who is 38 today, has been a TV regular on Nash Bridges, Prison Break, and currently is featured on VH1’s Hit the FloorAimee Teegarden, who celebrates her 27th, was a regular on Friday Night Lights for its five season run and will be seen next year in Rings, the third film in the supernatural horror franchise.  Una Healy, a member of the Anglo-Irish girl group The Saturdays, who have had several charted hits in the British Isles, turns 35 today.  Elizabeth “Lzzy” Hale, lead singer and guitarist of the Grammy-winning hard rock band Halestorm, turns 33.  Rose McIver, who is 28 today, stars on the CW’s iZombie and made her feature film debut in The Lovely BonesDan Stevens, who is turning 34, played Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey and will star next year in the live-action Beauty and the Beast, opposite Emma Watson.

James Bond fans will probably remember Fiona Fullerton, who turns 60 today, for her small role in A View to a Kill as Pola Ivanova (who may or may not count as a Bond Girl depending on broadly you define the concept).  Fullerton worked for many years on British television and also did some musical theater, appearing as Guinevere in Camelot on the West End.  Another musical theater veteran is Jodi Benson, who is 55 today.  Benson began working on Broadway in the early 1980s; one of her early roles was in the musical Smile, with lyrics by Howard Ashman.  She went on to receive a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical for Crazy for You in 1992.  Meanwhile, Ashman had contacted her about a new Disney cartoon he was writing the lyrics for—The Little Mermaid.  Benson was chosen to be the voice actor and singing voice for the title character, Ariel, and subsequently has had a long career with Disney as a voice actress.

An interesting piece of trivia: Jodi Benson graduated from a small college in Illinois called Millikin University.  When The Little Mermaid was adapted into a Broadway musical in 2007, the original performer of the role of Ariel was a young actress named Sierra Boggess, who is also a graduate of Millikin University.

While country/folk artist John Prine, who celebrates his 70th today, has never been a big commercial success—he has never had a charted single and his most successful album reached a mere 55th on the Billboard 200—he is one of the most respected songwriters of the last 40-50 years.  He won a Grammy for his album The Missing Years, but any of his music is worth checking out.

Nora Roberts, who celebrates her 66th birthday today, is one of the most prolific and best-selling authors around today.  She has written well over a hundred romance novels under that name (a shortened version of her given name, Eleanor Robertson), plus around 40 romantic suspense novels, the “In Death” series, under the name J. D. Robb.  James Clavell (1921-1994) was known for his Asian Saga of novels about Europeans encountering Asian culture and society, which included Shogun, King Rat and several others.  He was also a screenwriter and director whose credits included The Great Escape (writing) and To Sir, With Love (writing and directing).

When I was younger I knew Helen Hayes (1900-1993) as a “nice old lady” character in Disney films like Herbie Rides Again and Candleshoe; only later did I discover that she was one of the most distinguished actresses of the 20th Century, especially in theater.  Her stage repertoire included roles from Shakespeare, Chekov, Shaw and Tennessee Williams.  She won Tonys for Best Actress in a Drama for Anita Loos’s Happy Birthday and for Jean Anouilh’s Time Remembered.  On screen, she won Oscars for The Sin of Madelon Claudet and for Airport, and an Emmy for an episode of the Schlitz Playhouse of Stars.  In 1977, she won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Recording.

All of those honors make Hayes one of the small number of winners of an “EGOT,” a completely unofficial, but pretty impressive, recognition of someone winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony in their career; she is also a winner of the equally unofficial but also impressive Triple Crown of Acting.  There is only one other individual to attain both an EGOT and a Triple Crown.  You’ll have to wait a couple of months to find out who. 🙂

Chris Penn (1965-2006) never achieved the stardom of his brother Sean, but had a fine career as a character actor before his death of heart disease at 40.  Some of his most notable film credits include Footloose, Reservoir Dogs (as Nice Guy Eddie), Short Cuts, True Romance, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, and Abel Ferrara’s The Funeral (maybe his best role).  Singer and actress Anita Mui (1963-2003) was a major star of “Cantopop” music who sold an estimated 10 million albums in her career.  As an actress, she was a star of the cult classic The Heroic Trio, and had a major role in Jackie Chan’s Hollywood breakthrough film, Rumble in the Bronx.  English singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl (1959-2000) was most famous for her collaboration with The Pogues on the Christmas song “Fairytale of New York,” and also had a number of charted singles of her own in England, Ireland and on the continent.

Harold Pinter (1930-2008) was one of the most important playwrights of the 20th Century.  His plays, including The Birthday Party, The Caretaker, The Homecoming and Betrayal, brought him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005.  Pinter was also a distinguished screenwriter, adapting both his own plays and other authors plays and novels for the screen; he was Oscar-nominated for his screenplays for Betrayal and The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

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.

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Posted on October 10, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. In the mid-eighties, David Lee Roth and Van Halen were huge. When the band split, everyone I knew expected Roth to thrive and Van Halen to falter. Obviously, that’s not how it worked out. Without Van Halen, Roth seemed like a lounge singer. He needed them to ground him. Still, I think most of us would agree that Van Halen and Roth work best together (when they can get along which is apparently never).

    I am jazz illiterate, but I remember my musically inclined high school pal talked about Thelonious Monk quite a bit. I’m sure he made me listen to some of his recordings. “Straight, No Chaser” rings a bell.

    When I was a kid in the seventies, it seemed like Ben Vereen was on every single variety show. I recently took up iZombie. It’s a fun show in the CW mold. Rose McIver is an engaging lead. There are a couple of Disney fans here at the site (myself among them) who are fond of Jodi Benson.

    Poor Chris Penn. Over the summer, I rewatched Footloose and thought about all that wasted potential.

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    • Lebeau you’re right about Van Halen. In 1984, they were huge. I could spout numbers and statistics (1984 was the 6th best selling album of the year, Jump was a #1 single, etc.) but numbers don’t always nail a phenomenon. Simply put, if you were into rock in the 80’s, Van Halen were one of the biggest acts around.

      Here’s an interesting trivia bit: (if you know me by now, you know I just love me some trivia info)…. Van Halen’s album 1984 peaked at #2 on the Billboard Album chart, held back by Michael Jackson’s mega-selling Thriller album which was almost glued to the #1 spot on the album charts in 1983/1984. Eddie Van Halen provided the guitar solo on the #1 single “Beat It”, which meant that for those 5 weeks that 1984 hung in the #2 spot on the album charts, Eddie was on the top 2 selling albums.

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      • How The ’96 VMAs Cost Van Halen Their Chance At Being More Than ’80s Greats

        http://uproxx.com/music/van-halen-feud/

        In 1985, when lead singer David Lee Roth quit Van Halen, they were one of the biggest bands in rock and roll. Of their six records, two were certified Diamond, and four certified Platinum, they’d toured the world more than a half dozen times and their songs dominated the charts. Despite their future briefly looking uncertain, the band hired vocalist Sammy Hagar to replace Roth, and Van Halen managed to reinvent themselves, ushering in a new era for the band that would last another 11 years. That is, until Hagar left Van Halen in the summer of 1996 over the direction the band was headed, thanks in part to new management, once again throwing their existence into turmoil.

        On Sept. 5, 1996, however, the band shocked the world when they appeared on stage with their original frontman at the MTV VMAs. The excitement in the room was overwhelming, and along with thunderous applause, they also got a standing ovation from the crowd. Immediately, everyone anticipated this was the beginning of a full-fledged reunion, though it turned out that their appearance that night would open old wounds and bring back a lot of animosity between the former bandmates that couldn’t be overcome. The fallout from the event was considerable; so much so that Rolling Stone called it both one of the most outrageous moments in VMA history, and a defining moment in one of the all-time great rock and roll feuds.

        So, what exactly happened that night that turned a one-off appearance into a months-long PR nightmare for the band? Let’s take a look at the moment in question.

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  2. Chris Penn had a nice little career going for him, but I will always remember him first and foremost as “Nice Guy Eddie” in the cult classic Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino’s debut film. Matter of fact that was my introduction to Chris Penn, and whenever I would see him in another film I would always go “hey, it’s Nice Guy Eddie from Reservoir Dogs!”

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  3. I’ve always preferred the Sammy Hagar Van Halen over the David Lee Roth Van Halen; I just feel that David Lee Roth had too much of a cheese factor going on (It must be his cover of “California Girls” and the accompanying music video I can’t get over). Hey, that doesn’t mean I don’t think “Panama” rocks though!
    Kirsty MacColl: I love that song that she did, “They Don’t Know” (I like the Tracey Ullman cover to, which play at the the beginning & end of her “Tracey Does…” HBO show). MacColl’s death is controversial, as it seems that the guy that took the blame for the boating accident that caused her death wasn’t really the pilot of the boat.
    Brett Favre: yeah, the guy played so long (and excelled), his pro career began when I was still in middle school and ended when I was in my early thirties. So long that I might invest in one of those Tommie Copper body support deals that he’s a paid spokesman for.

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  4. Why Hollywood Won’t Cast Aimee Teegarden Anymore

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