January 9: Happy Birthday Joan Baez and Jimmy Page
Two music legends, known for very different kinds of music, headline today’s article.
Folk icon Joan Baez celebrates her 76th today. She began performing in her late teens. Folkie Bob Gibson invited her to perform with him at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, and she then signed a recording contract with Vanguard Records. Her first album, Joan Baez, came out in 1960, and reached a respectable 20th on the Billboard 200. Baez’s sound and style have evolved a lot through the years; at the beginning, it was very austere—just Baez singing a variety of traditional songs, accompanying herself on the guitar, with Fred Hellerman of the Weavers supplying a second guitar on a few tracks:
Baez released about an album a year through the rest of the 1960s. While initially she recorded traditional tunes, she soon began incorporating the work of contemporary composers, such as a then relatively unknown songwriter named Bob Dylan, into her albums and concerts. Likewise, she gradually expanded the spare instrumentation of her early albums. By the late 1960s, she was consciously trying to move beyond her “folksinger with a guitar” roots and experimenting with different styles of music, something she has continued to do ever since.
Baez has mostly been an album artist, but has had a few successful singles, notably her cover of The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” She is primarily known for covering other songwriters’ work, but has done some composing of her own; “Diamonds and Rust” may be the most notable of her own songs. She is scheduled to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this year.
Her political activism, a huge part of her life, is beyond the scope of what we cover at this blog, but anyone interested can find out about it without too much trouble.
Rock legend Jimmy Page is turning 73. Page began working as a session musician in London in the early 1960s. By 1965 his reputation as a guitarist was such that he was invited to join the blues-rock band the Yardbirds after Eric Clapton left. He initially turned them down, recommending another young guitarist named Jeff Beck, but then joined the group himself a year or so later.
After the Yardbirds disbanded in 1968, Page put together a band to fill their unfinished tour dates. That band, also including John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and John Bonham, eventually decided to call themselves Led Zeppelin. They developed into one of the greatest and most successful hard rock and heavy metal bands of all time. Page, of course, was the lead guitarist and wrote much of their music.
Led Zeppelin disbanded after Bonham’s death in 1980 (other than occasional reunions). Page has engaged in a wide variety of solo projects and collaborations since then. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, once with the Yardbirds and once with Led Zeppelin, and ranks in the top five of almost every serious rating of the greatest rock guitarists ever.
Imelda Staunton is a major star in British theater, who has won four Olivier Awards, three for Best Actress in a Musical (for Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, and Gypsy). On screen, she won a BAFTA for Best Actress, and received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, for Vera Drake, and played Dolores Umbridge in two Harry Potter films. She turns 61 today. Character actor J. K. Simmons turns 62. A busy man, he sometimes makes as many as eight films a year. He won an Oscar and several other Best Supporting Actor awards for 2014’s Whiplash, played J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, and will appear in this year’s Justice League as Commissioner James Gordon. Joely Richardson, who turns 52, was a two-time Golden Globe nominee for Nip/Tuck and has been in films such as the live-action 101 Dalmatians, The Patriot, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Nina Dobrev, who celebrates her 28th, starred as Elena Gilbert (and a couple of other characters) on The Vampire Diaries, and will appear in the upcoming XXX: The Return of Xander Cage. Nicola Peltz, who starred on the first two seasons of Bates Motel, turns 22 today. Joey Lauren Adams, who turns 49, is probably best known for her appearances in Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse films, especially Chasing Amy, for which she was a Golden Globe nominee. Omari Hardwick, who stars as James “Ghost” St. Patrick on the Starz series Power, is turning 43. Kerris Dorsey, who is 19 today, played Paige Whedon on Brothers & Sisters, and currently is a regular on Ray Donovan as the title character’s daughter, Bridget.
Someone might complain if I left out Kate Middleton, nowadays known as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, so I will note that she turns 35 today.
Crystal Gayle, who turns 66, heads the list of “other ” music birthdays today. The younger sister of Loretta Lynn and cousin of Patty Loveless is a major country star in her own right, with a lengthy list of #1 Country hits, and a major crossover success with “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” which was #2 on the Hot 100. Dave Matthews, the founder, lead singer and songwriter for the Dave Matthews Band, turns 50 today. He is a two-time Grammy winner and has also had a short acting career. Bill Cowsill (1948-2006) was the lead singer and guitarist for the popular family band The Cowsills, the inspiration for television’s Partridge Family. A. J. McLean, who turns 39, is a member of the Backstreet Boys, who probably shouldn’t be called a boy band any more.
Sports birthdays include Football Hall of Famer Bart Starr, who turns 83. Starr led the Green Bay Packers to victories in the first two Super Bowls, but his most famous performance came in the 1967 NFL Championship (prior to the Super Bowl against the AFL champions) against the Dallas Cowboys. That game has gone down in NFL history as the Ice Bowl, because of the extreme conditions it was played under (temperatures about -15 degrees Farenheit, ice on much of the field). Starr led Green Bay to a winning touchdown drive in the game’s final minutes and scored the game-winner himself on a quarterback sneak. Had sportscaster Dick Enberg been calling the game, he doubtless would have reacted with “Oh, my!,” his signature phrase for any exciting or exceptional play. Enberg began his broadcasting career calling games for the California Angels in baseball, the Los Angeles Rams in football, and UCLA basketball games. By the mid-seventies he was working for NBC, for whom he called almost every kind of major sporting event in 25 years with the network; he called eight Super Bowls and six NCAA men’s basketball title games. Enberg turns 82 today.
Now, a happy birthday to the Skipper’s “little buddy.” Bob Denver (1935-2005) will always be remembered for playing the well-meaning but inept first mate of the S.S. Minnow on Gilligan’s Island. Lee Van Cleef (1925-1989) toiled for years as a villain, normally a henchman, working most often in Westerns like High Noon, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and Ride Lonesome. He became much better known when Sergio Leone gave him a pair of prime roles, as the heroic Col. Mortimer in For a Few Dollars More and as the evil Angel Eyes (“the Bad”) in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Susannah York (1939-2011) played Lara in Superman: The Movie as well as in two of the sequels, and was an Oscar nominee for They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Argentine actor Fernando Lamas (1915-1982) became a star in his own country and then came to Hollywood. His biggest roles were a variety of “Latin lover” types in MGM musicals and comedies, including Dangerous When Wet, with his future wife Esther Williams.
Belgian-born director Ulu Grosbard (1929-2012) was a two-time Tony nominee for Best Direction of a Play. His film career was short but included at least two notable films, Straight Time with Dustin Hoffman, and True Confessions with Robert De Niro and Robert Duvall. Sergei Parajanov (1924-1990) was a Soviet director of Armenian descent who became known internationally for his film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. Living in the Soviet Union was, of course, a hazard in itself, and Parajanov had more than one brush with the Communist authorities and spent, almost inevitably, some time in prison camps.
Irish dramatist Brian Friel (1929-2015) wrote some two dozen plays during his career. His 1990 play Dancing at Lughnasa won Olivier and Tony Awards for Best Play and was adapted into a feature film with Meryl Streep. Judith Krantz, who is turning 89 today, is a romance novelist whose books have sold an estimated 80 million copies. Several of her novels, including Scruples, Mistral’s Daughter and Till We Meet Again, have been adapted into TV miniseries. Philippa Gregory, who turns 63, is primarily an author of historical fiction set in England. Her best-known novel is probably The Other Boleyn Girl, which has been adapted into both a British TV movie and a feature film.
Richard Nixon (1913-1994) was the 37th President of the US, and the only President to resign from office. He has been played in movies and on television by actors such as Rip Torn, Anthony Hopkins, Beau Bridges, Dan Hedaya, and Frank Langella.
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 January 9, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Crystal Gayle, Dave Matthews, Imelda Staunton, J K Simmons, Jimmy Page, Joan Baez, Nicola Peltz, Nina Dobrev, Richard Nixon, Ulu Grosbard. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.