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Neil Diamond, Meryl Streep Among Kennedy Center Honorees; Kanye Leads Grammy Nominations

Mary Morningstar

Kennedy Center Honorees Include Neil Diamond, Meryl Streep

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts held its 2011 Kennedy Center Honors Gala on December 4.  This year’s honorees included cellist Yo-Yo Ma, singer Barbara Cook, saxophonist Sonny Rollins, actress Meryl Streep and singer-songwriter Neil Diamond.  An all-star lineup of surprise guests saluted the entertainers.  The event will air on CBS-TV on December 27.

Kanye Leads Grammy Nominations

Singers Jay-Z (R) and Kanye West perform at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, August 28, 2011.
Singers Jay-Z (R) and Kanye West perform at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, August 28, 2011.

Kanye West leads the nominees for the 54th annual Grammy Awards.  His seven nods include Song of the Year and Best Rap Song for “All of the Lights” and Rap Album of the Year for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  Kanye’s collaborative album with Jay-Z, Watch the Throne, brought him three of his seven nominations.  Other leading contenders include Adele, Bruno Mars and the Foo Fighters with six mentions each.  All three appear in the Album of the Year category alongside Lady Gaga and Rihanna.

In the all-genre category of Record of the Year are Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep,” “Holocene” by Bon Iver, Bruno Mars’ “Grenade,” “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons and Katy Perry’s “Firework.”  Best New Artist nominees include The Band Perry, Bon Iver, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj and Skrillex.  This year, the Recording Academy decreased the number of Grammy categories from 109 to 78.  The awards will be presented on February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles.  (Complete list of nominees at www.grammy.com.)

Morgan, Beach Boys on Board for USO's 'Christmas Concert for the Troops' Concert

The Beach Boys "Good Vibrations" CD
The Beach Boys "Good Vibrations" CD

On December 6, the USO of Metropolitan Washington will present “Christmas Concert for the Troops” at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  The invitation-only event honoring active duty military will feature performances by Country singer Lorrie Morgan, the Beach Boys and Tony Award winner John Lloyd Young, who is currently on Broadway in “The Jersey Boys.”  They’ll be backed by the National Symphony Orchestra.  Co-hosting the show are actor John Stamos and Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan.

Winehouse's Posthumous Album Drops

Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse

On December 6, Universal Republic will release Amy Winehouse’s posthumous album, Lioness: Hidden Treasures.  The 12-song collection includes alternate versions of previously released tunes, as well as two new tracks that she planned to include on her third album.  Also featured are her final studio recording, “Body & Soul,” which she sang with Tony Bennett for his latest album “Duets II,” and covers of songs by Donny Hathaway, the Shirelles and Ruby & the Romantics. 

In other news, the dress Winehouse wore on the cover of her Grammy-winning Back To Black album was recently auctioned for charity.  Museo de la Moda, a fashion museum in Santiago, Chile, paid $67,000 for the dress.  Proceeds will go to the foundation set up by her father to fund programs for at-risk children.

Michael Jackson's Doctor Sentenced to 4 Years in Jail

Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's doctor sits in a Los Angeles courtroom
Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's doctor sits in a Los Angeles courtroom

Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson, has been sentenced to a four-year prison term.  Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor chastised Murray for giving Jackson the operating room anesthetic propofol that was responsible for Michael’s death, and also for the lack of remorse Murray has shown.  Jackson’s family said they were pleased with the sentencing, were not seeking revenge, and plan to move forward with their lives.  Due to overcrowding in California’s prisons, the time Murray spends in jail will likely be much shorter than four years.

Alicia Keys Produces Broadway Show

Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys

On December 8, the new comedy Stick Fly will open on Broadway.  Singer Alicia Keys produced the show.   “This is a story that everybody can relate to," Alicia says. "I’m passionate about this play because it is so beautifully written and portrays Black America in a way that we don’t often get to see in entertainment. I know it will touch audiences who will find a piece of themselves somewhere inside this house.”

New Album Releases December 6:

“Glee: The Music 7” by the cast of “Glee”
“The Path of Totality” by Korn
“Revolver” by T-Pain
“Love After War” by Robin Thicke
“Hats Off to the Bull” by Chevelle
“El Camino” by The Black Keys
“The MF Life” by Melanie Fiona
“Paramount Sessions” by Adam Lambert & Steve Cooke
“A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” the original motion picture soundtrack

Musical Events/Festivals/Benefits:

Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" CD
Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" CD

On December 9, New York radio station Z100 will hold its 2011 “Jingle Ball” charity event at Madison Square Garden.  This year’s performers includes Lady Gaga, Pitbull, Hot Chelle Rae, Kelly Clarkson, Demi Lovato, David Guetta, LMFAO, Foster the People and Gym Class Heroes.  The sold-out show will benefit the national anti-bullying program STOMP Out Bullying.

The 31st annual John Lennon Tribute takes place in New York City on December 10.  Artists covering Lennon’s classic songs at the show include Steve Forbert, Bettye LaVette, Lucy Kaplansky, Rich Pagano, Richard Barone, Toshi Reagon and Ari Hest.  Performances from last year’s 30th John Lennon Tribute were digitally released on November 15th, with proceeds going to the Japanese Red Cross for its ongoing earthquake relief efforts.

Awards Presentations/Winners:

Zac Bown Band's "The Foundation" CD
Zac Bown Band's "The Foundation" CD

The 2nd Annual American Country Awards were presented on December 5 in Las Vegas.  Jason Aldean and the Zac Brown Band led the contenders with eight nominations each, including Artist of the Year.  Following close behind was the new husband-and-wife duo Thompson Square with seven nods.  Taylor Swift and The Band Perry received six mentions apiece.  During the ceremony, legendary Country group Alabama received the Greatest Hits Award.  Between 1980 and 2011, Alabama has topped the Country chart 34 times.  The American Country Awards aired live on FOX-TV.

Look Who's Going On Tour!


On December 7, Country star Vince Gill and his wife Amy Grant will begin their sixth holiday tour in Baltimore, Maryland.  “The Twelve Days of Christmas” outing will stop in 10 additional cities before wrapping up with two sows in Nashville on December 20 and 21.  “Christmas audiences are special," Grant says. "They tend to involve the whole family, and their emotions are a wonderful mix of anticipation and reverence.  It’s a thrilling experience for both of us.”  The shows will feature Grant and Gill singing holiday standards and contemporary Christmas songs.

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