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It's a Landmark Year for Musical Icons


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If they throw a birthday-bash mash-up in heaven this year featuring musicians celebrating milestones, the results could be wicked

Frederic Chopin, who turns 200, would be sitting in on keyboards, with new centenarians Howlin' Wolf on vocals, Django Reinhardt on guitar, Artie Shaw on woodwinds and Frank Loesser writing the charts. Whoa! So what if you don't plan on visiting the Pearly Gates?

USA TODAY finds plenty of other ways to praise your musical heroes:

Frederic Chopin
Birthday candles: 200
His gift to the world:The child-prodigy pianist/composer became a master of Romanticism, and his works and techniques for solo keyboardists continue to influence musicians, both classical and popular, today.

Join the party: The International Chopin Piano Competition (, held every five years, is one of the world's most prestigious. Check it out Oct. 2-23 in Warsaw.

Celebrate at home: The new 17-disc box Chopin Complete Edition draws from the Deutsche Grammophon and Decca catalogs and features a variety of top pianists.

Artie Shaw
Birthday candles: 100
His gift to the world: The jazz clarinetist, composer and big-band leader achieved superstar status with hits such as Begin the Beguine and Stardust in the late 1930s and went on to challenge Benny Goodman for the “King of Swing" title.

Join the party: Musical director Matt Koza leads the Artie Shaw Orchestra in a centennial celebration at Riviera Theatre in Three Rivers, Mich., on Wednesday (

Celebrate at home: Read Tom Nolan's new Three Chords for Beauty's Sake: The Life of Artie Shaw (W.W. Norton, $29.95) or listen to Sony's remastered The Essential Artie Shaw two-CD set.

Django Reinhardt
Birthday candles: 100
His gift to the world: The Gypsy-jazz guitarist became a European superstar after teaming with violinist Stephane Grappelli to found the Quintette du Hot Club de France in 1934. Rock guitarists Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton cite him as an influence. Join the party: The Reinhardt-influenced Hot Club of Detroit plays tracks from its new It's About That Time album at the Michigan Jazz Festival in Livonia, Mich., on July 18 (

Celebrate at home: Play the Rosenberg Trio's new Djangologists: Celebrating 100 Years of Django Reinhardt ( or last year's Djangologie 20-disc box set of Reinhardt originals.

Howlin' Wolf
Birthday candles: 100
His gift to the world: The Wolf's utterly original, menacing voice and powerful stage presence made him one of the giants, literally (he stood 6-foot-4 and weighed more than 300 pounds), of Chicago-style electric blues. Hits like Spoonful, Smokestack Lightnin' and The Red Rooster earned the Wolf, born Chester Arthur Burnett, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Join the party: The annual Howlin' Wolf Memorial Blues Festival takes place Sept. 3 in West Point, Miss. (

Celebrate at home: Among dozens of greatest-hits albums on the market, the remastered The Definitive Collection is one of the best.

Frank Loesser
Birthday candles: 100
His gift to the world: Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying put the composer/lyricist on the map, but he also wrote three other musicals and more than 700 songs, and contributed to dozens of Hollywood films. His rewards: an Oscar, a Grammy, two Tonys and a Pulitzer Prize.

Join the party: Marvin Hamlisch conducts the National Symphony Orchestra Pops in a tribute concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington ( Nov. 26-27. Next spring, How to Succeed gets a revival on Broadway.

Celebrate at home: On Tuesday, his birthday, Turner Classic Movies shows four Loesser-scored films, plus a documentary. And Sony Masterworks Broadway releases the compilation Heart & Soul: Celebrating the Unforgettable Songs of Frank Loesser.

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