Born Today in History ›
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Published: 10 months ago
Ray Charles was one of the greats of soul, belting out some of the greatest hits of the 20th century while accompanying himself flawlessly on piano. The fact that he learned to play piano and compose music using braille, having been blind since childhood, is just a testament to his skill as a musician. His well-known songs include "Hit the Road Jack," "I Got a Woman," and "Georgia on My Mind," which has been named the official state song of his home state, Georgia. We remember Charles' life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
1976: Homaro Cantu, U.S. chef known for using science techniques in his cooking and who was the chef-owner at the Chicago restaurant Moto, is born in Tacoma, Washington.
Known as "Cool Willie" in high school, he ran for the Coronado Mustangs and had taken a school spirit towel on the Columbia shuttle. He won a race in Brownfield, Texas, in 1979 in which one of his competitors was George W. Bush. An Eagle Scout, he graduated second in his class in 1983 from the U.S. Naval Academy. He went on to test-pilot school, with assignments in Patuxent River, Maryland, and deployment aboard aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea. He became an astronaut in 1996. His mission aboard the Columbia was his first spaceflight. Read more
1959: Elizabeth Peña, U.S. actress whose movies include "Lone Star" and "La Bamba," is born in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Peña's Hollywood career spanned four decades and included roles in such movies as "La Bamba," "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," "Jacob's Ladder," and "Rush Hour." In filmmaker John Sayles' "Lone Star," she memorably portrayed a history teacher who rekindles a romance with an old flame, played by Chris Cooper. Pena appeared on such TV shows as "L.A. Law," "Dream On," "Resurrection Blvd.," and "Modern Family," where she played the mother of Sofia Vergara's character, Gloria. Read more
1931: Stan Lynde, U.S. comic strip artist who created "Rick O'Shay" and other comic strips, is born in Billings, Montana.
He drew daily comics in high school and created the comic strip Ty Foon for the Navy newspaper while he served during the Korean conflict. In the 1950s, he moved to New York, where he drew on his ranch background and his affinity for Western humor to create the "Rick O'Shay" strip that included characters such as gunslinger Hipshot Percussion, banker Mort Gage and a kid named Quyat Burp who lived in the Western town of Conniption. The characters in the comic strip were composites "of the old-time cowboys and the people I knew growing up," Lynde said. Read more
1931: Hilly Kristal, U.S. businessman who founded the legendary New York nightclub CBGB, is born in New York, New York.
Kristal started the club in 1973 with the hope of making it a mecca of country, bluegrass, and blues – called CBGB & OMFUG, for "Other Music For Uplifting Gourmandisers" – but found few bands to book. It instead became the epicenter of the mid-1970s punk movement. "There was never gourmet food, and there was never country bluegrass," Dana Kristal said. Besides the Ramones and the Talking Heads, many of the other bands that found frenzied crowds at CBGB during those years became legendary – including Patti Smith, Blondie, and Television. Read more
1930: Ray Charles, U.S. singer-songwriter and pianist known for enduring songs including "Georgia on My Mind" and "What'd I Say," is born in Albany, Georgia.
Anecdotes abound of Charles driving a car or flying a plane, despite having been blind since childhood. In her song "Spiderwebs," Joan Osbourne imagines Charles miraculously cured of his blindness and taking her on a vision quest of sorts while flying through the air. In "The Blues Brothers," Charles is blind, but he's an alarmingly good shot with a pistol – and just a few notes from his keyboard are all it takes to get the whole neighborhood dancing. Read more
1926: Andre Cassagnes, French inventor who created the Etch A Sketch, is born near Paris, France.
Then an electrical technician, Cassagnes came upon the Etch A Sketch idea in the late 1950s when he peeled a translucent decal from a light switch plate and found pencil mark images transferred to the opposite face, the Toy Industry Association said. Ohio Art saw his idea at the Nuremberg Toy Fair in 1959. The toy, with its gray screen, red frame, and two white knobs that are twisted back and forth to create drawings, was launched in 1960 and became the top seller that holiday season. More than 100 million have been sold worldwide since. Read more
Pellegrini has said she was 16 when "The Wizard of Oz" was filmed. She played one of the "sleepy head" kids and wore a flowerpot on her head in the movie. Later, Pellegrini was a guest speaker at grade schools across the Phoenix metropolitan area for many years. She usually appeared in costume and told stories about her time as a Munchkin, The Arizona Republic reported. She also told children that the "Wizard of Oz" movie was a moral lesson. "There are two roads in life that you can take – the wrong road and the right road," she said. "And remember, there really is no place like home." Read more
1920: Mickey Rooney, U.S. actor whose movies include "National Velvet," "Babes in Arms," and "The Black Stallion," is born in Brooklyn, New York.
Rooney began as a toddler in his parents' vaudeville act in the 1920s. He was barely 6 when he first appeared on screen, playing a dwarf in the 1926 silent comedy short "Not To Be Trusted," and he was still at it more than 80 years later, working incessantly as he racked up about 250 screen credits in a career unrivaled for length and variety. "I always say, 'Don't retire – inspire,'" Rooney said in an interview with The Associated Press in March 2008. "There's a lot to be done." Read more
1907: Tiny Bradshaw, U.S. singer, drummer, and bandleader who wrote and recorded the first version of "The Train Kept A-Rollin'," is born in Youngstown, Ohio.
1897: Walter Pidgeon, Canadian actor whose films include "How Green Was My Valley," "Mrs. Miniver," and "Forbidden Planet," is born in Saint John, New Brunswick.
1889: Walter Lippmann, U.S. journalist who co-founded The New Republic and won two Pulitzer prizes, is born in New York, New York.