On January 3, 70-year-old Country legend Willie Nelson premiered a new song at an Austin, Texas concert benefitting Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. Nelson says he wrote Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth after watching the news on Christmas Day. The song begins with the line "How much oil is one human life worth?" and later asks, "How much is a liar's word worth," lyrics that will likely cause more controversy in Country music. Nelson says, "I hope there is some controversy. If you write something like this and nobody says anything, then you probably haven't struck a nerve."
The latest reports in the Michael Jackson case include accusations from the pop icon that he was "manhandled" by officers while being booked on November 20. During an exclusive interview with Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes, Jackson said he left the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department with a dislocated shoulder. He also showed a large abrasion on his right forearm, which he claims was caused by tight handcuffs. The 60 Minutes interview took place on Christmas night and aired on December 28. Authorities denied the allegations in a statement that read, "Mr. Jackson was treated with courtesy and professionalism throughout the process. At no time was he mishandled or subjected to any form of mistreatment." Nielsen Media Research reports that 18.8 million viewers tuned into the 60 Minutes interview, making it the most watched show of the week.
Auditions for Mr. Bojangles: The Ultimate Entertainer, a new musical based on the life of Sammy Davis, Jr., will begin on January 10 in Chicago, Illinois. The show's director says the production "will focus on Sammy's triumph over his own doubts and fears, and will recreate the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing Sammy live." Davis died of throat cancer in 1990. Auditions will also be held in New York on January 17 and in Los Angeles on January 24.
24-year-old Norwegian "Pop Idol" Kurt Nilsen's performance of U2's Beautiful Day earned him the title of "World Idol" on January 1. Nilsen beat out contestants from ten other countries. "American Idol" Kelly Clarkson came in second.
On December 31, Queen Elizabeth II presented Commanders of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) honors to Eric Clapton and the Kinks' Ray Davies.
In related news, Mick Jagger received a knighthood at Buckingham Palace on December 12. His bandmate Keith Richards criticized the title in a recent interview, calling it "a paltry honor."
74-year-old "Queen of Gospel Music" Vestal Goodman died on December 26 of the flu. Goodman performed with her husband and his brothers in the Happy Goodman Family. Their success peaked in the 1960s and '70s. In 1998, the group was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Vestal was also a successful solo artist. She won the Gospel Music Association's first Female Vocalist of the Year award in 1969.
NEW ALBUM RELEASES
New albums scheduled for release on January 6 include: Live From Asbury Park, Volume II by Clarence Clemons (Bruce Springsteen guests) on Valley Entertainment Records and Phantom Planet's self-titled debut on Epic Records.
BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK
Country singer Patty Loveless will turn 47 on January 4. At age 12, Loveless began singing duets with her older brother on local jamboree shows in her home state of Kentucky. She made her professional debut performing with The Wilburn Brothers during her high school years. Following graduation, Loveless moved to North Carolina and spent the next several years singing in local nightclubs. She recorded her solo debut album in 1987, which yielded two Top 40 hits. Since then, Loveless has recorded such hits as Blue Side of Town, Here I Am and Blame It On Your Heart. MCA Records released her anthology Classics in early 1999. The 12-song compilation includes such favorites as I Try To Think About Elvis, How Can I Help You Say Goodbye, You Don't Even Know Who I Am, and others. Patty returned to her Kentucky roots on her 2001 studio album, Mountain Soul. A similar sound runs through her 2002 holiday CD, Bluegrass & White Snow: A Mountain Christmas. In September of 2003, Epic Records released her latest CD, On Your Way Home. The album debuted in the Top 10 on Billboard's Country chart and its title track earned Patty a Grammy nomination for Best Country Female Vocal Performance.
On January 6, banjo legend Earl Scruggs will celebrate his 80th birthday. Scruggs is best known for his long collaboration with Lester Flatt in The Foggy Mountain Boys. The duo's hit song, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, was featured in the motion picture Bonnie & Clyde. They also performed the theme song of the popular television series, The Beverly Hillbillies. Scruggs' latest solo recording, Earl Scruggs & Friends, was released in June of 2001. The collection marked his first new studio album in 17 years and features such guests as Marty Stuart, Vince Gill, Jerry Douglas, Earl's sons Randy and Gary Scruggs, and others. Earl's 2003 collaboration with Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs, The Three Pickers, is up for two Grammy Awards. To celebrate his 80th birthday, a party will take place at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.
On January 7, singer Kenny Loggins will celebrate his 56th birthday. In 1972, he began performing with Jim Messina in the pop duo Loggins & Messina. That same year, they recorded the Top 5 single, Your Mama Don't Dance. In 1976, Loggins & Messina broke up and Loggins pursued a successful solo recording career. Two of his biggest hits include Whenever I Call You Friend (a duet he recorded with Stevie Nicks) and I'm Alright. He also recorded the theme from the 1984 film Footloose, which went to Number One on the pop charts, and Danger Zone, a Top 5 song that was featured in the motion picture Top Gun. In 1993, Loggins included many of his hits on the live album Outside: From The Redwoods, which was followed by his 1994 collection of children's songs, entitled Return To Pooh Corner. In 1997, Columbia Records issued the anthology collection, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow - The Greatest Hits of Kenny Loggins and the studio album, The Unimaginable Life. Loggins recorded the 1998 holiday collection December, then didn't release another album until 2003's It's About Time. The next single from the CD will be a track called I Miss Us.
Hip-hop singer, songwriter and producer R. Kelly will turn 35 on January 8. A native of Chicago, Illinois, he arrived on the music scene in the early 1990s with a string of hits that included She's Got That Vibe, Slow Dance, (Hey Mr. DJ), and Bump and Grind. Following that success, other established artists, such as Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson and Toni Braxton, hired him to write and produce tracks for them. R. Kelly's self-titled third collection was released in 1995 and became his first Number One album. Two years later, he recorded the smash hit I Believe I Can Fly for the motion picture soundtrack to Space Jam. The single won three Grammy Awards and elevated his popularity to an international level. R. Kelly's next solo album, TP-2.com, was released in 2000. His 2003 CD, Chocolate Factory, produced the Number 2 hit, Ignition. Also in 2003, Jive Records released the R. Kelly anthology, The 'R' in R&B Collection, Volume 1, which includes two new tracks.
January 8 marks the birth date of the late rock legend Elvis Presley (born 1935). Known as "The King of Rock and Roll," Presley landed his first Number One hit in 1956. Later, he became the biggest-selling recording artist in history with more than 500 million copies sold. Other career accomplishments included acting in more than 30 films, winning the Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1971, and his posthumous induction into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. Presley died in 1977 at his home known as Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. He was 42. The U.S. Postal Service issued an Elvis Presley commemorative postage stamp in 1993, the first in its Legends of American Music Series. In October 1994, an early celebration was held in Memphis to mark the 60th anniversary of Presley's birth. Performances from the live concert were released on the album It's Now Or Never: The Tribute To Elvis. Since then, RCA Records has released several Presley collections, including the 4-CD box set Platinum - A Life In Music. His 2002 compilation, 30 #1 Hits, sold more than three million copies in the U.S. Last year, RCA released Elvis 2nd to None, which includes two bonus tracks, a remixed version of Rubberneckin' and a previously unreleased song Elvis recorded in 1964, I'm A Roustabout.
British rock singer David Bowie will turn 57 on January 8. Bowie began performing with various groups in the 1960's before establishing his solo recording career the following decade. In 1975, he recorded the Number One single Fame, which featured backing vocals by John Lennon. Bowie topped the charts again in 1983 with Let's Dance, a track from his Changes album. In 1988, he formed Tin Machine, a rock group that has recorded two albums. In 1993, Bowie recorded Black Tie White Noise, which marked his first solo collection in six years. That same year, Rykodisc released his greatest hits compilation, Bowie - The Singles 1969 To 1993. He collaborated with Brian Eno on his 1995 album, Outside. In 1997, Bowie recorded the CD, Earthling. Following the release of his next two albums, 1999's Hours and 2002's Heathen, Bowie's 26th studio album, Reality, was issued in 2003. On January 7, he'll resume his North American concert tour in support of the collection.
Backstreet Boy A.J. McLean will turn 26 on January 9. 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. Their 1999 sophomore album, Millennium, was followed by the 2000 release Black & Blue. In mid-2001, the Backstreet Boys postponed their "Black & Blue Tour" for several months while A.J. got treatment for alcohol abuse, depression and anxiety. Millennium sold more than 13 million copies, according to Soundscan, which began tracking album sales in 1991. The Backstreet Boys recently appeared on Oprah Winfrey's talk show and announced plans to record a new studio album this year.
On January 9, folk singer Joan Baez will celebrate her 63rd birthday. During the anti-war movement of the 1960's and early 1970s, Baez became known as the "Queen of Protest." Her biggest hit was the 1971 Top 5 single The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. In 1993, Vanguard Records released the 3-CD box set Rare, Live & Classic, which spans her entire career. Two years later, Baez performed a series of concerts at New York's Bottom Line nightclub with special guests Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Indigo Girls, Tish Hinojosa, Janis Ian and others. The shows were taped for the live album, Ring Them Bells. In 1997, Baez recorded the studio album, Gone From Danger. Her latest CD, Dark Chords on a Big Guitar, was released last September on Koch Records. Next week (January 15th), Baez will kick off a European tour in support of the album. U.S. shows are scheduled to begin in March.
January 10 marks the birth date of the late singer-songwriter Jim Croce (born 1943). During his brief career, Croce recorded several hits, including You Don't Mess Around With Jim, I Got A Name and the Number One singles Bad, Bad Leroy Brown and Time In A Bottle. In 1973, Croce died in a plane crash while traveling to a concert in Sherman, Texas. He was 30 years old.
On January 10, singer Pat Benatar will celebrate her 52nd birthday. One of rock music's most popular female singers of the 1980s, Benatar is best known for the Top 10 songs, Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Love Is A Battlefield and We Belong. Those hits and others appear on her anthology, Best Shots. After taking two years off from music to devote time to her family, she returned in 1991 with the blues-flavored album, True Love. In 1993, Benatar recorded the rock collection, Gravity's Rainbow, which was followed by her 1997 album, Innamorata. In early 1998, CMC International Records released her live CD 8-15-80, recorded at a concert in California on that date. In 1999, Capitol Records issued Benatar's 3-CD career retrospective, Synchronistic Wanderings: Recorded Anthology 1979-1999. Benatar's new studio album, Go, was released last August. Her recent appearance with Country star Martina McBride on Country Music Television's CMT Crossroads, which pairs artists from different genres, became the show's third highest debut.
British rock singer Rod Stewart will turn 59 on January 10. Stewart made his way into music by singing and playing harmonica while travelling throughout Europe. During that time, he was discovered by blues legend Long John Baldry, who invited him to join his band. Stewart later performed with the Jeff Beck Group and Small Faces (later renamed Faces), which he left in 1975 to concentrate on his already-established solo career. Stewart's biggest solo hits include Maggie May, Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright), Da Ya Think I'm Sexy and Rhythm Of My Heart, which became a Top 5 single from his 1991 album Vagabond Heart. His 1993 collection, Unplugged...and Seated, contains acoustic versions of many of those hits. In June of 1995, Stewart recorded A Spanner In The Works, which was followed one year later by the CD, If We Fall In Love Tonight. 1998 marked the release of When We Were The Boys, his final album for Warner Brothers Records. He was briefly signed to Atlantic Records, which issued his 2001 album, Human. In 2002, Clive Davis signed Stewart to his J Records label. Rod's debut album for J Records was a collection of standards called It Had To Be You…The Great American Songbook. A sequel, As Time Goes By…The Great American Songbook, Volume 2, was released in October of 2003.