December 5 Birthdays
Today is the birthday of Walter Elias Disney. Born on December 5, 1901 Disney was an American entrepreneur, animator, voice actor and film producer. A pioneer of the American animation industry, he introduced several developments in the production of cartoons. As a film producer, Disney holds the record for most Academy Awards earned by an individual, having won 22 Oscars from 59 nominations. He was presented with two Golden Globe Special Achievement Awards and an Emmy Award, among other honors. Several of his films are included in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
Born in Chicago in 1901 Disney developed an early interest in drawing. He took art classes as a boy and got a job as a commercial illustrator at the age of 18. He moved to California in the early 1920s and set up the Disney Brothers Studio with his brother Roy. With Ub Iwerks, Walt developed the character Mickey Mouse in 1928, his first highly popular success; he also provided the voice for his creation in the early years. As the studio grew, Disney became more adventurous, introducing synchronized sound, full-color three-strip Technicolor, feature-length cartoons and technical developments in cameras. The results, seen in features such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Fantasia, Pinocchio (both 1940), Dumbo (1941) and Bambi (1942), furthered the development of animated film. New animated and live-action films followed after World War II, including the critically successful Cinderella (1950) and Mary Poppins (1964), the latter of which received five Academy Awards.
In the 1950s, Disney expanded into the amusement park industry, and in 1955 he opened Disneyland. To fund the project he diversified into television programs, such as Walt Disney's Disneyland and The Mickey Mouse Club; he was also involved in planning the 1959 Moscow Fair, the 1960 Winter Olympics, and the 1964 New York World's Fair. In 1965, he began development of another theme park, Disney World, the heart of which was to be a new type of city, the "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow" (EPCOT). Disney was a heavy smoker throughout his life, and died of lung cancer in December 1966 before either the park or the EPCOT project were completed.
Today is the birthday of Little Richard. Born Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5, 1932, in Macon, Georgia, Little Richard helped define the early rock ‘n’ roll era of the 1950s with his driving, flamboyant sound. With his croons, wails and screams, he turned songs like “Tutti-Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally” into huge hits and influenced such bands as the Beatles.
He was was the third of 12 children. His father, Bud, was a stern man who made his living selling moonshine and didn’t do much to hide his disdain for his son’s early signs of homosexuality. At the age of 13 Richard was ordered to move out of the family home, and his relationship with his father was never repaired. When Richard was 19, his father was shot dead outside a local bar.The childhood that Richard did manage to have was largely shaped by the church. Two of his uncles as well as his grandfather were preachers, and Richard was involved with the church as much as anyone in his family, singing gospel and eventually learning to play the piano.
Upon moving out of his family’s home, Richard was taken in by a white family who owned a club in Macon, where Richard eventually began performing and honing his talent.
In 1951 Richard caught his first major break when a performance at an Atlanta radio station yielded a record contract with RCA. But with a repertoire of mainly mild blues numbers that masked the searing vocals and piano that would come to define his rock music, Richard’s career failed to take off as he'd hoped it would.
In 1955 Richard hooked up with Specialty Records producer Art Rupe, who’d been hunting for a piano-pounding frontman to lead a group of musicians in New Orleans. In September, Richard stepped into the recording studio and pumped out “Tutti-Frutti,” an instant Billboard hit that reached No. 17.
Over the next year and a half, the musician churned out several more rock hits, including “Long Tall Sally,” “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Send Me Some Lovin’.” With his blood-pumping piano playing and suggestive lyrics, Little Richard, along with the likes of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, established rock as a real musical form and inspired others, most notably the Beatles, to make a go of it. In addition to his records, Little Richard appeared in several early rock films, such as Don’t Knock the Rock (1956), The Girl Can’t Help It (1957) and Mister Rock ‘n’ Roll (1957).
But as his success soared, Little Richard, fueled by his earlier connections to the church, saw his doubts about rock deepen. In 1957 he abruptly and publicly quit performing rock and committed himself to the ministry and recording gospel songs. He recorded his debut religious album, God Is Real, in 1959.
In 1964, following the Beatles’ recording of “Long Tall Sally,” Little Richard plunged back into rock music. Over the ensuing decades Little Richard would continue to perform and record, but the public response failed to match the enthusiasm that greeted his earlier success.
Still, his importance in the development of rock music has never been questioned. In 1986 Little Richard was one of the 10 original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 1993, and a year later the Rhythm & Blues Foundation honored him with its prestigious Pioneer Award.
In recent years, the once-dynamic performer has taken a break from the concert stage. He fell ill during a show in Washington, D.C., during the summer of 2012. The following September, Little Richard suffered a heart attack. He described the incident to Cee Lo Green during an interview in Atlanta: "The other night, I didn’t know I was having a heart attack. I was coughing, and my right arm was aching."
The singer took a baby aspirin, which his doctor credited with saving his life. The deeply religious music icon attributed his survival to a higher power: "Jesus had something for me. He brought me through."