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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December 25, 1954

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Today happens to be the final day of “The Pop Culture Addict's Advent Calendar”, and I am sorry to see it end. I had a lot of fun this past month, and I hope that all of you had fun reading it as well. I love doing these sorts of events in my blog, and I am actively looking forward to doing the same thing again next Christmas.

But, I have a little bit of a confession to make here. I actually wrote this in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve. The reason being that Christmas Day for me is jam-packed with events, family gatherings, and it's just going to be busy, busy, busy!

Today is Christmas Day, December 25...and what better day than to have a special Christmas themed Tuesday Timeline entry?

December 25 is traditionally known as being a happy day (unless you happen to be a character on EastEnders), but as you will see in this list of historical events for December 25, there are some instances of heartbreak and despair. Not much, thankfully, but some.

333 – Constantine the Great elevates his youngest son Constans to the rank of Caesar

800 – Coronation of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor in Rome

1000 – Hungary is established as a Christian kingdom by Stephen I of Hungary

1066 – William the Conqueror is crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey

1100 – Baldwin of Boulogne is crowned the first King of Jerusalem in the Church of the Nativity

1130 – Count Roger II of Sicily is crowned the first King of Sicily

1643 – Captain William Mynors of the East India Company discovers a new island, and names it Christmas Island, after the day in which he discovered it

1776 – George Washington and the Continental Army cross the Delaware River at nightfall to attack Hessian forces serving Great Britain at Trenton, New Jersey

1815 – The Handel and Haydn Society gives its first performance

1826 – The Eggnog Riot concludes at the United States Military Academy (I don't make these up, people)

1868 – Andrew Johnson grants unconditional pardon to all Civil War Confederate Soldiers

1899 – Humphrey Bogart is born in New York, New York

1924 – Rod Serling, writer of “The Twilight Zone” is born in Syracuse, New York

1932 – 275 people are killed following a 7.6 earthquake in Gansu, China

1941 – The Battle of Hong Kong concludes

1947 – The Constitution of the Republic of China goes into effect

1950 – The Stone of Scone is stolen from Westminster Abbey by Scottish nationalist students, not to be seen again until April 1951

1968 – Apollo 8 performs the very first successful Trans Earth Injection (TEI) maneuver

1974 – Cyclone Tracy destroys 80% of the city of Darwin, Australia when it made landfall

1977 – Silent film star Charlie Chaplin passes away in Switzerland at the age of 88

1989 – Former Communist Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife are condemned to death and executed following a summary trial

1990 – First successful trial of the World Wide Web

1991 – Resignation of Mikhail Gorbachev from presidential duties over the Soviet Union (which would break apart one day later)

1996 – The murder of 6-year-old beauty pageant contestant JonBenet Ramsey sets forth the beginning of the investigation into her death

2006 – American funk musician James Brown passes away in Atlanta, Georgia at the age of 73

2008 – Singer/Actress Eartha Kitt passes away in Weston, Connecticut at the age of 81

2009 – A terrorist attack on Detroit Metro Airport Northwest Flight 253 is thwarted

2011 – Internet personality Ben Breedlove dies of cardiac arrest at just 18 years old

So, as you can see, we have a lot of people getting crowned, a few celebrity deaths, and a cyclone destroying an entire Australian town. Not exactly the best way to say Merry Christmas unfortunately. But the people involved who are survivors of that disaster became much stronger as a result of it, I'm sure.

We also have a lot of celebrity birthdays today. Obviously, the most famous of them all was Baby Jesus...but there are other famous faces that have a Christmas Day birthdate. They include Rene Girard, Ned Garver, Dick Miller, Al Jackson, Duane Armstrong, David Borden, Noel Picard, Gary Sandy, Jimmy Buffett, Larry Csonka, Gene Lamont, Twink Caplan, Barbara Mandrell, Sissy Spacek, Joe Louis Walker, Karl Rove, CCH Pounder, Steve Wariner, Alannah Myles, Cheryl Chase, Rickey Henderson, Dean Cameron, Darren Wharton, Helena Christensen, Jim Dowd, Dido, Justin Trudeau, Rob Mariano, Jessica and Lisa Origliasso (The Veronicas), and Jorgie Potter.

Today's blog subject also celebrates a birthday today. And, she happens to be born on...

December 25, 1954!

And, in keeping with the tradition of the day, why don't we listen to a holiday favourite performed by this artist?

ARTIST: Eurythmics
SONG: Winter Wonderland
ALBUM: A Very Special Christmas
DATE RELEASED: November 1987

The above song was part of the compilation “A Very Special Christmas”, which was released as a way to raise money towards the Special Olympics. And the track itself was recorded by the British synthpop group Eurythmics, which were formed by Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox.

But, this entry is not about Dave Stewart. His birthday was three months ago.

Yes, we're going to be talking about Annie Lennox, born on Christmas Day 58 years ago.

It seems really hard to believe that Annie Lennox is 58 years old today! To me, she doesn't even look remotely that old. Maybe it's the androgynous look that she has pulled off all these years that keeps her looking young, and good on her for it!

Born on December 25, 1954, Ann Lennox was born in Aberdeen, Scotland at Summerfield Maternity Hospital. The only child of a shipyard labourer and a cook, Lennox's early childhood was inside of a cramped two-room apartment in a tenement with shared laundry facilities. Despite these hardships, Lennox took piano lessons, and developed a love of music at a very young age. When she was growing up, she began to develop a love for singing, and often sang along to songs by The Beatles, amongst others.

Annie's teenage years were filled with a lot of angst, unhappiness, and loneliness – largely attributed to the overprotective nature of her father, and her struggle to find her own independence. However, Annie continued to develop her talents in music, and when she was nine years old, she came in second place in a talent contest singing “Mairi's Wedding”, and won at London's Royal Academy of Music in the 1970s, studying classical music for three years. In order to pay her way through school, she lived on a student grant and worked several part-time jobs. Still, she wasn't as enamored with life at the Royal Academy of Music as she could have been because she felt lonely, and was extremely shy.

Over time, she grew out of that shell, and by the time she joined her first band, “Dragon's Playground”, she was beginning to emerge as a real force in London's music scene. She left the band after less than a year to go and join “The Tourists” as their lead singer before crossing paths with Dave Stewart. During her time with the band, she and Stewart had gotten involved in a romantic relationship, but by 1980, the spark had fizzled, and they broke up. Despite this, they remained close friends, and the same year that their relationship ended was the year that they formed Eurythmics.

I don't suppose that you really need me to talk about how successful Eurythmics were in both the United Kingdom and the United States. They started off slow, as their 1981 debut, “In The Garden” failed to make much of an imprint on the charts. By 1983, they were topping the charts with songs such as the one below.

ARTIST: Eurythmics
SONG: Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
ALBUM: Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
DATE RELEASED: January 8, 1983

The above song is widely considered to be the signature song for Eurythmics, and it topped the charts in both Canada and the United States, peaked at #2 in Britain, Ireland, and New Zealand, and was a Top 10 hit in Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, and Switzerland. Part of the reason for the song's success was the music video which featured Annie Lennox in a man's suit with bright red closely cropped hair. The image she portrayed was so striking, you couldn't help but take notice. The fact that she had a killer voice to accompany her strong stage presence only served to improve her public persona, and she quickly became one of the most talked about female performers of the 1980s.

More hits from the group followed between 1983 and 1989, including “Here Comes The Rain Again”, “Would I Lie To You?”, “Who's That Girl?”, “Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves”, “It's Alright (Baby's Coming Back)”, “Missionary Man”, and “I Need A Man”. Each song featured Lennox front and center in bold costumes and an even bolder stage persona. By the time the 1980s ended, the band had recorded eight albums in eight years, and released a grand total of twenty-eight singles.

However, as the 1980s turned into the 1990s, Eurythmics had been on tour constantly, and both Stewart and Lennox were becoming exhausted with the hectic pace. A rift had developed between Stewart and Lennox, and both felt that it was time to move on from each other. And so, in 1990, Eurythmics disbanded.

TRIVIA: Although Eurythmics didn't stay disbanded for long. Stewart and Lennox have reunited with each other on several occasions, the most recent being in 2005.

But if you thought that this was the end of Annie Lennox's time on the charts, you would be mistaken. After all, the dissolution of Eurythmics was the perfect opportunity for Annie to embark on a solo career.

In April 1992, that solo album, “Diva” was released, its first single being “Why”. That song reached the Top 10 in several countries, and helped her win the award for Best Female Video at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. In all honesty, the whole album was a huge success. It ended up selling over a million copies in the UK, and in the United States, the record was certified double platinum. The album ended up winning the BRIT Award for Best Album in 1993, and also earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Album that same year (but lost to Eric Clapton).

Needless to say, Ms. Lennox definitely showed that she had what it took as a solo artist.

Her 1995 follow-up album, “Medusa” also did very well on the charts, with Lennox scoring another smash single with “No More I Love You's”. Once again, “Medusa” was nominated for a Grammy Award, and once more, she ended up losing (this time to veteran singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell). But even though she didn't win the Grammy, her solo efforts did something else extraordinary for her. They helped open her up to a new fanbase, and kept her relevant well into the 2000s.

TRIVIA: Annie Lennox did end up winning four Grammy Awards total in her career, and in 2004, she even won an Academy Award for the song “Into The West”.

These days, Annie is still recording music and performing at concerts. She was one of the performers at the closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics, in which I hear was a phenomenal performance. And she also balances her music career with the many causes she supports, including Amnesty International, Greenpeace, The SING Campaign, and Burma Campaign UK. And, in June 2011, Lennox earned the honour of becoming an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in response to the humanitarian work she had done over the years.

Not bad, eh?

And, that concludes our look back on December 25, 1954, as well as the first edition of “The Pop Culture Addict's Advent Calendar”.

Merry Christmas to everybody who celebrates it today...and for everybody else, I hope that you have a very joyous holiday season. May next year bring you much love, joy, peace, and happiness.

I think 2013 is going to be a very interesting year. And, please, stay tuned to this blog, as there are some surprises coming up!

To conclude this entry, I thought I would conclude this entry by posting one of my favourite Annie Lennox songs.


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