By Blake Schnitker
As you may have heard by now, 2016 is a leap year, which simply means that the month of February contains 29 days rather than 28 – crazy, I know. A leap year occurs every four years in order to keep our calendars synchronized with the seasonal or astronomical year, which has something to do with the sun and the moon and other complicated science stuff that I won’t pretend to understand. The important thing to know is this: February has one extra day. Got it? Good. Now for some random yet interesting facts about Leap Year/Day.
Growing up, I always found it amusing that some unfortunate souls are actually born on February 29, or “Leap Day”, meaning that they only get to celebrate their “real” birthday every four years. I can’t think of anyone I know personally that bears this unlucky distinction, so I went to my trusty, always-reliable friend the internet to find out if any famous or semi-famous people happened to have been born on this hapless day. And the internet did not disappoint.
Most of my reading audience, I assume, is unfamiliar with New York-based hip hop artist ‘Ja Rule’, whose actual name is Jeffrey Atkins. And really, Ja Rule isn’t important outside of the fact that he is by all estimations the most successful 9 year old rapper of all time (he will celebrate his tenth birthday on Monday, February 29). Okay that’s not entirely true I suppose. Ja Rule has technically been alive for 39, almost 40 years, and no, he didn’t come to fame as a 9 year old (he was in his mid-twenties before his name started appearing on Billboard charts). But it’s still hilarious to think of him as hip hop’s version of Jack Powell (played by the late Robin Williams) in the 1996 film “Jack” – a movie about a boy (Jack) who, because of an unusual aging disorder, ages four times faster than a normal human being, and enters the fifth grade with the appearance of a 40 year old man. If you’ve never encountered him or his music, just google image “Ja Rule”, then picture him sitting in an undersized fifth grade desk surrounded by unruly 10 year olds. It’s possible that I’m the only one who finds this amusing – it helps to know that Ja Rule’s sound is characterized by his aggressively raspy voice shouting crime-related proclamations – but either way, picturing a bandana-wearing, jean-sagging, gangster-bravado rapper doing long division will always make me chuckle. Moving on.
Another famous musician whose birthday falls on February 29 – and who also is likely to be recognized only by my fellow millennials – is Mark Foster, founder and lead singer of Foster the People, a Los Angeles-based indie pop band formed in 2009 (when Foster was just six years old). Okay, Foster was actually 25 years old when he created the group, but again, fully-bearded 6 year olds are much more comical to think about. The funny – and in a way, scary – thing about Foster the People is that their breakthrough single was a song titled “Pumped Up Kicks”, a catchy little toe-tapper written from the perspective of a troubled and delusional youth whose homicidal thoughts are often lost in the carefree melody. Which makes me wonder: maybe Mark Foster really is only six or seven years old, and perhaps “Pumped Up Kicks” is his way of expressing the psychological trauma of being born on February 29 (I’ll give you a moment to Google it)… See what I mean? Kind of scary right?
To recap, we have Ja Rule, a commercially successful rapper from the early-to-mid 2000s, and Mark Foster, a multi-talented musician whose rise to fame occurred just in the last decade – both of whom are relatively unfamiliar to anyone born prior to 1975. So how about someone for the baby-boomers? Well it just so happens that the late Dinah Shore, whom the internet tells me was a famous singer, actress and television-personality who produced several chart-topping hits such as “Blues In the Night”, “Jim”, and “I’ll Walk Alone”, was in fact born on February 29, 1916. Scanning through the lyrics of Shore’s most famous singles, it’d be a stretch to try and decrypt her words to find some deeper meaning about her unfortunate day of birth, so I will not attempt to do so.
Anyway, now that you know some new fun and interesting facts about Leap Day, I hope your February 29 is a good one – although this year it falls on a Monday, and nobody likes Mondays, not even Ja Rule.