Richard Pryor is one of the greatest and most influential stand-up comedians of all time. We remember Pryor’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
Richard Pryor is one of the greatest and most influential stand-up comedians of all time. His stand-up act helped set the tone for decades of comedy to come, and the Comedy Central television channel ranked him at the very top of their list of all-time greatest stand-up comedians. He also acted in movie classics including “The Wiz” and “The Toy,” wrote for TV shows “Sanford and Son” and “The Flip Wilson Show,” and was the first African-American host of “Saturday Night Live.” He was awarded a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement as well as five Grammys and an Emmy. We remember Pryor’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
1976: Matthew Shepard, U.S. college student whose murder sparked hate-crime legislation, is born in Casper, Wyoming.
1974: Isaiah “Ikey” Owens, U.S. keyboardist known for his work with Jack White and Mars Volta, is born in Long Beach, California.
1957: Vesta Williams, U.S. singer and actress whose best-known song was “Congratulations,” and who had a recurring role on the sitcom “Sister, Sister,” is born in Coshocton, Ohio.
Williams’ diminutive frame belied her powerful, soulful pipes, according to her obituary by The Associated Press. Her initial success in the music industry came as a background singer for artists ranging from Chaka Khan, Anita Baker, and Sting. But she would eventually establish her career with the release of her first album, “Vesta,” in 1986. Over the years, she had hits including “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” “Sweet Sweet Love,” and her signature torch song, “Congratulations.” Read more
1951: Jaco Pastorius, influential U.S. bassist who was known for his work with the group Weather Report and is among the few bass players in the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame, is born in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
1940: Richard Pryor, U.S. comedian and actor, is born in Peoria, Illinois.
Pryor was regarded early in his career as one of the most foul-mouthed comics in the business, but he gained a wide following for his expletive-filled, but universal and frequently personal, insights into modern life and race relations. His audacious style influenced an array of stand-up artists, including Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, and Damon Wayans, as well as Robin Williams, David Letterman, and others. Read more
1934: Billy Paul, U.S. soul music singer known best for his 1972 No. 1 hit song “Me and Mrs. Jones,” is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1933: Lou Rawls, U.S. rhythm and blues singer whose records sold more than 60 million copies, is born in Chicago, Illinois.
Frank Sinatra once said that Rawls had “the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game.” That velvety voice sounds good all year long, but never quite as wonderful as during the holidays. Rawls released several Christmas albums, beginning with 1967’s “Merry Christmas Ho! Ho! Ho!” Read more
1933: Violette Verdy, French ballerina who was the principal dancer for the New York City Ballet for two decades, is born in Pont-l-Abbe, France.
1931: Jim Nesbitt, U.S. country music singer who had a No. 1 hit song with “Please Mr. Kennedy” in 1961, is born in Bishopville, South Carolina.
1929: David Doyle, U.S. actor known for playing Bosley on the TV series “Charlie’s Angels,” is born in Omaha, Nebraska.
1928: Malachi Throne, U.S. actor who guest-starred on many TV series including the role of the villain False Face on Batman, is born in New York, New York.
1930: Emily McLaughlin, U.S. actress known for her role as Jessie Brewer on the daytime soap opera “General Hospital,” is born in White Plains, New York.
1923: Dick Shawn, U.S. actor and comedian known best for playing Sylvester Marcus in Stanley Kramer’s “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and John Ritter‘s dad on “Three’s Company,” is born in Buffalo, New York.
1922: Paul Picerni, U.S. actor known best for his role as Lee Hobson on the television series “The Untouchables,” is born in New York, New York.
Besides his role as agent Lee Hobson on “The Untouchables” from 1960 to 1963, Picerni starred in “House of Wax,” with Vincent Price in 1953. It was the first 3-D movie produced by a major studio, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. His other films included “The Scalphunters” in 1968 and “Airport” in 1970. Picerni appeared in TV shows including “Gunsmoke,” “Kojak,” “T.J. Hooker,” and “Perry Mason.” Read more
Martin’s Broadway dreams took her all the way from sleepy Weatherford, Texas, to Never Never Land and her Tony Award-winning performance as the lead character in “Peter Pan.” After spending years trying to break into Broadway, Martin finally made it to the stage in Cole Porter’s “Leave It to Me!” in 1938. She found success in “South Pacific,” “I Do! I Do!”, and several film and television appearances throughout her career. A year before her death in 1990, she was honored at the Kennedy Center’s annual awards. She also was immortalized on the Hollywood Walk of Fame twice: once for recording and once for radio. Read more
1911: Walter Alston, U.S. Major League Baseball Hall of Fame manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers who led them to four World Series titles, is born in Venice, Ohio.
1897: Cyril Ritchard, Australian actor who played Captain Hook in the “Peter Pan” musical production starring Mary Martin, is born in Sydney, Australia.