Famous People You Didn't Expect To Be Born The Same Year

It's always crazy to realize different celebrities and historical figures were born in the same year. It's like finding out that Oxford University is older than the Aztec Empire or that there were woolly mammoths around at the time of the building of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Categorizations that seem worlds apart suddenly collapse into one another.

Sometimes the two or three people will each lead long and memorable lives though on seeming opposite ends of a spectrum. Other times one will meet an untimely end, making their concurrent start a remarkably unbelievable fact, especially if they seemed to exist in different historical times. But it ultimately goes to show that history is filled with so many remarkable people that one would be hard pressed to find a year where no one interesting was ever born. Here are some famous people you didn't expect to be born the same year.

A revolutionary year

1928 was a revolutionary year for revolutionaries. As Leon Trotsky was exiled to Alma-Ata in the Soviet Union, Maya Angelou and Che Guevara were born within two months of one another in April and June, respectively. While Angelou outlived Guevara by almost 40 years, they were both leading activists throughout their lives.

Before her work as a writer and civil rights activist, Angelou worked as an actress, a dancer, and was briefly the first Black female cable car conductor in San Francisco. Angelou spent most of the 1960s in Ghana and Egypt and became close with Malcolm X, organizing with him the short-lived Organization of Afro-American Unity.

Guevara's path was a little more straightforward. While he'd trained in medicine, after traveling around Central and South America in 1952 and witnessing the oppression and poverty that was rampant across the continent, Guevara turned his sights to armed revolution. According to PBS, after Guevara met Fidel Castro in 1955 their fates were sealed, as their ideas propelled one another into action.

According to Radical Tea Towel, Angelou was a vocal supporter of Guevara's revolution in Cuba, a position bolstered by Cuba's support for various African liberation movements. Unfortunately, Guevara died two years before Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published, his life cut short after the Bolivian army, with United States assistance, caught Guevara and executed him on October 9th, 1967.

Different ways of being remembered

While Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Aaron Burr both started out in 1756, they have strikingly different legacies. And Burr had more than twice as long to craft his life, living to be 80-years-old compared to Mozart's 35.

Both Mozart and Burr came from fairly influential lineages and despite the fact Burr was orphaned before the age of two, their lives ran remarkably parallel. In 1769, while Mozart produced his first operas in Salzburg, Burr enrolled in Princeton University to study theology, though he soon refocused onto law and graduated within three years. Both went on to become Freemasons as well.

Mozart and Burr ended up transforming the world. Burr as a founding father of the United States and Mozart as an archetypal Classical composer. However, Mozart burned bright and burned fast. According to Biography, while Mozart was able to find success and pay off some of his debts in the 1780s, his physical and mental health deteriorated throughout this time until his death in 1791.

While Burr went on to serve as Thomas Jefferson's vice president during his first term, Burr's rivalry with Alexander Hamilton soon led to his political and personal downfall. According to History, after the death of Hamilton left Burr with a potential murder indictment, he tried to organize a secession in the hopes of regaining his power. Instead, Burr was tried (and acquitted) for treason and ended up dying in disgrace in 1836.

Musical geniuses

Both born in 1937, Roberta Flack and Philip Glass went on to make their marks on the musical world. Both Flack and Glass began their musical studies early. Glass began learning violin and flute at the ages of six and eight respectively, while Flack started playing the piano at the age of nine and by 15 was studying music at Howard University.

According to AllMusic, by the end of the 1960s Les McCann discovered Flack singing at a club and she was soon signed to Atlantic records. Although her first two albums had no hit singles, Flack soon topped the charts with "Where Is the Love," "Killing me Softly," and "Feel Like Makin' Love." At the same time, Glass was also coming up in the world, creating new music for the Mabou Mines Theater Company and The Philip Glass Ensemble. According to The World, Glass got his biggest break when his opera Einstein on the Beach premiered at the Metropolitan Opera.

Neither Flack nor Glass had any mainstream success until they were in their forties. Glass famously was still working as a taxi driver to make ends meet when Einstein on the Beach premiered. But by the 1980s, Flack and Glass' names were household names across the United States. Flack ushered in a new style of R&B while Glass expanded definitions of minimalism and music.

Some like it left

In the midst of the Roaring 20s, two of the most popular figures of the 20th century were born into radically different families. While Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jean Baker, was born to a poor family living in California on June 1st, 1926, Fidel Castro was born on a sugar plantation to a wealthy Spanish family in Cuba on August 13th, 1926.

Their lives couldn't have been more different. Monroe moved between foster homes and the Los Angeles Orphans' Home Society until she got married at the age of 16 to avoid another foster home. Due to the constant moves, Monroe received limited education. Castro, on the other hand, talked his parents into letting him attend school when he was 7-years-old and ended up starting a law degree at the University of Havana in 1945.

Despite their disparate beginnings, they both ended up being monitored by the FBI. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, Monroe's file was opened in 1955 due to her relationship with Arthur Miller, which means that for roughly five years the FBI had more information on Marilyn Monroe than it did on Fidel Castro. According to Time Magazine, Monroe didn't hide her leftist sentiments, especially after her marriage to Miller, but because people saw her as a "dumb blonde" she was never targeted as a communist sympathizer, even though she was openly pro-Castro and pro-civil rights.

Personalities to last a lifetime

By the time Regis Philbin and Mikhail Gorbachev were starting to make careers for themselves in the 1960s, Sam Cooke had already a number of major hits such as "Wonderful World" and "You Send Me." All three men came into the world in 1931 but their lives are remembered for very different reasons.

As Cooke's popularity grew, major labels such as Atlantic tried to sign him. Refusing to give up his copyrights, Cooke instead signed with RCA. Cooke even went on to organize Kags Music, his own publishing company, and SAR, his own record label. While Cooke's death was deemed a "justifiable homicide" after he was shot dead by a motel manager on December 11th, 1964, according to the Netflix docu-series ReMastered, many people believe Cooke's death was part of a larger conspiracy due to his rising prominence and influence in the Civil Rights Movement.

According to NextTV, the year Cooke died was the year Regis Philbin's That Regis Philbin Show was nationally syndicated. Philbin went on to host a number of morning shows with co-hosts such as Kathie Lee Gifford and Kelly Ripa as well as game shows such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

While Philbin was greeting American viewers in the morning, Gorbachev was rising through the ranks to become the last leader of the Soviet Union. And not only did Gorbachev oversee the fall of Soviet Union, but he outlived Cooke and Philbin both.

Giants in their fields

While both Al Green and André Roussimoff were giants in their respective fields, only Roussimoff can also be called a literal giant. Both born in 1946, these two men became hallmarks of the second half of the 20th century.

Born in the small French town of Molien, Roussimoff was almost 6-foot-6 by the age of 15 due to acromegaly, a disorder that develops when the pituitary gland releases too much growth hormone. According to The NY Daily News, Roussimoff was diagnosed later in life and ultimately decided not to get treatment because it might've interfered with his wrestling career. But by the end of his career, wrestling had taken such a toll on Roussimoff's knees and back that he could barely walk. In 1993, he died in his sleep of a heart attack at the age of 46.

Green had some early success with records such as Green Is Blues and Al Green Gets Next To You, but his real success came in 1972 with the album Let's Stay Together, his first to be certified gold. 1972 was also the year Roussimoff signed to what was then the WWWF and changed his wrestling name officially to "Andre the Giant." A momentous year for them both.

Green continues to record music to this day, at one point performing mainly gospel music until his return to R&B in 1988 when he recorded "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" with Annie Lennox.

Who gets to grow up?

These three towering figures had the same temporal start and such drastically different ends. Martin Luther King Jr., Anne Frank, and Barbara Walters were all born in 1929, but only Walters still survives today. Both Walters and Frank were young Jewish girls growing up and while Walters' family wasn't practicing, it was but a mere accident of geography that resulted in their drastically different fates. 

Before Walters had graduated from Miami Beach High School, Frank succumbed to typhus in the German Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. According to The Nobel Prize, King was completing his residency for his theological doctorate in 1953. The same year, Walters graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a bachelor's degree in English.

While Walters was slowly gaining exposure from her work on NBC's Today show, she didn't get official billing until 1974. King wouldn't live to see her be the first woman co-anchor of a network evening news program. If he had, chances are the two of them would've certainly crossed paths in an interview. By the time King was 35, in 1964, he was the youngest person to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. Tragically, less than four years later, he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, leaving Walters as the sole survivor of this unlikely trio.

Striving to shape the world

Malcolm X, Margaret Thatcher, and Pol Pot are rarely mentioned in the same breath but these three political figures were all born in 1925. Malcolm X and Pol Pot even have the exact same birthday, but all three of their lives couldn't have been more different.

Thatcher and Pol Pot ended up becoming leaders, of England and Cambodia, respectively. While they may not have been aligned politically, they both ended up being disastrous for their respective countries. According to Science Daily, Thatcher's policies resulted in thousands of excess deaths per year during her time in power from 1979 to 1990. These deaths were directly influenced by her welfare cuts as well as a deliberately engineered economic catastrophes. Meanwhile in Cambodia, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime murdered upwards of 2 million people during their reign from 1975-1979, until they were overthrown by Vietnamese troops.

Malcolm X never lived to see Pol Pot's genocide or Thatcher's conservative turn. Despite coming into the world at the same time, his life was cut tragically short when he was assassinated on February 21st, 1965. According to Marxists.org, Pol Pot lived to the ripe old age of 73, dying quietly under house arrest on April 15th, 1998. Thatcher died 15 years later at the age of 87 on April 8th, 2013.

Catholic superstars

While their lives started off on opposite ends of the world, they came together in Italy. Both born in 1936, Pope Francis and Silvio Berlusconi are now some of the most well-known people in Italy.

Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio to Italian immigrants in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After becoming a priest in 1969, he became the head of the Jesuit province of Argentina from 1973 to 1979. According to the BBC, during his time as head of the Society of Jesuits, Pope Francis was accused of being a collaborationist with the military authorities during the Dirty War in Argentina. These accusations followed him as he became pope, but ultimately there was no legal case against him due to a lack of sufficient legal evidence and a lack of cooperation from the Church.

Berlusconi was also making a name for himself in the 1970s. In 1974, he created the cable TV station Telimilano Cavo, the start of what would become his media empire. While Berlusconi would be convicted of corruption and bribery in July 1998, the convictions would ultimately be thrown out the year before he won the general election, becoming prime minister of Italy. Despite his various charges and convictions, Berlusconi remains one of the most popular figures in Italy. According to Irish Times, Berlusconi has even likened himself to Pope Francis, saying if he were pope he'd act the same way.

Crafting their own legacies

Both born in 1919, Doris Lessing and Jackie Robinson ended up leading different, though equally active, lives. Doris Lessing was born in what is now Iran, moving to what is now Zimbabwe is 1924. According to ThoughtCo, she stayed there for 25 years until moving to London in 1949, where she published her first novel The Grass Is Singing. The book dealt with a colonial society and issues of apartheid, themes that arose in her later texts as well, although her focus shifted more towards women and sexuality.

Two years before Lessing published her first book, Robinson became the first Black athlete in Major League Baseball in 1947 when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Even before he broke the color barrier in baseball, Robinson was standing up for equal rights. According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, while Robinson was serving in the United States Army, he was arrested and court-martialed for refusing to move to the back segregated part of the bus.

Lessing's books were never overtly political, but politics seeped through all of her literature as she applied her social realism to the social challenges of the time. As she made her mark in literature, Robinson made his mark in the sports world, becoming a civil rights leader after he retired from baseball.

Pioneering women

Two pioneering women in history got their start in 1867. Madam C.J Walker and Marie Curie were pivotal women in their day and each championed investigation and expansion with their respective achievements in entrepreneurship and scientific investigation.

Both ended up becoming scientists, but they came from very different upbringings. Madam C.J. Walker was born on a plantation in Delta, Louisiana, marrying at 14 to escape her abusive brother-in-law. According to the National Women's History Museum, Walker suffered from financial difficulties until 1905, when she launched a line of hair products for Black women called "Madam Walker's Wonderful Hair Grower." Business exploded and by the end of her life she was a millionaire, using her wealth to cover tuition for Black students at Tuskegee Institute and donating to the NAACP, among other civil rights endeavors.

According to The Nobel Prize, Marie Curie, born Maria Skłodowska, similarly started coming up during the turn of the century after she got her Doctor of Science degree in 1903. Her work, conducted with her husband, was seminal to the advancement of radiology and the study of radioactivity. And thanks to the Nobel Prize money, she was also likely a millionaire. Despite her dangerous work and severe exposure to radiation, Curie outlived Walker by 15 years. 

They're how old???

It's hard to believe, but RZA, Paul Rudd, and Marilyn Manson were all born in 1969 and although two out of the three went into music, there are few other similarities.

According to AllMusic, RZA joined the infamous Wu-Tang Clan in 1991 and quickly became known as an incredibly influential hip-hop artist. In addition to recording albums and solo work, RZA worked on soundtracks such as Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill films and the animated series Afro Samurai. Manson also hit commercial success in the early 90s, when he and his band were signed to Trent Reznor's record label, Nothing.

During this time, Rudd started breaking into the acting world, but despite his various television appearances, his celebrity was really cemented by his role in the 1995 hit Clueless. Since then, he's starred in a variety of television and film productions, although he's also famously known for his youthful features.

Stealing the show

It's hard to say who's more famous, Meryl Streep or Pablo Escobar, but few could have guessed in 1949 that within 40 years these two would be known around the world.

According to Biography, Streep broke into films during the 1970s, earning her first Academy Award nomination in 1978 with her role in The Deer Hunter. Since then, Streep has won three Academy Awards and her work spans a variety of genres.

Escobar's criminal life started early. When he was a teenager, he'd steal tombstones to resell and smuggle stereo equipment. In the mid-1970s, Escobar founded the organization that became the Medellín Cartel, which dominated the cocaine trade by the mid-1980s. According to ThoughtCo, Escobar effectively ran the Medellín cartel until his death in 1993, despite the fact he was technically serving a prison term starting in July 1991.

At the time of his death, Escobar was worth almost $30 billion, an astronomical amount compared to Streep's still impressive net worth of $90 million.