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Tom Jones, popular vocalist since the British Invasion, is 83 years old today
Sir Thomas John Woodward, OBE — better know as Tom Jones — is 83 years old today.
A Welsh singer, Jones became one of the most popular vocalists to emerge from the British Invasion. Since the mid-1960s, he has sung nearly every form of popular music – pop, rock, R&B, show tunes, country, dance, soul and gospel – and sold over 100 million records.
Jones has had thirty-six Top 40 hits in the United Kingdom and nineteen in the United States. Some of his notable songs include "It's Not Unusual," "What's New Pussycat," "Delilah," "Green, Green Grass of Home," "She's a Lady," "Kiss" and "Sex Bomb.
Having been awarded an OBE in 1999, Jones received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for "services to music" in 2006. Jones has received numerous other awards throughout his career..
Jones was born Thomas John Woodward, at 57 Kingsland Terrace, Treforest, Pontypridd in South Wales. His father was a coal miner. He began singing at an early age and would regularly sing at family gatherings, weddings and in his school choir.
Jones did not like school or sports, but gained confidence through his singing talent. At 12, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Many years later he said; "I spent two years in bed recovering. It was the worst time of my life." During convalescence he could do little else but listen to music and draw.
Jones' bluesy singing style developed out of the sound of American soul music. His early influences included blues and R&B singers Little Richard, Solomon Burke, Jackie Wilson and Brook Benton, as well as Elvis Presley, whom Jones idolized and with whom he would later become good friends.
In March, 1957, Jones married his high school girlfriend, Melinda Trenchard, when they were expecting a child together — both age 16. The couple had a son named Mark who was born the month following their wedding.
To support his young family Jones, took a job working in a glove factory and was later employed in construction.
Jones, whose voice has been described as a "full-throated, robust baritone," became the frontman for Tommy Scott and the Senators, a Welsh beat group, in 1963. They soon gained a local following and reputation in South Wales. In 1964, the group recorded several solo tracks with the producer, Joe Meek, who took them to various labels. However, they had little success.
The group continued to play gigs at dance halls and working men's clubs in South Wales and one night, at the Top Hat in Cwmtillery, Wales, Jones was spotted by Gordon Mills, a London-based manager who originally hailed from South Wales himself.
Mills became Jones' manager and took the young singer to London. He renamed him Tom Jones to exploit the popularity of the Academy Award-winning 1963 film.
Eventually, Mills got Jones a recording contract with Decca. His first single, "Chills and Fever," was released in late 1964. It did not chart, but the follow-up, "It's Not Unusual," became an international hit after offshore pirate radio station Radio Caroline promoted it.
The following year would be the most prominent of Jones's career, making him one of the most popular vocalists of the British Invasion. In early 1965, "It's Not Unusual" reached #1 in the United Kingdom and the top ten in the United States.
During 1965, Mills secured a number of movie themes for Jones to record including the themes for the film, What's New Pussycat? (written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David), and for the James Bond film, Thunderball.
In 1967, Jones performed in Las Vegas for the first time at the Flamingo Hotel. His performances and style of dress (increasingly featuring his open, half-unbuttoned shirts and tight trousers) became part of his stage act. He soon chose to record less, instead concentrating on his lucrative club performances.
At Caesars Palace, his shows were a knicker-hurling frenzy of sexually charged adulation and good-time entertainment. Women started throwing hotel room keys onto the stage.
Jones and his idol, Elvis Presley, met in 1965 at the Paramount film stage, when Elvis was filming Paradise, Hawaiian Style. They became good friends, spending more and more time together in Las Vegas and singing together until the early hours at Presley's private Las Vegas suite. The friendship endured until Presley's death in 1977.
Jones' guitarist between 1969 and 1974 was Big Jim Sullivan, who also met and formed a friendship with Presley. Jones played at least one week in Las Vegas every year until 2011.
Jones had an internationally successful television variety show — This Is Tom Jones — from 1969 to 1971. The ATV-produced show, which was worth a reported $9 million to Jones over three years, was broadcast by ITV in the UK and by ABC in America.
Jones, who was awarded an OBE in 1999, was knighted by Elizabeth II in 2006 at Buckingham Palace for his services to music. "When you first come into show business and get a hit record, it is the start of something," Jones said. "As time goes by it just gets better. This is the best thing I have had. It's a wonderful feeling, a heady feeling."
Jones was married to Linda (Melinda Rose Trenchard) for 59 years — from 1957 until her death from cancer on April 10, 2016. The couple had one son, Mark Woodward (born 1957).
Tom Jones performs Leonard Cohen's "Tower Of Song"
Dean Martin was born 106 years ago today.
A singer, film actor, television star and comedian, Martin was one of the most popular and enduring American entertainers of the mid-20th century. He was nicknamed the "King of Cool" for his seemingly effortless charisma and self-assuredness.
Martin was a member of the "Rat Pack" and a star in concert stage/nightclubs, recordings, motion pictures and television. He was the host of the television variety program, The Dean Martin Show (1965–1974), and subsequently, The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts (1974–1985).
Martin's relaxed, warbling crooning voice earned him dozens of hit singles including his signature songs "Memories Are Made of This," "That's Amore," "Everybody Loves Somebody," "You're Nobody till Somebody Loves You," "Sway," "Volare" and "Ain't That a Kick in the Head?"
Born in Steubenville, Ohio, to an Italian family, Martin’s father was from Montesilvano, Pescara, Abruzzo, Italy, and his maternal grandparents were from Abruzzo, Italy. He spoke only Italian until he started school.
Martin attended Grant Elementary School in Steubenville, and took up the drums as a hobby as a teenager. He was ridiculed for his broken English and dropped out of Steubenville High School in the 10th grade because he thought he was smarter than his teachers.
He delivered bootleg liquor, served as a speakeasy croupier, was a blackjack dealer, worked in a steel mill and boxed as a welterweight. He grew up as a neighbor to Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder.
At 15, Martin was a boxer who billed himself as "Kid Crochet." His prizefighting earned him a broken nose (later straightened), a scarred lip, many broken knuckles, and a bruised body, a result of not being able to afford tape used to wrap boxers' hands. Of his 12 bouts, he said: "I won all but 11."
For a time, he roomed with Sonny King, who, like Martin, was starting in show business and had little money. It is said that Martin and King held bare-knuckle matches in their apartment, fighting until one was knocked out. People paid to watch. Martin knocked out King in the first round of an amateur boxing match.
Martin gave up boxing to work as a roulette stickman and croupier in an illegal casino behind a tobacco shop, where he had started as a stock boy. At the same time, he sang with local bands, calling himself "Dino Martini," after the Metropolitan Opera tenor, Nino Martini.
He got his break working for the Ernie McKay Orchestra. He sang in a crooning style influenced by Harry Mills of the Mills Brothers. In the early 1940s, Martin started singing for bandleader, Sammy Watkins, who suggested he change his name to Dean Martin.
In October, 1941, Martin married Elizabeth Anne McDonald. They had four children. The marriage ended in 1949. Martin worked for various bands throughout the early 1940s, mostly on looks and personality until he developed his own singing style.
Martin flopped at the Riobamba, a nightclub in New York, when he followed Frank Sinatra in 1943, but it was the setting for their first meeting. He was drafted into the Army in 1944 during World War II, serving a year in Akron, Ohio. He was reclassified as 4F and discharged.
By 1946, Martin was doing well, but he was little more than an East Coast nightclub singer with a common style, similar to that of Bing Crosby. He drew audiences, but he inspired none of the popularity enjoyed by Sinatra or Crosby.
A biography, Dean Martin: King of the Road, by Michael Freedland, alleged he had links to the Mafia early in his career. According to this book, Martin received help with his singing career from members of the Chicago mob, who owned saloons in the city. He later performed in shows hosted by these bosses — Tony Accardo and Sam Giancana — when he was a star.
Martin met comic Jerry Lewis at the Glass Hat Club in New York, where both were performing. Martin and Lewis formed a fast friendship which led to their participation in each other's acts and the formation of a music-comedy team.
Martin and Lewis's debut together occurred at Atlantic City's 500 Club on July 24, 1946. They were not well received. The owner, Skinny D'Amato, warned them that if they did not come up with a better act for their second show that night, they would be fired. Huddling in the alley behind the club, Lewis and Martin agreed to "go for broke" — throwing out their pre-scripted gags and improvising the show on stage.
Martin sang and Lewis dressed as a busboy, dropping plates and making a shambles of Martin's performance and the club's decorum until Lewis was chased from the room as Martin pelted him with breadrolls. They did slapstick, reeled off old vaudeville jokes and did whatever else popped into their heads. The audience laughed hysterically and they became an instant hit.
This success led to a series of well-paying engagements on the Eastern seaboard, culminating in a run at New York's Copacabana. The act consisted of Lewis interrupting and heckling Martin while he was trying to sing, with the two ultimately chasing each other around the stage. The secret, both said, is that they ignored the audience and played to each other.
The team made its TV debut on the first broadcast of CBS-TV network's Toast of the Town (later called The Ed Sullivan Show) on June 20, 1948 with Ed Sullivan and Rodgers and Hammerstein also appearing. A radio series began in 1949, the year Martin and Lewis signed with Paramount producer Hal B. Wallis as comedy relief for the movie, My Friend Irma.
Their agent, Abby Greshler, negotiated one of Hollywood's best deals, although they received only $75,000 between them for their films with Wallis.
Martin and Lewis were free to do one outside film a year, which they would co-produce through their own York Productions. They also controlled their club, record, radio and television appearances. Through these, they earned millions of dollars.
The act broke up in 1956, ten years to the day from the first teaming. Martin's first solo film, Ten Thousand Bedrooms (1957), was a box office failure. He was still popular as a singer, but with rock and roll emerging, the era of the pop crooner was waning.
Never comfortable in films, Martin wanted to be a real actor. Though offered a fraction of his former salary to co-star in a war drama, The Young Lions (1957), his part would be with two intriguing young actors of the period. He could learn from Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift.
Tony Randall already had the part, but talent agency MCA realized that with this movie, Martin would become a triple threat. They could make money from his work in night clubs, movies and records. Martin replaced Randall and the film turned out to be the beginning of Martin's comeback.
Martin starred alongside Frank Sinatra for the first time in an acclaimed Vincente Minnelli drama, Some Came Running, in 1958. By the mid-60s, Martin was a movie, recording, television and nightclub star, while Lewis' film career declined.
Martin was acclaimed as “Dude” in Rio Bravo in 1959, directed by Howard Hawks and also starring John Wayne and Ricky Nelson. He would team again with Wayne in The Sons of Katie Elder in 1965. As a singer, Martin copied the styles of others until he developed his own and could hold his own in duets with Sinatra and Crosby.
Like Sinatra, he could not read music, but he recorded more than 100 albums and 600 songs. His signature tune, "Everybody Loves Somebody," knocked The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" off #1 in the United States in 1964.
For three decades, Martin was among the most popular acts in Las Vegas. Martin sang and was one of the smoothest comics in the business, benefiting from the decade of comedy with Lewis.
As Martin's solo career grew, he and Frank Sinatra became friends. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Martin and Sinatra, along with friends Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis, Jr. formed the Rat Pack, so-called after an earlier group of social friends, the Holmby Hills Rat Pack centered on Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, of which Sinatra had been a member.
The Martin-Sinatra-Davis-Lawford-Bishop group referred to themselves as "The Summit" or "The Clan" and never as "The Rat Pack," although this has remained their identity in popular imagination. The men made films together, formed part of the Hollywood social scene and were politically influential (through Lawford's marriage to Patricia Kennedy, sister of President John F. Kennedy).
The Rat Pack were legendary for their Las Vegas Strip performances. For example, the marquee at the Sands Hotel might read DEAN MARTIN — MAYBE FRANK — MAYBE SAMMY. Their appearances were valuable because the city would flood with wealthy gamblers. Their act (always in tuxedo) consisted of each singing individual numbers, duets and trios, along with seemingly improvised slapstick and chatter.
In the socially charged 1960s, their jokes revolved around adult themes, such as Sinatra's womanizing and Martin's drinking, as well as Davis's race and religion. Sinatra and Martin supported the civil rights movement and refused to perform in clubs that would not allow African-American or Jewish performers.
In 1965, Martin launched his weekly NBC comedy-variety series, The Dean Martin Show, which ran for 264 episodes through 1974. The show exploited his image as a carefree boozer.
Martin capitalized on his laid-back persona of the half-drunk crooner, hitting on women with remarks that would get anyone else slapped, and making snappy if slurred remarks about fellow celebrities during his roasts.
Despite Martin's reputation as a drinker — perpetuated via his vanity license plate "DRUNKY" — he was self-disciplined. He was often the first to call it a night, and when not on tour or on a film location, liked to go home to see his wife and children.
Martin made a public reconciliation with Jerry Lewis on Lewis' Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon in 1976. Frank Sinatra shocked Lewis by bringing Martin out on stage. As Martin and Lewis embraced, the audience cheered and the phones lit up, resulting in one of the telethon's most profitable years.
Lewis reported the event was one of the three most memorable of his life. Lewis quipped, "So, you working?" Martin, playing drunk, replied that he was "at the Meggum."
This, with the death of Martin's son, Dean Paul Martin, a few years later, helped bring the two men together. They maintained a quiet friendship, but only performed again once, in 1989, on Martin's 72nd birthday.
On December 8, 1989, Martin joined other Rat Pack members in Sammy Davis Jr.'s 60th anniversary celebration, which aired a few weeks before Davis died from throat cancer. In December, 1990, he congratulated Frank Sinatra on his 75th birthday special. Martin was diagnosed with lung cancer at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in September, 1993, and in early 1995 retired from public life.
He died of acute respiratory failure resulting from emphysema at his Beverly Hills home on December 25, 1995 at age 78. At his death, Martin was reportedly the single largest minority shareholder of RCA stock.
The lights of the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor. His tombstone features the epitaph, "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime," the name of his signature song.
Here, Martin performs “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime,” 1965
“If people want to think I get drunk and stay out all night, let 'em. That's how I got here, you know.”
— Dean Martin
Although he acted as a heavy drinker on stage, Martin mostly drank apple juice while performing. Off stage, he was a Jack Daniels man.
Martin did not party all night with the rest of the "Rat Pack" crew — who actually called themselves, "The Clan." He usually went to bed early so he could play golf the next morning. He was obsessed with golf, and once said in an interview that he would have preferred to be a professional golfer to an entertainer.
Martin's variety show contract was remarkable in how little he was required to participate. He felt he performed better cold and took notice of Fred MacMurray's long-standing 65-day "on the set" contract for producer Don Fedderson for “My Three Sons.”
Martin succeeded in reaching a new plateau on that one by only being contractually required to appear on the set during the taping. All guest stars, no matter how "big" a name, were required to rehearse with stand-ins.
As a result, Martin would often happily flub his lines, to the delight of his audience. More often than not, he'd leave the stage and be seen driving off the studio lot in his sports car before taping concluded.
Martin had a fear of elevators and a love of comic books, which he read his entire life.
On this day in 1937 — 86 years ago — Hollywood was shocked to learn of the sudden and tragic death of the actress, Jean Harlow, who succumbed to uremic poisoning (now better known as acute renal failure or acute kidney failure) at the age of 26.
Born Harlean Carpenter in Kansas City, Missouri, she moved with her mother to Los Angeles as a child after her parents separated. Harlean was an amalgam of her mother’s maiden name, Jean Harlow, which the actress later took as her stage name.
At the age of 16, she eloped with Charles McGrew, a young bond broker. Their marriage ended after she decided to pursue an acting career, against the will of her husband. Harlow signed a contract with the producer, Hal Roach, under which she briefly but memorably bared her soon-to-be-famous legs in Double Whoopee (1929), a Laurel and Hardy comedy.
She made her sound debut in The Saturday Night Kid (1929), starring Clara Bow. Harlow got her big break soon after that, when Howard Hughes cast her in the sound update of his silent World War I-era epic, Hell’s Angels, in 1930.
In that film, Harlow made an impression on audiences with her glowing white-blond hair and the suggestive line, “Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?”
Harlow appeared in a string of films in 1931, including The Secret Six, The Public Enemy, Goldie and Platinum Blonde. Her roles in these movies, as in Hell’s Angels, relied less on her acting and more on her alluring appearance.
After Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer bought Harlow’s contract from Hughes in 1932, she made her breakout appearance in Red-Headed Woman (1932), for which screenwriter Anita Loos created a part especially for Harlow. The film was the first to showcase her comedic talent as well as her bombshell looks.
Harlow’s popularity with fans and film critics alike continued to grow throughout the next several years, thanks to smash hits like Red Dust (1932) — one of her numerous movies with Clark Gable — Dinner at Eight (1933), Hold Your Man (1933) and Bombshell (1933).
Aside from her meteoric rise to fame in her professional life, Harlow’s private life was marked by grief and tragedy. Her second husband, Paul Bern, an executive at MGM, died by an apparent suicide in 1932 during the making of Red Dust.
Harlow’s third marriage, to the cinematographer Harold Rosson, lasted less than a year. She was engaged to marry the actor, William Powell, her co-star in Reckless (1935) and Libeled Lady (1936), when she suddenly became seriously ill in late May, 1937.
According to her obituary in the New York Times, the actress had suffered from poor health for a year, including “an acute case of sunburn,” a throat infection and influenza. She also contracted scarlet fever and meningitis as a teenager, which permanently weakened her health.
After doctors diagnosed uremic poisoning the weekend before, according to the Times, “Miss Harlow soon responded favorably to treatment and was thought well on the road to recovery when she lapsed into a coma last night.”
She died the next day, June 7, 1937, at a hospital in Hollywood. Powell was at Harlow’s bedside when she died, along with her mother, stepfather and cousin.
Harlow’s final film, Saratoga (1937), was released posthumously. Another actress served as her stand-in for several scenes so that the movie could be completed.
Chris Parker and the drums he used on Bob Dylan’s first Neverending Tour
Photos by Frank Beacham
It was 35 years ago today that Bob Dylan began what’s now known as his “Never Ending Tour.”
The first show of the tour was at the Concord Pavilion in Concord, CA on June 7, 1988.
After years of being backed my big bands, singers, horns and the like, Dylan came this time with only a three piece band, consisting of G.E. Smith on lead guitar, Kenny Aaronson on bass and Chris Parker on drums. Neil Young was also there, though barely audible.
Chris Parker, the original drummer on that tour, is shown with the drum kit he used on the “Never Ending Tour.” Parker, based in New York City, is a visual artist and continues to be a drummer.
In addition to Dylan, Parker has played with Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Paul Simon, Cher, Natalie Cole, Donald Fagen and many others.
Prince Rogers Nelson, known as Prince, was born 65 years ago today.
A singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and actor, Prince was a major figure in popular music for over three decades. He was an innovator and widely-known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence and wide vocal range.
Widely regarded as the pioneer of Minneapolis sound, Prince's music combined rock, R&B, soul, funk, hip hop, disco, psychedelia, jazz and pop. He wrote and produced his own music and played most of the instruments. He established his own recording studio and label.
In addition, he promoted the careers of Sheila E., Carmen Electra, the Time and Vanity 6, and his songs have were recorded by these artists and others, including Chaka Khan, the Bangles, Sinéad O'Connor and Kim Basinger.
Prince developed an interest in music at an early age — writing his first song at age seven. After recording songs with his cousin's band 94 East, seventeen-year-old Prince recorded several unsuccessful demo tapes before releasing his debut album, For You, in 1978.
His 1979 album, Prince, went platinum due to the success of the singles "Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?" and "I Wanna Be Your Lover." His next three records, Dirty Mind (1980), Controversy (1981) and 1999 (1982) continued his success, showcasing Prince's trademark of prominently sexual lyrics and incorporation of elements of funk, dance and rock music.
In 1984, he began referring to his backup band as the Revolution and released the album, Purple Rain, which served as the soundtrack to his film debut of the same name. After releasing the albums, Around the World in a Day (1985), and, Parade (1986), The Revolution disbanded and Prince released the critically acclaimed double album, Sign "O" the Times (1987), as a solo artist.
He released three more solo albums before debuting the New Power Generation band in 1991, which saw him changing his stage name to an unpronounceable symbol known as "The Love Symbol."
In 1994, he began releasing new albums at a faster pace to remove himself from contractual obligations to Warner Bros, releasing five records in a span of two years before signing to Arista Records in 1998.
In 2000, he began referring to himself as "Prince" once again. He released numerous recordings since then. He sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time.
His artistic influences included Sly & the Family Stone, Parliament-Funkadelic, Joni Mitchell, the Beatles, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Led Zeppelin, Marvin Gaye, the Isley Brothers, Todd Rundgren, Duke Ellington, Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder.
Prince suffered from pain in his hips due to injuries racked up during his years of performing. He relied on opiate pain medications to provide him some relief and died when taking an accidental overdose. He died on April 21, 2016 of an accidental overdose of fentanyl.
Self-portrait of Paul Gauguin painted in 1889
Paul Gauguin, French Post-Impressionist artist, was born 175 years ago today.
Gauguin was not well appreciated until after his death. He was later recognized for his experimental use of colors and synthesist style that was distinguished from Impressionism. His work was influential to the French avant-garde and many modern artists, such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.
Many of Gauguin’s paintings were in the possession of Russian collector, Sergei Shchukin.
Gauguin was an important figure in the Symbolist movement as a painter, sculptor, print-maker, ceramist and writer. His bold experimentation with coloring led directly to the Synthetist style of modern art.
Gauguin’s expression of the inherent meaning of the subjects in his paintings, under the influence of the cloisonnist style, paved the way to Primitivism and the return to the pastoral. Cloisonnism is a style of post-Impressionist painting with bold and flat forms separated by dark contours.
He was also an influential proponent of wood engraving and woodcuts as art forms.
Surf photographers at work
Photo by Sash Fitzsimmons