Today, my birthplace, the city of Cleveland, turns 217! The city came into being on this date in 1796 when the Connecticut Land Company divvied up its Western Reserve into townships and named the area’s capital city after General Moses Cleaveland, who oversaw the plan for what would become the modern downtown area around Public Square. With the opening of the Ohio and Erie canals in 1827, the area’s population expanded rapidly and the city became an industrial epicenter. Like other Rust Belt cities, though, much of that industry has dried up in recent years. These days Cleveland is home to 396,815, which is down from 478,403 in 2000. However, with an ever-increasing amount of green jobs, the city will hopefully rebound.
Kim and Kelley Deal, twin sisters born on this date in 1961 in Dayton, are best known as the nucleus of alt-rock luminaries The Breeders. The pair first started using the moniker while still in high school, when they acquired an eight-track tape machine and began recording folk and pop songs in their bedroom. However, Kim first made her name as bassist with the Pixies after moving to Boston, the hometown of her husband at the time. Returning to using the moniker as a side-project between Pixies albums, she recruited Tanya Donelly of the Throwing Muses, as well as bassist Josephine Wiggs, for The Breeders’ debut album, Pod. Kelley joined her sister in The Breeders after the Pixies broke-up and Donelly left the fold to form Belly in 1993. Also joining the band at that time was Ohio drummer Jim Macpherson. It was this line-up that achieved the greatest success, releasing Last Splash, which eventually went platinum, largely due to the popularity of its lead single, “Cannonball.”
On this day in 1934, women’s lib pioneer Gloria Steinem was born in Toledo, where she grew up and attended Waite High School. She spent much of her childhood tending to her mother, who suffered from mental illness and had divorced Steinem’s father when Gloria was 10 years old. Steinem went to Smith College, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. After graduation, she went to work as a journalist. As a freelance writer in the early ’60s, she contributed an article to Esquire on contraception that focused on how women are forced to choose between marriage and careers, and wrote a feature on New York’s Playboy Club exposing the sexual demands made on women working as bunnies there.
After helping found New York magazine in 1968, Steinem co-founded Ms. magazine in 1972. In Gloria: In Her Own Words, an HBO documentary, she said, “I realized as a journalist that there really was nothing for women to read that was controlled by women, and this caused me along with a number of other women to start Ms. magazine.” But even before Ms. put the spotlight on women’s issues like abortion and domestic violence, Steinem had become a leader of the women’s movement when she actively campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment and testified before a senate judiciary committee. While Steinem has founded numerous organizations and continued to be active in women’s and feminist movements throughout her career, she has also protested against apartheid and the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. Last year, Steinem was named the American Humanist Association’s Humanist of the Year. Today, she is 79.
Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch was born in 1953 and grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, a suburb east of Cleveland. After a brief stint at Northwestern in Chicago, he moved to New York to attend Columbia University, where he studied literature. After graduating and spending some time in Paris, Jarmusch was accepted by New York University for their graduate film program. In his final year at NYU, he worked as an assistant to Nicholas Ray, the legendary director of such films as Rebel Without a Cause. Ultimately, though, he didn’t receive his master’s degree, as the university rejected his final project and first feature film, Permanent Vacation.
Jarmusch subsequently made a name for himself with his first theatrically released movie, Stranger Than Paradise, much of which takes place in Cleveland. The film was awarded the Camera d’Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival and also won the 1985 National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Film. Subsequent films like Down By Law and Mystery Train cemented Jarmusch as an important creator of independent cinema, while he also became a fixture of New York’s underground downtown, playing in No Wave band The Del-Byzanteens. More recently, Jarmusch began shooting Only Lovers Left Alive, an adaptation of Dave Wallis’ 1964 novel starring Tilda Swanson. (Maybe not so coincidentally, Ray was supposed to direct an adaption of the novel in 1966 that ultimately didn’t come to fruition. Clevelander Stiv Bators also took the novel’s title for the name of an album by his short-lived post–Dead Boys project The Wanderers.) Additionally, Jarmusch released two albums in 2012 that he recorded with Jozef van Wissem, who is scoring Only Lovers Left Alive. Today, the director turns 60.
Though guitarist Joe Walsh was born in Kansas, he grew up in Columbus, living in the Ohio capitol until his family moved to New York City when he was 12. He returned to Ohio, however, to attend Kent State, and first made his mark as a musician in the late ’60s when he became a member of Cleveland’s James Gang. In 1971, Walsh left the James Gang to form another Cleveland-based band, Barnstorm. After one album under the Barnstorm moniker, Walsh essentially became a solo artist, releasing The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get under his own name, though he made the album with Barnstorm. The record contained his first hit, “Rocky Mountain Way.”
It was as an Eagle, however, that Walsh became famous, replacing Bernie Leadon in 1975 in time to record Hotel California with the band. Walsh co-wrote the album’s “Life in the Fast Lane,” which went to number 11 on the pop singles chart in 1977. Walsh continued his solo career in between Eagles records and after the band broke up in 1980 (of course, only to reunite several times in subsequent years), having hits with “Life’s Been Good” and “In the City,” which he contributed to the soundtrack of cult classic movie The Warriors.
Today, Walsh is 65. Check out the clip below of one of his many appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Having played with Parliament, Funkadelic and James Brown (whose first singles were recorded at King Studios in Cincinnati, by the way), Bootsy Collins’ importance in the world of funk and R&B cannot be overstated. His bass playing has been the foundation of such songs as “Get Up, I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine,” “Super Bad,” “Soul Power,” and “Tear the Roof Off the Sucker.” Take into consideration the records the outlandish musician has made with this Rubber Band and that he’s also collaborated with Deee-Lite, Del McCoury, the Soup Dragons, and Fatboy Slim, among others, and it’s no wonder that Collins is considered a living legend.
Bootsy was born William Earl Collins in 1951 in Cincinnati, where he and his brother Phelps (a.k.a. Catfish) formed The Pacemakers in 1968. After James Brown fired his backing band, The Pacemakers were hired on in 1970, becoming the JBs. The rest, as they say, is history. Today Collins is 61 years old.
On this day in 1951, Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde was born in Akron, Ohio. After graduating from Firestone High School (like General Tire, Goodrich and Goodyear, Firestone was founded in Akron, giving it the nickname the Rubber City), Hynde went to Kent State, where she was in a band with Mark Mothersbaugh (of Devo). She moved to London in 1973 and began working at Malcom McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s SEX clothing store. Throughout the ’70s, she was like the Kevin Costner of punk, seemingly connected to every eventual key player of the nascent genre. Hynde auditioned for the group that became 999, had a short-lived band with Mick Jones (The Clash), which failed to get off the ground, and played guitar in Masters of Backside, who kicked her out before they rechristened themselves the Damned. She also almost married Sid Vicious as an attempt to secure a visa.
In 1978, Hynde finally cemented a band. With Pete Farndon, James Honeyman-Scott, and Martin Chambers, she formed the Pretenders. Their first single, “Stop Your Sobbing,” was produced by Nick Lowe and went to number 34 in the U.K. and 65 in the U.S. in 1979. But it was with “Brass in Pocket,” released later the same year, that the band made its name, with the single topping the charts in England and going to number 14 in the States. The band recorded two albums before both Honeyman-Scott and Farndon died of drug-related causes in 1982 and 1983, respectively. In the subsequent years, Hynde and Chambers have recruited a long list of collaborators to release increasingly sporadic albums, while Hynde also released an album with boyfriend JP Jones and his Fairground Boys in 2010. Previously, Hynde had a daughter in 1983 with Ray Davies (The Kinks), then was married to Jim Kerr (Simple Minds), with whom she had another daughter. They later divorced, and Hynde married artist Lucho Brieva in 1997 and had a son before they separated in 2002.
Hynde lives in London, but also has an apartment in Akron. She opened VegiTerranean, a vegan restaurant in Akron, in 2007, but it closed in 2011. Today Chrissie is 61.