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Music News: Luther Vandross Hospitalized; Etheridge to Wed - 2003-04-19

R&B singer Luther Vandross is recovering following a stroke suffered April 16, according to his record label. There was no information on Vandross' condition, or where he is being treated. The five-time Grammy winner turns 52 on Sunday. Vandross, a diabetic, has frequently dealt with weight problems. The singer has weighed as much as 340 pounds or as little as 200, and claims to have gained or lost 120 pounds 14 separate times in his life.

Singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge plans to wed her companion of two years, actress Lynn Michaels. Etheridge, 41, has been dating the 28-year-old Michaels for about two year. It will be the first marriage for both. Other than saying that the ceremony will take place in Los Angeles at the end of the year, Etheridge's publicist, Marcel Pariseau, declined to provide details. The musician shares custody of a daughter and a son with former partner Julie Cypher. The couple made news in 2000 when they revealed that performer David Crosby was the sperm donor for their children, who were delivered by Cypher.

Singer Little Eva, whose real name was Eva Narcissus Boyd, died April 10 in Kinston, N.C., after a long illness. She was believed to be between 57 and 60. Little Eva was discovered when, as a teenager, she was babysitting for singer Carole King and her husband, Gerry Goffin. They asked Little Eva to sing the demo of The Loco Motion, a song King and Goffin has co-written. After hearing the demo, they decided to release the song as a single. It became a Number One hit in 1962.

April 22, Maverick Records will release Madonna's new album, American Life. She's scheduled to promote the CD with appearances on several high profile television talk shows. Madonna will begin the media blitz with the one-hour MTV special, "Madonna On Stage & On the Record." She'll perform songs from the new collection and talk about the controversial video to its title track. Madonna recently cancelled the video's release because it contains anti-war imagery that she felt could be misinterpreted.

The Yardbirds' first new album in 35 years will be released on April 22. Birdland features guest appearances by Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Steve Vai, John Rzeznick, Joe Satriani, Brian May, Slash, Jeff Beck and Steve Lukather. The band recorded new versions of eight of its classic hits, including Train Kept A Rolling, For Your Love and I'm Not Talking. Seven new songs round out the set. Founding member Chris Dreja says, "To make our first album in so many years has been a lasting ambition of ours. It was a labor of love."

Rhythm & blues star R. Kelly has recorded a song called A Soldier's Heart to show support for military troops stationed in Iraq. It's due in record stores April 23 and all proceeds from sales of the single will go to families of soldiers. "This song is my way of saying thank you to everyone protecting us," says Kelly. He added that he'd like to visit the troops and perform the song at military events.

April 24, Fox-TV will air a two-hour Michael Jackson special titled "Michael Jackson's Private Home Movies." Fox released a statement that read, "Leaving behind the glitz and glamour of film, music videos and television, Michael Jackson opens up his private home movie collection, giving unprecedented access to thousands of hours of never-before-seen footage revealing his real life, family and friends."

April 25, rap trio the Beastie Boys will perform a tribute to slain Run D.M.C. member Jam Master Jay at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. 1,800 tickets to the show sold out in 24 seconds. The two surviving members of Run-D.M.C. will attend the concert, but it hasn't been announced if they'll perform. Jam Master Jay was murdered at his recording studio in Queens, New York last October. Proceeds from the tribute concert will go to Jam Master Jay's family and estate.



April 20, Bonnie Raitt will headline the "We The Planet" Earth Day event at the Speedway Meadow in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Also on the bill are Cake, De La Soul, Concrete Blonde and rap duo The Coup. The concerts will be powered by biofuel and solar. In addition to music, "We The Planet" will offer exhibits by national and local non-profit organizations, educational displays, speakers, arts and crafts, and organic vegetarian food booths.

The 2003 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will begin on April 24. Many concerts will take place at the New Orleans Fairgrounds over two four-day weekends. In addition, nightly concerts will be performed at various venues by national and local acts during the 11-day festival, which ends on May 4.

MerleFest 2003 will take place April 24 -27 in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Highlights will include a 75th birthday celebration for fiddler Vassar Clements and a tribute to women in bluegrass. Doc Watson created MerleFest in 1988 as a tribute to his late brother Merle Watson. Each year, dozens of performers take part in the festival. Scheduled to appear at MerleFest 2003 are Asleep At The Wheel, the Sam Bush Band, Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Jerry Douglas, Emmylou Harris, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Jim Lauderdale, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Rhonda Vincent, Ralph Stanley, the Del McCoury Band, and many others. Last year's festival was recorded for the upcoming release of "MerleFest Live! The 15th Anniversary Jam." It will be available on CD, DVD and VHS on June 17.


April 24, Peter Gabriel will kick off the European leg of his "Growing Up" tour in Stockholm, Sweden. The outing is in support of his latest album, Up. He'll make stops in Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy, France, Switzerland, England and Poland before wrapping up the tour in Spain on June 1. On June 7, Gabriel will begin a month-long series of U.S. shows.

Matchbox 20 will launch a North American tour on April 25 in support of its latest album, More Than You Think You Are. Shows begin in New Orleans, Louisiana. Rock group Sugar Ray will open shows on the tour, which wraps up on July 6 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

April 25, Country duo Brooks & Dunn will begin its 3rd annual "Neon Circus & Wild West Tour." This year's shows will also include appearances by Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Aaron Lines, Jeff Bates and Cledus T. Judd. Dates are currently scheduled through late August.