January 1

There are 2 entries for this date: George R.R. Martin Michael Stipe

    Michael Stipe

    Michael Stipe

    On this day in 1960, musician and film producer John Michael Stipe was born in Decatur, Georgia, into a family of Methodists. His father was in the U.S. Army and the family moved frequently. As a result he was a quiet child, preferring to spend time with his sisters more than with friends. He found his niche in high school, bonding with other students over his passion for punk rock.

    After graduation he enrolled at the University of Georgia in Athens to study art and photography, where he met Peter Buck, Bill Berry and Mike Mills. They formed the band R.E.M. in 1980 and released their first album, “Murmur” in 1983. R.E.M. released albums throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

    Among their most successful was “Out of Time” (1991), which featured the single “Losing My Religion,” arguably the band’s most well-known song. Despite the title, it’s really not about religion, band members have said. Stipe described it as a song about unrequited love and as a “classic obsession song.” Others have said the phrase is a Southern expression meaning being at wit’s end or at the end of one’s rope. The band broke up amicably in 2011.

    Stipe later has focused on film and art. In the late 1990s he started a film company, Single Cell Productions, which released “American Movie” (1999) and “Being John Malkovich” (1999). He has several credentials as a producer, including the irreverent 2004 movie “Saved!” about a  Christian high school girl who gets pregnant. The film presents sharp commentary on evangelical Christians and received a lot of backlash from the Religious Right, including Jerry Falwell, who criticized the movie without bothering to see it.

    Stipe has also done solo recording work and in 2019 published Michael Stipe: Volume 1, an artful collection of 35 of his photographs whittled down from more than 37,000 in his collection.

    He has had intimate relationships with men and women and identifies as “queer” more than gay, he has said. As of this writing in 2019, he lives in New York City with photographer Thomas Dozol.

    PHOTO: Stipe at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. David Shankbone photo under CC 3.0.

    “I’m actually not Buddhist. It’s just that I’m bald and I have a certain demeanor and my voice is really low when I talk. … I was raised Christian, though I’m not Christian either.”

    —Stipe, when asked by Rolling Stone about a rumor he was Buddhist (March 3, 2011)
    Compiled by Dayna Long

    George R.R. Martin

    George R.R. Martin

    On this date in 1948, novelist, screenwriter and producer George Raymond Richard Martin was born in Bayonne, New Jersey. Martin, the son of longshoreman Raymond Collins Martin and his wife Margaret Brady Martin, grew up watching the boats come in and out of the docks. Feeling isolated, Martin turned to literature for inspiration, devouring fantasy and science fiction novels. He even began writing monster stories, selling them for pennies. Later selling his fiction to comic fanzines, Martin was first published in 1970. He earned his B. S. in journalism, graduating summa cum laude, and a master’s from Northwestern University.

    During the 1970s, Martin wrote part time, working also as a VISTA volunteer and as a chess director for the Continental Chess Association. In 1976 he became an English and journalism instructor at Clarke College in Iowa. Martin moved to Santa Fe in 1979 to pursue his writing passion, receiving Hugo Awards and Nebula Awards for his short fiction. Venturing into Hollywood, Martin took a position in 1986 as a story editor for “The Twilight Zone” at CBS and as executive story consultant for “Beauty and the Beast” in 1998, quickly moving up to co-supervising producer. During this period, Martin served as vice president of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

    In 1996, A Game of Thrones was published, Martin’s first installment of the epic fantasy series that would launch him to celebrity and become his magnum opus. A Feast for Crows (2005), the fourth novel in the series called A Song of Ice and Fire, became a New York Times No. 1 best-seller. The next installment, A Dance With Dragons (2011), stayed on the best-seller list for 88 weeks. That same year, the first book was adapted by HBO into the Emmy-winning hit series “Game of Thrones,” of which Martin is the co-executive producer. 

    Exploring the inner turmoil of the human condition, and blurring the borders between right and wrong and good and evil, Martin’s novels are as stirring as they are thrilling. A man with a firm moral compass — he was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War — Martin persuades readers to confront their beliefs, to question bedrock assumptions, often killing his darlings to the dismay of his fans. Martin was married to Gale Burnick (1975 to 1979) and in 2011 married Parris McBride.

    “You would consider me an atheist or agnostic. I find religion and spirituality fascinating. I would like to believe this isn’t the end and there’s something more, but I can’t convince the rational part of me that that makes any sense whatsoever.”

    —Martin, Entertainment Weekly interview (July 12, 2011)
    Compiled by Noah Bunnell; photo by Helga Esteb, Shutterstock.com

Freedom From Religion Foundation