Chapin, Harry Forster (07 December 1942–16 July 1981), popular singer and writer of topical songs, was born in New York City, the son of James Forbes Chapin, a big-band percussionist, and Elspeth Burke. As a high school student, Chapin sang in the Brooklyn Heights Boys Choir and, later, played guitar, banjo, and trumpet in a band that included his father and brothers Stephen Chapin and Tom Chapin. He attended the U.S. Air Force Academy briefly and studied at Cornell University from 1960 to 1964. Chapin was best known for his popular ballads, films, and cultural and humanitarian work for the cause of eradicating world hunger. He married Sandra Campbell Gaston in 1968; they had five children....
Barbara L. Tischler
Maker Carl Van Vechten
Cohan, George M. (3 or 4 July 1878–05 November 1942), performer, writer of songs, musicals, and plays, and producer, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Jeremiah “Jerry” John Cohan and Helen “Nellie” Frances Costigan. (Cohan’s middle initial stands for Michael.) At the age of seven, Cohan was sent to the E Street School in Providence. His formal schooling lasted six weeks, after which the school sent him to rejoin his parents and sister, Josie, in their theatrical travels. He took violin lessons and played the instrument both in the theater orchestra and in a trick violin act he devised. The Cohans went on their first road show as a family in 1889; when the show failed they went back to ...
Grierson, Francis (18 September 1848–29 May 1927), musician, writer, and mystic, was born Benjamin Henry Jesse Francis Shepard in Birkenhead, England, the son of Joseph Shepard and Emily Grierson. When Grierson was less than a year old, the Shepards migrated to central Illinois, where they took up frontier farming and became active in local abolitionist activities. The boy’s parents taught him to read, using the Anglican catechism as a text. In 1858, when the family lived in Alton, Illinois, and during their first residence in St. Louis from 1859 to 1863, he may have had—the record is not clear—a little more than five years of formal schooling....
Mercer, Johnny (18 November 1909–25 June 1976), popular composer, lyricist, and singer, was born John Herndon Mercer in Savannah, Georgia, the son of George Mercer, an attorney, and Lillian Ciucevich. Throughout his childhood Mercer was fascinated with the popular songs of the day as well as by Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and the blues and spirituals of southern blacks. From 1922 to 1927 he attended Virginia’s Woodbury Forest Preparatory School, where he wrote light verse and songs. Shortly after graduation he pursued a career as an actor and singer in New York. There he married Ginger Meehan, a dancer, in 1931 and soon had two children. While his acting career languished, success as a songwriter came in 1933 when he collaborated with ...
Thompson, Kay (9 Nov. 1912 [also reported as 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, and 1913]–02 July 1998), writer and entertainer, was born Katherine (also reported as Kitty) Fink in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of a jeweler. The names of her parents are not recorded. Educated in St. Louis public schools, Kay was a high school classmate of ...
Stephanie A. Carpenter
Trapp, Maria von (26 January 1905–28 March 1987), author, governess, and singer, was born Maria Augusta Kutschera on a train headed for Vienna, Austria, the daughter of Karl Kutschera and Augusta Rainer. She was orphaned at the age of seven. Raised by a court-appointed guardian whom von Trapp described as anti-Catholic and socialist, she graduated from the State Teachers College for Progressive Education in Vienna in 1923. Following her education she became a candidate for the novitiate of the Benedictine order at a Salzburg, Austria, convent....