Dancing Chickens

There are a whole bunch of musical birthdays today, so break out the birthday cake. No, wait–all of the people mentioned here are (or were) rich and famous, so they can buy their own damn cake.

Country singer Gretchen Wilson is 33. Wilson broke huge in 2004 with her album Here for the Party and her single “Redneck Woman,” which won a Grammy. Her second album, All Jacked Up, featured a song called “Politically Uncorrect,” a duet with Merle Haggard in which she attempted to solidify her right-wing bona fides:

And I’m for the Bible and I’m for the flag
And I’m for the working man, me and ol’ Hag
I’m just one of many
Who can’t get no respect
Politically uncorrect

Not from English teachers, at least.

Given her flag ‘n’ bible thing, one can’t help note the irony that Wilson gave birth to a child out of wedlock in 2000 and is raising the child alone. Her Wikipedia entry contains an unsourced note that after seeing the anti-McDonalds movie Super-Size Me, she resolved to eat at McDonalds on every stop of her concert tours. It also says Wilson was raised in a trailer park, which may explain everything.

Chris Isaak is 50. Parlayed the eerie, Roy-Orbisonesque “Wicked Game” and its R-rated video into cult stardom and a Showtime series.

Mick Jones of the Clash and Big Audio Dynamite is 51. Was more or less present at the creation of British punk rock. Formed the Clash with Paul Simonon in 1976 (the band opened for the Sex Pistols in Britain on July 4 of that year). After feuding with the other band members, Jones was fired from the Clash in 1983, and formed BAD the next year.

Georgie Fame is 63. Fame’s major American hits, “Yeh Yeh” and “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde” are second- or third-tier British Invasion trivia. Much more notable is his work with Van Morrison, as Van’s musical director and keyboard player from 1989 to 1998. He’s often heard providing harmony vocals on various tracks, and often got his own solo spot during Morrison’s concerts. He’s currently signed to a record label owned by Madison’s Ben Sidran.

Billy Davis Jr. is 66. One-fifth of the Fifth Dimension and one-half of Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. The Fifth Dimension occupied an interesting spot in the late 1960s–right at the intersection of soul music and splashy supper-club pop. In other words, they were what Berry Gordy wanted the Supremes to be.

Colonel Tom Parker would be 96, if he hadn’t died in 1997. The British website This Day in Music says of Parker, “Before working in the music business Parker ran a troupe of dancing chickens.” A more succinct commentary on Parker you won’t find anywhere–he managed Elvis Presley like a carnival guy trying desperately to get people in the tent to watch the dancing chickens, utterly unequipped to grasp Elvis’ art in any fashion at all.

Big Bill Broonzy would be 113, and that would be quite an accomplishment, if he hadn’t died in 1958. Born in Mississippi, he began his recording career in Wisconsin with the Paramount label, and is recognized as an important figure in both Delta and Chicago blues. He toured Europe extensively during the 1950s, and as a result is often cited as a major influence by British rockers, many of whom got their first exposure to American blues from him.

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