What do John Coltrane, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen, Tomas Ulrich, Mickey Rooney and Ani DeFranco all have in common? They were all born on this day, September 23.
Is there any day of the year on which more musical legends have been born? On this day, the 23rd of September, three major legendary musicians – and also a few almost-legends, plus Mickey Rooney, were born.
The great three are John Coltrane (born on Sept. 23, 1926), Ray Charles (Sept. 23, 1930) and Bruce Springsteen (Sept. 23, 1949.)
And there are more near-legendary musicians born on this day, including singer-songwriter Ani DeFranco (Sept. 23, 1970) and cellist Tomas Ulrich (the “Miles Davis of the cello”).
That’s a lot of great music born on this day. To commemorate this birthday of legends, we are sharing music from each. Music that is entirely distinct, and spanning a vast expanse of styles and times.
In chronological order, we celebrate the birthdays of these greats starting with jazz legend John Coltrane, born in 1926.
Trane, who famously played sax in Miles Davis’ band, started leading his own band in 1957 and performing his own compositions. This is one of his most beautiful songs with a poignant, spiritually transcendent melody. Written in 1959 and recorded for his Giant Steps album, in honor of his wife, Juanita Naima Grubbs, this is “Naima.”
Ray Charles was born in Greenville, Florida on this day in 1930. Known by those who knew him as “Brother Ray.” Others called him “Genius,” following Sinatra, who said Ray was “the only true genius” in this business.
Ray had several hits, but none bigger or more popular than “Georgia On My Mind” by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell, who wrote it in the year of Ray’s birth, 1930. Ray recorded it in 1960, and sang it at every show after that.
Bruce Springsteen was born on this day in 1949 in New Jersey, where he grew up. His debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. came out in 1973. Though it wasn’t a commercial triumph, it was the first evidence of a seriously great songwriter at work. He followed that album with a chain of classic records, and a singularly expansive songwriting style founded on the roots of rock & roll that never stopped expanding and evolving.
The Boss, as he’s been known now for decades, has created an immense songbook of great songs, from early classics such as “Thunder Road” through “Born To Run,” “Hungry Heart,” “Atlantic City,” “Born in the USA” and so many others.
This is one of his greatest epics, with a title that seems maybe overwrought until you hear him sing it, and it sounds so right. It’s a song which resounds now as great or greater than ever, He played it in shows for years without officially recording it. This is the birthday Boss today with “Land of Hope and Dreams.”
Tomas Ulrich was born in Connecticut on this day, 1958. He started playing cello when he was a kid, and took it to places rarely reached before. A devotee of legendary cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, Tomas studied classical music, and became a great player. He then distinguished himself by playing in orchestras, and in the Diller-Quaile String Quartet, where he’s been playing for decades.
He’s most beloved for his embrace of all kinds of music, most of which rarely is rendered on cello. He’s played with a rock band in college, and has played with jazz bands often, always playing with brilliant and inspired solo improvisations, unusual for a cellist.
He’s also played rock and roll, Turkish music, funk, R&B, folk, hip-hop, klezmer and more. He is great at playing the music of Hendrix and other electric guitarists on cello. When the Rock & Roil Hall of Fame honored Zappa with a week of events, Tomas was there to discuss Zappa’s orchestral music. He also astounded all assembled by playing Zappa’s famous “Black Napkins,” a beautiful but complex compostion for electric guitar.
Tomas is also an acclaimed composer and songwriter. In his honor we are happy to share “Song for Musetta,” which he performs solo in this video shot by Scott Friedlander at Webster Library in New York City on November 10, 2018,