April 20th is the birthday

. . . of Justice John Paul Stevens, 87 today. He went on the Court in 1975.

. . . of Mr. Sulu. That’s actor George Takei of Star Trek. He’s 70.

. . . of Ryan O’Neal, nominated for best actor for Love Story, but never again. He’s 66.

. . . of Coach Steve Spurrier, 62.

. . . of Andrew Tobias. He’s 60.

. . . of six-time Oscar nominee and two-time winner Jessica Lange. Lange won best supporting actress for Tootsie and best actress for Blue Sky. She’s 58.

. . . of Ron Howard’s brother, 48. (See separate entry.)

. . . of Carmen Electra, 35.

Daniel Chester French was born on this date in 1850.

French's LincolnFrench studied in Boston and New York prior to receiving his first commission for the 1875 statue The Minute Man. Standing near the North Bridge in Concord, in the Minute Man National Historical Park, this work commemorates events at the North Bridge, the site of “the shot heard ’round the world”. An American icon, images derivative of The Minute Man statue appeared on defense bonds, stamps, and posters during World War II.

With the success of The Minute Man came opportunities to study abroad. After a year in Italy, French opened a studio in Washington, D.C. Additional trips to Europe and a friendship with fellow sculptor Augustus Saint Gaudens resulted in more ambitious work beginning with the impressive General Lewis Cass executed for the U.S. Capitol in 1888.

By the turn of the century, French was America’s preeminent monumental sculptor. The Angel of Death Staying the Hand of the Sculptor, created for Boston’s Forest Hills Cemetery; John Harvard, located at Harvard University; and a standing Abraham Lincoln at the west entrance to the Nebraska State Capitol are a few of the important monuments French produced during a long and productive career.

Library of Congress

Adolph Hitler was born on this date in 1889.

Harold Lloyd was born on this date in 1893.

“The King of Daredevil Comedy,” Harold Lloyd is best remembered today as the young man dangling desperately from a clock tower in the 1923 classic Safety Last. At the height of his career, Lloyd was one of the most popular and highest-paid stars of his time. While his achievements have been overshadowed by the work of contemporaries Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, he made more films than the two of them combined. With hits like his 1922 film Grandma’s Boy, Lloyd became a strong force in bringing about the advent of the “feature-length” film.

American Masters

Lionel Hampton was born on this date in 1908.

Hampton was not the first jazz musician to take up vibraphone (Red Norvo had preceded him in the late 1920s), but it was he who gave the instrument an identity in jazz, applying a wide range of attacks and generating remarkable swing on an instrument otherwise known for its bland, disembodied sound. Undoubtedly his best work was done with the Goodman Quartet from 1936-1940, when he revealed a fine ear for small-ensemble improvisation and an unrestrained, ebullient manner as a soloist. The big band format was probably better suited to the display of his flamboyant personality and flair for showmanship, but after a few early successes, especially the riff tunes Flying Home, Down Home Jump, and Hey Bab-Ba-Rebop, the group was too often content to repeat former triumphs for its many admirers. Hampton has at times also appeared as a singer, played drums with enormous vitality, and performed with curious success as a pianist, using only two fingers in the manner of vibraphone mallets.

PBS – JAZZ A Film By Ken Burns

Luther Vandross was born on this date in 1951. His album Never Too Much is one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Definitive 200 (albums that every music lover should own).

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