Dave Matthews

January 9

Dave Matthews (1967)

It was on this date, January 9, 1967, that popular musician Dave Matthews was born David John Matthews in Johannesburg, South Africa. Dave Matthews came to the U.S. at age 18. Since the 1990s the Dave Matthews band has prospered with their unique combination of jazz and rock, and providing music for the films Mr. Deeds (2002) and The Matrix Reloaded (2003).

After the death of his sister, Annie, at her home in South Africa, the Dave Matthews Band dedicated their album Under the Table and Dreaming to her. In a June 1998 US Magazine interview, Matthews reflected, "I'm glad some people have that faith. I don't have that faith. If there is a God, a caring God, then we have to figure he's done an extraordinary job of making a very cruel world."

Later, in the Boston Globe, the interviewer notes,

     He crystallizes his thoughts on God in the rocking "What You Are," with the verse, "Hoping to God on high is like clinging to straws while drowning. ... Oh, realize what you are!"
     "It would be safe to say that I'm agnostic," Matthews says. "However, I do feel as though we owe a faith to the world and to ourselves. We owe a grace and gratitude to things that have brought us here. But I think it's very ignorant to say, 'Well, for everything, God has a plan.' That's like an excuse. ... Maybe the real faithful act is to commit to something, to take action, as opposed to saying, 'Well, everything is in the hand of God.'"*

* Steve Morse, "Dave Matthews gets serious — and playful," Boston Globe, 4 March 2001.

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Gypsy Rose Lee

Gypsy Rose Lee (1914)

It was also on this date, January 9, 1914, that burlesque-era stripper Gypsy Rose Lee was born Rose Louise Hovick in Seattle, Washington. Sister of actress June Havoc, Gypsy started dancing and stripping at burlesque houses from the age of 15, under the oppressive hand of her mother, Rose. She took her stage name while dancing for Minsky's theater in New York — "Gypsy" for her fortune-telling, "Rose" for her mother, and "Lee" on a whim.

Gypsy is said to have told the police during a raid at Minsky's, "I wasn't naked. I was completely covered by a blue spotlight." As well as being one of the most famous strippers of all time, Gypsy was also a film actress, TV hostess, novelist, and author of the autobiography that inspired the 1959 Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim hit musical, Gypsy.

It is seldom mentioned that Gypsy Rose Lee was an Atheist. She has said, "Praying is like a rocking chair — it'll give you something to do, but it won't get you anywhere."* and "God is love, but get it in writing."** She died on 26 April 1970.

* As told to E. Haldeman-Julius; quoted from James A. Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief, 1996.
** Quoted in Jonathon Green, ed., The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations, 1994.

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Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir (1908)

Finally, it was on this date, January 9, 1908, that French existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris. Rejecting her mother's Roman Catholicism, she became an Atheist as a teenager and graduated from the Sorbonne in 1929. Shortly thereafter de Beauvoir met her life-long companion, Jean-Paul Sartre. Her most famous work, The Second Sex (1949), delves into the historic oppression of women. "Christianity gave eroticism its savor of sin and legend when it endowed the human female with a soul," De Beauvoir said, referring to when the Council of Nicea, by a single vote, declared women to be human.

Her other works include a prize-winning novel, The Mandarins (1954), which, along with The Second Sex, were banned by Roman Catholic authorities. "I cannot be angry at God, in whom I do not believe," De Beauvoir said to the London Observer.*

De Beauvoir's last words on Sartre's death were, "My death will not bring us together again. This is how things are. It is in itself splendid that we were able to live our lives in harmony for so long."** De Beauvoir died in Paris on 14 April 1986 and was buried alongside Sartre.

* The Observer (London), 7 January 1979, quoted from Encarta® Book of Quotations, 1999.
** Simone de Beauvoir, Adieux: a Farewell to Sartre, 1981.

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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance writer.
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