Born Today in History ›
Published: 9 months ago
Don Cornelius taught America how to dance every week on the nationally syndicated hit "Soul Train." The former Marine from Chicago's South Side held a series of day jobs before he took a chance on a broadcasting course, despite having just $400 to his name and a family to support. He was a natural, however, thanks to his suave demeanor and unforgettable voice, and he put his abilities to use in 1967 as host of "A Black's View of the News" before launching "Soul Train" three years later, bringing many African-American artists to wider audiences and influencing popular culture for decades. We remember Cornelius' life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
1953: Greg Ham, Australian musician who played saxophone and other instruments for Men at Work, whose hits include "Who Can It Be Now?" and "Down Under," is born in Melbourne, Australia.
"Down Under" and the album it was on, "Business As Usual," topped the Australian, American, and British charts in early 1983. The song remains an unofficial anthem for Australia and was ranked fourth in a 2001 music industry survey of the best Australian songs. Men at Work won the 1983 Grammy Award for best new artist. Australian rock historian Glenn Baker, who was Australian editor of Billboard magazine when Men at Work was at its peak touring the world, recalled Ham as bursting with energy during the band's glory days. Read more
1942: Dith Pran, Cambodian photojournalist whose experience of the Cambodian genocide was the subject of the Oscar-winning movie "The Killing Fields," is born in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Dith was working as an interpreter and assistant for Sydney Schanberg in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, when the Vietnam War reached its chaotic end in April 1975 and both countries were taken over by Communist forces. Schanberg helped Dith's family get out but was forced to leave his friend behind after the capital fell; they were not reunited until Dith escaped four and a half years later. Eventually, Dith resettled in the United States and went to work as a photographer for The New York Times. It was Dith himself who coined the term "killing fields" for the horrifying clusters of corpses and skeletal remains of victims he encountered on his desperate journey to freedom. Read more
1936: Don Cornelius, U.S. television host and producer who created and hosted the dance and music TV show "Soul Train," is born in Chicago, Illinois.
More than just a music showcase, "Soul Train" included Cornelius' interviews with artists, with time for audience questions afterward. Cornelius inspired insight from the performers – sometimes the audience did, too (and sometimes they just wanted to know a favorite star's zodiac sign). Read more
1933: Will Sampson, U.S. actor who played Chief Bromden in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," is born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.
1933: Greg Morris, U.S. actor who had notable roles on TV shows including "Mission: Impossible" and "Vega$," is born in Cleveland, Ohio.
1925: George Gladir, U.S. comic book writer who co-created the character Sabrina the Teenage Witch, is born in New York, New York.
1924: Bud Powell, U.S. jazz pianist who was a pioneer of bebop, is born in New York, New York.
1922: Arthur Penn, U.S. film director and producer whose movies include "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Little Big Man," is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Penn was most identified with "Bonnie and Clyde," although it wasn't a project he initiated or, at first, wanted. Warren Beatty, who earlier starred in Penn's "Mickey One" and produced "Bonnie and Clyde," had to persuade him to take on the film, written by Robert Benton and David Newman and inspired by the movies of the French new wave. (Francois Truffaut and Jean Luc-Godard each turned down offers to direct the film). Penn was in his 40s when he made "Bonnie and Clyde," but his heart was very much with the gorgeous stars, played by Beatty and Faye Dunaway, and with the story, as liberal in its politics as it was with the facts – a celebration of individual freedom and an exposé of the banks that had ruined farmers' lives. Read more
1920: William Conrad, U.S. actor who starred on TV in "Cannon" and "Jake and the Fatman," is born in Louisville, Kentucky.
1840: Thomas Nast, German-American cartoonist known for his editorial cartoons and for creating the modern version of Santa Claus and the Republican Party's elephant symbol, is born in Landau, Germany.
1722: Samuel Adams, U.S. statesman who was one of the Founding Fathers, after whom Samuel Adams beer is named, is born in Boston, Massachusetts.