Aretha Franklin (July 26, 2010 file photo)
Aretha Franklin (July 26, 2010 file photo)

Aretha Franklin Working on New Album

Soul legend Aretha Franklin celebrated her 70th birthday on March 24.  At her birthday party in New York, she told the Associated Press that she?ll reunite with Clive Davis to begin work on a new album.  Franklin said they?ll sit down to discuss the direction of the album after Davis celebrates his 80th birthday on April 4.  Clive Davis guided Franklin?s comeback in the 1980s.  She was signed to his former label, Arista Records, which released the Number One R&B album Jump To It in 1982 and Franklin?s first million-selling collection, Who?s Zoomin? Who, in 1985.

'Hunger Games' Soundtrack Tops Billboard Album Chart

The soundtrack to The Hunger Games debuts at Number One on the Billboard 200 chart.  Sales reached 175,000 copies its first week of release.  Billboard reports The Hunger Games is the first theatrical film soundtrack to enter at Number One since November 14, 2009, when the late Michael Jackson debuted in the top spot with This Is It.  Four other albums make their entry in this week?s Top 10.  They include the Shins? Port of Morrow (Number 3), Odd Future?s The OF Tape Vol. 2 (Number 5), Melanie Fiona?s The MF Life (Number 7) and Esperanza Spalding?s Radio Music Society (Number 10).

Updated Evita Features Ricky Martin

Ricky Martin's new book, 'Me'
Ricky Martin's new book, 'Me'
On April 5, the new updated version of Broadway?s Evita will premiere at New York?s Marquis Theatre.  Latin pop singer Ricky Martin stars in the revival, playing the role of Che Guevara.  Cast as Argentinian first lady Eva Peron is actress Elena Roger.  Michael Cerveris plays President Juan Peron.

New Bieber Single Expected to Best Perry's 'Part of Me'

FILE - In this April 19, 2011 file photo, pop star
Pop star Justin Bieber gives a press conference before his concert as part of his "My World" tour in Singapore. (April 2011 file photo)
Teen pop star Justin Bieber is expected to sell approximately 400,000 downloads of his new single ?Boyfriend? its first week of release.  The current top-selling single of 2012 is Katy Perry?s ?Part of Me,? which moved 411,000 copies its first week.  According to, Bieber?s biggest sales week for a single came with ?Never Say Never.?  The song sold 199,000 copies for the week ending March 5, 2011.

KISS to Tour with Motley Crue

Kiss' "Kiss" CD
Kiss' "Kiss" CD
Classic rock group KISS recently announced an upcoming co-headlining tour with Motley Crue, set to begin on July 14.  KISS is partnering with Hiring Our Heroes to offer a set carpenter job to a military veteran.  He?ll be responsible for helping the road crew assemble and disassemble stage sets and run effects throughout the concert.  The KISS/Motley Crue trek runs through September 25.

New Album Releases / April 3:

?Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded? by Nicki Minaj
?Changed? by Rascal Flatts.

Musical Events/Festivals/Benefits:

Two Lollapalooza festivals will take place this week in South America.  Lollapalooza Chile is being held in O?Higgins Park in Santiago on March 31 and April 1.  Lollapalooza Brazil follows on April 7 and 8 in Sao Paulo.  The lineup for both festivals includes the Foo Fighters, Skrillex, Calvin Harris, Arctic Monkeys, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Foster the People and Tinie Tempah, among others.  In addition to many concerts on multiple stages, the events will offer an electronic tent, local food and a Kidzapalooza area with children?s activities.

On April 2, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City will host ?A Celebration of Paul Newman?s Dream.?  Performers include Elvis Costello, Josh Groban, Paul Simon and Trisha Yearwood.  The show benefits Paul Newman?s Association of Hole in the Wall Camps, a not-for-profit organization that provides camping and programs to children with serious illnesses and their families.  There are 14 camps worldwide and 10 programs in Africa, Asia and South America.  Since 1988, more than 350-thousand children and families have been served from 50 countries.  Newman?s widow, Joanne Woodward, will host the event.  She said in a statement, ?This is the legacy of my husband Paul, and he considered it to be his most important one.?

Star Birthdays:

Marvin Gaye's "Gold" CD
Marvin Gaye's "Gold" CD
April 2 marks the birth date of soul singer Marvin Gaye (b. 1939).  Gaye was born in Washington, D.C. and began singing in his local church.  His early R&B hits included ?Hitch Hiker? and ?Can I Get a Witness,? which were later recorded by the Rolling Stones.  In the mid-1960s, he teamed with Tammi Terrell to record several duets.  They included ?Ain?t No Mountain High Enough,? ?Your Precious Love? and ?Ain?t Nothing Like the Real Thing.?  Gaye?s biggest hit of the 1960s was ?I Heard It Through the Grapevine,? which was a Number One single for seven weeks.  His 1971 album, ?What?s Going On,? produced three smash hits - the title track, ?Mercy Mercy Me? and ?Inner City Blues.?  The title track from his next album, 1973?s ?Let Get It On,? also reached Number One.  Gaye made his final chart appearance in 1982 with the Top 5 hit ?Sexual Healing.?  On April 1st, 1984, he physically attacked his father for verbally abusing his mother.  Marvin Gaye Sr. responded by shooting and killing Marvin Jr. 

Leona Lewis' "Spirit" CD
Leona Lewis' "Spirit" CD
British pop singer Leona Lewis will celebrate her 27th birthday on April 3.  In 2006, Lewis won the British reality show ?X Factor.?  She earned her American breakthrough with the smash hit ?Bleeding Love,? which reached Number One on Billboard?s Hot 100 chart.  Leona became the first British female artist to top that chart in more than 20 years.  Her 2008 debut album, ?Spirit,? entered the Billboard 200 at Number One.  Its other hits include ?Better In Time,? ?Run? and ?I Will Be.?  Her second album, ?Echo,? sold 2.6 million copies worldwide.  Leona is currently recording her third album ?Glassheart,? which is due out in November.  Its first single, ?Collide,? features Swedish DJ Avicii. 

Singer Tony Orlando will turn 68 on April 3.  Orlando performed as lead singer of the 1970s pop group Dawn, which recorded such Number One hits as ?Knock Three Times,? ?Tie A Yellow Ribbon ?Round The Ole Oak Tree? and ?He Don't Love You (Like I Love You).?  In 2005, Tony reunited with Dawn to record their first Christmas album.  It marked the first time they had recorded together in 28 years. 

April 4 marks the birth date of the late blues guitarist Muddy Waters (born 1915).  Born McKinley Morganfield in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, he earned his nickname as a young child because of his fondness for playing in the mud.  In 1943, Waters moved to Chicago, where he led bands that included Buddy Guy, Otis Spann, Junior Wells, James Cotton and Willie Dixon.  In 1976, guitarist Johnny Winter helped Waters secure a recording deal with Blue Sky Records.  Waters? four albums for the label became his biggest-selling releases ever.  In 1983, Waters died in his sleep at age 68.  In 1997, Buddy Guy, Keb? ?Mo, John Hiatt, Phoebe Snow and others paid tribute to Waters in a performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C.  ?A Tribute To Muddy Waters, King of the Blues? was released in 1999. 

On April 5, rapper and producer Pharrell Williams turns 39.  Pharrell and Chad Hugo make up The Neptunes, a Grammy-winning production team responsible for hits by Mase, Jay-Z, Ludacris, Diddy, Britney Spears, Nelly, No Doubt, Justin Timberlake, and many others.  In 2006, Pharrell released his first solo album.  ?In My Mind? includes his Top 5 U.K. hit ?Can I Have It Like That,? which features singer Gwen Stefani.  The album also produced the Number One U.K. single ?Angel,? featuring Kanye West.  Pharrell has also recorded four albums with his hip-hop band N*E*R*D.  In addition to his career in music, he runs his own clothing company, Billionaire Boys Club, and has a line of shoes called Ice Cream Footware. 

Country singer-songwriter Merle Haggard will celebrate his 75th birthday on April 6.  In his late teens, Haggard was arrested for burglary and served three years in San Quentin prison.  Following his release in 1960, he performed in nightclubs.  Two years later, Haggard signed his first recording contract.  In 1965, he switched to Capitol Records and formed his band The Strangers.  Throughout his long career, Haggard recorded more than three dozen Number One hits, including ?Mama Tried,? ?Okie From Muskogee? and ?If We Make It Through December.?  In 1994, Haggard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  That same year, he was the subject of two tribute collections, ?Tulare Dust: A Songwriter?s Tribute to Merle Haggard? and ?Mama?s Hungry Eyes: A Tribute to Merle Haggard.?  In 2003, Merle released ?Haggard Like Never Before? on his own Hag Records.  That was followed by two pop standards collections, ?Unforgettable? and ?Chicago Wind.?  In 2006, Merle received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  He collaborated with Willie Nelson and Ray Price on his 2007 album, ?Last of the Breed.?  In 2009, Merle underwent cancer surgery.  After making a full recovery, he performed a North American tour in support of his ?I Am What I Am? album.  In 2010, Haggard received a prestigious Kennedy Center Honor for his contributions to the arts.  He recently recovered from some health problems and returned to touring to promote his latest album, ?Working In Tennessee.?  On March 24, Nashville?s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum opened the new exhibit, The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and California Country.?   The exhibit, narrated by Dwight Yoakam, runs through December 31, 2013.

On April 7, John Oates will celebrate his 63rd birthday.  In 1972, he formed the pop duo Hall & Oates with Daryl Hall.  Their hits includes ?Sara Smile,? ?Rich Girl,? ?Private Eyes? and ?Maneater.?  In 1997, Hall & Oates recorded ?Marigold Sky,? which marked the duo?s first new album since 1990.  In 2003, they released ?Do It For Love? on their own U-Watch Records label.  The following year, Hall & Oates were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  The duo?s 2004 CD, ?Our Kind of Soul,? features new versions of classic soul and R&B songs that influenced their music.  In 2006, Hall & Oates released their first holiday album, ?Home For Christmas.?  John Oates? latest solo album, ?Mississippi Mile,? is a collection of covers that inspired him to become a songwriter.  It also includes some original songs. 

Awards Presentations/Winners:

The 47th annual Academy of Country Music Awards were handed out on April 1 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Kenny Chesney led this year?s contenders with nine nominations.  They included Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year for ?Hemingway?s Whiskey? and Entertainer of the Year.  He shares the Entertainer category with Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton and Taylor Swift.  Jason Aldean collected six nods, followed by Lady Antebellum with five and Brad Paisley, who received four.  The 2012 ACM Awards were co-hosted by Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton.  (Complete list of winners at

Look Who's Going On Tour!

On April 5, Country duo Sugarland will kick off its sixth interactive ?In the Hands of the Fans? tour in Toledo, Ohio.  Sugarland?s Jennifer Nettles explains, ?This year?s tour is based around the concept of putting the show into the hands of the fans.  They will make the requests that will help form the set list and guide the show.  Through texts, handwritten signs, the Internet (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), phone calls made during the show and selections directly from the stage, the fans will become the conductors as well as the audience.  If it?s on one of our records or if we?ve played it on a stage it is fair game.?  Country newcomers Lauren Alaina and Canaan Smith will open shows in select cities.