Born December 31
By: Legacy Staff
6 months ago
Donna Summer was known as the Queen of Disco, selling upward of 100 million albums during her career including hits like "Love To Love You Baby" and "Hot Stuff." She started out as the lead singer of a blues rock band in New York and moved to Munich to star in "Hair." Her unlikely path to disco stardom took her through the productions of several musicals in Germany and work as a studio musician before coming back to America and becoming a fixture at Studio 54 as one of the icons of the new disco scene. We remember Summer's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
1948: Donna Summer, U.S. singer-songwriter whose disco hits include "I Feel Love," "MacArthur Park," and "Hot Stuff," is born in Boston, Massachusetts.
The Queen of Disco was incredibly prolific, with 19 albums and dozens of singles over the course of her decadeslong recording career. It's hard to pick a favorite, but we can narrow it down to her all-time top hits – the ones that hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Summer had hit after hit on the dance charts, but these select few were so great that they electrified listeners off the dance floor, too. Read more
1943: Pete Quaife, English musician who was the bassist and a founding member of the Kinks, is born in Tavistock, England.
The Kinks were never as popular in the U.S. as they were in Great Britain. This might be partly due to the fact that in 1965, at the peak of the British Invasion, they were banned by the American Federation of Musicians from performing live in the U.S. Likely this was because of an incident in Australia, when Ray Davies insulted drummer Mick Avory onstage and Avory responded by smashing the high-hat over Davies’ head (the singer's wound would require 16 stitches). Fighting among band members was common – Quaife later claimed he got in a fistfight with Davies in a taxicab when Davies chaffed him for whistling a Beatles tune. Read more
1943: John Denver, U.S. singer-songwriter known for folk and country tunes including "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "Rocky Mountain High," and "Sunshine on My Shoulders," is born in Roswell, New Mexico.
"Sunshine on My Shoulders" brings to mind a beautiful summer day – and that's just what Denver was dreaming of when he wrote it. On a gray late-winter day in Minnesota, Denver was longing for a bit of warmth, and the song came to him. It's been warming up his listeners ever since. Read more
1938: Rosalind Cash, U.S. actress who starred in "The Omega Man" opposite Charlton Heston, is born in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
1930: Jaime Escalante, Bolivian-American teacher whose story was made famous in the 1988 movie "Stand and Deliver," is born in La Paz, Bolivia.
An immigrant from Bolivia, he overhauled East Los Angeles' Garfield High School's math curriculum and pushed his students to do their best until the school had more Advanced Placement calculus students than all but four other public high schools in the country, according to his 2010 obituary by The Associated Press. Edward James Olmos played Escalante in the 1988 film based on his story. "Jaime exposed one of the most dangerous myths of our time – that inner city students can't be expected to perform at the highest levels," Olmos said. "Because of him, that destructive idea has been shattered forever." Read more
1930: Odetta Holmes, aka Odetta, U.S. folk music singer-songwriter whose music was highly influential, including the classic song "Take This Hammer," is born in Birmingham, Alabama.
Odetta may not be as much a household name as Bob Dylan – but she was the musician who inspired him to pick up an acoustic guitar and sing folk music. She might not have the folk music fame of Joan Baez, but Baez called her a goddess. Carly Simon may have been the bigger star, but she said she went weak in the knees when she had a chance to meet Odetta. Read more
1920: Rex Allen, U.S. actor and musician who narrated many of Walt Disney's wildlife films as well as the animated movie "Charlotte's Web," is born in Willcox, Arizona.
1917: Evelyn Knight, U.S. singer who recorded No. 1 hits in the 1940s including "A Little Bird Told Me," is born in Reedville, Virginia.
1880: George Marshall, U.S. soldier and statesman who was called the Organizer of Victory by Winston Churchill for his key role in the Allied victory in World War II, is born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
1884: Elizabeth Arden, Canadian businesswoman who founded the cosmetics company now known as Elizabeth Arden Inc., is born in Woodbridge, Ontario.
1869: Henri Matisse, French artist whose paintings are renowned for their use of color, is born in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France.