News / Arts & Entertainment

Whitney Houston Exhibit Opens; Director Spike Lee Honors Michael Jackson

Musician Whitney Houston arrives at the 17th Carousel of Hope Ball benefiting the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes in Beverly Hills, California  Oct. 28, 2006.
Musician Whitney Houston arrives at the 17th Carousel of Hope Ball benefiting the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes in Beverly Hills, California Oct. 28, 2006.
Mary Morningstar
Whitney Houston Exhibit Opens in Los Angeles

The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles opened the new exhibit, “Whitney! Celebrating the Musical Legacy of Whitney Houston”  on August 15. Items on display include the late pop singer’s stage gowns, Grammy Awards, private letters, film scripts and personal possessions.  “We have picked the things that people will find the most interesting and, in many cases, bring back fun memories,” explained Whitney’s sister and former manager Pat Houston.  The exhibit runs through February 2013.

Spike Lee Pays Tribute to Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson in concert in 1998Michael Jackson in concert in 1998
Michael Jackson in concert in 1998
Michael Jackson in concert in 1998
On August 25, director Spike Lee will hold his annual Michael Jackson birthday tribute in Brooklyn, New York.  Jackson would have celebrated his 54th birthday on August 29.   “This year we’re going to focus on the Bad album, we’re going to focus on the 25th anniversary," Lee told Billboard, "but at the same time we’re going to play his full catalog, including the Jackson 5 and the Jacksons.  It’s going to be even bigger and better this year.”

Swift's 'Red' will Hit Stores in October

Taylor SwiftTaylor Swift
Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift has announced that her new album Red will be released on October 22.  Its lead single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” entered this week’s Hot 100 chart at Number 72 just two days after its release.  The song is on track to sell more than 400,000 copies in the full week tracking period, which could push it to Number One next week.  Lady Gaga holds the record for highest first-week digital sales by a female artist for Born This Way, which moved 448,000 copies.

New 'Now' Complilation Tops Billboard 200

Now That’s What I Call Music! Vol. 43 sold more than 111,000 copies its first week of release, which gives it a Number One debut on this week’s Billboard 200 chart.  It's the 16th “Now” compilation to top that list.  Now 43 features hit songs by Carly Rae Jepsen, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Calvin Harris, One Direction, Luke Bryan, and many more of today’s biggest stars.  Also new in this week’s Billboard 200 Top 10 are Elle Varner’s Perfectly Imperfect (Number 4) and Colt Ford’s Declaration of Independence (Number 5).

Flo Rida Tops Billboard's Hot 100

Carly Rae Jepsen loses control of the Number One position on this week’s Hot 100 chart.  After spending nine weeks in the top spot, she slips to Number 3.  Trading places with Carly is Flo Rida, who climbs two spaces to Number One with “Whistle.”

Patsy Cline Exhibit to Debut in Nashville

Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will open the exhibit “Patsy Cline: Crazy for Loving You” on August 24.  The exhibit features a film with new interviews by Hall of Fame members Harold Bradley, Brenda Lee, Willie Nelson and the Jordanaire’s Ray Walker, who all worked with the late Country legend.  The story of Cline’s life and career will be told through audio and video clips, stage costumes, personal memorabilia, photographs, and more.  The exhibit will run until June 10, 2013.

New Album Releases / August 21:

“The Midsummer Station” by Owl City
 “Hot Cakes” by The Darkness
 “Country & Cold Cans” (4-song EP) by Dierks Bentley
 “Four” by Bloc Party
 “Election Special” by Ry Cooder
 “Chapter V” by Trey Songz
 “Last of a Dying Breed” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
 “JT Hodges” by JT Hodges
 “Kiko Live” by Los Lobos
 “Destroyer - Resurrected” by KISS

Musical Events/Festivals/Benefits:

KISS, Motley Crue and 3 Doors Down will headline “Rock Jam 2012”, which takes place August 24 and 25 in Grand Junction, Colorado.  The first Rock Jam festival was held in 2003.  Since then, the annual event has featured appearances by Poison, ZZ Top, Uncle Kracker, Kid Rock, Chicago, Foreigner, Styx, Def Leppard and Foghat, among many others.

Star Birthdays

Country singer Lee Ann Womack celebrated her 46th birthday on August 19.  Lee Ann grew up in Texas and attended her first concert while in junior high school.  She says the show by Conway Twitty inspired her to focus on her own career in Country music.  Lee Ann arrived on the Country scene in 1997 with her self-titled debut album.  Four years later, she became internationally famous with the title track from her third CD, “I Hope You Dance.”  In 2002, she signed with MCA Records.  Womack’s many hits include “Ashes By Now,” “I May Hate Myself In The Morning” and “Last Call.”  In 2008, Lee Ann recorded “Call Me Crazy,” her final album for MCA Records.  She exited the label last week.  There’s no word on how Lee Ann plans to release her new album, “The Way That I’m Living.”

Singer Robert Plant celebrates his 64th birthday on August 20.  In 1968, Plant began performing with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham in the British rock band Led Zeppelin.  The group disbanded following Bonham’s death in 1980.  Four years later, Plant formed The Honeydrippers.  Since then, he has recorded several solo albums.  In 1994, Plant collaborated with Jimmy Page on the album, “No Quarter:  Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Unledded.”  The following year, Led Zeppelin earned induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Plant reunited again with Page on 1998’s “Walking Into Clarksdale.”  In 2007, he teamed with bluegrass artist Alison Krauss on the million-selling, critically acclaimed album, “Raising Sand.”  It includes bluegrass versions of songs originally recorded by Mel Tillis, Townes Van Zandt, Tom Waits, Doc Watson, the Everly Brothers, and others.  Their single “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)” won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.  In 2009, Plant was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) by the Prince of Wales.  He formed the group Band of Joy with Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin in 2010.  Their self-titled Americana and blues album earned two Grammy nominations.  Plant recently released a live album with his newest band, the Sensational Space Shifters.

On August 21, Country singer Kenny Rogers will celebrate his 74th birthday.  In the mid-1960s, Kenny began performing in The New Christy Minstrels.  He formed The First Edition in 1967, and recorded such chart hits as “Reuben James” and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town.”  After spending six years in the group he left to pursue a solo career.  Kenny dominated the Country charts throughout the 1970s and 1980s.  Among his biggest solo hits are “Lucille,” “The Gambler,” and “Coward of the County.”  Following the release of Kenny’s 1997 CD “Across My Heart,” he formed his own company, Dreamcatcher Entertainment.  His 1999 album, “She Rides Wild Horses,” produced the Top 10 single “The Greatest” and the Number One hit, “Buy Me A Rose.”  Kenny’s next studio album, “There You Go Again,” was released in 2000.  His 2003 project, “Back to the Well,” includes a duet with Dolly Parton called “Undercover.”  Their last duet, 1983’s “Islands in the Stream,” sold one million copies and spent two weeks at Number One on the Country chart.  In 2004, Kenny’s wife Wanda gave birth to identical twin boys Justin and Jordan.  Kenny signed a long-term recording deal with Capitol Records in 2005.  He was first signed to the label from 1976 to 1983.  Kenny’s 2006 album, “Water & Bridges,” debuted at Number 5 on the Country chart, making it his highest entry in 23 years.  The set produced two hits, “I Can’t Unlove You” and “Calling Me,” a duet with the Eagles’ Don Henley.  In 2010, Kenny celebrated his 50th year in music with a concert at the Foxwoods in Connecticut.  The show was taped for a Great American Country television special.  “Kenny Rogers: The First 50 Years” featured such guests as Lionel Richie, Dolly Parton, Sheena Easton, Darius Rucker and Smokey Robinson, among others.  Kenny’s latest album, “The Love of God,” features his versions of classic inspiration tunes, plus two new songs.  He’ll wrap up his current Australian concert tour on August 29.  Kenny’s autobiography is due out in October.  

Howie Dorough of the Backstreet Boys will turn 39 on August 22.  The Backstreet Boys debuted on the charts in 1997 with their self-titled album, which featured the hits “As Long As You Love Me,” “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart),” “All I Have To Give” and “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.”  The album sold 16 million copies in the U.S. and was followed by 1999’s “Millennium,” which sold more than 13 million copies.  Their third album, “Black & Blue,” came out in 2000.  2005’s “Never Gone” featured the hits “Incomplete” and “Just Want You To Know.”  Kevin Richardson left the group in 2006 to pursue other projects.  The remaining four members recorded the album “Unbreakable” in 2007.   The Backstreet Boys’ 2009 release, “This Is Us,” became the group’s seventh consecutive Top 10 album.  Last month, Kevin Richardson announced that he has reunited with the group to record a new album.  He released a statement that said, “Being back with my brothers again feels great.  I love these guys.”  Brian Litrell added, “Having Kevin back in the mix adds that extra special magic to our group.”  Next year, the Backstreet Boys will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  

August 22 marks the birth date of legendary blues singer and guitarist John Lee Hooker (b. 1917).  Known as “The Godfather of the Blues,” Hooker grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi.  He later moved to Detroit, where he recorded his first single, “Boogie Chillin’.”  Hooker influenced numerous acts, such as the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Eric Clapton, Richie Havens and countless others.  In 1995, Rhino Records released his career anthology, “The Very Best of John Lee Hooker.”  In 1997, he recorded his last studio album, “Don’t Look Back.”  That was followed by Pointblank Records’ 1998 release “The Best of Friends”, a compilation of collaborations dating back to 1989.  Hooker died in his sleep at his home near San Francisco, California on June 21, 2001 at age 83.  

August 23 marks the birth date of British rock drummer Keith Moon (b. 1947).  Moon first performed with The Beachcombers before joining the High Numbers in 1964.  Later that year, the band changed its name to The Who, and began recording such classics as “My Generation”, “I Can See For Miles,” and many others.  Moon died of a drug overdose on September 7, 1978.  

On August 25, singer-songwriter Elvis Costello will celebrate his 58th birthday.  In 1989, he recorded his biggest chart hit “Veronica”, which he co-wrote with Paul McCartney.  In 1998, he collaborated with Burt Bacharach on the CD “Painted From Memory.”  In 2001, Rhino Records re-released the entire Elvis Costello catalog, this time issued as double CDs.  The second disc of each collection included demos, live versions and other bonus tracks.  Costello recorded his next album, “When I Was Cruel,” in 2002.  In late 2002, Costello split from his wife of sixteen years, former Pogues singer Cait O’Riordan.  He married Canadian jazz star Diana Krall in December of 2003, the same year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  They welcomed twin sons in late 2006.  His 2003 Deutsche Grammophon release, ”North”, featured piano ballads that he composed, orchestrated and conducted.  The album held the Number One position on Billboard’s Traditional Jazz chart for five weeks.  The label also released Costello’s first full-length orchestral work, “Il Sogno,” in 2004.  His first album for Lost Highway Records, “The Delivery Man,” was released that same year.  Costello recorded his 2009 Country-folk album, “Secret, Profane & Sugarcane,” in Nashville with producer T-Bone Burnett.  In 2010, he teamed with Burnett again to record his alternative Country CD, “National Ransom.”  

Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus will turn 51 on August 25.  Born in Flatwoods, Kentucky, Cyrus burst onto the Country music scene in 1992 with his smash hit “Achy Breaky Heart.”  The song appeared on his debut album “Some Gave All,” which went on to sell more than 14 million copies worldwide.  In 2000, he left Mercury Records and signed to Sony Records’ Monument label.  His first album for Monument, “Southern Rain”, was released in 2000.  Billy Ray starred in the cable television drama “Doc” from 2001-2004.  In 2003, he recorded two new albums, the Country collection “Time Flies” and his first gospel CD, “The Other Side.”  In 2005, Cyrus performed the role of Frank Butler in the musical “Annie Get Your Gun” at Toronto’s Massey Hall.  From 2006 to 2010, he starred with his daughter Miley Cyrus in the Disney Channel series, “Hannah Montana.”  Billy Ray’s 2006 album, “Home At Last,” produced the Country hit “Ready, Set, Don’t Go.”  A second version, which he recorded as a duet with Miley, made it into the Top 5 on the Country chart.  In 2007, Billy Ray and professional dancer Karina Smirnoff placed fifth on “Dancing with the Stars.”  Nashville label Lyric Street Records closed its doors after releasing Billy Ray’s 2009 album “Back To Tennessee.”  He signed with Disney Records’ Buena Vista label for last year’s release of his patriotic CD, “I’m American.”  Last month, Billy Ray announced on Twitter that his new album “Change My Mind” will be out on October 23.  On November 5, he’ll make his Broadway debut in “Chicago.”  Billy Ray plays the role of lawyer Billy Flynn through December 23.  

Awards Presentations/Winners:

III Tyme Out and its individual members lead the contenders for the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Awards with a total of nine nominations.  The group is nominated for Entertainer of the Year against Dailey & Vincent, The Gibson Brothers, Alison Krauss and Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers.  Krauss and her band Union Station earned eight nominations.  Following close behind with seven nods are the Boxcars.  The 2012 IBMA Awards will be presented on September 27 at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.  (See a complete list of nominees at  

Look Who's Going On Tour!

Country star Dierks Bentley performs the first of three “Back To College” shows at the University of Georgia on August 20.  Additional concerts are scheduled at the University of South Carolina on August 21 and the University of Mississippi on August 22.  The shows support his new 4-song EP Country & Cold Cans. Bentley recorded the EP in two days with his touring band and released it while his latest album Home continues to produce hits.  “It doesn’t always have to be a business decision or well-thought-out plan," Bentley told the Associated Press. "Just go out there, have fun, do it with some friends and put out some new tunes.”

Alanis Morissette will kick off a North American tour on August 25.  “Guardian Angel Tour 2012” begins in Montclair, New Jersey.  She’s supporting her upcoming album Havoc and Bright Lights, which drops on August 28.  Morissette will perform 25 shows in the United States and Canada through November 1.  She’ll take a break from the North American dates September 2-16 to play eight concerts in Brazil.

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Beyond Category: Keiko Matsuii
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Keiko Matsui’s music has been labeled many things – Jazz, Smooth Jazz, New Age, World Music. But whatever the label, the pianist-composer’s sound is always her own. Keiko Matsui takes the VOA Stage to perform some of her best-loved songs, and to talk with Beyond Category host Eric Felten about her life in music.

Keiko Matsui’s music has been labeled many things – Jazz, Smooth Jazz, New Age, World Music. But whatever the label, the pianist-composer’s sound is always her own. Keiko Matsui takes the VOA Stage to perform some of her best-loved songs, and to talk with Beyond Category host Eric Felten about her life in music.