Happy Birthday Philippa Gregory

I enjoy reading Historical Fiction so I thought I would write about British writer Philippa Gregory, who was born 9 January 1954 in Nairobi, Kenya. She has been writing historical novels since 1987, the best known of which is The Other Boleyn Girl which won the Romantic Novelists’ Association.Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2002. Among her other novels are The Queen’s Fool,The Virgin’s Lover,  The Constant Princess,  The Boleyn Inheritance, The Other Queen, The Constant Princess,  The Wise Woman, The White Queen, The Red Queen and the The Kingmaker’s Daughter.

She has written novels set in several different historical periods, though primarily the Tudor period and the 16th century. Reading a number of novels set in the 17th century led her to write the bestselling Lacey trilogy — Wideacre, which is a story about the love of land and incest, The Favoured Child and Meridon. This was followed by The Wise Woman. A Respectable Trade, a novel of the slave trade in England, set in 18th-century Bristol, was adapted by Gregory for a four-part drama series for BBC television. Gregory’s script was nominated for a BAFTA, won an award from the Committee for Racial Equality, and the film was shown worldwide.Two novels about a gardening family are set during the English Civil War: Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth, while she has in addition written contemporary fiction – Perfectly Correct, Mrs Hartley And The Growth Centre, The Little House and Zelda’s Cut. She has also written for children.

Some of her novels have won awards and have been adapted into television dramas. The most successful of her novels has been The Other Boleyn Girl, published in 2002 and adapted for BBC television in 2003 with Natascha McElhone, Jodhi May and Jared Harris. In the year of its publication, The Other Boleyn Girl also won the Romantic Novel of the Year and it has subsequently spawned sequels — The Queen’s Fool, The Virgin’s Lover, The Constant Princess, The Boleyn Inheritance, and The Other Queen. Miramax bought the film rights to The Other Boleyn Girl and produced a film of the same name starring Scarlett Johansson as Mary Boleyn and co-starring Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn, Eric Bana as Henry Tudor, Juno Temple as Jane Parker, and Kristin Scott Thomas as Elizabeth Boleyn. It was filmed in England and generally released in February 2008. Gregory had also begun to publish a series of books about the Plantagenets, the ruling houses that preceded the Tudors, and the Cousin’s War. Her first book The White Queen, published in 2009, centers on the life of Elizabeth Woodville the wife of Edward IV. The Red Queen, published in 2010, is about Margret Beaufort the mother of Henry VII and grandmother to Henry VIII. The Lady of the Rivers, published 2011, is the life of Jacquetta of Luxembourg, mother of Elizabeth Woodville, first married to John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford, younger brother of Henry the Fifth.

Happy Birthday Wilbur Smith

WS_Dark_SunBest-selling novelist Wilbur Smith was born 9 January 1933 in Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia now Kabwe, Zambia. As a child he ranged through the bush, hiking, hunting, and trapping birds and small mammals. His mother read to him every night and later gave him novels of escape and excitement, which piqued his interest in fiction. He went to boarding school at Cordwalles Preparatory School in Natal (now Kwa-Zulu Natal). While in Natal he continued to be an avid reader and would discuss the books he had read with his English master, who encouraged his reading. Next he went to Michaelhouse (St Michael’s academy for young gentlemen) situated on the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains.

After he left Michaelhouse He became a journalist, writing about social conditions in South Africa, then worked as a Chartered Accountant for a while before turning back to fiction. He sold his first story to ‘Argosy’ magazine & then wrote his first novel, ‘The Gods First Make Mad’.His next novel, When the Lion Feeds, was published in 1964, and tells the story of Sean Courtney and his twin brother Garry as they grow up on an African cattle ranch. The story weaves in facts about Smith’s own father and mother. He added in some early African history and included the perspective of black people and white. He wrote about hunting, gold mining, carousing, women, love, sex, and hate. The book gained a film deal and its success encouraged Smith to become a full-time writer.

His writings include 16th and 17th century tales about the founding of the southern territories of Africa and the subsequent adventures and international intrigues relevant to these settlements. His books often fall into one of three series. These works of fiction draw on history and help to explain the rise and historical influence of the Dutch and British settlers in southern Africa that eventually claimed this diamond and gold rich and disputed territory as home. Smith currently has over 30 novels published and now lives in London, but states that Africa is his major inspiration and avows an abiding concern for the peoples and wildlife of his native continent.

Happy Birthday Jimmy Page

jimmypageDescribed as “rock’s greatest and most mysterious guitar hero” and “the pontiff of power riffing. one of the most influential and important guitarists and songwriters in rock music, guitar god, songwriter, and record producer James Patrick “Jimmy” Page, OBE was born on this day 9 January in 1944. Page First played the guitar at the age of twelve.  Among his early influences were rockabilly guitarists Scotty Moore and James Burton, who both played on recordings made by Elvis Presley Page’s musical tastes included skiffle and acoustic folk playing, particularly that of Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, and the blues sounds of Elmore James, B.B. King, Willie Dixon, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Freddie King and Hubert Sumlin.  At the age of 13, Page appeared on All Your Own talent quest programme in a skiffle quartet, played “Mama Don’t Want To Skiffle Anymore” and In Them Ol’ Cottonfields Back Home”. When asked by Wheldon what he wanted to do after schooling, Page said, “I want to do biological research” to find a cure for “cancer, if it isn’t discovered by then”.

He began his career as a studio session guitarist in London. He was asked by singer Neil Christian to join his band, The Crusaders, after Christian had seen a fifteen-year-old Page playing in a local hall. Page toured with Christian for approximately two years and later played on several of his records, including “The Road to Love” While still a student, Page would often perform on stage at The Marquee with bands such as Cyril Davies’ All Stars, Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated and with guitarists Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. He was  asked  to record a number of singles including “The Worrying Kind”. After brief stints with Carter-Lewis and the Southerners, Mike Hurst and the Method, and Mickey Finn and the Blue Men, Page committed himself to full-time session work. He secured session work  playing acoustic twelve string guitar on The Kinks’ debut album “I’m a Lover Not a Fighter” “I’ve Been Driving On Bald Mountain” and I Gotta Move”. He also played six-string rhythm guitar on The Who’s songs “I Can’t Explain” & “Bald Headed Woman”, As well as Marianne Faithfull’s “As Tears Go By”, The Nashville Teens’ “Tobacco Road”, The Rolling Stones’ “Heart of Stone”, Van Morrison & Them’s “Baby Please Don’t Go” and “Here Comes the Night”, Dave Berry’s “The Crying Game” and “My Baby Left Me”, Brenda Lee’s “Is It True,” and Petula Clark’s “Downtown”. He also composed and recorded songs for the John Williams album The Maureeny Wishful Album with Big Jim Sullivan, Donovan Leitch’s Sunshine Superman  the Johnny Hallyday albums Jeune Homme and Je Suis Né Dans La Rue, the Al Stewart album Love Chronicles, and played guitar on five tracks of Joe Cocker’s debut album, With a Little Help from My Friends. Page has also played lead guitar on 10 Roy Harper tracks

The Yardbirds

Page decided to leave session work. In 1965 Clapton quit the Yardbirds, and Page was formally offered Clapton’s spot, but Page was still unwilling to give up his lucrative career as a session musician,   due to worries about his health during touring conditions, he suggested his friend, Jeff Beck instead. In1966, drummer Keith Moon, bass player John Paul Jones, keyboardist Nicky Hopkins, Jeff Beck and Page recorded “Beck’s Bolero”.  Page decided to form a new supergroup featuring Beck, along with The Who’s John Entwistle on bass and Keith Moon on drums. It was During this time, that Moon suggested the name “Lead Zeppelin” for the first time, after Entwistle commented that the proceedings would take to the air like a lead balloon.Page also attended a Yardbirds concert and when Paul Samwell-Smith announced that he was leaving the group. Page offered to replace Samwell-Smith and He started off playing bass with the Yardbirds before finally switching to twin lead guitar with Beck. they released one single, “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” however  interpersonal conflicts caused by constant touring and a lack of commercial success took it’s toll and Jeff Beck left. After Beck’s departure, the Yardbirds remained a quartet & recorded one album, Little Games. Interestingly Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton neveractually played in the original group at the same time, although The three guitarists did appear on stage together at the ARMS charity concerts in 1983.)

Led Zeppelin

After the departure of Keith Relf and Jim McCarty from the Yardbirds in 1968, Page reconfigured the group with a new line-up to fulfil unfinished tour dates in Scandinavia, and recruited vocalist Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham, and was also contacted by John Paul Jones who asked to join. During the Scandinavian tour the new group appeared as “The New Yardbirds”, but soon recalled the old joke by Keith Moon and John Entwistle. Page stuck with that name to use for his new band. Peter Grant changed it to “Led Zeppelin”, to avoid a mispronunciation of “Leed Zeppelin.” the band consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. Page  had a very specific idea about the sound and wanted Led Zeppelin to be  a marriage of blues, hard rock and acoustic music topped with heavy choruses – a combination that had never been done before. Instead of releasing their songs as singles; they viewed their albums as indivisible and complete listening experiences and due to the heavy, guitar-driven blues rock sound of their first two albums, Led Zeppelin are frequently recognised as the progenitors of heavy metal and hard rock. However, the band’s individualistic style drew from a wide variety of influences, including folk music, which they incorporated into their next two albums. Their untitled fourth album, which features the track “Stairway to Heaven”, is among the most popular and influential works in rock music, and it cemented the status of the group as “superstars.” Subsequent albums saw greater experimentation and were accompanied by record-breaking tours, which earned them a reputation for excess. Although they remained commercially and critically successful, in the later 1970s, the band’s output and touring schedule were limited by the personal difficulties and circumstances of the members. Led Zeppelin disbanded following Bonham’s unexpected death in 1980. But they   became a prototype for countless future rock bands, and was one of the major driving forces behind the rock sound of that era.

Led Zeppelin broke up in 1980 following the death of drummer John Bonham, Since then, the surviving members have pursued solo careers and have also been involved in a series of collaborations and sporadic one-off reunions. Including forming a supergroup called XYZ (for ex-Yes-Zeppelin)with Yes bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White in 1981. Page also played on Roy Harper’s 1984 album “Whatever Happened to Jugula?”. He has also reunited with former members of Led Zeppelin to perform live on a few occasions, most notably in 1985 for the Live Aid concert. Page has also recorded with former Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant as The Honeydrippers on the album The Honeydrippers: Volume 1, and with John Paul Jones on the film soundtrack Scream for Help. He has also collaborated with Paul Rodgers to record two albums under the name The Firm. He has also released a solo album entitled Outrider in 1988 featuring contributions from Robert Plant & contributed in turn to Plant’s solo album Now and Zen, which was released the same year. He also embarked on a collaboration with David Coverdale in 1993 entitled Coverdale Page. In 1988 Page, Plant, Jones, and John Bonham’s son Jason, also performed at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary show. In 1990, he played at Knebworth to aid the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre and the British School for Performing Arts and Technology saw Plant unexpectedly joined by Page to perform “Misty Mountain Hop”. In 1994, he reunited with Plant for the penultimate performance in MTV’s “Unplugged” series. He has also collaborated on various film Soundtracks and has played many times at the A.R.M.S. (Action Research for Multiple Sclerosis) charity series of concerts which honoured Small Faces bass player Ronnie Lane, who suffered from the disease.age is currently participating in various charity concerts and charity work, particularly the Action for Brazil’s Children Trust (ABC Trust), In October 1999, Page teamed up with The Black Crowes for a two-night performance of material from the Led Zeppelin catalogue and old blues and rock standards. The concert was recorded and released as a double live album, Live at the Greek in 2000.

In 2005, Page was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in recognition of his Brazilian charity work for Task Brazil and Action For Brazil’s Children’s Trust, and was made an honorary citizen of Rio de Janeiro later that year, he was also awarded a Grammy award and In November 2006, Led Zeppelin were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. In 2007, 27 years after the group disbanded, the surviving members of Led Zeppelin reunited (along with John Bonham’s son, Jason) for the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at The O2 Arena in London (Which is featured on the CD/DVD “Celebration Day” and were honoured with the “Best Live Act” prize at the 2008 MOJO awards. In 2010 Jimmy Page was ranked No.2 in Gibson’s list of “Top 50 Guitarists of All Time” and No.4 on Classic Rock Magazine’s “100 Wildest Guitar Heroes”. He is also ranked third in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” & has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice; once as a member of The Yardbirds and once as a member of Led Zeppelin. Page has also been honoured with a first-ever Global Peace Award by the United Nations’ Pathways to Peace organisation. In 1996 Mojo Magazine ranked him number 7 on their list of “100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time”. In 2002 he was voted the second greatest guitarist of all time in a Total Guitar magazine reader poll. In 2007, Classic Rock Magazine ranked him No. 4 on their list of the “100 Wildest Guitar Heroes”. He was also ranked Page No. 2 in a list of the “50 greatest guitarists ever” in 2008. In August 2009, Time Magazine ranked him the 6th greatest electric-guitar player of all time. In 2010, Jimmy Page was ranked No. 2 on Gibson’s “Top 50 Guitarists of All Time and In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine named him number three on their list of the “100 greatest guitarists of all time”. Led Zeppelin are one of the best-selling music artists in history and have been described as the “greatest rock and roll band of all time.