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May 9: Happy Birthday Billy Joel and Candice Bergen

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It’s Billy Joel’s birthday—The Piano Man is turning 68.  The singer-songwriter has sold in the neighborhood of 150 million records in his career.  He began playing piano bars when he was still in high school, and in 1967 began performing full-time.  He formed his own band a few years later, and signed a contract with Columbia in 1972.  His first studio album with Columbia was not as big a success as he would later find typical, but it did fairly well, and the title track became one of his signature tunes and the source of his nickname.

With the release of his album The Stranger in 1977, Joel entered his most successful period.  That album included the hit single “Just the Way You Are,” which earned Joel his first two Grammys (of six) and began a string of hits that included #1 tunes like “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me” and “Tell Her About It.”  Although the 1993 release River of Dreams was his last studio rock album, Joel has continued to tour tirelessly, and to release occasional live albums for nearly 25 years since then.

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Five-time Emmy winner Candice Bergen is celebrating her 71st birthday.  She dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania and made her film debut in 1966, starring in The Group, a moderate success, and in The Sand Pebbles, one of the year’s biggest hits.  Over the next decade and a half she starred in films like Soldier Blue, Carnal Knowledge, The Wind and the Lion, Starting Over (receiving an Oscar nomination) and Gandhi.

As the eighties progressed, Bergen got fewer film roles, but made an extremely successful transition to television.  In 1988, she began a ten-season run as the title character of Murphy Brown.  Her performances as the television journalist and single mother earned her five Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.  More recently, she has been a two-time Emmy nominee as Shirley Schmidt on Boston Legal.

Five-time Oscar nominee Albert Finney is turning 81 today.  His nominated roles include the title character in Tom Jones and Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express.  He is an Olivier Award winner for Lyle Kessler’s Orphans and an Emmy winner as Winston Churchill in The Gathering Storm, and recently played the gamekeeper Kincade in Skyfall.  Two-time Oscar winner Glenda Jackson shares a birthday with Finney.  She won Best Actress honors for Women in Love and A Touch of Class, and also a pair of Emmys for the BBC miniseries Elizabeth R.  More recently, she served as a Labour Party member of the House of Commons for over 20 years.

James L. Brooks, who is 77 today, needs a really big trophy case in his home, because as the creator of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Taxi as well as a writer for both shows, an executive producer and writer for The Tracey Ullman Show, and as a creative consultant and executive producer on The Simpsons, he has won a total of 17 Emmys.  He also needs room for his three Oscars, which he won for producing, writing and directing Terms of Endearment.

Rosario Dawson, who is celebrating her 38th, has worked in a wide variety of films over the years, including Josie and the Pussycats, Shattered Glass, Rent, Sin City, and Death Proof.  Recently she has voiced Wonder Woman in several Justice League animated features, plays Claire Temple on several of the Marvel web series like Daredevil and Luke Cage, and currently she is starring in UnforgettableGrace Gummer, who is a regular on Mr. Robot, is 31 today.  Chris Diamantopoulos, who is currently a regular on Silicon Valley, is turning 42.  Joe Carnahan, who turns 48, has directed films such as Narc, Smokin’ Aces, and The A-TeamAlley Mills, who is 66 today, played Norma Arnold on The Wonder Years, and currently stars on The Bold and the Beautiful as Pamela Douglas.

British actor, playwright and screenwriter Alan Bennett, who turns 83, was an Oscar nominee for the screenplay for The Madness of King George.  His stage career has brought him multiple Tonys as well as Olivier Awards for acting and writing; his best known plays include Talking Heads and The History BoysJ. M. Barrie (1860-1937) was the author of a long list of novels and plays, but will always be known for his play Peter Pan and for the novel based on the play, originally titled Peter and Wendy.  Barrie has been played on screen by Ian Holm and Johnny Depp.

NHL great Steve Yzerman celebrates his 52nd.  He made his debut with the Detroit Red Wings at 18 and spent his entire 23 season career with them.  He made the NHL All-Star team ten times, led the Red Wings to three Stanley Cups, and is in the Hockey Hall of Fame and was named as one of the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players in NHL history earlier this year.

Dave Gahan, who turns 55 today, was a co-founder of Depeche Mode and has been their lead singer for over 35 years now.  Sean Altman, who is 56, is best known as a founding member and former lead singer of the a cappella group Rockapella.  Richie Furay, who is celebrating his 73rd, was a founder of the folk-rock bands Buffalo Springfield and Poco.  Hank Snow (1914-1999) was a very successful country singer who had seven #1 hits during a career lasting over 30 years.  Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, who turns 62, has made a long list of classical recordings of all kinds, as well as a few crossover albums, such as For the Stars, a collection of pop and rock tunes which was produced by Elvis Costello.  Carlo Maria Giulini (1914-2005) was one of the leading conductors of opera in the post-World War 2 era, known for some memorable productions in collaboration with directors Franco Zeffirelli and Luchino Visconti.  He later succeeded Zubin Mehta as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Richard Barthelmess (1895-1963) was a silent film star known for appearing with Lillian Gish in Broken Blossoms and Way Down East and for being a Best Actor nominee at the first Academy Awards.  He found the transition to sound difficult although some may recall his performances in The Dawn Patrol (1930 version) or Only Angels Have Wings.  The towering Kevin Peter Hall (1955-1991), who stood over seven feet tall, played Harry in Harry and the Hendersons and the Predator in Predator and Predator 2.

Historical birthdays today include the radical abolitionist John Brown (1800-1859), whose willingness to use violence to bring an end to slavery is still controversial today.  Henry Kaiser (1882-1967) was one of the most successful American businessmen of the first half of the 20th century, with accomplishments in the construction, shipbuilding, aluminum and steel industries.  English archeologist Howard Carter (1874-1939) was known for his excavation of the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, or King Tut,  in 1922.  Mike Wallace (1918-2012) was one of the most important figures in television journalism, best known for his long tenure as a host of 60 Minutes.

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 May 9, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I like Billy Joel. My favorite songs of his are “Uptown Girl”, “The Longest Time”, and “Piano Man”. I remember first hearing the latter sing being played at a friend’s graduation party several years ago, and I’ve enjoyed it since.

    I remember Rosario Dawson from “Clerks II”. She played the waitress who eventually falls in love with Dante. For years, I have been hearing rumors about a “Clerks III”, but nothing ever gets off the ground. Oh, well. At least we still have the first two movies to enjoy.

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  2. I have been a fan of Billy Joel “for the longest time.” 🙂 Since high school, to be precise.

    Candice Bergen—I can remember the big kerfuffle when Dan Quayle decided to make Murphy Brown the poster child for “all that was wrong with America.”

    Albert Finney and Glenda Jackson are already penciled in for headliners for a year from today. Great careers, both of them. Finney was a terrific Hercule Poirot and was outstanding in Miller’s Crossing. I really like how Jackson plays off of Walter Matthau in Hopscotch.

    James L. Brooks is another one who might well be worthy of a more detailed write-up in the future. He not only was the creator of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but of its spinoffs like Rhoda and The Lou Grant Show.

    Interesting footnote to it being Sean Altman’s birthday. In grad school, I lived for several years in a co-op, and one year one of our residents was a guy named Jeff Thacher. He moved out when he was asked to join Rockapella as their vocal percussionist, or “mouth drummer.” He has been with them for almost 25 years now.

    Carlo Maria Giulini is one of my favorite conductors. I was away at college during much of his time at the LA Philharmonic, but I am pretty sure I saw him conduct there once or twice.

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    • Billy Joel is an odd case. He was phenomenally popular and yet I don’t think he was ever looked at as a respected musician. I’m not sure why that is. I grew up listening to Joel’s music and have always been a fan. I didn’t have a lot of music as a kid, but I remember in high school I won a gift certificate to a local record store for a short story-writing contest and I redeemed it for a cassette tape of Joel’s Greatest Hits Vol 1 and 2.

      I was vaguely aware of Candice Bergen prior to Murphy Brown from appearances on SNL, etc. I enjoyed Murphy Brown for a while, but it did drop off at some point as most sitcoms do. The Dan Quayle incident may have been the tipping point.

      I look forward to Albert Finney and Glenda Jackson’s headliner status next year! Good to hear you’re planning that far ahead! 😉

      James L. Brooks has given us a lot. I came to know him through movies like Broadcast News, but I also watched The Tracy Ullman Show which spun off a cartoon which I believe has enjoyed some popularity on its own.

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      • I think you may be right about Billy Joel being underrated, especially as a songwriter. I recall a couple of similar comments back on Elton John’s birthday. One thing I’ve gained new appreciation for in writing all these articles is how much successful pop/rock music over the years has come from a relatively small group of songwriters or songwriting teams.

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        • An excellent observation.

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        • daffystardust

          There was a time when I was a huge Billy Joel fan (basically throughout my teen years), and I think if you’re someone who appreciates tin pan alley-style songwriting, with clear and elegant structures it’s a natural that you’ll appreciate his work. Or perhaps my fanhood of his helped prime me for my understanding of traditional song structures.

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  3. Billy Joel, when I was in 3rd grade I rented his “The Bridge” album from the Bookmobile (so much for books in that case), and especially enjoyed the track “Running on Ice” (taking it twice?). Since I love all things pop culture, I dig “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, but my favorite of his has to be “You May Be Right”; that song is me!
    Candice Bergen, I have instant recall of her role in “Ghandi”, I like “Starting Over” (but not starting over), “Stick”, and I remember that “Murphy Brown” was a much talked about show in its day.
    Albert Finney, I really like 1981’s “Wolfen” and although “Looker” is missing some key plot points, I can enjoy that too (he makes for an unconventional leading man there, and I like that).
    Glenda Jackson, I thought “Woman in Love” was very good.
    James L. Brooks, I’m all about “Broadcast News” and “The Simpsons”, and I got quite a kick out of “As Good As it gets”. I’m good with “Terms of Endearment” as well.
    Rosario Dawson, I’m a little perplexed on why she did “Unforgettable” (we already know “The Adventures of Pluto Nash” was a disaster), but I first saw her in “Kids”, and I enjoyed the heck out of “Josie and The Pussycats”, while I’d always recommend “Shattered Glass” to anyone who hasn’t viewed it. I’m also a fan of “25th Hour”.
    Steve Yzerman, he was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings when they were in a franchise slump and being called the “Detroit Dead Things” (I find that moniker to be funny, along with “The Darkness Under Harkness”, which began the era of poor Red Wings play) but after they surround him with some excellent players, the team took off and stayed that way up until recently. I think he’s doing a good job with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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  4. I’ve been thinking about it, and yeah, I feel Billy Joel may be underrated. I mean, I named the songs that come up for me, but then I really like the other tunes named in the comments section, and after that there’s even more songs (“Only The Good Die Young”, “She’s Always a Woman”, “Just the Way You Are”). For myself, I’ve probably taken him for granted, and since I’ve always been more Billy Idol (look outside; is it a nice day for a white wedding?) than Billy Joel (except for “You may Be Right”:-), I’ve probably looked past him too often, thinking, “Well, that’s just Billy Joel; he is what he is”. But hey, I was only having fun, wasn’t hurting anyone…

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