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March 25: Happy Birthday Aretha Franklin and Elton John

0325FranklinJohn

While we have some worthy names from the world of film and television with birthdays today, we have a pair of music legends who were essentially self-selecting choices as headliners.

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, celebrates her 75th birthday today.  She began her singing career as a gospel singer, first at her father’s church (he was a Baptist minister), then touring.  When she turned 18, she decided she wanted to move into more secular music.  She initially signed with Columbia and her first album came out in 1961, but it was when she moved to Atlantic Records in 1967 that she became a big success.

Franklin has, like any performer, had ups and downs career-wise but she has never become irrelevant.  She has won 18 Grammys and in 1987 became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  When someone has had 88 singles that reached the Billboard Hot 100—and Franklin has—picking a single song to represent their entire career would be impossible.  However, there is one song that, above all others, she is identified with; you probably know what it is already, but it’s below the fold:

Sir Elton John is turning 70 today.  With some 250-300 million records sold worldwide, he is one of the 5 or 6 most successful recording artists ever.  He learned to play the piano at a young age and began composing tunes as a schoolboy.  In 1967 he met a young lyricist named Bernie Taupin, and the outcome was one of the most successful songwriting partnerships in the history of popular music history.  In 1971, John recorded the duo’s first hit single, “Your Song,” and took up a regular residence in the Hot 100 that lasted for decades.

Again, picking a single song for a performer who has had 57 Top 40 singles is not easy, but John has had one song that has achieved a unique status—it has reached the charts as a hit three separate times (counting one with revised lyrics):

In addition to his five decades partnership with Taupin, John has enjoyed considerable success working with Tim Rice, most notably on the songs for the movie The Lion King and the musical adaptation of Aida.  The duo won an Oscar, for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” for the former collaboration, and a Tony for Best Original Musical Score for the latter.  John has also won several Grammys, and as you probably noticed, he has been knighted.

Sarah Jessica Parker, who celebrates her 52nd birthday today, has had a variety of stage and screen roles, including playing the title role of Annie during the original Broadway production, but will always be best known as Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City, for which she won Emmys for both acting and producing, as well as four Golden Globes.  Marcia Cross, who is turning 55, was an Emmy and Golden Globe nominee as Bree Van de Kamp on Desperate Housewives and also played Kimberly Shaw on Melrose PlaceBonnie Bedelia, who is 69 today, has worked in film and television for nearly sixty years; she played Holly Gennaro McLane in two Die Hard films and was the family matriarch, Camille Braverman, on ParenthoodDorothy “D.C.” Fontana, who turns 78, was a screenwriter who worked in television for several decades, most notably as a writer and story editor for Star Trek during its first two seasons.  Paul Michael Glaser, who is 74, starred as David Starsky on Starsky and Hutch; more recently he has done a lot of television directing.  Stephen Hunter, a Pulitzer Prize winning film critic who has also written several thrillers featuring former Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger, is turning 71.  John Stockwell, who is 56 today, had a number of film roles in the eighties, including a part in Top Gun, but is better known as the director of films like Blue Crush, Into the Blue, and Cat Run.

Lee Pace, who is turning 38, was an Emmy nominee for ABC’s Pushing Daisies, and is known to filmgoers as Thrainduil from the Hobbit trilogy and Ronan the Accuser from Guardians of the GalaxyJenny Slate, who is 35 today, has had a successful career as a stand-up comedian, stared in the critically acclaimed 2014 film Obvious Child, and has done a lot of voice work—audiences heard her in two of last year’s biggest hits, Zootopia and The Secret Life of Pets.  Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez, who is 40 today, won a Cesar Award for the French-German miniseries Carlos, and also received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations; he played boxer Roberto Duran in last year’s Hands of StoneKari Matchett, who played Joan Campbell on USA’s Covert Affairs, celebrates her 47th.

Katharine McPhee, the runner-up on season 5 of American Idol, turns 33.  Along with a moderately successful singing career she has gone into acting, and currently stars as Paige Dineen on CBS’s Scorpion.  Another singer-actress celebrating today is Aly Michalka, who in addition to performing as half of the sister-duo of Aly & AJ, has starred on TV series like Phil of the Future and iZombie.  Michalka turns 28 today.  Seychelle Gabriel, who is 26 today, is best known for her regular role on TNT’s Falling Skies as Lourdes Delgado.

Tom Glavine heads our sports birthday list; he turns 51 today.  A star pitcher with the Atlanta Braves, he retired with 305 wins and was a ten-time All-Star.  Women’s basketball star Sheryl Swoopes, who is turning 46, was a three-time MVP of the WNBA and also starred for three gold-medal winning US Women’s Olympic basketball teams.  Danica Patrick, who celebrates her 35th birthday, is the most successful female driver ever in open-wheel auto racing in the US, if not worldwide.  She competed in seven consecutive Indy 500s, finishing as high as third, and is the only woman ever to win an IndyCar Series race.  Lawyer turned sportscaster Howard Cosell (1918-1995) was one of the most influential sports journalists of the 20th century.  He covered a wide variety of sporting events but was best known for his coverage of boxing and as a member of the Monday Night Football announcing team.

Jim Lovell, who turns 89 today, was the first person to fly in space four times.  He is most likely to be remembered for the fourth trip, when he was the mission commander on the ill-fated Apollo 13 flight.  Tom Hanks played Lovell in the movie Apollo 13, while Lovell himself had a cameo in the film.

English filmmaker Sir David Lean (1908-1991) was a seven-time Oscar nominee for Best Director.  He first became known for the romantic drama Brief Encounter and an adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations, and then started making epic historical films like The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia, winning Oscars for both.  Ed Begley, Sr. (1901-1970) worked on stage, radio and screen for several decades.  He won an Oscar for Sweet Bird of Youth and a Tony for Inherit the WindJohn Laurie (1897-1980) was a durable Scottish character actor who made films with Hitchcock (The 39 Steps), Powell and Pressburger (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp), and Olivier (Hamlet), and starred on the British sitcom Dad’s Army.  The classically trained English actor Patrick Troughton (1920-1987) was best known as the Second Doctor from Doctor Who, starring on the series from 1966-69.

Hungarian composer and pianist Bela Bartok (1881-1945) was one of the most important composers of the 20th century.  He is known for works such as his Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta and the Concerto for Orchestra.  In addition, he was a musical scholar, one of the founders of the discipline of ethnomusicology with his studies of Hungarian folk music.

Simone Signoret (1921-1985) was one of the leading French actresses of her generation; during her career she won Best Actress awards given in four different countries, including an Oscar for the 1959 film Room at the TopJean Rogers (1916-1991) made features at several studios in the 1940s, but is most likely to be recognized for playing Dale Arden in the first two of Universal’s Flash Gordon serials from the thirties.  Sylvia Anderson (1927-2016) is best known for collaborating with her husband Gerry on a number of British children’s television series, all using a puppetry technique known as Supermarionation.  The best known was Thunderbirds, for which Anderson not only co-produced and did much of the writing, but also provided the voice of Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward.

To close today’s article, let’s go back to our headliners.  It turns out that not only have the two been photographed together, they have on occasion performed together.  Here they collaborate on Elton John’s “Border Song,” which they each have recorded individually:

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 March 25, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. So many legends with birthdays today!

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  2. Aretha Franklin, “Natural Woman”, that’s the stuff for me right there. I heard Franklin lost some weight too, because things were getting dangerous for her; that’s good.
    Elton John, boy, I remember “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That” being played all the time at the Point breeze Hotel when I’d go to Friday dinner with my parents in the 1980’s. Good tune, good food.
    Sarah Jessica Parker, she’s never really done much for me due to the films and shows she’s participated in. I like 1986’s “Firstborn” though (More for Peter Weller and Teri Garr than Parker though), and I think she did well in “Ed Wood”.
    Marcia cross, I remember her more for “Melrose Place”. I liked her character there before she went crazy, but if I was Michael from the show, yeah, I would’ve went for some of that:-).
    Bonnie Bedelia (aunt of the Culkin’s) her signature roles for me are 1983’s “Heart Like A Wheel” and 1997’s “Bad Manners”, but probably her biggest mainstream notice was the early Die hard films and maybe her crucial role in “Presumed Innocent”.
    Paul Michael Glazer, that gold mine of “Miami Vice” comes up again, as he directed a few big episodes there (the end of the Calderone saga, ‘Smuggler’s Blues’), and he directed “The Running Man” too. Of course he’s best known for “Starsky and Hutch”.
    John Stockwell, I liked him in “Christine” and 1985’s “My Science Project”. Just like his “Christine” co-star Keith Gordon, he got into directing.

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  3. I believe that this is six times this month, out of 25 days, that I’ve been able to find a single picture with both of the headliners. Not bad.

    Quite a few names from the seventies that I remember in today’s article. I listened to a lot of Elton John, and watched quite a bit of sports covered by Howard Cosell. I caught a few episodes of Starsky and Hutch with Paul Michael Glaser, and I was just about old enough to understand what was going on when Jim Lovell and Apollo 13 had to report a “problem” to Mission Control.

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  4. Elton John achieved something in pop music that I don’t think will ever be duplicated: Elton had at least one Top 40 single in the U.S. every single year from 1970 (when his breakout “Your Song” first hit) all the way until 1995 when “Blessed” peaked at #34. His career had peaks and valleys like anybody else, but what’s mindblowing is even when he was facing his leaner years he was still getting minor Top 40 singles. A truly spectacular achievement.

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    • In writing the birthday articles, I have covered at least one member (so far) of most of the great pop/rock songwriting teams—Lennon & McCartney, Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield, Felice & Boudleaux Bryant, Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus, Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, etc. It’s hard to find any of them who have the same sustained level of creative quality as Elton John and Bernie Taupin. If you give Elton credit for his work with Tim Rice as well, then I doubt you could find anyone in pop, rock, or country who could match him. If you extended it to musical theater, maybe Richard Rodgers and one or two others.

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    • I did not know that, and that streak is amazing.

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  5. More love for Elton John here. His talent and thoughtfulness were too often overshadowed by his outlandish stage show. Too many rock purists dismissed his Tin Pan Alley level songwriting alongside Taupin and others as shallow and commercialized, but a good song is a good song. This guy’s recordings will live long past some of the “cooler” acts of his era.

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