Clarence Clemons was responsible for some of the best saxophone solos in popular music for decades. He rose to national fame alongside Bruce Springsteen, providing a breakout performance on Springsteen’s first single, “Blinded by the Light,” in 1972. We remember Clemons’ life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
Clarence Clemons was responsible for some of the best saxophone solos in popular music for decades. He rose to national fame alongside Bruce Springsteen, providing a breakout performance on Springsteen’s first single, “Blinded by the Light,” in 1972. The song wasn’t a hit, but it marked the beginning of a long and productive friendship between Springsteen and the Big Man, as the 6-foot-5 Clemons was known. Clemons continued working with Springsteen after the E Street Band dissolved and also released his own solo album. He collaborated with artists including Aretha Franklin and Lady Gaga and even published his (semifictional) autobiography. As an actor, Clemons was also wildly prolific, appearing in projects as diverse as “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and HBO’s “The Wire.” We remember Clemons’ life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
1957: Darryl Dawkins, NBA center known for his rim-shattering dunks, is born in Orlando, Florida.
Darryl Dawkins was once summoned in the Philadelphia 76ers’ locker room to come meet a celebrity who wanted to meet the man known for dunking with backboard-breaking force. The guest was Grammy Award-winner Stevie Wonder. The entertainer is blind, yet even he could tell there was something very unique about Dawkins’ game. Read more
1956: Big Bank Hank, born Henry Jackson, U.S. rapper who was a member of the Sugarhill Gang, who had the first hip-hop crossover hit with “Rapper’s Delight,” is born in the Bronx, New York.
As part of the seminal hip-hop trio the Sugarhill Gang, Hank helped to introduce mainstream audiences to hip-hop with his performance on their 1979 single “Rapper’s Delight.” The song proved an instant success, earning both gold and platinum records and demonstrating the new genre’s commercial viability. In the decades since the Sugarhill Gang brought rap to the airwaves, the art form has changed and evolved, but the pure joy of their music still possesses an undeniable charm. Read more
1942: Leo Cullum, U.S. cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine, is born in Newark, New Jersey.
1942: Clarence Clemons, U.S. saxophonist with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, who also performed with Aretha Franklin, Jackson Browne, and others, is born in Norfolk County, Virginia.
While Clemons was a hugely important part of the E Street Band, his work went well beyond backing Springsteen. His sax solo was a highlight of Aretha Franklin’s 1985 hit “Freeway of Love,” and he spiced up the video, too, with his cool shades and snappy dancing. That same year, Clemons released his first single of his own, a duet with Jackson Browne called “You’re a Friend of Mine.” And fans learned that not only was Clemons a superstar sax player – he had vocal chops, too. They loved the combo, and the song made it to No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Read more
1936: Jody Payne, U.S. guitarist with Willie Nelson’s band, the Family, is born in Garrard County, Kentucky.
According to a 2011 profile in The Mobile (Alabama) Press-Register, Payne toured with Nelson from 1973 to 2008. He retired to Stapleton, Alabama, with his wife, Vicki. There he continued playing music, teaching the guitar at a local music store. A post on Willie Nelson’s Facebook page about Payne’s 2013 death said, “Our friend will be missed.” Read more
1931: Mary Rodgers, U.S. composer and author who wrote the music for the popular Broadway musical “Once Upon a Mattress” as well as the children’s book Freaky Friday, is born in New York, New York.
Rodgers’ hit “Once Upon a Mattress,” a musical adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fable “The Princess and the Pea,” made a star of Carol Burnett, according to Rodgers’ June 2014 obituary by The Associated Press. A Broadway revival in 1996 starred Sarah Jessica Parker. Her other shows include “From A to Z,” a revue featuring her songs, and two other short-lived shows: “Hot Spot” and “The Madwoman of Central Park West,” a one-person musical starring Phyllis Newman. Read more
1930: Rod Taylor, Australian actor who appeared in over 50 films including “The Birds,” is born in New South Wales, Australia.
Taylor’s breakthrough came in 1960 with “The Time Machine,” George Pal’s special effects marvel in which Taylor’s dogged British inventor transports himself into a future where he witnesses world wars, nuclear annihilation and, finally, the rise of a new society. Read more
1928: David L. Wolper, U.S. film and television producer who was responsible for the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” as well as TV shows including “Roots,” is born in New York, New York.
Always game for something new, Wolper branched out into docudramas such as “The Trial of Lt. Calley,” sitcom hits “Welcome Back, Kotter” and “Chico and the Man,” and films including the Oscar-winning “L.A. Confidential,” according to his 2010 obituary by The Associated Press. His opening and closing ceremonies for the 1984 Olympics featured a spaceship floating mysteriously above the Coliseum in Los Angeles. (It was hitched to a blacked-out Army helicopter.) Read more
1924: Slim Harpo, U.S. blues musician whose influential recordings include “I’m a King Bee,” is born in Lobdell, Louisiana.
1923: Carroll Shelby, U.S. automotive designer and chili entrepreneur who founded Shelby American Inc. and collaborated with Ford on the Mustang, is born in Leesburg, Texas.
Shelby first made his name behind the wheel of a car, winning France’s grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race with teammate Ray Salvadori in 1959, according to Shelby’s 2012 obituary by The Associated Press. He already was suffering serious heart problems and ran the race “with nitroglycerin pills under his tongue,” Messer once noted. Soon after his win at Le Mans, he gave up racing and turned his attention to designing high-powered “muscle cars” that eventually became the Shelby Cobra and the Mustang Shelby GT500. Read more
1921: Juanita M. Kreps, U.S. politician who was the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of commerce, is born in Lynch, Kentucky.
1921: Gory Guerrero, U.S. professional wrestler with Lucha Libre, and the father of wrestlers Chavo, Mando, Hector, and Eddie Guerrero, is born in Ray, Arizona.
1906: Albert Hofmann, Swiss scientist who was the first person to create and test the psychedelic drug LSD, is born in Baden, Switzerland.
1887: Aldo Leopold, U.S. environmentalist and author known best for “A Sand County Almanac,” is born in Burlington, Iowa.
Once Leopold’s eyes were opened, he began to see all the damage we’ve done to our wilderness in the name of managing it. He found that when a population of predators is depleted or eliminated from a wildland, the animals they once hunted, notably deer in many wilderness areas, are allowed to flourish. While that might sound like a magical forest – happy, fat deer, living without any fear of the wolf’s claw, and easy pickings for human hunters – in reality it’s anything but. Those happy, fat deer eat their favorite wildflowers and shrubs to extinction, completely changing the character of the forest floor. And they breed and breed, overwhelming the area’s resources until there are more deer than the land can support and their health plummets. Read more
1885: Alice Paul, U.S. activist for women’s suffrage who led the campaign for the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote, is born in Moorestown, New Jersey.
1815: John A. McDonald, Canadian politician who was the first prime minister of Canada, is born in Glasgow, Scotland.
1807: Ezra Cornell, U.S. businessman who founded Western Union and Cornell University, is born in the Bronx, New York.
1755 or 1757: Alexander Hamilton, Nevisian-American founding father who created the U.S. financial system and founded the first political party, is born in Charlestown, Nevis, British West Indies.