It's been 236 mostly wonderful years since we fought and won our independence from our British cousins and in those 236 years we have become practically family again. So to celebrate our 236th birthday I thought I would salute Britain With what I consider the 10 best contributions she's made to the world.
9. Matt Monro. You know somebody is a great singer when they sing a jingle about bowling and you want to hear it over and over again. Thanks in part to being saddled with one of the most ludicrous nicknames in the history of the music business (the British Sinatra) here in the United States Matt Monro was never a star and always regarded as a second rate Sinatra. The Truth is Monro wasn't an anything Sinatra but there weren't many singers in America or anywhere else for that matter, who were in Monro's league either. Most of Monro's British hits Walk Away, Born Free, Softly As I leave You, etc were covered by American artists and on occasion Monro even got the better of the best of them. Listen to Monro's versions of Born Free and Softly As I Leave You and then listen to Old Blue Eye's. Even the most ardent Sinatra fan has to admit Monro's versions are Superior. Monro whom is probably best known in the states for singing the theme song to the second James Bond film From Russia With Love deserves to have his music rediscovered in the United States and praised on it's own VERY lofty merits.
8. 70's Sitcoms That Became American Classics. Do the shows Till Death Do Us Part and Steptoe and Son ring a bell? How about All In The Family and Sanford And Son do those sound more familiar? That latter two classic American 70's Sitcoms came into the world as British sitcoms Till Death Do Us Part and Steptoe and Son. The British versions while still being comedy's were more dramatic than their American counterparts but with out British TV we would not have 2 of the best shows in the history of American Television.Of course with out the next invention from Britain on my list we wouldn't have any sitcoms, dramas, action shows, mysteries, or Westerns at least not that we could see with our eyes.
7. Television. OK maybe not as necessary as the flush toilet but life wouldn't be much with out it would it? Even if what's on the TV is in increasing frequency pretty much the same as what's in the Flush Toilet. Again for most of us life with out a TV is unthinkable although I can remember life with say 5 or 6 channels instead 9,765 of them. Unlike the flush toilet the TV has it's down side. We don't read anymore. We're fat asses, our imaginations are shit and we tend to gravitate towards things we either hate, make us mad, or depressed like cable news but even with it's huge downside the Television is our faithful friend always there when we need it and deserves it's rightful place on this list.
6. Peter Sellers/Pink Panther. Much like Matt Monro Peter Sellers left this world much too soon (both were 54) and he was a genius. Sellers had some brilliant movies outside of the Pink Panther Comedies Dr. Strangelove, The Mouse That Roared, Etc but his performance as the inept Inspector Jaques Clouseau would be his most recognizable role. The Pink Panther movies with out Sellers are ordinary to bad (look at how bad they've been since his passing) but with Sellers even the worst is solid entertainment. A scene in The best (IMHO) Pink Panther film A Shot In The Dark demonstrated Sellers genius. As a house full of people began to fight with one another Sellers simply turns around and looks at the Camera and it's all but impossible to not bust out laughing.
5. Family. Almost all of us have either family or ancestors who are British. Of course without them there probably wouldn't not have been us. I have an aunt who was born in England. Many of my Mother's people come from Scotland and the UK.
4. Beatles and 60's rock Music. The Impact the Beatles had on music can't be understated. In time even the Sinatras of the world who once mocked the flop tops were singing Yesterday and Something. Hell even Bing got in on the Beatles song book singing Hey Jude. Of course after the Beatles came Gerry and The Pacemakers, The Dave Clark 5, The Animals, Herman's Hermits and The Rolling Stones. Soon for much of the 60's almost the entire pop charts were British. Of the groups that followed only the Stones would match (and in some cases surpass) the Beatles in terms of hit and staying power but the Beatles were first and the best and they paved the way for the rest.
3. Modesty Blaise. Born in the comic strip section of the London Evening Telegraph in 1963 Modesty Blaise the brilliant creation of Peter O'Donell was a leader of a criminal gang who had retired rich and was now mostly on the side of good (she really always was) full time. Her sidekick Willie Garvin was a hard edged man's man who had been a political prisoner but he always referred to Blaise as Princess and left no doubt which of the two was really in charge. Blaise was smart, independent, she had lovers but belonged to nobody but herself and she could defend herself as well as any man. Modesty Blaise would be at her most popular in a daily comic strip that ran from 1963-2001 mostly in the UK but also in Scotland and a few cities in the US. O'Donell would pen 13 Modesty Blaise adventures that would become popular though not quite as popular as the man she was often compared to James Bond. Unlike Bond Blaise would not conquer the movie world either. There have been 3 attempts to bring her to film and all 3 have been failures. The closest and by default most popular of the three is the 1966 film Modesty Blaise which has it's fans but is mostly regarded by Blaise fans as an abomination. O'Donell who wrote the original script and novelization ( first Blaise novel Modesty Blaise) only to see it almost entirely ignored said it made his nose bleed. Today many people know Modesty Blaise from a scene in the Tarantino film Pulp Fiction. Tarantino a Blaise fan has said he wants to try and finally bring her to the big screen in a proper way. Hopefully he does.
2. James Bond. James Bond came into the world in 1952 the Brain Child of a war hero and journalist Ian Fleming. by 1957 the novel From Russia With Love would rocket him to stardom. By 1958 he would become a comic strip character and while he was never as brilliant in the comic strip world as Modesty Blaise he would be durable enough to last until 1983. However of course it's the Films that made James Bond a star. Bond would reach full stardom in 1961 when JFK admitted to being a fan and listed From Russia With Love as one of his favorite novels. The first movie Dr. No was made in 1962 and through ups, downs, 6 actors playing the main role, (officially) and countless lawsuits Bond continues. As an old generation grows up and bemoans the lack of soul in the new Bond films 2 from the new generation replace them. Bond's reached his movie peak in 1965 with Thunderball but he's doing better now than he has done since those spy craze days of the mid 60's and in-spite of the competition he's never really fallen off very far. Every 5 or 10 years a new Bondalike rolls through town and proclaims death to 007 but soon the imposter is all but forgotten and Bond rolls on. 60 years since his birth we are still getting new Bond books and 50 years after his big screen debut we're about to receive movie number 23 or 25 depending on who's counting. Long live 007.
1. American Football. The Greatest sport ever invented, yes even with it's inherent dangers, came from Ivy League college men who brought the game from Britain. In it's early days it was a combination of rugby and soccer but it would become something special. And that something would become the most popular event and social gathering in America. The championship of the game on the professional level is an American holiday. On the college level the game has never been more popular. In some areas of the country The south, southwest and yes the state of Nebraska it's a part of the very fabric of our being. We live and die with our teams. It effects are health, well being, and even our economy.We ignore the entire world for 3 to 6 months worth of weekends every year hating and loving every minute of it. For millions of us it's September not January that we celebrate the new year. The great game is no doubt uniquely American and it grew up to greatness hear however there can be no doubt that the Mother of the great game was Great Britain and for that I and millions of others are eternally grateful.