This Day in Music, November 2: You Say It's Your Birthday

By , Contributor

Deciding on who and what to write about for today’s This Day in Music, I couldn’t help but notice there has been an interesting and diverse mix of singers, songwriters and musicians all born on this day, November 2. So here goes, eldest first!

Born on this day in 1939, Lolly Vasquez, who played guitar and sang with Redbone (the name Redbone itself is a reference to a Cajun term for a mixed-race person). Redbone, who were a Native American rock group from California, reached the Top 5 on the U.S. in 1974 with the million-selling "Come and Get Your Love" and their other big hit was "The Witch Queen of New Orleans."

Next we have Donald McLean, or Don McLean to you and me. Born in New Rochelle, New York in 1945, Don has given us a couple of great songs: "American Pie" and "Vincent", the former of which you probably know most the words to and have sung to yourself or along with the car radio on many occasions. It's one of those songs that tells a story, has an infectious chorus, and here’s the good bit you never get tired of it. Apparently 34 different record labels rejected Don's first album! McLean's magnum opus, "American Pie", was inspired partly by the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) in a plane crash on 3 February 1959. The song popularized the expression "the day the music died."

Now then, never mind Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious; this guy was the first punk rocker — Richard Hell, who was born on this day in 1949. Hell (Richard Meyers) was the first to spike his hair and wear torn, cut, and drawn-on shirts, often held together with safety pins, the fashion of which English punks adopted. If you are to do one thing today, somehow try and listen to “Love Comes In Spurts” from his 1977 album, Blank Generation. I guarantee your world will be a better place after hearing this.

Never been a big Genesis fan (I like Peter Gabriel), but we can’t ignore the talents of guitarist Mike Rutherford who is 61 today. Mike wrote “The Living Years” with B.A. Robertson, which became a U.S. No.1 for his other group Mike and the Mechanics. The song tells the sad tale about lack of communication between a son and his father before his father died and all the important things he never told him. “The Living Years”  has since become a favourite choice at funerals.

They keep coming. Probably the biggest star of the birthday bunch is the man who was named after his jumper. Yes, the former teacher who became a huge star with The Police and then an even bigger star as a solo artist is 60 today! Love him or hate him, you can’t deny Sting has written some belting pop tunes. The activist, actor, and philanthropist who has a shelf full of awards also once worked as ... a bus conductor. There’s hope for us all yet.

Okay, still a few more to go so I’ll get a move on. Someone who we love in the UK but is probably unknown in the U.S. is John Otway. Born in 1952, John has played over two million gigs and has sold not as many records.

I went to see him once, and a good time was had by all. The highlight of his show was during a song called "Headbutts” where every time John sang the word ‘headbutt’ he would ‘head-butt’ his microphone. It was never a gentle tap; Otway would hit the thing full force resulting in a permanent large scar on his forehead.

Walking on the beach in a force-ten gale
And I saw three hippies saving a whale
(Oh, I hate bleedin' hippies! So...)
I gave 'em headbutts

Went to the doctor's for a pill
"Why was that, feeling ill?"
No, I got a headache!
I got a headache!
Too many headbutts
Too many headbutts

Phil Oakey will be blowing out the candles today; the singer from Human League is 57 (all together now - “Don’t you want me baby/Don’t you want me noooow"). Robbie Nevil who was born on this day in 1961 had the massive hit “C'est La Vie” in 1987. If you were wondering whatever happened to Robbie, don’t worry, he’s done all right. Nevil turned to writing and producing for acts such as Babyface, Jessica Simpson, Destiny's Child and High School Musical.

Sigtryggur Baldursson, the drummer with Bjork’s old group from Iceland, The Sugarcubes, was born in 1962 (and funnily enough, one of their best tracks is a song titled “Birthday”). Badly Drawn Boy (Damon Gough), the Manchester singer/songwriter, was born in 1969, and the U.S. singer Tiffany, who had the 1987/'88 worldwide hit "I Think We're Alone Now" was born on this day in 1971. The last time I read about the former teen icon was about ten years ago when she appeared in her birthday suit for Playboy magazine.

Suggested playlist for your iTunes:

Redbone - “The Witch Queen Of New Orleans”
Don McLean - “American Pie”
Richard Hell & The Voidoids - “Love Comes In Spurts”
Mike And The Mechanics - “The Living Years”
Sting - “Roxanne”
Otway & Barrett - “Really Free”
Human League - "Love Action (I Believe in Love)"
Robbie Nevil - “C'est La Vie”
The Sugarcubes - “Birthday”
Badly Drawn Boy - "A Minor Incident"
Tiffany - “I Think We're Alone Now”

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A former musician, Neil was in the 80's group The Cheaters who were once signed to EMI's Parlophone label, and released three albums. He was also a radio presenter and is still a regular music pundit on various BBC stations. Neil is the founder of the award winning web site This Day in Music which is…

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