Songwriter Otis Blackwell died on May 6 after suffering a heart attack. He was 70. A member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the pianist and singer from Brooklyn, New York launched his writing career by selling six songs for $150. He recorded one with a drummer playing on a cardboard box. Blackwell composed more than 1,000 songs, including Great Balls of Fire and Breathless, which were recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis; Handy Man, a 1977 Top 5 single for James Taylor; Fever, a hit for Peggy Lee; and Return To Sender and All Shook Up, both recorded by Elvis Presley.
Guitarist Eddie Van Halen is cancer-free, according to the official Van Halen website. Eddie's message to his fans reads, "I wanted to share the good news with you immediately … I've gotten a clean bill of health, from head to toe." He also said Van Halen is ready to get back to making music and promised we will be hearing from the group very soon. However, the band was dropped from Warner Brothers Records in February after spending more than 23 years on the label. Van Halen's latest album, "Van Halen 3," was released in 1998. There's still no word on who will replace Gary Cherone as the group's lead vocalist.
Less than six months after being dropped by Virgin Records, Mariah Carey has signed a multi-album deal with Universal Music Group. The agreement includes her own record label under the Island Records/Def Jam Music Group. It's reportedly a $20 million deal that calls for three albums with an option for a fourth. Carey is currently in the recording studio working on the first release.
On May 14, Queen's rock opera We Will Rock You will open at London's Dominion Theater. Actor Robert De Niro's production company is backing the musical. De Niro conceived the idea with Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor six years ago. We Will Rock You will feature many of Queen's hit songs.
Irish rock group The Cranberries will mark the 10th anniversary of its debut album with the release of a boxed set. Treasure Box: The Complete Sessions 1991-1999 includes digitally remastered versions of the group's first four albums, plus 21 bonus tracks. May 10, the Cranberries kicked off a North American concert tour in support of their latest album, Wake Up And Smell The Coffee.
Cher recently announced that this summer's North American concert tour will be her last. She'll take her Living Proof Farewell Tour to more than 50 cities, beginning June 14. Concert dates are currently scheduled through September 15.
The Rolling Stones will celebrate their 40th anniversary with a world tour that's scheduled to begin on September 5 in Boston, Massachusetts. North American shows will run through February. The tour will continue in Australia, the Far East and possibly China before ending in Europe in late 2003. At a May 7 press conference in New York, band members also announced that they're about to go into the studio to record some new songs. They'll be included on the Stones' double CD anthology, which is due out later this year.
NEW ALBUM RELEASES: MAY 14
George Jones, Tracy Byrd and Aaron Tippin will headline Detroit's 20th annual Budweiser Downtown Hoedown. The theme of this year's free Country music festival is "United We Stand," set to honor the memory of the victims of the September 11 attacks. The three-day event begins on May 17, and will also include appearances by Steve Holy, David Ball, Emerson Drive, the Kentucky Headhunters, Pinmonkey and Rodney Atkins.
The 50th annual BMI Pop Awards will be held on May 14 in Los Angeles. Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard are this year's Career Achievement honorees.
Mexican singer-songwriter Juan Gabriel was the big winner at the 2002 Billboard Latin Music Awards, held on May 9 in Miami Beach, Florida. Gabriel was named Songwriter of the Year. He also received the Track of the Year and Airplay Track of the Year honors for Abrazame Muy Fuerte (Hold Me Tightly), and the Vocal Duo Track of the Year award for No Vale la Pena (It's Not Worth It), his duet with Nydia Rojas. Other winners included: Jaci Velasquez, who won the Female Pop Album of the Year trophy for Mi Corazon (My Heart); Shakira, who took home the Viewer's Choice Award; Cristian, named Latin Track Artist of the Year; and Marc Anthony, who won the Artist of the Year award and the Male Tropical/Salsa Album of the Year honor for Libre (Free). In addition, Ricky Martin received the Spirit of Hope Award for his charitable work and the 13-member salsa group El Gran Combo earned this year's Lifetime Achievement Award.
LOOK WHO'S GOING ON TOUR!
Canadian rock band Nickelback will kick off a U.S. concert tour on May 13 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The outing is in support of the group's album This Side Up, which has sold 3.6 million copies in the United States. It features the crossover hit You Remind Me.
May 17, Lenny Kravitz will begin a month-long European tour in Nurburgring, Germany. He'll be promoting his latest album Lenny. The North American leg is scheduled to begin on July 12.