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January 25: Happy Birthday Alicia Keys and Etta James

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Our two headliners today are a pair of singers who between them have a total of nearly twenty Grammys.

Alicia Keys turns 36 today.  The R&B star made her performing debut on The Cosby Show at the age of four (as a guest at a slumber party), and signed her first recording contract at the age of 16. Although her career hit a few brief bumps, her first album, Songs in A minor, came out in 2001, as did the first of multiple hit singles from that album, which reached #1 on the Hot 100.  Both album and single featured her particular style of R&B, with lots of classical overtones (she was trained as a classical pianist).

In the past 15 years, Keys has released five additional studio albums, all of which have reached #1 or 2 on the Billboard 200.  She has won a total of 15 Grammys, predominantly, although not exclusively, in the R&B category.  She has also dabbled with an acting career at times, appearing in the 2007 films Smokin’ Aces and The Nanny Diaries.  And at the 2012 Grammys, she took part in a tribute to our other headliner for today.

Etta James (1938-2012) had her first hit while still a teenager, with the #1 R&B single “The Wallflower” in 1955.  She had a string of Top Ten R&B hits in the early sixties, but her success tailed off in the seventies as she battled drug addiction.  In 1989 she began a comeback with the album Seven Year Itch, and she won several Grammys in the nineties and oughts; two of her biggest hits are in the Grammys Hall of Fame.

Mia Kirshner, who is turning 42 today, starred as Jenny Schecter on The L Word and played murder victim Elizabeth Short in the 2006 film The Black Dahlia.  In light of two other birthdays today, it’s also worth mentioning Kirshner’s recurring role on The Vampire DiariesChristine Lakin, who celebrates her 38th, played Alicia “Al” Lambert on the nineties sitcom Step by Step, and although she’s never really made it big in adult roles she’s worked steadily for nearly twenty years since the series ended.  Michael Trevino, best known for his role as Tyler Lockwood on The Vampire Diaries, turns 32 today.  Charlie Bewley, who is 36, may be the only actor to have had parts in both the Twilight Saga, as Demetri, and The Vampire Diaries, as Galen Vaughn.

Leigh Taylor-Young, who turns 72 today, first became known for her role on the sixties prime time soap opera Peyton Place, and later won an Emmy for her work on Picket Fences in the nineties.  Jenifer Lewis, who is celebrating her 60th, currently is a regular on ABC’s Black-ish, and has been working in film and television for nearly 30 years.  Dinah Manoff won a Tony for Neil Simon’s 1980 play I Ought to Be in Pictures and starred in the film adaptation, and starred on Empty Nest as oldest daughter Carol Weston.  She turns 59 today.

Writer-director Whit Stillman, who turns 65, is known for his trilogy of 1990s films, Metropolitan (which brought him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay), Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco.  His 2016 feature Love & Friendship is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan.  Horror fans will want Tobe Hooper, director of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist, recognized; he is 74 today.  Stephen Chbosky, who celebrates his 47th, wrote the novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and then wrote and directed the film adaptation; he also wrote the screenplay of the film adaptation of Rent.  Geoff Johns, currently the Chief Creative Officer of DC Comics, turns 44.  In addition to a long career as a comic book writer, he has had a hand, as writer and/or producer, in Batman v. Superman and upcoming films in the DC Extended Universe, as well as several of the ongoing DC television projects such as The Flash.

Eusébio da Silva Ferreira, usually known simply as Eusébio (1942-2014), was the star of the 1966 World Cup, scoring 9 goals to lead Portugal to third place, their best finish ever.  Born in Mozambique when it was still Portuguese-controlled, he is often considered the best African footballer ever.  Xavier Hernandez, generally known as Xavi, turns 37 today.  The Spanish footballer was Spain’s midfield general during their most successful international run ever, when they won the European Cups of 2008 and 2012, and sandwiched a triumph at the 2010 World Cup in between.  Hockey Hall of Famer Chris Chelios, who celebrates his 55th today, played 26 seasons in the NHL, tying the record held by Gordie Howe, and starred as a defenseman on three Stanley Cup winners.  Steve Prefontaine (1951-1975) was building a record that might have made him one of the greatest distance runners in the history of American track and field when his life was cut short in a May 1975 auto accident.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) heads our literary birthday list for today.  The author of novels like Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, she was one of the first great writers of the early 20th century modernist movement.  Robert Burns (1759-1796) was Scotland’s great national poet and one of the earliest literary Romantics.  His most famous poem is undoubtedly “Auld Lang Syne.”  English playwright and novelist W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) was reportedly the highest-paid author in the world in the 1930s.  His best-known novels include Of Human Bondage, The Moon and Sixpence, and The Razor’s Edge.

Dean Jones (1931-2015) is most remembered for starring in several of Disney’s live action films of the sixties and seventies, such as The Love Bug, The Million Dollar Duck, and The Shaggy D.A.  He also originated the role of Bobby in Stephen Sondheim’s Company on Broadway.  Ewan MacColl (1915-1989) was a legend in the English folk music scene, remembered for songs like “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” a hit for Roberta Flack, and “Dirty Old Town,” a favorite with Irish groups like The Dubliners and The Pogues.  Egyptian director Youssef Chahine (1926-2008) worked in the film industry of his homeland for about fifty years; his film Sira` Fi al-Wadi was an early starring role for Omar Sharif.  Bill Hickman (1921-1986) was a famous stunt driver and coordinator, famous for his participation in the filming of two of the most famous car chase sequences in movie history, for Bullitt and The French Connection.

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 January 25, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. My kids used to sing “No one” until I just couldn’t take it any more. They sing it less so now, but still pretty often. Not a lot of Etta James though.

    I think I love Whit Stillman’s Last Days of Disco more than anyone else in the world. More than anyone I know, for sure.

    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is just a great horror movie. Not as gory as most people assume it is. Tobe Hooper hasn’t been as good since. Did he really direct Poltergeist? O did he just get credited because producer Stephen Spielberg was contractually obligated not to direct it? Depends on who you ask.

    I have very complicated feelings about Geoff Johns. Back in his early days, I was a fan of his work. But the more popular he became and the more books and responsibilities he took on, the more his writing suffered. He also began repeating the same tricks over and over again. The Johns style is heavy on nostalgia and fan service. A little of that goes a long way. I haven’t read comics in a while, so I can’t speak to the current health of DC Comics, but my feeling was that Johns’ tenure had not been good for the company overall.

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  2. Thanks so much for posting Etta James’ “At Last.” It’s one of the great pop recordings of all time.

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  3. Always great to see the all-in-one headliner photo. I’m a little familiar with Alicia Keys, and I thin Etta James’ “At Last” is an excellent song.
    Mia Kirshner, I always though she would’ve been bigger, but that’s how it goes. I think she’s done okay for himself though.
    Leigh Taylor-Young I know from 1971’s “The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight”, “Jagged Edge”, and Secret Admirer”.
    Dinah Manoff, she also played a nun in the early years of “Night Court”; funny episode.
    Tobe Hooper never lived up to the talk that he’s be the next big director (I think that became official after 1986’s “Invaders From Mars” didn’t do well), but beyond the chainsaw massacre stuff I really like 1981’s “The Funhouse”.

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  4. As I write these articles, I am constantly putting movies on my “I need to watch that one again” list. With this article, writing the segment on Bill Hickman reminded me that I need to watch Bullitt again sometime soon.

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