Tennessee Ernie Ford is known best for his 1955 country hit, “Sixteen Tons,” but there was a lot more to his career in entertainment, which spanned more than 50 years. We remember Ford’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
Tennessee Ernie Ford is known best for his 1955 country hit, “Sixteen Tons,” but there was a lot more to his career in entertainment, which spanned more than 50 years. During that time, he released more than 100 albums of country and gospel music, sold more than 90 million records, and hosted a prime-time variety show on NBC for five years. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1990, a year before his death. We remember Ford’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2017: Gord Downie, charismatic lead singer for Canada’s beloved rock band The Tragically Hip, dies at 53.
Though he was the lead singer of the Four Tops, his name isn’t as well-known as those of others who have fronted Motown acts, like Smokey Robinson or Diana Ross. The reason is not that Stubbs was uncharismatic or unable to handle fame – it was that he chose not to overshadow his bandmates. Over the years, he declined to take top billing and turned down several offers at a lucrative solo career. Read more
He was the master of ceremonies during President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural ball, he starred in all of the Rat Pack films, including “Ocean’s Eleven,” and he played an integral, if often unappreciated, part in scripting some of the group’s wittier banter. Read more
Brewer had scores of hits in the 1950s and a burgeoning film career, but pared down her public life to raise her children. She re-emerged a decade later to perform with jazz greats Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Wynton Marsalis.
”She was just a wonderful, lovely lady,” said Bill Munroe, a longtime family friend, according to her obituary by The Associated Press. ”Her career was always a hobby with her; her family always came first. She always considered her legacy not to be the gold records and the TV appearances, but her loving family.” Read more
It was Glenn who anchored the Jan. 28, 1986, launch of the doomed shuttle Challenger and delivered an anguished commentary as the spacecraft exploded shortly after liftoff, according to his obituary by The Associated Press.
“This flight, which was to have been such a bright chapter in the history of the manned space flight program, turning in the flash of an instant into a terrible, terrible tragedy,” he said. Read more
2002: Derek Bell, Irish harpist and pianist who was a member of the Chieftains, dies of cardiac arrest at 66.
2001: Jay Livingston, U.S. songwriter whose songs include “Mona Lisa,” “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera),” “Silver Bells,” and the themes for “Bonanza” and “Mr. Ed,” dies at 86.
While most of the hottest artists of his day were singing strings-heavy pop or the earliest rock ‘n’ roll songs, Ford gave us a stripped-down arrangement of a coal mining song – and he dominated both the country and pop charts with it.
That song was “Sixteen Tons,” and Ford’s 1955 version of it held the No. 1 spot on both charts for several months. Read more
1984: Alberta Hunter, U.S. blues singer and composer first successful in the 1920s who came out of retirement in her 80s and toured Europe and South America, dies at 89.
1979: S.J. Perelman, U.S. humorist, author, and screenwriter who wrote for The New Yorker and co-wrote “Around the World in 80 Days,” dies at 75.
1972: Billy Williams, U.S. musician and lead singer of the Charioteers, dies at 61.
1910: Julia Ward Howe, U.S. abolitionist and women’s rights activist who wrote the lyrics to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” dies of pneumonia at 91.
1849: Frederic Chopin, Polish composer and Romantic-era virtuoso pianist, dies of tuberculosis at 39.