In the aftermath of World War II, the population erupted, and those born between 1946 and 1964 became known as Baby Boomers. These boomers inherited a world characterized by increasing affluence, higher incomes, and a rise in consumerism. But they didn’t only reap the benefits of a better world. They also made a lasting impact on it, and these celebrities are proof of just how iconic the voices of this generation would be.
25. Pierce Brosnan (1953)
Irish actor Pierce Brosnan saved the world as 007 agent James Bond some four times, a milestone in his career that he says was his biggest achievement according to the Hollywood Reporter. But before Brosnan became the fifth actor to play Bond in 1994, he made a name for himself in television.
Brosnan starred in the NBC crime television drama, Remington Steele from 1982 to 1987. From there, he acted in a number of movies such as the Cold War thriller, The Fourth Protocol, The Deceivers, and Mrs. Doubtfire. In the start of 2020, Brosnan started working on the Netflix comedy, Eurovision alongside Rachel McAdams and Will Farrell.
24. Katie Couric (1957)
Considered one of the most well-known American television news personalities, Katie Couric has a long history of impressive success as a broadcast journalist. In 2002, she signed a $65 million contract with NBC, which allowed her to remain a co-host of its show Today while still exploring other opportunities of interest.
This deal made Couric the highest-paid journalist in the world at the time, but her efforts at making history didn’t stop there. After 15 years of working on The Today Show, she signed a deal with CBS in 2006 that made her the first woman to solo anchor their Evening News program. In 2012, Couric started as the host of ABC’s talk show Katie, and since 2014, she has worked as a news anchor at Yahoo.
23. Tommy Hilfiger (1951)
American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger founded his self-titled clothing line in 1985. What started out as a preppy menswear line eventually expanded into women’s and kids, sportswear, footwear, and accessories. The company has been helping us make fashion choices for over three and a half decades, and even today, it is still one of the world’s leading brands.
This says a lot, considering the classic American apparel retailer is up against more market competition than ever before. But luckily for Hilfiger, his line is showing no signs of slowing down. In 2018, Tommy Hilfiger Corporation announced its efforts to become a software company by integrating digital showrooms.
22. Magic Johnson (1959)
Former point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers and arguably one of the most famous figures in American sports in the last century, Magic Johnson (born Earvin Johnson Jr.) grew up admiring basketball players before him. He was only in eighth grade when he decided he wanted a future in the sport. In fact, it was at the age of 15 that he received his nickname “Magic.”
The nickname was given to him by a sports journalist describing a game Johnson had just played where he made 36 points, 18 rebounds, and 16 assists. One of the NBA’s most renowned players, Johnson went on to become an inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and additionally made a name for himself following his HIV diagnosis, becoming one of the foremost spokespersons on the subject and helping to smash stigmas.
21. Sandra Bullock (1964)
Baby boomer Sandra Bullock first took off as an actress in the 1990s when she appeared on that hectic bus in the action thriller film Speed. 15 years of hard work later, she won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for her role as supportive mom Leigh Anne Tuohy in the drama The Blind Side.
Bullock’s success as an actress is evidenced by her numerous accolades, as well as the fact that she made it onto Time‘s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. What’s more, Bullock was the highest-paid actress between 2010 and 2014. Aside from her acting career, Bullock has also been the producer of a number of films, and is the founder of the production company Fortis Films.
20. Jeff Goldblum (1952)
Most recognized for his role as Dr. Ian Malcolm in the Jurassic Park films, Jeff Goldblum grew up dreaming of becoming an actor. However, he kept this a secret from everyone for fear of failure — that is, until he turned 17 and moved from western Pennsylvania to New York City to pursue his dreams.
Goldblum made his film debut in the 1974 vigilante action movie Death Wish, playing the role of a thug. His career would truly skyrocket a decade later, becoming a household name thanks to his leading role in the horror film The Fly. Goldblum went on to appear in television series such as Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Will & Grace, and Glee, and was even the voice behind a number of Apple commercials.
NEXT: We’d forgotten these next celebrities are also a part of the Baby Boomer generation.
19. Bill Murray (1950)
Comedic film star Bill Murray got his start in comedy studying at Chicago-based improv comedy troupe The Second City. His mentor was none other than the late John Belushi, one of the original seven cast members on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. This undoubtedly helped Murray get his foot in the door.
Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell was Murray’s first TV role and what ultimately catapulted him to fame. It earned him his first Emmy Award win out of three nominations, and helped him land starring roles in other films to come such as Meatballs, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, and Lost in Translation. What would modern comedy be without that classic Bill Murray deadpan delivery?!
18. Billy Joel (1949)
The “Piano Man” in the flesh, Billy Joel may not have released a new album since 1993, but his power as an icon remains undeniably solid to this day. Astonishingly, the rock musician has still sold out Madison Square Garden every month over the last half decade, and has packed baseball stadiums across the United States to the brim.
Speaking to Rolling Stone about his ability to capture fans even today, Joel said that when he steps on stage in front of a crowd of 50,000 people and tells them he has nothing new for them, the audience still hoots and hollers for the oldies. He chalks this up to being an anachronism, saying his rarity adds value.
17. Stevie Nicks (1948)
Considered by many to be the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” former Fleetwood Mac frontwoman and enormously successful solo artist Stevie Nicks helped pave the way for women in rock. Swathed in mystique, she took the rock music scene by storm in the ’70s at a time when men ruled the industry.
Gliding around on stage draped in flowing bohemian-style shawls, Nicks often used her personal life as the muse behind her music. She wrote memorable songs about true stories involving love, the connection between women, and living life as an adventurer. Nicks is the only female to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame not once but twice, and is considered one of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time according to Rolling Stone.
16. Samuel L. Jackson (1948)
The Guinness Book of World Records has crowned critically-acclaimed actor Samuel L. Jackson as the highest-grossing actor in history. He rose to fame at the beginning of the 1990s thanks to iconic appearances in such films as True Romance, Jurassic Park, and of course, Pulp Fiction. Since then, Jackson has averaged $89.9 million in US box office gross per film. This amounts to over $1.7 billion in total!
Jackson didn’t realize his passion for acting until he was in college and on track to become a marine biology major. He joined an acting group to get a higher grade in class, and later decided to ditch his biology efforts in favor of strengthening his skills on stage. Several Tarantino films, an iconic Star Wars role, and numerous Golden Globe and Oscar nominations later, it seems like it was a good choice!
15. Bill Gates (1955)
Technological wonder Bill Gates was only 13 years old when he wrote his first software program in 1968. Not even a decade later, he joined forces with his childhood friend Paul Allen to start Microsoft, a company so successful that it became the biggest personal computer software business in the world.
Bill Gates quit working full-time at Microsoft in 2008, and has shifted his focus away from computers and towards philanthropy. His foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is the largest private charity foundation across the globe. To top it all off, Gates once again reclaimed his Forbes distinction of being the richest person in the world in 2019. It’s no surprise so many people look up to this genius.
NEXT: There’s simply no way on Earth you won’t recognize these wildly successful Baby Boomers.
14. Bono (1960)
Irish musician Paul David Hewson, commonly known as Bono, became the frontman and lead vocalist for rock band U2 when he was only in high school, and didn’t even know he could sing. The artist received his nickname after his bandmates called him “Bono Vox” to mean “good voice.”
Bono and his three bandmates — the Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. — catapulted to international fame following the release of their sixth studio album, 1987’s The Joshua Tree. Since then, they have taken home a grand total of 23 Grammys. But lyric writing and singing isn’t all Bono does, as he’s also very well known for his philanthropy and dedication to issues of social justice.
13. Tom Cruise (1962)
An award-winning action movie icon, Tom Cruise is considered one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors. He has had a distinguished career spanning nearly four decades, and is known for performing his own stunts on camera. But before he became an action star thanks to Top Gun and Mission: Impossible, Cruise made a name for himself in Risky Business.
The Ray Ban-rocking young actor slid to Hollywood stardom thanks to his role as Joel Goodson in the 1983 coming-of-age film. And while he made a name for himself in that oversized button-down shirt and a pair of white socks and skivvies, Cruise has created quite a strong legacy over the years, tackling weighty dramatic roles in such classic films as Born on the Fourth of July, Rain Man, and Jerry Maguire.
12. Arnold Schwarzenegger (1947)
The versatile Arnold Schwarzenegger first found fame as possibly one of the most famous bodybuilders of all time, before becoming a Hollywood star. He was crowned Mr. Universe at the age of 20 and got his first breakthrough film role 15 years later in the sword and sorcery film, Conan the Barbarian.
Today, after three and a half decades on the big screen, Schwarzenegger has reportedly been working on a fantasy action film, The Iron Mask, set to hit theaters in April of 2020. Starring alongside Jackie Chan, he plays the role of an English prison guard at the Tower of London. Let’s see if his Austrian accent can pull this off!
11. Tom Hanks (1956)
Describing himself as a geeky, painfully shy kid, we think it’s safe to say actor Tom Hanks certainly grew into himself over the years. Now a two-time winner of the Oscar for Best Actor, this Hollywood icon is now one of the most popular stars around the world, most recognized for his dramatic and comedic roles in films like Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, and The Green Mile.
Hanks’ acting first started in high school when he performed in school plays. He then went on to study theater in college before dropping out to intern at the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio for three years. From there, he moved to bustling New York City, where he debuted in his first film, He Knows You’re Alone.
10. Michael Jordan (1963)
A role model to athletes everywhere, Michael Jordan is praised for more than just his sneaker line and his incredible record shooting hoops. The basketball wiz helped the Chicago Bulls win six championships over the course of 15 years, an accomplishment that many credit for making the sport as widely popular as it is today.
The six-time MVP award-winner also earned himself the nicknames “Air Jordan” and “His Airness” thanks to his ability to seemingly fly through the air and make slam dunks from the free throw line. In 2014, Jordan was named the NBA’s first billionaire in history. That made him the fourth wealthiest African-American ever.
NEXT: Who are the most iconic Baby Boomers of all time? The results are in!
9. Carrie Fisher (1956)
A daughter of Hollywood royalty, beloved actress Carrie Fisher is most remembered for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the Star Wars series. She landed the career-defining role at a very young age, after making her film debut in the 1975 Warren Beatty comedy Shampoo, where she played the precocious Lorna Karpf.
While Fisher loved the Star Wars script at the time she started filming in 1977, she reportedly doubted that others would believe in it in she same way she did. Luckily, she was wrong, and she even received four different nominations for a Saturn Award. Apart from acting, Fisher was the author of a number of books and the writer for the screenplay of Postcards From The Edge, based on the trials and tribulations of her personal life.
8. Meryl Streep (1949)
Considered by many to be the greatest actress of her time, three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep has boasted a lengthy Hollywood career that shows no signs of slowing down, mastering iconic role after iconic role. In fact, she has been nominated for more Golden Globes than any other professional in her field — that’s 32, if you’re keeping count!
Although Streep grew up participating in high school plays, it wasn’t until this Baby Boomer performed in the college production Miss Julie back in 1969 that she decided to get serious about theater. Everyone across Vassar College’s campus was talking about her performance, giving her the encouragement to seek a masters in fine arts from Yale School of Drama.
7. Ellen DeGeneres (1958)
Emmy Award-winning talk show host and groundbreaking comedian Ellen DeGeneres began her stand-up career at the start of the ’80s, performing at local coffeehouses and clubs in New Orleans. She eventually worked her way up to being a local emcee and then went on a tour across the country.
A legendary appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson kickstarted her career, and eight years later she landed her first starring role in the ABC sitcom Ellen, playing the neurotic owner of a bookstore. The fan-favorite comedian starred in Ellen and then The Ellen Show, breaking new ground for LGBT representation on television. She eventually launched her daytime talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, all the while giving back extraordinary amounts to charity.
6. George Clooney (1961)
Golden Globe-winning actor George Clooney first made waves through the Hollywood entertainment scene in 1992 when he landed his breakthrough role as Dr. Doug Ross on the NBC medical drama, ER. During his time on the series, he was nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards and attracted attention for leading roles in a number of movies.
Clooney’s first breakthrough film role was in the 1996 action horror film, From Dusk till Dawn. His role as Seth Gecko not only attracted a large fanbase. It also helped land his largest commercial success role to date in the heist comedy Ocean’s Eleven. Since then, he’s won multiple awards for his achievements in acting, producing, and directing — as well as influencing a generation of men’s haircuts.
5. Dolly Parton (1946)
A country music superstar, actress, and philanthropist, Dolly Parton is considered by many to be both the queen of country music and America’s fairy godmother. Coming from a huge family of 12 children in the mountains of eastern Tennessee, Parton first stepped onto the music scene in 1962 when she was just sixteen years old.
Today a well-respected artist, Parton said making a name for herself wasn’t all that easy. She told People Magazine that she received a lot of backlash at the beginning of her career for making what many people considered “wrong” decisions. Today she focuses on children’s education, as well as managing her own theme park — and her songs, such as “I Will Always Love You” and “Jolene,” are known the world around.
4. Robin Williams (1951)
Hilarious and unbelievably talented legend Robin Williams got his start in stand-up comedy in the mid-1970s when he began performing in San Francisco at Holy City Zoo comedy club. He began his path as a bartender and eventually made his way up to being a performer.
It was this hard work that helped Williams solidify his position as an iconic Hollywood entertainer. His breakout role was on the TV sitcom Mork & Mindy. For the next three decades, he would fill the screen in such massive successes as Aladdin, Good Morning Vietnam, Mrs Doubtfire, and his Oscar-winning role in Good Will Hunting.
3. Madonna (1958)
No stranger to releasing number-one hits on billboard charts, Madonna has been called the “Queen of Pop” since she roared onto the scene in the ’80s. In fact, Billboard dubbed her the first musician in history to have 50 songs hit number one on any chart, following the release of her 2019 single, “I Don’t Search I Find.”
The superstar couldn’t help but feel proud of herself and told Billboard that it “feels like home” whenever one of her songs is played in clubs or reaches the charts. Furthermore, the Material Girl hasn’t only made strides within her own career. Madonna is also credited with shaping pop culture as we know it, influencing future female artists such as Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and even Shakira.
2. Oprah Winfrey (1954)
Famed television host Oprah Winfrey has come a long way since her childhood. The award-winning philanthropist was born into poverty in a small Mississippi town and lived with her teenaged mother. She built herself up by her bootstraps, starting as a television reporter in Nashville, Baltimore, and Chicago.
Since then, the talk show host has continued surpassing everyone’s expectations. She’s acted more than a few times in major Hollywood films, but she’s most known for her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show. The program became history’s highest-rated television show of its kind after running for 25 years straight. Her influence on modern culture and television is incalculable. She’s still ranked as one of the greatest philanthropists and most powerful women in the world.
1. Elton John (1947)
Candle in the Wind singer Elton John has made a name for himself as one of the 20th century’s biggest music icons. As he played around on his grandmother’s piano, he first became hooked on rock and roll at the age of nine when his mother brought home music records by Bill Haley & His Comets and Elvis Presley.
John has gone on to inspire generations with his musical talent. His career has spanned nearly 50 years, having burst onto the music scene in the early 1970s with his first hit single “Your Song.” His songs are among the most recognizable across the globe, and his raucous, flamboyant style forever changed the music industry. John has since made it onto the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has won five Grammy Awards.
Glamorous, Graceful, and Ginger: The Most Successful Hollywood Redheads
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