Blur's Graham Coxon

Today is the 29th birthday of Blur guitarist Graham Leslie Coxon. Coxon

was born in a military hospital in Rintein, West Germany. A self-taught guitarist

by the age of 12, Coxon also learned to play the saxophone and drums.

He met future Blur frontman Damon Albarn in secondary

school and the two remained close pals through their college years. At the time, Albarn was a member of a band called Circus, which Coxon joined after playing guitar on one of its demos. In 1989, Circus evolved into the group Seymour and set about recording another demo.

This one caught the attention of Flood Records, which signed the group in 1990 and encouraged the band to change its name to Blur. In October of that year, Flood released the single "She's So High," which reflected the musical influence of such Manchester bands as the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses. Blur's debut, 1991's Leisure, was packed with similar songs and led many to believe that the group's members were manufactured teen-idols looking to cash in on the fading Manchester scene. Blur spent the next few years distancing themselves from that reputation and trying to make a name for their guitar-pop sound in a world obsessed by grunge.

While 1993's Modern Life is Rubbish didn't make any dents in the U.S. market, it was a huge hit in the U.K. In 1994, Parklife broke the group on a global scale. The album's first single, "Girls and Boys," was a calculated attempt to write a hit song, and it paid off. While it peaked at #52 in the U.S., it was a huge hit in Europe. Parklife's success opened doors for such U.K.-based guitar-pop bands as Elastica and Oasis. Released in 1995, The Great Escape was a bit darker than the band's previous efforts and proved to be a major hit in the U.K. It was during this period that the fabled Oasis vs. Blur rivalry was a constant source of discussion in pop circles, though in the end it just seemed to be a ploy to bump up both groups' sales figures. Blur finally cracked the U.S. market last year with a self-titled album that spawned the hit "Song 2" (the "woo-hoo" song).

Other birthdays: Al Jarreau, 58; Paul Kanter (Jefferson Airplane), 57;

James Taylor, 50; Mike Gibbins (Badfinger), 49; Steve Harris (Iron Maiden),

41; and Marlon Jackson (Jackson 5), 41.