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Chloe Effron // Getty Images

10 Famous Birthdays to Celebrate in September

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Chloe Effron // Getty Images

September 16 is reportedly the most common birthday, and the month itself is routinely the second most popular one for babies to be born. As you'll see though, that doesn't mean it's a month for commoners. Here are a few notable birthdays in September.

1. SEPTEMBER 7, 1533: QUEEN ELIZABETH I

George Gower via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

England’s first Queen Elizabeth had a bit of a complicated path to the throne. When her father, King Henry VIII, died in 1547, the throne passed to his nine-year-old son Edward VI (from his third marriage to Jane Seymour). Edward died six years later at age 15, but in that time he'd already changed the order of succession and named his cousin Lady Jane Grey as his successor. Grey ruled for just nine days before the Privy Council declared Mary (daughter of Henry and first wife, Catherine of Aragon) queen instead. Mary I, also known as Bloody Mary, reigned for five tumultuous years until she died at age 42 without heirs. Elizabeth finally ascended the throne in 1558 at age 25 and ruled for 45 years. Like her siblings, she died without an heir and her reign was the last of the Tudor dynasty.    

2. SEPTEMBER 9, 1890: COLONEL HARLAND SANDERS

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Colonel Sanders will always be known as the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, but he was 40 years old before he even began selling food at his gas station in Corbin, Kentucky. Before that, he worked as a farmhand, a painter, a streetcar conductor, a blacksmith’s assistant, a railroad fireman, a lawyer, an insurance salesman, a secretary, a midwife, and a ferry operator. He didn't own his first KFC franchise until age 62

3. SEPTEMBER 13, 1916: ROALD DAHL

Carl Van Vechten via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The British author who gave us Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox and many other memorable stories, did some of his most profound writing outside the realm of fiction. In 1962, Dahl's eldest child, Olivia—the apple of his eye—died after contracting measles that developed into measles encephalitis. Dahl wrote about the loss in his private diary, an entry which was uncovered by his family long after the writer's death. While that prose stayed private during Dahl's life, in 1988 he wrote an open letter to parents about the measles vaccine, which was published in a pamphlet from the Sandwell Health Authority. You can read the entire heart-wrenching letter here.

4. SEPTEMBER 15, 1890: AGATHA CHRISTIE

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Dame Agatha Christie holds the world record as the best-selling novelist ever. While much credit can be given to her pure talent and imagination, Christie was also influenced by her time spent working at a Red Cross hospital during World War I. She was trained in pharmacy work for the job, but became obsessed with the fear of accidentally poisoning someone. No wonder so many of her fictional victims—83 in all—were poisoned. 

5. SEPTEMBER 16, 1924: LAUREN BACALL

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Anyone who's seen one of Bacall's 72 movie and television appearances knows that the legendary actor was magnetic—a fact that didn't escape those around her during her very first movie. Bacall was only 20 years old when she was cast in To Have and Have Not (1944). On set, she met and fell in love with Humphrey Bogart, who was 44 years old and married at the time. The chemistry between the two was so evident that the filmmakers worked to expand her screen time until she had a lead role. A year later, she and Bogart were married, and went on to make three more films together—1946's The Big Sleep, Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948). 

6. SEPTEMBER 18, 1905: GRETA GARBO

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Garbo was a bit of an unlikely movie star; she was a notorious introvert who stopped giving interviews early in her career, making 32 movies and then retiring from Hollywood at age 35. Her enigmatic nature was one of the reasons she was recruited to work for the British intelligence agency MI6 during World War II. The exceedingly-recognizable Garbo couldn’t go undercover, but she socialized with persons of interest and reported evidence of their sympathies back to headquarters. She also helped talk the king of Sweden, Gustav V, into meeting with physicist Niels Bohr, which ultimately led the king to offer asylum to Danish Jews. She was criticized in public for not doing enough for the war effort, but in typical Garbo fashion, she kept silent about her espionage activities.

7. SEPTEMBER 22, 1791: MICHAEL FARADAY

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Among other scientific breakthroughs, the English chemist and physicist gave us the concept of an electromagnetic field, and invented devices that paved the way for our everyday use of electricity. He was quite an educator, too. In addition to his work for the Royal Institution, Faraday inaugurated a series of science lectures designed for children in 1825, when such curriculum was rare. He gave 19 of the so-called Christmas Lectures (the last in 1860), and the series continues to this day. 

8. SEPTEMBER 23, 1838: VICTORIA WOODHULL

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Woodhull was the first woman to run for President of the United States, despite the fact that, at the time (1872), she couldn’t legally vote! Women in office was a radical idea, but Woodhull was a radical woman in many ways. She divorced twice, invested in the stock market, published a newspaper, and worked as a clairvoyant. Woodhull ran for president on the Equal Rights Party ticket, but spent election night in jail on indecency charges for calling out the hypocrisy of a local minister.

9. SEPTEMBER 24, 1936: JIM HENSON

AP Wirephoto via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Henson was the genius behind the Muppets, but he didn’t grow up with grand aspirations of puppeteering. As a high school senior in 1954, he landed a position with a local television station that wanted a show with puppets. Henson—then only an amateur puppet maker and operator—decided he could learn as he went along. The show only lasted for two episodes, but that was enough time for Henson to make some contacts and an impression. More television appearances soon followed.

10. SEPTEMBER 25, 1930: SHEL SILVERSTEIN

The beloved children's author has quite the claim to fame in the music world, though few people know about it: He wrote the Johnny Cash hit "A Boy Named Sue." Silverstein first played the ditty for the country crooner at a party in 1969, and days later, Cash played it during the live recording of At San Quentin. Columbia Records then released the song, and it went to #2 on the pop charts, becoming Cash's biggest-selling single. Silverstein nabbed a Grammy for the tune and a year later, he appeared on The Johnny Cash Show to perform it with the Man in Black himself. In 1978, Silverstein followed up with a sequel called "The Father of a Boy Named Sue," which recounted the saga from dear old dad's perspective.

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10 Crazy Facts About Willie Nelson
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Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Willie Nelson is one of the world’s most accomplished musicians—and not just in the country music world. Nelson’s talents transcend genre, and go far beyond music. Here are 10 things you might not know about the legendary outlaw country singer, who turns 85 years old today.

1. HE WROTE HIS FIRST SONG AT THE AGE OF SEVEN.

While other kids were still struggling to keep inside the lines of their coloring books, Nelson was composing music. He recalled the experience of his songwriting debut to Rolling Stone in 2004: “Back when we used to take music lessons from our grandmother, we'd go through lessons, and if we'd get the lesson right that day she'd take a gold star—a little star, about the size of your finger, with glue on one side—and she'd stick it on the sheet of music, which meant you'd done well. So I wrote this song with the line ‘They took a gold star away from me when you left me for another, long ago.’ I'd never been left by anybody, so it was kind of funny.”

2. HE USED TO BE A BIBLE SALESMAN.

Before he became a full-time musician in the mid-1950s, Nelson worked as a cotton picker (a gig he began as a child, working alongside his grandmother), disc jockey, and a Bible salesman.

3. HE RAN INTO A BURNING HOUSE (TO SAVE HIS POT).

While living in Nashville, Nelson arrived home one evening to discover that his house was burning to the ground. “By the time I got there, it was burning real good,” he told People in 1980. “But I had this pound of Colombian grass inside. I wasn't being brave running in there to get my dope—I was trying to keep the firemen from finding it and turning me over to the police.” One-hundred tapes of yet-to-be-recorded songs weren't as lucky as Nelson's stash; they were lost in the fire.

4. HE RETIRED IN 1972.

In 1972, Nelson paid $14,000 to buy out his contract so that he could retire to Austin, Texas. But his withdrawal from the music business didn’t last long. Especially considering how vibrant the music scene was happening all around him in Austin. Within a year, he was back on the charts with the album Shotgun Willie. By the mid-1970s he scored some of his biggest hits with a trio of albums: Red Headed Stranger, The Sound in Your Mind, and The Troublemaker.

5. HE HAS BEEN PLAYING THE SAME GUITAR FOR NEARLY 50 YEARS.

Nelson has been playing Trigger, his beloved guitar (which he named after Roy Rogers’ horse), since 1969. “I’ve got to take good care of Trigger,” Nelson told Uncut Magazine in 2014. “He’s had a couple of problems. We’ve had to go in and do some work on the inside, build up the woodwork in there a little bit over the years. But Trigger’s holding up pretty good.”

6. HE RECORDED THE IRS TAPES TO PAY OFF HIS TAX DEBT.

In 1990, the IRS raided Nelson’s house and seized his assets (everything except Trigger) for non-payment of taxes. The $32 million bill, one of the largest in IRS history, was eventually negotiated down and settled in a creative way: Nelson would record a new album with the IRS receiving at least 15 cents of every dollar made. The result was the limited-edition The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories, which sold for $19.95 on cassette or CD and was purchased by dialing 1-800-IRS-TAPE.

7. HE WROTE “ON THE ROAD AGAIN” ON A BARF BAG.

Nelson’s 1980 hit, “On The Road Again,” was written aboard an airplane—on a barf bag. “I was on an aeroplane with Sydney Pollack and Jerry Schatzberg, who was the director of the movie Honeysuckle Rose,” Nelson told Uncut in 2014. “They were looking for songs for the movie and they started asking me if I had any ideas. I said, ‘I don’t know, what do you want the song to say?’ I think Sydney said, ‘Can it be something about being on the road?’ It just started to click in my head. I said, ‘You mean like, ‘On the road again, I can’t wait to get on the road again?’ They said, ‘That’s great. What’s the melody?’ I said, ‘I don’t know yet.’”

8. HE PERFORMED "UP AGAINST THE WALL, REDNECK MOTHER” WITH ROSALYNN CARTER.

Former President Jimmy Carter has never made a secret of his admiration of Willie Nelson. And the two have shared a long friendship. On September 13, 1980, Nelson performed for Carter and guests at the White House—which included a duet of Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother” with then-First Lady Rosalynn Carter. (On various occasions, Nelson has recounted how he later made his way onto the roof of the White House and smoked a joint.) In 2012, the former President got his own chance to share the stage with the legendary musician when the two performed “Amazing Grace” together in Atlanta.

9. HE OWNS A BIODIESEL FIRM.

Nelson is much more than a musician—he’s a noted activist and entrepreneur, too. In 2004 he launched his own biodiesel firm, BioWillie Biodiesel.

10. HE’S A POT-REPRENEUR.

Nelson has hardly made a secret of regular marijuana use, or his support for its legalization. (His rap sheet of pot-related arrests certainly backs up those claims.) As more and more states are legalizing the once-outlawed weed, Nelson has put his expertise on the topic to good use, and launched his very own brand of pot: Willie’s Reserve.

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10 Fascinating Facts About Ella Fitzgerald
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Today marks what would have been the 101st birthday of Ella Fitzgerald, the pioneering jazz singer who helped revolutionize the genre. But the iconic songstress’s foray into the music industry was almost accidental, as she had planned to show off her dancing skills when she made her stage debut. Celebrate the birthday of the artist known as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, or just plain ol’ Lady Ella with these fascinating facts.

1. SHE WAS A JAZZ FAN FROM A YOUNG AGE.

Though she attempted to launch her career as a dancer (more on that in a moment), Ella Fitzgerald was a jazz enthusiast from a very young age. She was a fan of Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby, and truly idolized Connee Boswell of the Boswell Sisters. “She was tops at the time,” Fitzgerald said in 1988. “I was attracted to her immediately. My mother brought home one of her records, and I fell in love with it. I tried so hard to sound just like her.”

2. SHE DABBLED IN CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES AS A TEENAGER.

A photo of Ella Fitzgerald
Carl Van Vechten - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Fitzgerald’s childhood wasn’t an easy one. Her stepfather was reportedly abusive to her, and that abuse continued following the death of Fitzgerald’s mother in 1932. Eventually, to escape the violence, she moved to Harlem to live with her aunt. While she had been a great student when she was younger, it was following that move that her dedication to education faltered. Her grades dropped and she often skipped school. But she found other ways to fill her days, not all of them legal: According to The New York Times, she worked for a mafia numbers runner and served as a police lookout at a local brothel. Her illicit activities eventually landed her in an orphanage, followed by a state reformatory.

3. SHE MADE HER STAGE DEBUT AT THE APOLLO THEATER.

In the early 1930s, Fitzgerald was able to make a little pocket change from the tips she made from passersby while singing on the streets of Harlem. In 1934, she finally got the chance to step onto a real (and very famous) stage when she took part in an Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater on November 21, 1934. It was her stage debut.

The then-17-year-old managed to wow the crowd by channeling her inner Connee Boswell and belting out her renditions of “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection.” She won, and took home a $25 prize. Here’s the interesting part: She entered the competition as a dancer. But when she saw that she had some stiff competition in that department, she opted to sing instead. It was the first big step toward a career in music.

4. A NURSERY RHYME HELPED HER GET THE PUBLIC’S ATTENTION.

Not long after her successful debut at the Apollo, Fitzgerald met bandleader Chick Webb. Though he was initially reluctant to hire her because of what The New York Times described as her “gawky and unkempt” appearance, her powerful voice won him over. "I thought my singing was pretty much hollering," she later said, "but Webb didn't."

Her first hit was a unique adaptation of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” which she helped to write based on what she described as "that old drop-the-handkerchief game I played from 6 to 7 years old on up."

5. SHE WAS PAINFULLY SHY.

Though it certainly takes a lot of courage to get up and perform in front of the world, those who knew and worked with Fitzgerald said that she was extremely shy. In Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography of the First Lady of Jazz, trumpeter Mario Bauzá—who played with Fitzgerald in Chick Webb’s orchestra—explained that “she didn't hang out much. When she got into the band, she was dedicated to her music … She was a lonely girl around New York, just kept herself to herself, for the gig."

6. SHE MADE HER FILM DEBUT IN AN ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MOVIE.

As her IMDb profile attests, Fitzgerald contributed to a number of films and television series over the years, and not just to the soundtracks. She also worked as an actress on a handful of occasions (often an actress who sings), beginning with 1942’s Ride ‘Em Cowboy, a comedy-western starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

7. SHE GOT SOME HELP FROM MARILYN MONROE.

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt,” Fitzgerald said in a 1972 interview in Ms. Magazine. “It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him—and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status—that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard … After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman—a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

Though it has often been reported that the club’s owner did not want to book Fitzgerald because she was black, it was later explained that his reluctance wasn’t due to Fitzgerald’s race; he apparently didn’t believe that she was “glamorous” enough for the patrons to whom he catered.

8. SHE WAS THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN TO WIN A GRAMMY.

Ella Fitzgerald
William P. Gottlieb - LOC, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Among her many other accomplishments, in 1958 Fitzgerald became the first African American woman to win a Grammy Award. Actually, she won two awards that night: one for Best Jazz Performance, Soloist for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook, and another for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook.

9. HER FINAL PERFORMANCE WAS AT CARNEGIE HALL.

On June 27, 1991, Fitzgerald—who had, at that point, recorded more than 200 albums—performed at Carnegie Hall. It was the 26th time she had performed at the venue, and it ended up being her final performance.

10. SHE LOST BOTH OF HER LEGS TO DIABETES.

In her later years, Fitzgerald suffered from a number of health problems. She was hospitalized a handful of times during the 1980s for everything from respiratory problems to exhaustion. She also suffered from diabetes, which took much of her eyesight and led to her having to have both of her legs amputated below the knee in 1993. She never fully recovered from the surgery and never performed again. She passed away at her home in Beverly Hills on June 15, 1996.

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