Singer-Songwriter Syreeta Wright created memorable music with Stevie Wonder. Wright was a demo and background singer for Motown when she met label mate Wonder in 1968. They began dating, and Wonder convinced Wright to try songwriting. The duo were married in 1970 and co-wrote Wonder’s 1971 hit song “If You Really Love Me.” They divorced in 1972 but remained best friends. They would continue to work together, with Wonder producing Wright’s first solo album. Wright notched her biggest hit with musician Billy Preston. Their 1979 collaboration “With You I’m Born Again” became a top-five international hit. We remember Wright’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
1994: Esther Earl, U.S. video blogger who inspired the character Hazel in the book and movie “The Fault in Our Stars,” is born in Beverly, Massachusetts.
1968: Rod Beck, U.S. professional baseball player who was a relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs, among other teams, is born in Burbank, California.
Nicknamed Shooter, Beck played for the Giants (1991-97), the Chicago Cubs (1998-99), and the Boston Red Sox (1999-2001) before finishing his career with the Padres (2003-04). Beck reportedly was living in a camper behind the Iowa Cubs’ center-field fence when San Diego called. Beck led the majors in saves in 1993, when he set the Giants’ single-season record with 48. He was San Francisco’s career saves leader with 199 until Robb Nen passed him in 2002. Read more
1956: Todd Christensen, U.S. professional football player with the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders, who later became an ESPN commentator, is born in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.
Christensen, at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, never fit the Raiders’ untamed mold. He was a thoughtful son of a professor, and even read his own poetry at a Super Bowl news conference. He later self-published three books of poetry. Christensen played on four Western Conference Championship teams for BYU, catching 152 passes for 1,568 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 1992. Read more
1934: William “Haystacks” Calhoun, U.S. professional wrestler who was a pioneer of super-heavyweight wrestling, is born in McKinney, Texas.
1926: Gordon Scott, U.S. actor who played Tarzan in a number of films in the 1950s, is born in Portland, Oregon.
Scott was a lifeguard at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas when he was discovered by Hollywood producer Sol Lesser, said Scott’s brother Rayfield Werschkull of Portland, Oregon. He was signed to a seven-year-contract after he outperformed 200 other international candidates. During the 1954 production of his first film, “Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle,” he fell in love with co-star Vera Miles. The couple married that year and divorced four years later. After the Tarzan movies, Scott appeared in Westerns and gladiator films. Read more
1924: Leon Uris, U.S. novelist known best for “Exodus” and “Trinity,” is born in Baltimore, Maryland.
1923: Jean Hagen, U.S. actress who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in “Singin’ in the Rain,” is born in Chicago, Illinois.
1921: Marilyn Maxwell, U.S. actress who went on a number of USO tours with Bob Hope, is born in Clarinda, Iowa.
1921: Richard Adler, U.S. lyricist and composer who co-wrote Broadway shows including “The Pajama Game” and “Damn Yankees,” is born in New York, New York.
Some of Adler’s biggest songs are “You Gotta Have Heart,” “Hey, There,” “Hernando’s Hideaway,” “Whatever Lola Wants,” “Steam Heat,” “Rags to Riches,” and “Everybody Loves a Lover.” Adler staged and produced several shows for U.S. presidents, including the unforgettable 1962 extravaganza for President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden where Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday.” Read more
1905: Dolores del Rio, Mexican film actress who was a star of the silent era and successfully transitioned to talkies, is born in Durango, Mexico.
1900: John T. Scopes, U.S. teacher known for illegally teaching evolution in school, leading to the Scopes Monkey Trial, is born in Paducah, Kentucky.
1900: Ernie Pyle, U.S. journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on World War II, is born in Dana, Indiana.