One Direction Sets New Billboard Record; Madonna's New Album Drops

Members of British-Irish band One Direction pose after performing on NBC's
Members of British-Irish band One Direction pose after performing on NBC's "Today" show in New York March 12, 2012.
Mary Morningstar

One Direction Sets Billboard Chart Record

British boy band One Direction sets a new chart record this week.  Their debut album, Up All Night, sold 176,000 copies its first week of release, which gives the collection a Number One entry on the Billboard 200 chart.  One Direction is the first U.K. group to enter that list in the top spot with a debut album.  The group, featuring Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne, formed on the U.K.’s 2010 X Factor reality show.

Madonna's New Album Drops March 27

Madonna's "M.D.N.A." CD
On March 27, Interscope Records will release Madonna’s new album, M.D.N.A. The singer signed a three-album deal with the label in late 2011 after spending her entire 25-year career on Warner Brothers Records.  M.D.N.A.’s debut single, “Give Me All Your Luvin,” was a Number One hit on the U.S. dance chart.  Madonna will kick off a world tour in support of her new album on May 29 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Accidental Drowning Caused Whitney Houston's Death

Whitney Houston and daughter Bobbi Kristina in Beverly Hills, CA, February 12, 2011
Whitney Houston and daughter Bobbi Kristina in Beverly Hills, CA, February 12, 2011
On March 22, the Los Angeles County coroner released a preliminary report that disclosed the cause of Whitney Houston’s February 11 death.  The report states that she died by accidental drowning.  Cocaine use and heart disease were listed as contributing factors.  The 48-year-old pop icon also had marijuana, Xanax, the muscle relaxant Flexeril and Benadryl in her system.  A more detailed final report will be released in approximately two weeks.

In other Whitney Houston news, Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills will put her black velvet dress and a pair of earrings she wore in the 1992 film The Bodyguard up for sale on March 31 and April 1.  The items are part of Julien’s Hollywood Legends auction, which will offer 800 pieces of memorabilia from the estates of Whitney Houston, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, James Dean and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Lionel Richie's New Album Features Country Stars

Lionel Richie's
Lionel Richie's "Tuskeegee" CD
Lionel Richie’s new album will be released on March 27.  Tuskegee features remakes of 13 of his hits recorded as duets with some of today’s biggest Country stars, including Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts and Kenny Chesney, among others.  Richie says, “As my songwriting progressed, I realized that my songs perfectly translated to the country genre.  I was born and raised in Tuskegee, Alabama.  I am a country boy and proud of it.  To do this project just felt natural.”  The first single from “Tuskegee” is “Endless Love,” his duet with Shania Twain.

Van Pelt Leaves Idol

Erika Van Pelt, 26, was voted off American Idol on March 22.  The final nine will now live in a Hollywood mansion for the duration of their time on the show.  A FOX-TV press release says the finalists will perform songs by their favorite Idols on this week’s sing-off (March 28).  On the March 29 results night, last year’s “American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery and pop star Nicki Minaj will perform their new singles.  

New Album Releases / March 27:

“Steadfast” by Clay Aiken
“Coming Out of the Pain” by Amy Dalley
“Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection” by Katy Perry
“The Woman In Black ”  the original motion picture soundtrack

Musical Events/Festivals/Benefits:

British singer Elton John performs in concert at the Ricardo Saprissa stadium in San Jose, Costa Rica, Feb. 3, 2012. T
British singer Elton John performs in concert at the Ricardo Saprissa stadium in San Jose, Costa Rica, Feb. 3, 2012. T
On March 27, legendary songwriter Carole Bayer Sager will be honored at a Grammy Museum event in Los Angeles.  Sager’s new collection of paintings will be displayed.  She’ll also discuss her career as a songwriter and artist and perform songs from her 40 years in music.  Sager’s songs have been recorded by Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Andrea Bocelli, and many other celebrated artists.  All proceeds from the event will benefit the Grammy Museum, which pays tribute to music’s cultural history and explores and celebrates the legacies of all musical genres.

Star Birthdays

Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin
On March 25, Elton John will celebrate his 65th birthday.  During the 1970s, Elton recorded a string of Number One songs, including “Crocodile Rock,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Island Girl,” and his duet with Kiki Dee, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”  His success continued throughout the ‘80s with such hits as “Little Jeannie,” “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues,” “Nikita” and “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That.”  In 1994, Elton contributed songs to the Grammy-winning soundtrack, “The Lion King.”  “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” one of three Oscar-nominated songs from that soundtrack, won the 1995 Academy Award for Best Original Song.  In celebration of his 50th birthday in 1997, Elton’s international fan club issued two commemorative stamps.  Only five thousand stamps were postmarked.  Proceeds went to the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which has raised more than $200-million for HIV/AIDS education and support programs in 55 countries.  Also in 1997, Elton paid tribute to the late Princess Diana with the Number One single “Candle in the Wind 1997,” which he performed at her funeral.  In 1999, he collaborated with lyricist Tim Rice on songs for the Disney stage musical “Aida.”  Elton received the 2000 Grammy Legend Award for his ongoing contributions and influence in the recording field.  Elton married his partner David Furnish in 2005.  On December 25th, 2010, their son Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John was born via a surrogate.  Elton collaborated with 2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Leon Russell on his latest album, “The Union.”  Elton’s next album, called “The Diving Board,” will be out later this year.

Songwriter Carole Bayer Sager poses at the 59th Annual BMI Pop Awards in Beverly Hills, California May 17, 2011.
Songwriter Carole Bayer Sager poses at the 59th Annual BMI Pop Awards in Beverly Hills, California May 17, 2011.
The “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin will turn 70 on March 25.  Her 1967 version of Otis Redding’s “Respect” went to Number One on the pop charts.  In 1987, she became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Franklin has won numerous Grammys, including the 1990 Living Legends honor.  Her 1998 CD, “A Rose Is Still A Rose,” marked her first album of new material in seven years.  In 2003, Arista Records released “So Damn Happy,” which includes the Grammy-winning track “Wonderful.”  Aretha’s 2007 album, “Jewels in the Crown,” features duets with Mariah Carey, George Michael, Annie Lennox, John Legend, Elton John, Whitney Houston, Gloria Estefan, and many others.  In 2008, Aretha recorded her first-ever holiday album, “This Christmas, Aretha.”  In December 2010, she was hospitalized with an undisclosed illness.  Although rumors claimed she was suffering from pancreatic cancer, Aretha never disclosed the nature of her surgery.  Last year, Sony Music released the 12-CD anthology, “Take A Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia.”  Her long-awaited studio album, “A Woman Falling Out of Love,” was released exclusively at Wal-Mart stores last May. 

On March 26, Country singer Kenny Chesney will turn 44.  The Tennessee native attended East Tennessee State University, where he received a marketing degree.  Kenny moved to Nashville following graduation and was hired as a songwriter at Acuff-Rose Publishing.  He signed his first recording deal in 1993.  Since then, Chesney has recorded 21 Number One Country songs.  They include “The Boys of Fall,” “Somewhere With You,” “Live A Little” and “Reality,” which all appear on his latest album, “Hemingway’s Whiskey.”  On June 2, Kenny and Tim McGraw will kick off their “Brothers of the Sun” tour.  Kenny’s 15th studio album will be released on June 19.  On April 1, he’ll receive the Academy of Country Music’s 2012 Crystal Milestone Award.  The honor will recognize him for selling more than 10 million tickets on his 11 national concert tours. 

March 26 marks the birth date of rhythm-and-blues singer Teddy Pendergrass (born 1950).  Pendergrass got his start in the music business in 1970 as lead singer for Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes.  Six years later, he left the group to pursue a solo career.  His hits include “Close the Door” and “Two Hearts.”  A 1982 auto accident left him partially paralyzed.  Following extensive therapy, Pendergrass resumed touring in 1986.  A decade later, he co-starred in the production of “Your Arms Too Short To Box With God.”  In 1998, he co-authored his autobiography, “Truly Blessed.”  A “Greatest Hits” anthology was also released in 1998.  Teddy died on January 13, 2010 of complications from colon cancer. 

Motown legend Diana Ross celebrates her 68th birthday on March 26.  She launched her professional singing career at age 15 with The Primettes, a trio that was later renamed The Supremes.  Ross left The Supremes in 1969, and one year later, recorded the Number One song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”  Other solo hits include “Touch Me in the Morning,” “Upside Down,” and “Endless Love,” her 1981 Number One duet with Lionel Richie.  In 2005, Diana teamed with Mac cosmetics to launch her own line of makeup products.  Her latest album, “I Love You,” includes Diana’s versions of classic pop, rock and soul songs.  In 2007, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the BET Awards and also earned a 2007 Kennedy Center Honor.

On March 27, pop diva Mariah Carey will celebrate her 42nd birthday.  Mariah has sold more than 175 million records, singles and videos worldwide.  As the best-selling female artist of the 1990s, she took 14 singles to Number One on the American charts during that decade.  In January of 2002, Virgin Records dropped Mariah from its roster.  She signed with Def Jam Records for the release of her 2002 album, “Charmbracelet.”  In 2004, she performed for the first time in the Middle East.  The shows took place in Beirut and Dubai.  Her 2005 album, “The Emancipation of Mimi,“ sold more than six million copies in the U.S. and brought her numerous industry honors, including three Grammy Awards.  Her 2008 release, “E=MC2,” debuted at Number One on the Billboard 200.  Mariah has a line of jewelry and accessories sold at Claire’s stores nationwide.  She launched her own “M” fragrance in 2007.  In 2009, Mariah appeared in the film, “Tennessee.”  Her next role was playing a social worker in the Oscar-nominated film, “Precious.”  Mariah’s 2010 holiday album, “Merry Christmas II You,” debuted at Number One on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart.  Only one other Christmas album has achieved that feat.  Mariah married entertainer Nick Cannon in 2008.  She gave birth to their twins, Monroe and Moroccan, in April 2011.

Country singer Reba McEntire will celebrate her 57th birthday on March 28.  Reba entered the music business at age 20 after Country singer Red Steagall heard her perform the National Anthem at a rodeo.  He later arranged for Reba to record her first demo tape, which led to a contract with Mercury Records.  Since then, she’s recorded 23 Number One Country hits.  In 2001, Reba starred on Broadway as Annie Oakley in “Annie Get Your Gun.”  In 2005, Reba launched a line of women’s clothing for Dillard’s department stores.  From October 2001 through February 2007, she starred in her own WB Network sitcom, “Reba.”  Her 2007 album, “Reba Duets” is a collection of songs she recorded with Carole King, Don Henley, Faith Hill, Kelly Clarkson, Justin Timberlake, Keith Urban, Vince Gill, and others.  Its first single, “Because Of You,” a duet with “American Idol” season one winner Kelly Clarkson, reached Number 2 on the Country chart.  In late 2008, Reba left MCA Records and signed with the Nashville independent label, Valory Music Group.  In 2010, she spent four weeks at Number One with “Consider Me Gone.”  The track, which is from her album “Keep On Loving You,” became the longest-running chart-topper of her career.  Last year, Reba was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  On April 1, she’ll co-host the 2012 Academy of Country Music Awards with Blake Shelton.  Reba’s latest album, “All the Women I Am,” produced the Number One hit, “Turn On The Radio.”  It marked her 25th chart-topping Country song and tied Dolly Parton’s record. 

On March 30, Norah Jones will turn 33.  The daughter of sitar player Ravi Shankar was born in Brooklyn, New York.  Norah’s 2002 debut album, “Come Away With Me,” sold 20-million copies worldwide and brought her five Grammy Awards.  Its title track and “Don’t Know Why” were international hits.  Her 2004 album, “Feels Like Home,” sold one million copies in the U.S. its first week of release.  Norah wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on her third album “Not Too Late,” which reached Number One in 20 countries.  In addition to her own recordings, she has collaborated with such artists as Dolly Parton, Ray Charles, Outkast, the Foo Fighters, Herbie Hancock and Q-Tip.  Norah’s 2009 album, “The Fall,” produced only one hit, “Chasing Pirates.”  On June 20, she’ll begin a North American tour in support of her upcoming album, “Little Broken Hearts.”  The album will be out on May 1. 

Canadian pop singer Celine Dion will celebrate her 44th birthday on March 30.  The international superstar grew up in Quebec, where she began singing at age 5.  Seven years later, Celine recorded her first song.  Manager Rene Angelil heard the tape and began guiding her career.  The two married in 1994.  Throughout the 1980s, Celine’s popularity grew in Europe, Japan, Australia, the Middle East and Russia.  In 1990, she made her breakthrough in the United States with her first English-language album, “Unison.”  At the 2004 World Music Awards, Celine was presented with the Diamond Award for being the biggest-selling female artist of all time.  At the start of 2000, she took a sabbatical from her career to spend more time with husband Rene, who was recovering from cancer.  In January of 2001, Celine gave birth to the couple’s first child, Rene Charles.  She returned to recording in 2002 with “A New Day Has Come” and followed that with the 2003 album, “One Heart.”  Also in 2003, she kicked off a three-year engagement of her theatrical production “A New Day” at the 41-hundred-seat Caesars Palace Colliseum in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The run was extended a year and ended in December 2007.  In 2004, Epic Records released performances from the show on “A New Day…Live In Las Vegas.”  Celine performed a world tour in support of her 2007 album, “Taking Chances.”  In 2010, Celine gave birth to twin sons Eddy and Nelson.  Last year, she returned to Las Vegas to begin a three-year engagement of her new show, “Celine.”  Doctors recently ordered her to take some time off from singing to rest her inflamed vocal cords.  Now healed, she’ll soon begin recording a new album.  Celine returns to her Las Vegas show on June 9. 

Singer-guitarist Eric Clapton will turn 67 on March 30.  During the 1960s, he performed with the British groups The Yardbirds, Cream and Blind Faith.  In 1970, he formed Derek & The Dominos.  Four years later, Clapton recorded “461 Ocean Boulevard,” his first Number One solo album.  The collection contained the chart-topping single, “I Shot The Sheriff.”  His other hits include “After Midnight,” “Lay Down Sally,” “Cocaine,” and “Tears In Heaven,” a tribute to his son Conor, who died in 1991 after falling from the 53rd story window of his mother’s New York apartment.  In 1992, Clapton performed on MTV’s “Unplugged” series, a concert that became a multi-million-selling album, and earned him seven Grammy awards.  In 2000, Eric Clapton became the first artist to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for a third time.  He had previously been inducted as a member of The Yardbirds and Cream.  His 2000 induction was for his solo work.  Clapton’s 2005 release, “Back Home,” marked his first collection of all new original songs in nearly five years.  In 2006, he collaborated with J.J. Cale on the album “The Road To Escondido.”  Cale is best known for writing two of Clapton’s biggest hits, “After Midnight” and “Cocaine.”  In 2007, Broadway Books published “Clapton: The Autobiography.”  His latest album, “Clapton,” contains original songs and some covers. 

On March 31, composer and trumpeter Herb Alpert will celebrate his 77th birthday.  Alpert began playing the trumpet at age eight.  In 1962, he formed A&M Records with Jerry Moss.  In addition to many chart hits with his band The Tijuana Brass, Alpert recorded two solo Number One singles, “This Guy’s In Love With You” and “Rise.”  Throughout his career, Alpert has won eight Grammy Awards.  In 1990, Alpert and Moss sold A&M Records to PolyGram for more than $500-million.  The two partners formed Almo Sounds Records in 1994.  That label released Alpert’s 35th album, “Herb Alpert & Colors,” in June 1999.  In 2006, Alpert and Jerry Moss were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Alpert collaborated with his wife, Lani Hall, on his latest album, “I Feel You.”

Look Who's Going On Tour!

On March 27, singer Joan Osborne kicks off a U.S. tour in New York City.  She’ll be promoting the new album Bring It On Home, which features her versions of classic blues, R&B and soul songs.  They include Muddy Waters’ “I Want To Be Loved,” Ray Charles’ “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” Al Green’s “Rhymes” and Otis Redding’s “Champagne and Wine.”  Joan says, “The voice of Otis Redding and Al Green soothed a troubled soul, the power of Etta James and Tina Turner gave me courage, and the depth of feeling of Muddy Waters and so many other great blues artists allowed me to find and express my own depths.  When I began to sing in New York City in my early 20’s, I wanted nothing more than to model myself on these people, to inhabit the music as they did in some small way.”

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