May 13: Happy Birthday Stevie Wonder and Harvey Keitel


Today is the 67th birthday of Stevland Hardaway Morris, much better known as Stevie Wonder.  A major figure in soul, R&B and funk, he is one of the most successful musicians of our time; only three living musicians (Quincy Jones, Alison Krauss, and John Williams) have won more Grammys.

Although blind from shortly after birth, he displayed his musical gifts at an early age, and was signed by Motown when he was just eleven.  He had his first #1 single, “Fingertips,” when he was just 13, and by his late teens he was assuming a substantial degree of artistic control over his career, and writing or co-writing a number of his own songs, including several successful hits.

As the seventies began, Wonder entered the most successful period of his career.  He won a dozen Grammys from 1973-76, including winning Album of the Year three times.  The third of those albums, Songs in the Key of Life, was the most successful of his career, commercially as well as critically.  He continued to be very successful through the 1980s, and has remained active both in concert and in the recording studio.

Harvey Keitel is 78 today.  He became well known in the seventies for starring in several of Martin Scorsese’s early films, such as Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, and also appeared in a number of other prominent roles.  During the eighties his star seemed on the wane, but he burst back into prominence in the early nineties, with roles in films like Thelma & Louise and Bad Lieutenant and an Oscar-nominated role in Bugsy.  He also starred in Quentin Tarantino’s first feature.

Keitel worked with Tarantino a second time on Pulp Fiction, and has had prominent roles in Clockers, From Dust Till Dawn, Cop Land, and Red Dragon.  Lately he has become a Wes Anderson regular, appearing in Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  Along with Al Pacino and Ellen Burstyn, he is one of the current co-presidents of the Actors Studio.

Zoë Wanamaker, one of the most distinguished English stage actresses of our time, turns 68 today.  She is a nine-time Olivier Award nominee, with wins for starring in Kaufman and Hart’s Once in a Lifetime and in Sophocles’ Electra.  She has also received four Tony nominations.  Her screen career has been less extensive, but she played Madam Hooch in the first Harry Potter film and Paula Strasberg in My Week With Marilyn, and on television appeared as Ariadne Oliver on several episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

Samantha Morton, who turns 40 today, is a two-time Oscar nominee, for Sweet and Lowdown and In America, and a Golden Globe winner for the British TV movie Longford.  She has had prominent roles in Minority Report and John Carter and recently appeared in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemBrian Geraghty, known for his major supporting role in The Hurt Locker and for starring as Sean Roman on Chicago P.D., turns 42 today.

The multi-talented Lena Dunham is celebrating her 31st birthday.  She is a two-time Golden Globe winner and a seven-time Emmy nominee for her roles as star, creator, writer and director for HBO’s Girls.  Also turning 31 is Robert Pattinson, who played Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and then went on to become world famous as a sparkly vampire.  Candice Accola, who turns 30, is also someone who you might associate with vampires, as her best known role is as Caroline Forbes on The Vampire Diaries.  Also celebrating his 30th is Hunter Parrish, who starred as Silas Botwin on Weeds and has appeared on Broadway in the musicals Godspell and Spring AwakeningDebby Ryan, who turns 24 today, is known to Disney Channel fans for her starring roles on The Suite Life on Deck and Jessie.  Welsh actor Iwan Rheon celebrates his 32nd.  He has played Ramsey Bolton on Game of Thrones and is scheduled to be a regular on the upcoming Marvel’s Inhumans.

Writer and director Alan Ball, who turns 60, won an Oscar for the screenplay of American Beauty, and an Emmy for directing on Six Feet Under, which he was also the creator and executive producer of.  Joe Johnston, who turns 67, made his directing debut with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.  His subsequent films have included The Rocketeer, October Sky, Hidalgo, and Captain America: The First Avenger.

Comedian and television host Stephen Colbert turns 53.  He is a nine-time Emmy winner, as a writer for The Daily Show and a writer and producer for The Colbert Report.  He currently hosts The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on CBS.

Darius Rucker, best known as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of Hootie and the Blowfish, turns 51 today.  Mary Wells (1943-1992) was one of Motown’s most successful acts in the early sixties, with several charted singles including the #1 hit “My Guy.”  Ritchie Valens (1941-1959) was just establishing himself as a major rock star, known for hits like “La Bamba,” when he perished along with Buddy Holly and J. P. Richardson on “the day the music died.”  Folksinger Fred Hellerman (1927-2016) was the last surviving member of the Weavers when he passed last year.

Boxing legend Joe Louis (1914-1981) heads our sports birthdays today.  One of the greatest heavyweights ever, he held the world title for nearly 12 years from 1937-1949, and his 26 title defenses are more than any other heavyweight ever.  Basketball Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, who is turning 56, won five NBA championships as a player, two with the Detroit Pistons and three with the Chicago Bulls, and is considered one of the best rebounders ever in basketball history.

Roger Zelazny (1937-1995), a big name in science fiction and fantasy, was a six-time Hugo winner who was known for novels like Lord of Light and the Chronicles of Amber series.  The English novelist Dame Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989) was often labelled a “romance” novelist even though many of her books did not have conventional happy endings.  A long list of film adaptations of her works would include Hitchcock’s Rebecca and The Birds and Nic Roeg’s Don’t Look NowFrancine Pascal, who turns 79, is best known for her young adult fiction, notably the Sweet Valley High series and its spinoffs.  Armistead Maupin, who is 73 today, is the author of the nine novels that make up the Tales of the City series, a chronicle of San Francisco over the past four decades.

Bea Arthur (1922-2009) was a nine time nominee for the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy for her lead roles on Maude and The Golden Girls, winning once for each show.  She also won a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical as Vera Charles in Mame.  English actor Tim Pigott-Smith (1946-2017), who passed just last month, was a BAFTA Television Award winner for starring in The Jewel in the Crown, and received Olivier and Tony nominations for the title role in Mike Bartlett’s King Charles IIIRobert Middleton (1911-1977) was a beefy character actor who had prominent roles in a number of major films of the fifties, including The Big Combo, The Court Jester, and The Law and Jake WadeHerbert Ross (1927-2001) had a lengthy career as a choreographer and director in theater, and also directed a number of films, including the 1969 remake of Goodbye, Mr. Chips, The Last of Sheila, Funny Lady, and a number of Neil Simon adaptations such as The Goodbye Girl and California Suite.

We’ll finish today with another music birthday.  Sir Arthur S. Sullivan (1842-1900) will always be remembered in association with the words “Gilbert and.”  Although he composed everything from grand opera to the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers,” the dozen or so comic operas he wrote with lyricist William S. Gilbert are what will make his name immortal.  Allan Corduner played Sullivan in the movie Topsy-Turvy.

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 May 13, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Stevie Wonder, beyond hearing phrases like “That was so obvious, Stevie Wonder could’ve seen that” I dig some of his music, especially “My Cherie Amour”, “Superstition”, “I just Called to Say I Love You”, “You Are the sunshine of My Life” and “Pastime Paradise”.
    If it isn’t the hippie pimp & the Bad Lieutenant himself, Harvey Keitel. I especially liked his turn as Mickey Cohen in “Bugsy” (though I thought Bob Hoskins looked more like Cohen in real life, I feel Keitel brought a quiet toughness to the character) and his Mr. Wolfe in “Pulp Fiction”, just I think the film “Blue Collar” is just awesome.
    Darius Rucker, I liked how he switched gears and became a Country musician; I haven’t heard of many Soft Rock Musicians doing that.
    Richie Valens, I think “Come On, Let’s go” is my favorite of his, but I also like “Donna” (on the soundtrack of the video game “Mafia II”) and “La Bamba” (I remember when that was covered by Los Lobos).
    Joe louis, I understand he was a pretty formidable boxer back in his day, and the Detroit Red wings hockey team had an arena named after him up until recently.
    Dennis Rodman, I found him to be a great defender and rebounder, as well as a fascinating person.
    Bea Arthur, I think “Maude” is an outstanding show.


  2. Actually, i just looked it up, and Richie Valens’ “Donna” is on the “Mafia II” soundtrack as well.


  3. I was in middle school, as I recall, when Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life came out, and “Sir Duke,” one of the biggest hits from that album, was all over the airwaves. A big, big figure in the last fifty years of popular music.

    Harvey Keitel never managed to present himself as a plausible leading man, the way his near-contemporaries like Pacino and De Niro did, but he had a very good career, including a nice comeback from relative obscurity at the start of the nineties.

    Roger Zelazny’s novel Lord of Light has its own little place in history. That was as part of the “Canadian caper,” in which six Americans who escaped the takeover of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979 and hidden out with Canadian diplomats, were subsequently exfiltrated from Iran. The operation to get them out (the subject of the Oscar-winning movie Argo) used as a cover that they were supposedly scouting locations for a film adaptation of Zelazny’s novel.

    That aside, Zelazny is worth checking out—he is a terrific writer with an often wicked sense of humor.

    Joe Louis was not only one of the great heavyweights of all time, but aside from Muhammad Ali and maybe Jack Dempsey, the most high-profile celebrity of them all.

    The directors of a pair of movies on my personal favorites list were born today: Joe Johnston directed The Rocketeer, and Herbert Ross directed The Last of Sheila.


  4. Zoë Wannamaker also had a big supporting role as Jane Murdstone in the 1999 TV adaption of “David Copperfield”, along with a big bunch of other future “Harry Potter” actors. And she also was one of the leads of the sitcom “My family”.


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