Sir Ken Dodd OBE

English Comedian and entertainer Ken Dodd sadly died 11 March 2018. He was born on 8 November 1927 in Knotty Ash, Liverpool, Lancashire, in an old farmhouse. He went to the Knotty Ash School, and sang in the local church choir of St John’s Church, Knotty Ash. He was to live in Knotty Ash all his life, and often referred to it in his act.

He attended Holt High School in Childwall, but left at the age of 14 to work for his father, a coal merchant. Around this time he became interested in show business after seeing an advert in a comic: “Fool your teachers, amaze your friends—send 6d in stamps and become a ventriloquist! and sending off for the book. Not long after, his father bought him a ventriloquist’s dummy and Ken called it Charlie Brown. He started entertaining at the local orphanage, then at various other local community functions. His distinctive bucked teeth were the result of a cycling accident after a group of schoolfriends dared him to ride a bicycle with his eyes closed.

Ken Dodd got his big break in 1954 at age 26 When he made his professional show-business debut as Professor Yaffle Chucklebutty, Operatic Tenor and Sausage Knotter at the Nottingham Empire. Then in 1955 he appeared at Blackpool, in “Let’s Have Fun”. His performance at the Central Pier was part of a comedy revue with Jimmy James and Company. Also on the same bill were Jimmy Clitheroe and Roy Castle. Dodd gained top billing at Blackpool in 1958. He has guested on a number of television and radio shows and made several appearances on BBC TV’s music hall revival show, The Good Old Days.

Dodd had been described as “the last great music hall entertainer”. His stand-up comedy style was fast and relied on the rapid delivery of one-liner jokes. He said that his comic influences included other Liverpool comedians like Arthur Askey, Robb Wilton, Tommy Handley and the “cheeky chappy” from Brighton, Max Miller. He interspersed the comedy with occasional songs, both serious and humorous, and, ventriloquism. Part of his stage act featured the Diddy Men (“diddy” being local slang for “small”).

Dodd worked mainly as a solo comedian, although he occasionally appeared in dramatic roles, including Malvolio in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night on stage in Liverpool in 1971; on television in the cameo role of ‘The Tollmaster’ in the 1987 Doctor Who story Delta and the Bannermen; and as Yorick (in silent flashback) in Kenneth Branagh’s film version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in 1996. Dodd was renowned for the length of his performances, and during the 1960s he earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s longest ever joke-telling session: 1,500 jokes in three and a half hours (7.14 jokes per minute). Ken Dodd also appeared on many Royal Variety Performances. The last was in 2006, in front of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, at the London Coliseum. In 1987, Dodd officially opened the Arndale shopping centre in Accrington.

Dodd continually toured throughout his professional career, performing lengthy shows that frequently did not finish until after midnight. In 2012 at the age of 84, he played the Princes Theatre in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex on 7 July. Starting at 7.15 pm he continued until just before 9.00 pm when Sybie Jones took to the stage. Returning at 9.30 pm he continued until 10.00 pm. The second support act performed until Dodd’s return just before 11.00 pm when he continued until 00.25 am. During 2017 Dodd continued to tour the UK extensively, with his comedy, music and variety show.

Dodd also released eighteen hit records, Including “Love Is Like a Violin,”Happiness”, “Tears”,”The River (Le Colline Sono In Fioro)”, and “Promises”, plus numreous comedy novelty records, including the 1965 EP Doddy and the Diddy Men, featuring the song “Where’s Me Shirt?” which Dodd co-wrote.

In 1989 Dodd was charged with tax evasion. The subsequent trial, with the prosecution case led by Brian Leveson QC, produced several revelations. The Diddy Men, who had appeared in his stage act, were often played by local children from stage schools, and were revealed never to have been paid. Dodd was also revealed to have very little money in his bank account, having £336,000 in cash stashed in suitcases in his attic. When asked by the judge, “What does a hundred thousand pounds in a suitcase feel like?”, Dodd made his now famous reply, “The notes are very light, M’Lord. Dodd was represented by George Carman QC, who in court famously quipped, “Some accountants are comedians, but comedians are never accountants”. Dodd was eventually acquitted. Despite the strain of the trial, Dodd immediately capitalised on his new-found notoriety with a successful season running from Easter to Christmas 1990 at the London Palladium. It was there he had previously broken the house record for the longest comedy season at the theatre, in 1965, with a residency lasting 42 weeks. Some of his subsequent material mocked the trial and tax in general. For a while he introduced his act with the words, “Good evening, my name is Kenneth Arthur Dodd; singer, photographic playboy and failed accountant!

Ken Dodd was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1982 New Year Honours for services to show business and charity and was knighted in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to entertainment and charity. The award was formally conferred by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on 2 March 2017. In 2002, Dodd appeared in the TV special An Audience with Ken Dodd. Dodd was voted 36 amongst the ‘Top 50 Comedy Acts Ever’ In a 2005 poll of comedians and comedy insiders to find the ‘Comedians’ Comedian’ and was made an honorary fellow of Liverpool John Moores University in 1997. A statue depicting Dodd with his trademark “Tickling Stick” was unveiled in Liverpool Lime Street railway station in June 2009. Dodd was inducted into the exclusive show business fraternity, the Grand Order of Water Rats. Dodd was made an honorary fellow of the University of Chester in 2009, having been awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters at a graduation ceremony in Chester Cathedral. He was awarded a Doctorate of Letters at Liverpool Hope University in 2010 during the university’s Foundation Day celebrations. In 2016, Dodd was awarded the Aardman Slapstick Comedy Legend Award, in honour of his lifetime’s contribution to the world of comedy. He received the award as part of the Slapstick Festival in Bristol.

Dodd sadly died at his home in Knotty Ash aged 90 after recently being hospitalised for six weeks with a chest infection. He had been touring with his stand-up stage show until 2017. Two days before his death he had married his partner of 40 years, Anne Jones. Numerous stars paid tribute, including fellow Liverpudlian Paul McCartney.

Commonwealth Day

Commonwealth Day is held annually on the second Monday in March to celebrate the Commonwealth of Nations. It is marked by a multi-faith service in Westminster Abbey, normally attended by Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth, with the Commonwealth Secretary-General and Commonwealth High Commissioners in London. During the service the Queen delivers an address to the Commonwealth, broadcast throughout the world. In the year before the quadrennial Commonwealth Games, the Queen starts the Queen’s Baton Relay on Commonwealth Day at Buckingham Palace, handing the baton to the first relay runner to start a journey that will end at the Opening Ceremony of the upcoming Games. While it has a certain official status, Commonwealth Day is not a public holiday in most Commonwealth countries, and there is little public awareness of it.

Empire Day was introduced in Canadian schools, first in Dundas, Ontario in 1898, on the last school day before 24 May, Queen Victoria’s birthday. It was celebrated more widely throughout Canada each year. A typical Empire Day in Canadian schools occupied the entire day and included inspirational speeches by trustees and songs such as “The Maple Leaf Forever” and “Just Before the Battle”. Empire Day was instituted in the United Kingdom in 1904 by Lord Meath, and extended throughout the countries of the Commonwealth. This day was celebrated by lighting fireworks in back gardens or attending community bonfires. It gave the King’s people a chance to show their pride in being part of the British Empire.

Empire Day was also celebrated in the Cape Colony before the Boer War and thereafter throughout the Union of South Africa. General Jan Smuts was born on Empire Day in 1870 (24 May 1870). In 1958 Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day, in accordance with the new post-colonial relationship between the nations of the former empire. The National Council of the Royal Commonwealth Society in Canada wrote a letter to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau saying that Commonwealth Day should be observed on the same day throughout all countries of the Commonwealth. So during a meeting of officials in Canberra in 1976, the Canadian proposal of the second Monday in March was adopted.

Sir Terry Pratchett OBE

Popular English novelist Sir Terry Pratchett OBE, Sadly passed away on 12 March 2015 at the age of 66 after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s. Born 28th April in 1948. He is best known for his frequently comical work in the fantasy genre In particular the popular and long-running Discworld series of comic fantasy novels. Pratchett’s first novel, The Carpet People, was published in 1971, and his first Discworld novel The Colour of Magic was published in 1983. Since then he has been very prolific, writing on average, two books a year . After finishing the fourth Discworld novel, Mort, he decided to focus fully on hs novels and make his living through writing and published his fifth book Equal Rites soon after. Since then He has written many other discworld Novels including, Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Monsterous Regiment, Hogfather, Small Gods, Soul Music, Interesting Times, The Truth, The Fifth Elephant, Maurice & his Educated Rodents, Carpe Jugulum, Hatful of Sky, Wee Free Men, Making Money, Wintersmith, Thud!, Night Watch, Unseen Academicals, I shall Wear Midnight, Raising Steam, Dodger, Snuff and The Shepherds Crown. He has also collaborated with many other authors including Neil Gaiman on Good Omens and Small Gods and Stephen Baxter on Long Earth, Long Mars and Long Cosmos. The Discworld novels all had distinctive cover art by Josh Kirby and Since Kirby sadly passed away in October 2001, the covers have been designed by Paul Kidby.

Many of Pratchett’s books have also been adapted for Radio and Television, the BBC’s Woman’s Hour broadcast The Colour of Magic as a serial in six parts and Truckers was adapted as a stop motion animation series for Thames Television by Cosgrove Hall Films in 1992. Johnny and the Dead was also made into a TV serial for Children’s ITV on ITV, and in 1995. Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music were adapted as animated cartoon series by Cosgrove Hall for Channel 4 in 1996. In January 2006, BBC One also aired a three-part adaptation of Johnny and the Bomb. A two-part, feature-length version of Hogfather starring Michelle Dockery, David Jason and featuring the voices of Christopher Lee and Ian Richardson, was first aired on Sky One in the United Kingdom in December 2006, and on ION Television in the U.S. in 2007. A two-part, feature-length adaptation of The Colour of Magic and its sequel The Light Fantastic aired during Easter 2008 on Sky One. A third adaptation, Going Postal was aired at the end of May 2010. The Sky adaptations also feature the author in cameo roles. A BBC Program entitled Back in Black, featuring Paul Kaye as Terry Pratchett, also aired in 2017.

He remains a hugely popular author to this day and many of his books have occupied top places on the best-seller list. According to the Bookseller’s Pocket Yearbook from 2005, in 2003 Pratchett’s UK sales put him in 2nd place behind J. K. Rowling and in the paperback sales list Pratchett came 5th, behind James Patterson, Alexander McCall Smith, John Grisham and J. R. R. Tolkien). His sales in the UK alone are more than 2.5 million copies a year. In 1998 Pratchett was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) “for services to literature” he was also knighted in the 2009 New Year Honours. In 2001 he won the Carnegie Medal for his children’s novel The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. In December 2007, Pratchett publicly announced that he was suffering from posterior cortical atrophy, a variation of Alzheimer’s disease and, subsequently, made a substantial public donation to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust. He also filmed a programme chronicling his experiences with the disease for the BBC and His last novel “The Shepherd’s Crown” was published posthumously in 2015.

Robert Ludlum

The late great American spy thriller writer Robert Ludlum Tragically passed away on March 12, 2001, at his home in Naples, Florida, while recovering from injuries he sustained in a fire. He was Born May 25th 1927 in New York City. He was educated at The Rectory School then Cheshire Academy and Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. While at Wesleyan, Ludlum joined the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. After becoming an author later in life, Ludlum would set his mystery novel Matlock Paper at the fictitious Carlyle University in Connecticut, a thinly-disguised Wesleyan. He Also wrote The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and the Bourne Ultimatum, And was very prolific writing 23 thriller novels which reman hugely popular. The number in print is estimated between 290–500 million copies. They have been published in 33 languages and 40 countries. Ludlum also published books under the pseudonyms Jonathan Ryder and Michael Shepherd.

Prior to becoming an author, he had been a United States Marine, theatrical actor and producer. His theatrical experience may have contributed to his understanding of the energy, escapism and action that the public wanted in a novel. Ludlum’s novels typically feature one heroic man, or a small group of crusading individuals, in a struggle against powerful adversaries whose intentions and motivations are evil and who are capable of using political and economic mechanisms in frightening ways. The world in his writings is one where global corporations, shadowy military forces and government organizations all conspire to preserve (if it is evil) or undermine (if it is good) the status quo. They were often inspired by conspiracy theories, both historical and contemporary. Some novels also reflected the theory that terrorists, rather than being merely isolated bands of ideologically motivated extremists, are actually pawns of governments or private organizations who are using them to facilitate the establishment of authoritarian rule.

Among hs best known novels are The Osterman Weekend, The Chancellor Manuscript, The Bourne Identity, The Holcroft Covenant, The Bourne Supremacy, The Icarus Agenda, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Scorpio Illusion, The Apocolypse watch and The Prometheus Deception.Some of his novels have also been made into films – The Osterman Weekend was turned into a 1983 film starring Rutger Hauer, John Hurt and Dennis Hopper, and The Bourne trilogy was made into a highly successful series of movies, starring Matt Damon in the title role, which were commercially and critically successful (The Bourne Ultimatum won three Academy Awards in 2008), although the story lines depart significantly from the source material.

Graham Coxon (Blur)

Graham Coxon the Guitarist/ Singer with Blur was born 12th March 1969. Blur were formed in London in 1988 as Seymour, the group consists of singer/keyboardist Damon Albarn, guitarist/singer Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree. Blur’s debut album Leisure (1991) incorporated the sounds of Madchester and shoegazing. Following a stylistic change influenced by English guitar pop groups such as The Kinks, The Beatles and XTC, Blur released Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993),Parklife (1994) and The Great Escape (1995). As a result, the band helped to popularise the Britpop genre and achieved mass popularity in the UK, aided by a chart battle with rival band Oasis in 1995 dubbed “The Battle of Britpop”.

In recording their follow-up, Blur (1997), the band underwent another reinvention, showing influence from the lo-fi style of American indie rock groups. “Song 2″, one of the album’s singles, brought Blur mainstream success in the United States. Their next album, 13 (1999) saw the band members experimenting with electronic and gospel music, and featured more personal lyrics from Albarn. In May 2002, Coxon left Blur during the recording of their seventh album Think Tank (2003). Containing electronic sounds and more minimal guitar work, the album was marked by Albarn’s growing interest in hip hop and African music.

After a 2003 tour without Coxon, Blur did no studio work or touring as a band, as members engaged in other projects. In 2008 Blur reunited, with Coxon back in the fold, for a series of concerts and have continued to release several singles and retrospective releases. In 2012, Blur received a Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. Blur released their eighth album Magic Whip in 2015 it was the band’s first studio album since Think Tank (2003), marking the longest gap between two studio albums in their career, and their first with guitarist Graham Coxon since 13 in 1999.

Liza Minnelli

The American actress and singe Liza Minnelli, was born on this day 12 March in 1946. She is the daughter of singer and actress Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minnelli. She was Already established as a nightclub singer and musical theatre actress, when she first attracted critical acclaim for her dramatic performances in the movies The Sterile Cuckoo (1969), and Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970); Minnelli then rose to international stardom for her appearance as Sally Bowles in the 1972 film version of the Broadway musical Cabaret, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She later made a great star turn in Arthur (1981), co-starring with Dudley Moore (in the title role) and Sir John Gielgud, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as Arthur’s snobbish but loveable butler.

While film projects such as Lucky Lady, A Matter of Time and New York, New York were less favorably received than her stage roles, Minnelli became one of the most versatile, highly regarded and best-selling entertainers in television, beginning with Liza with a Z in 1972, and on stage in the Broadway productions of Flora the Red Menace, The Act and The Rink. Minnelli also toured internationally and did shows such as Liza Minnelli: At Carnegie Hall, Frank, Liza & Sammy: The Ultimate Event, and Liza Live from Radio City Music Hall.

She starred in Liza’s Back in 2002. She had guest appearances in the sitcom Arrested Development and had a small role in the movie The OH in Ohio, while continuing to tour internationally. In 2008/09, she performed the Broadway show Liza’s at The Palace…! which earned a Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event. Minnelli has won a total of four Tony Awards awards, including a Special Tony Award. She has also won an Oscar, an Emmy Award, two Golden Globes and a Grammy Legend Award for her contributions and influence in the recording field, along with many other honors and awards. She is one of the few entertainers who have won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award.

Steve Harris (Iron Maiden)

Steve Harris, from Awesomely noisy Heavy Metal band Iron Maiden was born 12th March 1956. Iron Maiden hail from Leyton in east London and were formed in 1975 by bassist and primary songwriter, Steve Harris. Since their inception, the band’s discography has grown to include a total of thirty-six albums: fifteen studio albums; ten live albums; four EPs; and seven compilations. Including The Number of the Beast, Somewhere in Time, Seventh son of a Seventh Son, Peice ofMind, Powerslave and The Book of Souls.

Pioneers of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Iron Maiden achieved success during the early 1980s. After several line-up changes, the band went on to release a series of U.S. and UK platinum and gold albums, including 1982′s The Number of the Beast, 1983′s Piece of Mind, 1984′s Powerslave, 1985′s live release Live After Death, 1986′s Somewhere in Time and 1988′s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Since the return of lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith in 1999, the band have undergone a resurgence in popularity, with their latest studio offering, The Final Frontier, peaking at No. 1 in 28 different countries and receiving widespread critical acclaim.

Iron Maiden are Considered one of the most successful heavy metal bands in history and have sold over 85 million records worldwide with little radio or television support. The band won the Ivor Novello Award for international achievement in 2002, and were also inducted into the Hollywood Rock Walk in Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California during their United States tour in 2005. As of August 2011, the band have played almost 2000 live shows throughout their career. For the past 30 years, the band have been supported by their famous mascot, “Eddie”, who has appeared on almost all of their album and single covers, as well as in their live shows. The latest Iron Maiden album book of Souls was released in 2015.