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19 Milestone Celebrity Birthdays in May

Raise a glass to Judy Collins, Randy Travis, George Lucas, Patti LaBelle and Wynonna Judd


spinner image Judy Collins, Randy Travis, Patti LaBelle, George Lucas and Wynonna Judd on colorful, flashy background with all sorts of shapes and symbols
AARP (Getty Images, 5)

May 1: Judy Collins, 85

spinner image Judy Collins on colorful, flashy background with all sorts of shapes and symbols
Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Known for eyes so strikingly blue that they reportedly inspired the Crosby, Stills & Nash song “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” the folk legend came up in the 1960s coffeehouse circuit, where she popularized songs by everyone from Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell to Kurt Weill and Stephen Sondheim. In fact, her cover of “Send in the Clowns” won song of the year at the 1975 Grammys. Collins has showed no signs of slowing down musically. In 2019, at the age of 80, she topped her first Billboard chart when her album Winter Stories hit number one on the bluegrass albums list, and her 2022 album, Spellbound — her first album of all original music — was nominated for best folk album at the Grammys.

May 1: Ray Parker Jr., 70

Ray Parker Jr. will forever be best known for his Oscar-nominated, Grammy-winning theme song from Ghostbusters, but that’s only one small part of a legendary career that began when he started cowriting songs with Marvin Gaye at the age of 15. He would go on to join Stevie Wonder’s touring band and become a session guitarist for such icons as Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner, before putting together his own R&B/funk band, Raydio. His work with the group and on his own landed him five Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, and this spring, to celebrate the release of Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, he performed his most famous song on The Tonight Show, accompanied by the Roots, Jimmy Fallon, Ernie Hudson and Bill Murray.

May 1: Wes Anderson, 55

The Texas-born filmmaker got his start in the movies while a student at UT Austin, where he and classmate Owen Wilson filmed a short called Bottle Rocket that would go on to screen at the Sundance Film Festival. In the decades that followed, Anderson developed one of the most instantly recognizable visual styles of any working director, known for his symmetry, intricate compositions and nostalgic color palettes. And while critics loved films like The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel, he didn’t win his first Oscar until this year, when he took home the best live action short film trophy for his Roald Dahl adaptation, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. Next up, he’s set to begin shooting a feature, The Phoenician Scheme, in Germany with Benicio del Toro, Michael Cera and Bill Murray.

May 3: Frankie Valli, 90

Best known for his mile-high falsetto, the Jersey-born Four Seasons vocalist led the quartet to chart-topping success with 1960s hits like “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man” and “Working My Way Back to You,” and they later staged a mid-’70s comeback with “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night).” As a solo artist, Valli conquered the radio again with “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” and the Barry Gibb–penned title track of Grease. His group’s music was so enduring that it eventually spawned the 2005 Broadway hit Jersey Boys, which won best musical at the Tonys before being turned into a Clint Eastwood–directed film adaptation. In 2021, Valli tried out a new genre with his album A Touch of Jazz, and he has continued to tour, even performing at Radio City Music Hall this spring.

May 4: Randy Travis, 65

spinner image Randy Travis on colorful, flashy background with all sorts of shapes and symbols
Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

As a child, the North Carolina–born country star idolized legends like Hank Williams and Gene Autry and hoped to revitalize their traditional sound. He broke out with 1986’s Storms of Life, which topped the country charts, and he was soon invited to join the Grand Ole Opry. Over the years, Travis has earned seven Grammys, most recently for the duet “I Told You So” with Carrie Underwood. In recent years, he has dealt with a host of health issues, including cardiomyopathy and aphasia caused by a stroke; his musical output has subsequently slowed substantially, but in 2020, he performed with Josh Turner on a cover of his song “Forever and Ever, Amen.”

May 8: Melissa Gilbert, 60

One of the finest child actors in TV history, Melissa Gilbert enjoyed a nine-season run as Laura Ingalls Wilder on Little House on the Prairie, and she would go on to earn a 1980 Emmy nomination for playing another inspirational historical figure, Helen Keller, in The Miracle Worker. In 2001, she made the leap to a Hollywood leadership role when she was elected to what would be a two-term stint as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and she later competed on Dancing with the Stars. More recently, she launched Modern Prairie, a lifestyle brand for older women, inspired by Little House, that includes online workshops on topics like grief, crafting classes and products by women-owned businesses.

Read our interview with Melissa Gilbert.

May 9: Billy Joel, 75

In the half century since Billy Joel signed his first record contract in 1972, the Bronx-born “Piano Man” has sold more than 150 million records, earned 23 Grammy nominations, racked up 33 Top 40 hits and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In 2014, he kicked off a monthly residency at Madison Square Garden, breaking the record for most performances at the venue, and he’s set to end his run this July with show number 150. Earlier this year, Joel took to the Grammys stage for the first time in 22 years, debuting his first new single since 2007, “Turn the Lights Back On.”

May 12: Ving Rhames, 65

Movie lovers first began to sit up and take notice of the Juilliard-trained actor after his role as the crime boss Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction, and he soon started his decades-long run as computer hacker Luther Stickell in the Mission: Impossible franchise. (He’s already set to return in Dead Reckoning Part Two in 2025.) After winning best actor at the 1998 Golden Globes for HBO’s Don King: Only in America, he memorably gave his trophy to fellow nominee Jack Lemmon. He went on to voice a social worker in Lilo & Stitch and starred as Kojak in a reboot, but these days, his legendary baritone may be known to an even wider audience as the narrator of Arby’s iconic “We have the meats!” commercials.

May 13: Harvey Keitel, 85

Known for his gruff, tough-guy characters, the Brooklyn-born Keitel first teamed up with Martin Scorsese 57 years ago in the director’s 1967 feature debut, Who’s That Knocking at My Door. They would go on to work together for decades, most recently in 2019’s The Irishman. After collaborating with some of Hollywood’s finest directors — including Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), Jane Campion (The Piano) and Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel) — Keitel stars in this month’s miniseries The Tattooist of Auschwitz, based on the best-selling novel by Heather Morris. He plays an Auschwitz survivor who was forced to tattoo identification numbers on his fellow prisoners and fell in love while in the camps.

May 14: George Lucas, 80

spinner image George Lucas on colorful, flashy background with all sorts of shapes and symbols
Dia Dipasupi/Getty Images

After studying at the University of Southern California film school, director George Lucas broke out with his sophomore feature, 1973’s American Graffiti, which earned five Oscar nominations. But it was his next film, Star Wars, that changed cinema forever, ushering in an era of big-budget, special-effects-heavy blockbusters that are fun for the whole family. He continued the trend when he developed the swashbuckling Indiana Jones franchise, and his special-effects company, Industrial Light & Magic, would help create movie magic in films like Jurassic Park. He’s currently hard at work on the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles, which will be the world’s first museum dedicated to storytelling through images.

May 14: Cate Blanchett, 55

An eight-time Academy Award nominee, the Australian stage and screen favorite has picked up Oscars for her roles as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator and as troubled New York socialite Jasmine French in Blue Jasmine. She earned some of her most rapturous raves in years for 2022’s Tár, in which she played a composer-conductor dealing with the fallout of a scandal. Next up, she’s temporarily leaving behind prestige dramas for this summer’s Borderlands, in which she’ll play a flamethrower-wielding bounty hunter named Lilith 3,000 years in the future.

May 16: Danny Trejo, 80

Few actors have taken as circuitous a route to Hollywood as Danny Trejo. The L.A.-born actor dealt with drug addiction in his childhood and spent 11 years going in and out of jail, eventually winning boxing titles while at San Quentin. He got sober, and in 1984, one of the actors he was sponsoring as a drug counselor accidentally helped him land his first gig as an extra. He went on to appear in films like Desperado, Heat and the From Dusk Till Dawn franchise. Surprisingly, it was a series of kids films, the Robert Rodriguez–directed Spy Kids, that was his biggest break, leading to his character Machete getting his own exploitation action film spin-offs. In 2023, he released his second cookbook, Trejo’s Cantina: Cocktails, Snacks & Amazing Nonalcoholic Drinks From the Heart of Hollywood. And befitting his reputation as one of the hardest-working guys in show business, Trejo has some 30 projects in the works, according to his IMDb profile.

May 22: Morrissey, 65

As the baritone-voiced front man of the Smiths, Morrissey inspired a generation of moody teens with his poetic and world-weary lyrics, and Rolling Stone would go on to include the group’s Meat Is Murder on its list of the top 500 albums of all time. After going solo in 1987, his fame rose in the U.S., where his 1992 album Your Arsenal picked up a Grammy nod for best alternative music album. Morrissey later penned a critically acclaimed 2013 memoir called Autobiography, and he has continued to release new music. Earlier this year, the often controversial and outspoken crooner had to cancel dates on his 40th anniversary tour due to physical exhaustion.

May 23: Jewel, 50

Raised in Alaska, the singer-songwriter cut her teeth singing in coffee shops, before releasing her 1995 folk-pop debut album, Pieces of You, which sold 12 million copies and earned her three Grammy nominations. She wrote a book of poetry and dabbled in dance-pop (2003’s 0304) and country (2008’s Perfectly Clear), and later became a surprisingly regular mainstay on reality competition shows, including Dancing with the StarsThe Masked Singer and American Song Contest. Her most recent album, 2022’s Freewheelin’ Woman, was inspired by R&B and soul albums recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

May 24: Patti LaBelle, 80

spinner image Patti LaBelle on colorful, flashy background with all sorts of shapes and symbols
Tammie Arroyo/Getty Images

As part of the girl group LaBelle, the Philadelphia-born Godmother of Soul hit number one with the group’s funky, sexy 1974 single “Lady Marmalade,” and it was such a game changer that they became the first Black vocal group to land on the cover of Rolling Stone. After going solo, LaBelle continued her chart success with tunes like “New Attitude” and “On My Own” with Michael McDonald. She’s also crossed over surprisingly well as an actress, appearing in the Broadway bio-musical Fela! and TV shows like A Different World, Greenleaf and the recent Wonder Years reboot. Lately, she’s perhaps just as well known for her thriving food business, including a crowd-favorite sweet potato pie that sold out so quickly it was being resold on eBay for outrageous markups.

Read our interview with  Patti LaBelle.

May 25: Ian McKellen, 85

Long revered as one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of his generation, Ian McKellen won a 1981 Tony Award for playing Antonio Salieri in Broadway’s Amadeus and later earned his first Oscar nomination for his role as the director James Whale in Gods and Monsters. Younger generations might know him even better for his work in two blockbuster franchises: as Magneto in the X-Men films and as the wizard Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. After coming out in 1988, he’s been a prominent activist for LGBTQ rights. McKellen has remained a constant figure on the London stage, recently appearing in drag as Mother Goose in a zany holiday-season pantomime, and he’ll star as Falstaff this summer in a new adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV called Player Kings.

May 26: Lenny Kravitz, 60

The son of TV producer Sy Kravitz and The Jeffersons actress Roxie Roker, Lenny Kravitz broke out with his debut album, Let Love Rule, in 1989. A decade later, he had become a bona fide rock legend, winning a record-breaking four Grammys in a row for best rock male vocal performance, for “Fly Away,” “American Woman,” “Again” and “Dig In.” He made the leap to the big screen with celebrated turns in films like Precious and the Hunger Games franchise, and in March, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This month, he releases his newest studio album, Blue Electric Light, which he wrote and recorded in his studio in the Bahamas, playing most of the instruments himself.

May 28: Gladys Knight, 80

The Empress of Soul got her start singing gospel at the age of 4 in her Baptist church, eventually teaming up with her siblings and cousins, who would become her backing group, the Pips. Together they hit it big with Top 10 singles like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “If I Were Your Woman.” Knight’s Grammy-winning signature song, “Midnight Train to Georgia,” was included on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time, and in the ’80s, she recorded the AIDS charity single “That’s What Friends Are For” alongside Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Dionne Warwick. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee was honored by the Kennedy Center in 2022, and despite quite a few past farewell tours, she’s still out on the road this spring and summer.

May 30: Wynonna Judd, 60

spinner image Wynonna Judd on colorful, flashy background with all sorts of shapes and symbols
Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Wynonna Judd and her late mother, Naomi, performed together as the Judds, racking up 14 number one country singles from 1983 to 1991 and winning five Grammys in the process. Her 1992 self-titled album proved that she was just as potent solo, going five times platinum, and her most recent recording was the 2020 EP Recollections, which featured rootsy covers of songs by the likes of Nina Simone and the Grateful Dead. In 2022, Judd lost her mother to suicide, just one day before they were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. When Wynonna kept their reunion tour going, stars like Trisha Yearwood and Brandi Carlile joined her onstage for moving tributes to her mom, and the footage was later turned into a Paramount+ documentary and a CMT concert special.

Read our interview with Wynonna Judd.

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