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Clay Aiken's Christmas Album Popular with Fans; Ashlee Simpson to Go on Tour

The Recording Academy has chosen Beach Boy Brian Wilson as its 2005 MusiCares Person of the Year. MusiCares Foundation and Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said, "He embodies the positive spirit that comes from dedication, perseverance and creative brilliance; his contributions to the evolution of music are both legendary and profound." Wilson will receive the honor on February 11 at the Recording Academy's 15th annual charity dinner and concert in Los Angeles. Last year's recipient was Sting.

American Idol 2 runner-up Clay Aiken's new holiday CD, Merry Christmas With Love, sold 270,000 copies its first week in record stores. According to Billboard, that's the biggest debut sales week of any holiday album in SoundScan history. SoundScan began tracking record sales in 1991. In other news, Aiken's NBC holiday special, A Clay Aiken Christmas, will air on December 8. He's currently promoting his new Christmas album on his Joyful Noise tour.

The 27th annual Kennedy Center Honors will be presented on December 4 at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State Colin Powell. This year's recipients are Elton John, Joan Sutherland, composer/conductor John Williams and actors Warren Beatty, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. December 5, the honorees will be saluted by stars from around the world at a gala performance, which will take place at the Kennedy Center's Opera House. President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush will be in attendance. CBS-TV plans to air the tribute event later this month.

Opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti has announced that he'll retire from performing in 2005. First, the 69-year-old will perform a 40-date "Farewell Celebration" tour throughout North America, South America, Europe, Asia, New Zealand and Australia. In a letter posted on his official web site, Pavarotti said, "This tour will be very emotional. I'm looking forward to traveling around the world, meeting many of my colleagues and friends I have made throughout my career, and performing for audiences for the last time." Pavarotti will turn 70-years-old on October 12, 2005.


On December 8, the United Nations will sponsor the Refugee Voices for Darfur benefit concert at London's Royal Albert Hall. Among the artists signed on for the event are the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde, Simply Red's Mick Hucknall, Jocelyn Brown and rhythm-and-blues newcomer Lemar. Proceeds will aid refugees who have fled Sudan's war-torn Darfur province during nearly two years of violence.

New York radio station WHTZ will hold its annual "Jingle Ball" on December 10 at Madison Square Garden. This year's lineup includes Destiny's Child, Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson, Ashlee Simpson, Good Charlotte, Vanessa Carlton, Hilary Duff, JoJo, Ryan Cabrera and Switchfoot. The concert will benefit Musicians On Call, a music therapy organization based in New York that uses music and entertainment to promote healing of patients at eight New York hospitals.


The 2004 Billboard Music Awards, honoring the year's Number One artists and songs, will take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on December 8. Leading contenders include rhythm & blues stars Usher and Alicia Keys. Usher appears in 13 categories and Keys in 12. Other top nominees are OutKast, R. Kelly, Gretchen Wilson, Hoobastank, Jay-Z, Kanye West and Maroon 5. During the ceremony, Stevie Wonder will be presented with this year's Century Award, Billboard's highest honor for creative achievement. Record sales and radio airplay determines the Billboard Music Award winners. Ryan Secrest will host the show, which is set to air live on FOX-TV.


Singer Ashlee Simpson will soon have the chance to redeem herself for the lip-synching snafu that occurred during her recent Saturday Night Live performance. Geffen Records has announced that Ashlee will kick off her first headlining tour on February 2 in Houston, Texas in support of her debut album Autobiography. Dates are currently scheduled to run through March 26.