February 7: Happy Birthday Garth Brooks and Chris Rock
Country superstar Garth Brooks is turning 55 today. He learned to play guitar and banjo for family talent shows as a boy, but didn’t start performing until after he graduated from Oklahoma State University. His first album, titled Garth Brooks, came out in 1989 and reached #2 on the Top Country Albums chart. He released six albums in eight years during the 1990s, each of which reached #1 on the country chart, with four of them reaching #1 on the Billboard 200. He also had a long list of hit country singles during the nineties.
In the 2000s, the pressures of balancing family and career drove Brooks to take a lengthy sabbatical from touring and recording; with limited exceptions he did not return to performing until late 2009, when he began a four-year series of residency shows at the Encore Las Vegas. In 2014 he released his first studio album in over a decade and began a new tour, accompanied by his wife, fellow country star Trisha Yearwood. In his career, Brooks has sold well over 150 million records worldwide, making him the best-selling purely country artist ever.
Comedian and actor Chris Rock celebrates his 52nd. He was a high school dropout working low-wage jobs in New York when he began doing stand-up comedy at local clubs. Eddie Murphy saw him one night and gave him a role in Beverly Hills Cop II, and in 1990 Rock had his first big breakthrough when he was invited to join the cast of Saturday Night Live, where he appeared for three seasons. During this time, he released his first comedy album and had a major role in New Jack City.
In 1996, Rock’s HBO comedy special Bring the Pain was a big success. Rock won a pair of Emmys, his first of four, for the special. A year later his album Roll with the New won him the first of three Grammys he has received in the Best Comedy Album category. He has had two regular TV series, The Chris Rock Show (a talk show) on HBO, and Everybody Hates Chris (a sitcom) on The CW. While he has never really become a big film star he has had steady work in film for over 20 years; the Madagascar animated films along with Grown Ups and the remake of The Longest Yard have been his biggest successes.
Ashton Kutcher, who turns 39, has starred on television as Michael Kelso on That ’70s Show and later as Waldon Schmidt on Two and a Half Men, and in between hosted Punk’d. On the big screen, he has starred in the low-budget thriller The Butterfly Effect and several reasonably successful romantic comedies like Just Married, What Happens in Vegas, and No Strings Attached.
Eddie Izzard, who is 55 today, is considered one of England’s best comedians. He won an Emmy for his 2000 HBO special Dress to Kill, and has carved out a nice career as a character actor. James Spader, who turns 57, gave an acclaimed performance in Sex, Lies and Videotape, won three Emmys on The Practice and its spinoff Boston Legal, and more recently gave the Avengers some difficulty as Ultron. Robert Smigel, born the same day as Spader, is a longtime writer for Saturday Night Live and for several of Adam Sandler’s films who is also known for his puppet character Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. Producer Barrie Osborne, who is 73 today, was the producer of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, winning an Oscar for Return of the King, and also of films like Face/Off and the remake of The Great Gatsby. Alejandro Jodorowsky, who is turning 88, is a maverick Chilean director. His 1970 film El Topo set off the “midnight movie” boomlet of the 1970s.
Robyn Lively, who turns 45, seemed to be an up and comer back around 1990 when she starred in films like Teen Witch and The Karate Kid Part III and received a Daytime Emmy nomination for an ABC Afterschool Special. These days, someone else is the famous member of her family. Victor Webster, who starred in the Canadian sci-fi series Mutant X and Continuum, turns 44 today. Tina Majorino, who is turning 32, starred in the surprise hit Napoleon Dynamite and played Mac Mackenzie on Veronica Mars. Also 32 today is Deborah Ann Woll, who played Jessica Hamby on True Blood and now is seen as Karen Page on Daredevil, a role she will reprise in the near future on The Punisher and The Defenders. German actor Alexander Dreymon, who is 34, stars in the BBC series The Last Kingdom.
Other music birthdays today include David Bryan. Bryan, who celebrates his 55th, is the longtime keyboardist of Bon Jovi and also the composer and co-lyricist of the musical Memphis. Eubie Blake (1887-1983) was, like Bryan, a pianist and composer, an important figure in ragtime and early jazz who co-wrote the 1921 musical Shuffle Along, a hit that was a rarity in its time for being written, produced and performed by African Americans. Blake’s music was featured in the Tony-nominated 1978 revue Eubie!
Pete Postelthwaite (1946-2011) emerged as a leading character actor when he was Oscar-nominated for In the Name of the Father, and is also known for roles such as Mr. Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects and Fergie Colm in The Town. Miguel Ferrer (1955-2017), who passed less than three weeks ago, will be remembered for his lengthy runs as a regular on Crossing Jordan and NCIS: Los Angeles. Jock Mahoney (1919-1989) began working in film as a stunt man, and then transitioned to playing action roles. He starred in the TV Western series The Range Rider. After playing a villain in Tarzan the Magnificent, he was recruited to replace Gordon Scott in the role of Tarzan, which he played in a pair of 1960s feature films. Another movie Tarzan was Buster Crabbe (1908-1983), who became famous as a gold medal winning Olympic swimmer at the Los Angeles Olympics and then starred in the 1933 serial Tarzan the Fearless. Crabbe went on to play the most famous movie serial hero of all, Flash Gordon, in three Universal serials from 1936-40.
Literary birthdays today start with Charles Dickens (1812-1870, the great fictional chronicler of early Victorian London, the setting of many of his novels. Novels such as David Copperfield, Hard Times and Great Expectations, just to name a few, are full of memorable characters and include often-biting social criticism. Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951), the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, was, like Dickens, a critic of the times he wrote about. Novels like Main Street, Babbitt, and Elmer Gantry held up a critical mirror to early 20th century America. Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) wrote the popular Little House series of children’s novels, which were very loosely adapted into the television series Little House on the Prairie, starring Melissa Gilbert as Laura. Ben Mezrich, who turns 48, is best known for two non-fiction books that have been turned into films. Bringing Down the House was the basis for the movie 21, while The Accidental Billionaires was the source for The Social Network.
Our final birthdays today are a pair of historical figures, both of strong religious convictions, both of whom were the subject of major movies. Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) was the author of the book Utopia and Lord Chancellor of England, but was deposed from office and eventually executed for his opposition to Henry VIII’s breaking with the Catholic Church. More is the hero of Robert Bolt’s play A Man For All Seasons, adapted into a film starring Paul Scofield. When Desmond Doss (1919-2006) entered the US Army during World War II, as a Seventh-Day Adventist, he refused to carry weapons, so he was assigned as a combat medic. During the American invasion of Okinawa in 1945, Doss heroically saved the lives of 75 wounded soldiers, and became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor. The 2016 film Hacksaw Ridge is a biopic starring Andrew Garfield as Doss.
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 February 7, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Charles Dickens, Chris Rock, Deborah Ann Woll, Eddie Izzard, Eubie Blake, Garth Brooks, James Spader, Pete Postelthwaite, Sinclair Lewis. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.