British newcomer Leona Lewis enters the Billboard 200 chart at Number One this week with her debut album Spirit (week ending April 26). The album sold nearly 205,000 copies its first week in U.S. record stores. Its chart-topping debut on the Billboard 200 marks a first by a British female artist. Leona's debut single, "Bleeding Love," set a similar record on the Hot 100 chart. She'll perform the song on this week's American Idol.
Bruce Springsteen's keyboardist Danny Federici died of melanoma on April 17. He was 58 and had battled the disease for the past three years. Springsteen called him "one of the pillars of our sound." Federici's playing was showcased on Springsteen's first Top 5 hit, "Hungry Heart." Danny also recorded two solo jazz albums, 1997's Flemington and 2005's Out of a Dream. He leaves behind two adopted daughters, 11-year-old Madison and 10-year-old Harley. Federici's former wife, Kathlynn, died last year at age 52. She had Crohn's Disease. Danny married Kathlynn in 1987 and they divorced in 2002.
On April 20, Jordin Sparks, the Black Eyed Peas' Will.i.am, Ne-Yo, and others performed at the Earth Day concert on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In addition to music, the event featured many speakers and technology exhibits. Earth Day celebrations were also held in New York, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, Denver, Dallas and Los Angeles.
Singer Toni Braxton was hospitalized on April 7 due to chest pains and will undergo more medical tests before returning to her Las Vegas stage show. In 2002, Braxton was treated for pericarditis, an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart. The 40-year-old Grammy winner is expected to return to her long-term engagement at the Flamingo Las Vegas on May 6.
Kristy Lee Cook is the latest contestant to be eliminated from American Idol. The 24-year-old from Selma, Oregon sold her horse to be able to afford the trip to audition in Philadelphia. Mariah Carey mentored the final seven, who sang songs from Mariah's catalog. Mariah told Kristy Lee that her version of Carey's 1996 Number 2 adult contemporary hit "Forever" gave her chills. Judge Simon Cowell didn't agree and predicted Kristy Lee would be sent home. This week's celebrity mentor will be Broadway composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Ashlee Simpson's third studio album, Bittersweet World, will be released on April 26. Ashlee recently announced her engagement to Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz, which quickly led to pregnancy rumors. People magazine reports the couple is expecting and will marry in May. Wentz called the pregnancy reports "a witch hunt."
NEW ALBUM RELEASES
New albums scheduled for release on April 22 include: "Prayer Of A Common Man" by Phil Vassar, "From Donny With Love" by Donny Osmond, "Good To Be Bad" by Whitesnake, "For My Friends" by Blind Melon, "Mr. Love & Justice" by Billy Bragg, "State Of Nature" by Stanley Jordan, "Night Train To Nashville" (Live) by Tab Benoit and "Hello Destiny" by Goldfinger.
The 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival will be held the weekends of April 25-27 and May 1-4 at the New Orleans Fair Grounds Race Course. Now in its 39th year, the festival will feature hundreds of acts from R&B, rock, folk, jazz, blues, gospel, Country zydeco and Cajun music. Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Tim McGraw, Sheryl Crow and Keyshia Cole will make their first appearance this year. Other headliners include Santana, Jimmy Buffett, Robert Plant with Alison Krauss, the Neville Brothers and Elvis Costello.
VH1 Save the Music Foundation's 3rd annual "Big Shopping Day" will take place on April 26 in Los Angeles. The day-long fundraiser will feature the sale of designer clothing, beauty products, accessories and home items at discount prices. Proceeds will benefit the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, which supports music education programs in schools. British pop singer Natasha Bedingfield will make a special appearance at the event.
On April 26, the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival will kick off its fall festival countdown with a concert at Washington, D.C.'s Lincoln Theater. The event will celebrate the birthdays of the late jazz legends Duke Ellington (April 29) and Ella Fitzgerald (April 25), as well as the Washington, D.C. jazz scene. Local performers include the Jam on U All-Stars, Will Smith & the W.E.S. Group and The DC Bass Choir. The lineup for the 2008 Duke Ellington Jazz Festival, which takes place October 1-7, will be announced at the show and the audience will be offered advance sale festival tickets.
Kellie Pickler led the winners at the CMT (Country Music Television) Music Awards, which were handed out on April 14 in Nashville. The American Idol season 5 finalist won the Breakthrough Video of the Year, Performance of the Year and Tearjerker Video of the Year trophies for "I Wonder," a song she wrote about her estranged mother. Other CMT Music Award winners included Trace Adkins, who took home the Male Video of the Year honor for "I Got My Game On;" Taylor Swift, Female Video of the Year for "Our Song;" Sugarland, Duo Video of the Year for "Stay;" Rascal Flatts, Group Video of the Year for "Take Me There;" Bon Jovi and LeAnn Rimes, Collaborative Video of the Year for "Till We Ain't Strangers Anymore;" and Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, Wide Open Country Video of the Year for "Gone, Gone, Gone."
TOUR DATES AND INFORMATION
On April 26, Country star Kenny Chesney will play the first of his 14 stadium concerts in Columbia, South Carolina. The dates are part of Kenny's "Poets & Pirates" tour, which he launched on April 18. Joining him at the stadium shows are LeAnn Rimes and Gary Allen. Also appearing on select dates are Keith Urban, Brooks & Dunn, Big & Rich, Luke Brayan and Sammy Hagar. Last year, Kenny had the highest-grossing Country tour and ranked fourth on the overall list of 2007 tours.