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After Tour, Jacksons to Release Album; Dylan Among Presidential Medal Honorees

Brothers Tito Jackson (L-R), Jackie Jackson, and Marlon Jackson (file photo)
Brothers Tito Jackson (L-R), Jackie Jackson, and Marlon Jackson (file photo)

After Tour, Jacksons to Release Album

Following the recent announcement that the Jacksons are planning their first tour in almost 30 years, Jackie Jackson told that the group will also record a new album. “That’s what we gotta do - right after the tour, we’re gonna go back into the studio and start recording some new music. I can’t wait,” he said. Jackie, Jermaine, Tito and Marlon will launch their “Unity Tour” on June 18 in Louisville, Kentucky. They plan to pay tribute to their late brother Michael with performances of his solo hits.

Bob Dylan Among Presidential Medal Honorees

Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan
The White House recently announced the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients. The list of 13 honorees includes legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, 1960s Assistant Attorney General John Doar, physician/epidemiologist William Foege, astronaut John Glenn, sociologist Gordon Hirabayashi, civil rights advocate Dolores Huerta, Polish Underground officer Jan Karski, Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, Israeli President Shimon Peres, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and former University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt. President Obama issued a statement that said, “These extraordinary honorees come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our nation. They’ve challenged us, they’ve inspired us and they’ve made the world a better place. I look forward to recognizing them with this award.”

TLC to Celebrate Group's 20th Anniversary

The band TLC, from left, Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, poses for photographers at New York's Radio City Music Hall. (September 7, 1995 file photo)
The band TLC, from left, Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, poses for photographers at New York's Radio City Music Hall. (September 7, 1995 file photo)
The two surviving members of TLC will celebrate the 20th anniversary of their R&B group with a new album and reunion tour. Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas will also star in a VH1 made-for-TV movie. TLC’s third member, Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes died in a car accident in April 2002 while working on a documentary in Roma, Honduras. Watkins and Thomas plan to use images of Lopes from archival footage on the tour, which begins later this year.

American Idol Competition Narrows to 5 Contestants

American Idol Season 11 is down to its final five contestants. South Carolina’s Elise Testone was voted off the show on April 26, leaving Hollie Cavanagh, Phillip Phillips, Joshua Ledet, Jessica Sanchez and Skylar Laine in the competition. This year’s winner will be announced on May 23. On July 6, the Top 10 finalists will kick off the 2012 "Idol’s Live! Tour” in Detroit, Michigan. The tour stops in 45 U.S. cities through September 11.

Mraz Enjoys Awesome Debut on Billboard 200

Jason Mraz
Jason Mraz
Pop singer Jason Mraz debuts at Number 2 on this week’s Billboard 200 chart with his new album, Love Is A Four Letter Word. That’s the highest position he’s reached on that chart. The collection sold 102,000 copies its first week, which also gives Mraz his best sales week ever. Other Top 10 debuts on this week’s Billboard 200 include California 37 by Train at Number 4 and Pluto by Future at Number 8.

New 'Now That's What I Call Music' Series Drops

On May 1, EMI Music will release the 42nd edition of the Now That’s What I Call Music series. Now That’s What I Call Music! Vol. 42 features 16 current hits by many of today’s biggest stars. They include One Direction, Chris Brown, LMFAO, Gotye, Train and Taylor Swift. The Now That’s What I Call Music! series debuted in 1998. They have collectively sold more than 200 million copies worldwide.

New Album Releases / May 1:

“Blown Away” by Carrie Underwood
“Little Broken Hearts” by Norah Jones
“Born Villain” by Marilyn Manson
“The Music of SMASH” by the “Smash” television series cast
“Out of the Game” by Rufus Wainwright
“Strange Clouds” by B.o.B.
“A Thousand Little Things” by Point of Grace
“Now Classic Rock Hits” by various artists

Star Birthdays:

On April 29, singer Tommy James will turn 65. At age 12, he formed The Shondells. Four years later, he recorded the Number One hit “Hanky Panky.” In 1965, Pittsburgh disc jockey popularized the song, which reached the top of the charts the following year. Tommy James & The Shondells’ other classic hits include “Mony Mony,” “Crimson and Clover” and “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” In 2003, the group recorded the album “It Keeps On Goin’.” Two years later, Tommy re-recorded his classic song “Sweet Cherry Wine,” this time as a gospel version. The track appears on his 2006 album, “Hold the Fire,” which celebrated Tommy’s 40th year in music. His autobiography, “Me, The Mob, and The Music,” was published in 2010.

On April 29, Carnie Wilson of the pop trio Wilson Phillips will celebrate her 44th birthday. The daughter of Beach Boy Brian Wilson, Carnie formed Wilson Phillips with her sister Wendy and friend Chynna Phillips. Their 1990 debut album produced five hit songs, including three that reached Number One. After recording their second album, “Shadows and Light,” the three singers pursued various solo projects. In 1994, Carnie and her sister Wendy recorded the Christmas CD, “Hey Santa!” Three years later, they teamed with their father on the album “The Wilsons.” Carnie married Rob Bonfiglio in 2000. The couple has two children, Lola Sophia and Luciana Bella. Wilson Phillips’ long-awaited CD, “California,” was released in 2004. It features the trio’s remake of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way,” as well as covers of songs made famous by the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles, Jackson Browne and the Byrds. In 2006, Carnie recorded the solo album “A Mother’s Gift: Lullabies from the Heart.” That was followed by her 2007 holiday collection, “Christmas with Carnie.” In early 2010, she starred in her own weekly reality series, “Carnie Wilson: Unstapled.” The show aired for two months on the Game Show Network. Wilson Phillip’s new reality show, “Still Holding On,” airs on the TV Guide Network. The trio’s new album, “Dedicated,” is a collection of covers made famous by The Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas.

Senegalese-American hip-hop star Akon turns 39 on April 30. His 2004 debut album, “Trouble,” sold three million copies worldwide and topped the U.K. chart. Two years later, Akon released “Konvicted,” which sold four million copies worldwide. Three singles from the collection, “Smack That,” “I Wanna Love You” and “Don’t Matter,” were all Number One hits. In 2007, Akon launched his own line of urban clothing called Konvict Clothing. Akon has also produced and written songs for many other artists. His collaborations include co-writing songs for Leona Lewis, New Kids on the Block, Lady GaGa and Whitney Houston. Akon’s long-awaited new album, “Stadium,” will be released on September 12, 2012.

Willie Nelson's "Spirit" CD
Willie Nelson's "Spirit" CD
On April 30, Country singer Willie Nelson will celebrate his 79th birthday. In 1960, he left his native Texas to pursue a songwriting career in Nashville. Nelson later began performing regularly on the Grand Ole Opry, which led to a recording deal. During the 1970s and 1980s, he dominated the Country charts with hits such as “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” “On The Road Again” and “Always On My Mind.” Since 1985, Nelson has organized many Farm Aid benefit concerts. The events have raised millions of dollars for American farmers. In addition to his solo career, Nelson recorded with the former Country “supergroup,” The Highwaymen. Willie’s 2002 album, “The Great Divide,” featured a number of guests, including Kid Rock, Lee Ann Womack, Sheryl Crow, Brian McKnight and Bonnie Raitt. Willie’s hit duet with Lee Ann Womack, “Mendocino County Line,” earned them a Country Music Association Award for Vocal Event of the Year. Also in 2002, Lost Highway Records released Nelson’s 18-track live collection “Stars and Guitars.” Rob Thomas, Bon Jovi, Norah Jones and Toby Keith joined Willie on the album. In 2003, Willie authorized the release of some rare recordings. “Crazy: The Demo Sessions” features songs he wrote and pitched to other artists and producers from 1960 to 1966. Two other Nelson projects were released in 2003 -- his duets album with Ray Price, “Run That By Me One More Time” and a live collaboration with many of his friends, titled “Live And Kickin’.” In 2006, Lost Highway Records released Willie’s tribute album, “You Don’t Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker.” Two weeks after the album was released, Walker died at age 87. His 2007 release, “Last of the Breed,” teamed him with Merle Haggard and Ray Price. Country star Kenny Chesney produced Willie’s 2008 album, “Moment of Forever.” Nelson’s 2009 release, “Naked Willie,” features new versions of songs he originally recorded between 1966 and 1970. Willie’s 2010 album, “Country Music,” was produced by Grammy-winning artist T-Bone Burnett. His new album, “Heroes,” is due out on May 15. It features covers of classic Country songs and new original material written by Willie and his son Luke Nelson. Guests include Jamey Johnson, Sheryl Crow, Ray Price, Merle Haggard, and Snoop Dogg, among others.

Country star Tim McGraw turns 45 on May 1. Born and raised in Louisiana, he’s the son of the late major league baseball player Tug McGraw. Tim arrived on the Country scene in 1992. His early hits include “Just To See You Smile,” “My Next Thirty Years,” “It’s Your Love,” a duet he recorded with his wife Faith Hill, and “Bring On The Rain,” a duet with Country singer Jo Dee Messina. McGraw and Hill married in October 1996. Their family includes daughters, Gracie, Maggie and Audrey. Tim’s many industry awards include the Country Music Association’s (CMA) Male Vocalist of the Year honors in 1999 and 2000. He was named the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year in 2001. Tim shared his first Grammy Award with his wife for their 2001 chart-topping duet, “Let’s Make Love.” In 2002, his touring band, the Dancehall Doctors, joined Tim in the studio for the first time to record “Tim McGraw & the Dancehall Doctors.” The album sold three million copies in the U.S. and included the hits “Red Rag Top,” “Watch the Wind Blow By,” “She’s My Kind of Rain” and “Real Good Man.” U.S. sales of Tim’s 2004 CD, “Live Like You Were Dying,” surpassed four million copies. In 2006, Tim appeared in his third motion picture, “Flicka.” In 2007, he starred opposite Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner in “The Kingdom.” Tim’s 2007 album, “Let It Go,” became his ninth release to debut at Number One on Billboard’s Country Albums chart. In 2008, Tim appeared in Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn’s holiday-themed romantic comedy, “Four Christmases.” His also starred in the “The Blind Side” with Sandra Bullock and “Country Strong” with Gwyneth Paltrow. Tim’s new album, “Emotional Traffic,” is his final studio project for Curb Records. On June 2, Tim and his longtime friend, Country singer Kenny Chesney, will kick off their co-headlining “Brothers of the Sun” tour. Their new duet, “Feel Like A Rock Star,” recently debuted on the Country chart at Number 13. This week, it’s up to Number 12. Tim ranks one space higher at Number 11 with his latest solo hit, “Better Than I Used To Be.”

May 1 marks the birth date of the late Kate Smith (born 1907). Smith began her career as a popular radio and television star. She is best remembered, however, for her recording of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” which made her a national patriotic symbol. The Philadelphia Flyers hockey team was so inspired by the recording that they substituted it for the National Anthem to open their games. Smith died on June 17, 1986 of respiratory failure at age 79.

On May 2, Lou Gramm, former lead singer of the British American rock band Foreigner, will celebrate his 62nd birthday. Foreigner’s 1977 self-titled debut album spawned three chart hits and brought the group international stardom. In 1984, the group recorded its first and only Number One single, “I Want To Know What Love Is.” In 1995, Foreigner released “Mr. Moonlight,” its first studio album in eight years. In 1996, Lou Gramm was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Surgery to remove the tumor was successful. In 2002, Foreigner celebrated its 25th anniversary with a concert tour and anthology, “Their Complete Greatest Hits.” A DVD of the tour was released in 2003. That same year, Gramm left the band to pursue a solo career. Kelly Hansen replaced him as Foreigner’s lead singer. In 2009, the Lou Gramm Band released its self-titled debut Christian rock album.

May 3 marks the birth date of “The Godfather of Soul” James Brown (born 1933). A pioneer of soul music, he formed his first vocal group, The Famous Flames, in 1955. Ten years later, Brown recorded his first Top 10 single, “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” which was followed by his biggest hit, “I Got You (I Feel Good).” In 1986, Brown was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His fourth “Live at the Apollo” collection was released in 1995. The following year, he was among the headliners at the Summer Olympic musical festivities in Atlanta, Georgia. The Atlanta chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Science presented Brown with a 2003 Heroes Award. The honor is given to those who make creative contributions to the community. Brown died on December 25, 2006 from complications of pneumonia.

On May 4, former ‘N Sync member Lance Bass celebrates his 33rd birthday. ‘N Sync arrived on the pop music scene in 1998 with a self-titled album that sold more than 10 million copies and produced four Number One singles. The group’s second release, “No Strings Attached,” sold more than 11 million copies in the U.S. and was followed by ‘N Sync’s third and final album, “Celebrity,” in 2001. Lance trained at the Russian Space Agency Training Center in 2002 hoping for a seat aboard the Soyuz spacecraft. It was scheduled to leave for the International Space Station in October of 2002. Bass was dropped from the program when he couldn’t meet the 20-million-dollar payment deadline. In 2006, Lance made headlines when he publicly announced that he’s gay. His 2007 autobiography, “Out Of Sync,” made the New York Times Best Sellers list. The book offers “a behind-the-scenes look at the music industry, the struggle with his sexual identity as a celebrity and his decision to publicly come out.” In 2008, Lance was a celebrity contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.” He and professional dance partner Lacey Schwimmer placed third in the competition.

Country singer Randy Travis will turn 53 on May 4. At age 10, the North Carolina native began singing with his brother’s band. Four years later, Travis made his professional debut performing in local clubs. His big break came in 1985, when Randy signed with Warner Brothers Records and recorded the album “Storms Of Life.” Among his numerous Number One hits are “Diggin’ Up Bones,” “Forever And Ever, Amen,” “Hard Rock Bottom Of Your Heart,” and “Look Heart, No Hands.” In 1998, Randy signed with DreamWorks Records and recorded the album, “You and You Alone.” He released a bluegrass/gospel album called “Inspirational Journey” in 2000 and won two Gospel Music Association Awards for the project. Randy’s next three inspirational albums, “Rise and Shine,” “Passing Through” and “Glory Train,” each won Dove Awards for Country Album of the Year. “Glory Train” also won a Grammy Award for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album.” His latest mainstream Country collection, “Around the Bend,” was released in 2008. None of its three singles charted. Randy shared the 2009 Best Country Collaboration Grammy with Carrie Underwood at for their duet version of his 1988 Number One hit, “I Told You So.” Randy is currently performing concerts throughout the U.S. on his 25th anniversary tour.

Chris Brown's self-titled CD
Chris Brown's self-titled CD
On May 5, R&B singer Chris Brown will turn 23. The Virginia native was only 16 when he recorded his self-titled debut album. The album produced the Number One hit “Run It!” and has sold more than two million copies in the U.S. Brown’s second Number One single, “Kiss Kiss” was included on his second album, “Exclusive.” In 2009, he made headlines after pleading guilty to assaulting his then-girlfriend, singer Rihanna. Brown was sentenced to six months of community service and five years on probation. Brown’s 2010 album, “F.A.M.E.,” became his first Number One debut on the Billboard 200. His next album, “Fortune,” will be out on July 3.

British singer-songwriter Craig David will celebrate his 31st birthday on May 5. Craig made his American debut in 2001 with the album “Born To Do It.” The set sold seven million copies worldwide and spent 60 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart. His 2002 follow-up, “Slicker Than Your Average,” debuted on the same list at Number 32, but quickly fell off the chart. 2008’s “Trust Me” was Craig’s final Warner Music release. In 2009, he signed a new deal with Universal Records. Craig’s latest album, “Signed Sealed Delivered,” was released in 2010 only in the U.K. The collection features his covers and samples of soul hits.

May 5 marks the birth date of the late Country singer Tammy Wynette (born 1942). Known as the “First Lady of Country Music,” she left her native Mississippi and moved to Nashville in 1966. Wynette recorded a string of Number One songs throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, including “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” “I Don’t Wanna Play House” and “Stand By Your Man.” In 1993, she teamed with Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn to record the album, “Honky Tonk Angels.” Wynette’s 1995 release “One,” teamed her with ex husband George Jones. The album also reunited the Country legends for their first concerts together in 17 years. In April of 1998, Wynette died unexpectedly of a blood clot in her lung. She was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame during that year’s Country Music Association Awards. In 2002, her daughters agreed to an out-of-court settlement in their lawsuit against their late mother’s physician, Dr. Wallis Marsh of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They accused Marsh of contributing to Wynette’s death by over-prescribing large quantities of painkillers. No details of the settlement were disclosed.

Awards Presentations/Winners:

Carrie Underwood leads the nominees for the 2012 CMT (Country Music Television) Music Awards. She received five nominations, including Video of the Year and Female Video of the Year for her current hit, “Good Girl.” Miranda Lambert follows with four nods, two for her solo work and two as part of her new trio Pistol Annies. Triple nominees include Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift and Thompson Square. The 2012 CMT Music Awards will be presented on June 6 in Nashville. (Full list of nominees available at

Look Who's Going On Tour!

On May 1, REO Speedwagon, Styx and Ted Nugent will begin their “Midwest Rock ‘n Roll Express” tour in Hidalgo, Texas. “I am a Midwest boy, born and raised with Midwest values. In the Midwest we work hard, play hard and rock hard," REO Speedwagon singer Kevin Cronin said. "I am proud to join my brothers in Styx and Ted Nugent to celebrate Midwest rock ‘n roll and represent the greatest rock fans in the world. In other words, a real good time.” The 30-date U.S. tour wraps up on July 7 in Gilford, New York.