Category: Pop/R&B/Dance

Marvin Gaye and Gregory Hines to be Honored with U.S. Postal Stamps in 2019

Gregory Hines and Marvin Gaye 2019 Commemorative Stamps (images via usps.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

The United States Postal Service announced yesterday commemorative stamps honoring singing and dancing legends Marvin Gaye and Gregory Hines will be issued in 2019.

Though the specific release dates have yet to be revealed, Gaye’s stamp will be part of the Postal Service’s Music Icons series, which in the past has featured Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix and Sarah Vaughan, and many other superlative talents.

Gaye, best known for early Motown hits with Tami Terrell such as “How Sweet It Is” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” as well has his groundbreaking What’s Going On album has a stamp design features a portrait inspired by historic photographs. The stamp pane is designed to resemble a vintage 45 rpm record sleeve. (A pane is the unit into which a full press sheet is divided before sale at post offices.) One side of the pane includes the stamps, brief text about Gaye’s legacy, and the image of a sliver of a record seeming to peek out the top of the sleeve.

Another portrait of Gaye, also inspired by historic photographs, appears on the reverse along with the Music Icons series logo. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamp pane with original art by Kadir Nelson.

Hines’ stamp will be the 42nd stamp in the Black Heritage series, which in the past has honored historian Carter G. Woodson, civil rights activist Dorothy Height, and tennis champion Althea Gibson, among others. Noyes designed this stamp as well, which features a 1988 photograph of Hines by Jack Mitchell.

Hines is best known for his unique style of tap dancing injected new artistry and excitement into tap dancing with his unique style. A versatile performer who danced, acted and sang on Broadway, on television and in movies such as “Tap,” “White Knights,” and “Waiting To Exhale,” Hines developed the entertainment traditions of tap into an art form for a younger generation and is credited with renewing interest in tap during the 1990s.

In related postal news, a bill naming the post office at 3585 S. Vermont Ave. in South Los Angeles, CA the Marvin Gaye Post Office was signed into law this July.

Aretha Franklin Estate Reaches Agreement with Producer to Release Documentary ‘Amazing Grace’ After 46 Years

by Chris Willman via Variety.com

Forty-six years after an Aretha Franklin gospel concert film was shot and abandoned, amazement is truly in order. The Franklin estate and producer Alan Elliott have reached an agreement to release the perpetually delayed Amazing Grace project, Variety can exclusively reveal. Although no distribution deal is yet in place for a planned general release in 2019, the film will premiere next Monday at the DOC NYC festival, followed by week-long Oscar-qualifying runs this month in Los Angeles and in December in New York.

“In recent weeks, Alan presented the film to the family at the African American Museum here, and we absolutely love it,” said Sabrina Owens, the late star’s niece and executor of her estate, in a phone interview from Detroit Sunday. “We can see Alan’s passion for the movie, and we are just as passionate about it. It’s in a very pure environment, very moving and inspirational, and it’s an opportunity for those individuals who had not experienced her in a gospel context to see how diverse her music is. We are so excited to be a part of this.”

The premiere is a very late addition to the long-since-announced DOC NYC festival; tickets for the Nov. 12 screening at the SVA Theatre go on sale this afternoon. “Amazing Grace” is then set for a qualifying run at the Laemmle Monica Nov. 20-27, followed by a week at Manhattan’s Film Forum Dec. 7-14. Official premiere events for L.A. and Detroit are in the early stages of being planned for next year. The Franklin family and Elliott believe a distribution deal will come quickly but wanted to get the film ready for awards consideration first, then cross that bridge.

Very quietly, the film had already snuck onto the Oscars’ voting-member viewing site, and Elliott has been receiving calls of congratulation from Academy members who’ve streamed it there. The producer said he’d gotten advice from agents and prospective publicists that they should wait to put it out for another year, to allow time for a multi-million-dollar Oscar campaign — but he and Owens hope it will contend now, without that, as a word-of-mouth underdog, and not just in the documentary category but for best picture.

The film was originally scheduled to premiere at the Telluride and Toronto festivals in 2015, before Franklin’s lawyers were granted an injunction in court in Denver halting the showings. Her attorneys argued the singer had the right to deny the use of her likeness in the movie, while Elliott maintained that all rights had been granted when he bought the uncompleted footage from Warner Bros. Following the Telluride standoff, Elliott and Franklin’s team agreed to negotiate in good faith with the aim of making the singer a partner in the movie; as Variety reported, separate distribution deals with Lionsgate and Concord were on the table before talks stalled as Franklin grew more ill.

The legal wrangling created the appearance of enmity between camps, and the late singer was not always an easy read when it came to business matters. But in the midst of the imbroglio, Franklin told the Detroit Free Press that she “loved” the movie, a DVD edit of which Elliott had sent her years ago. The quality of the film itself was never at issue, as it straightforwardly documented what many Franklin buffs consider to be her greatest performance, a two-night stand of pure gospel music recorded with an ace band of Atlantic Records musicians and the Rev. James Cleveland’s choir at a South-Central L.A. church in January 1972 — as released in audio form later that year on what is still the bestselling gospel album of all time.

Elliott had been friends for years with Owens, who invited him to Franklin’s funeral in Detroit Aug. 31. Two weeks later, he went back to the Charles Wright African American Museum to screen the movie for Franklin’s family and their friends, who were all seeing it for the first time. The reaction there, they both say, was jubilant, with a feeling of urgency coming out of the screening about getting it before the public sooner rather than later.

“I think the movie stands by itself, so it would have a good run whether it’s next year or it was two or three years ago,” says Elliott. “But obviously, her singularity and her absence are really felt right now, so I think there is that energy toward rediscovering things that she did. And I feel that this performance is really her crowning achievement — and I think she felt that way too. As much as anything, I wish she had been here to be a part of it, especially since she said she loved the movie.”

Elliott hopes for a Detroit premiere in April, with plans to involve the Poor People’s Campaign and Clean Water for Flint on a charitable level. “Detroit is a powerful home base, I think, for ‘Amazing Grace’,” he says, “even though I think it’s a Los Angeles thing. too. We’ve been working with Superintendent Mark Ridley Thomas to get historical status for the New Missionary Baptist Church (where the album and film were made).”

The picture was locked for its would-be Telluride premiere three years ago, but late last week, Elliott was back in a Hollywood studio working on separate stereo and 5.1 mixes of the audio with Jimmy Douglass, a well-known engineer and mixer. Douglass is most renowned nowadays for his work on hip-hop albums like Jay-Z’s “4:44” and as Timbaland’s long-time right-hand man, but he started out in the early ‘70s working on rock, pop and R&B albums at Atlantic, where one of his first assignments was helping mix the “Amazing Grace” album.

Douglass worked on the movie, like a lot of participants, on his own dime a few years ago. Is he surprised to be working in 2018 on something he started in 1972? “I’m never surprised,” Douglass laughs, taking a break while Franklin’s perspiring image appears frozen above the mixing board. “Am I happy I’m working on it one more time? Of course I am. Always. Alan tracked me down years ago and showed up with this amazing project, and as far as I was concerned, I was the only person on the planet who should have my hands in it. There’s nobody else around who was as close to that whole school that’s actually still out there slaying the beast and still making hits that should be touching this. I was like, ‘That’s mine, I’m sorry.’ And here we are.”

(photo via Detroit Free Press)

Viewers might quibble over whether it’s technically a concert movie or a church service movie, but it’s foremost a music movie. “Aretha says six words in the movie,” Elliott points out. “She says,  ‘What key is it, E?’ and then she says, ‘Water.’ So, obviously getting the music right is the thing we can do best by her legacy, I think.”

Douglass has worked on the movie over a period of about eight years. Elliott, considerably longer. “I’m really excited for people to get it because I think it is the premiere document of American popular music that was ever filmed,” says the producer, “and I could never figure out why we never got to see it. And it started 27 years ago when Jerry Wexler (the album’s late producer) said to me, ‘By the way, we filmed “Amazing Grace”.’ Twenty-seven years is a long time to wait to see a movie.”

Years before director Sydney Pollack’s death in 2008, he encouraged Elliott to buy and complete the footage he had shot in 1972; the filmmaker went to Warner Bros. and gave them his blessing to sell Elliott the film, which had languished in storage for decades after problems synching visuals and audio make it impossible to edit with the existing technology. The film is going out without a directorial credit, after years of debate about whether Pollack would want to be credited on a project he wasn’t able to see through after the initial shoot.

For Owens, the film “shows Aretha in a very different light. She’s very youthful, very shy, and her voice is just beautiful throughout, at an age when her voice was absolutely crystal-clear and very pure. It’s very moving and inspirational, and I enjoy it as a fan of the church and gospel music beyond just the fact that it’s my aunt singing. This just seems like the best time, because I think any time an artist passes, they’re fresh on people’s minds and hearts. But also, I think people want something in a very spiritual mode, and I think this is a feel-good movie that could be very uplifting in a time of turmoil in our country.”

Source: https://variety.com/2018/music/news/aretha-franklin-estate-amazing-grace-film-premiere-1203019833/

Producer/Director Ava DuVernay Working on Prince Documentary for Netflix

Prince in concert in 1985 (Photo by Anonymous/AP/REX/Shutterstock (6571574a)

by Jem Aswad via Variety.com

Producer/director Ava DuVernay is working with Netflix on a Prince documentary, two sources have confirmed to Variety. The project has the full cooperation of the late artist’s estate, which is providing with interviews, archival footage and photos. The multiple-part documentary will cover the artist’s entire life.

While renowned for her work on “Selma,” “Queen Sugar” and others, DuVernay made her big-screen debut in 2008 with “This Is the Life,” which chronicled the alternative hip-hop scene in Los Angeles in the 1990s.

A source also said that a documentary about Prince and the Revolution’s legendary concert at Minneapolis’ First Avenue in August of 1983 has landed at Apple Music. The show featured the premieres of several songs that would appear on the “Purple Rain” album and film nearly a year later, and, in fact, the album versions of three of those songs were recorded at the show (albeit with overdubs added later). The concert marked the debut of guitarist Wendy Melvoin and the “Purple Rain”-era incarnation of the Revolution.

Video and audio recordings from the concert and its rehearsals have been circulating on bootleg for many years, and feature a longer take of “Purple Rain” with an additional, seemingly ad-libbed verse that was dropped from the official version. Another song from the concert, “Electric Intercourse,” was originally mooted for the album but was replaced by the similar but superior song, “The Beautiful Ones.” A studio version of “Electric Intercourse” was finally released on the “Purple Rain” deluxe edition in 2017, although many fans consider the live version to be better.

More: https://variety.com/2018/music/news/ava-duvernay-prince-documentary-for-netflix-1203011709/

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs Pledges $1 Million to Fund New School in the Bronx

Sean "Diddy" Combs
CREDIT: COURTESY OF COMBS ENTERPRISES

by Rachel Yang via Variety.com

Sean “Diddy” Combs announced Tuesday that he’s pledging $1 million to the Capital Preparatory Schools network to help provide children from underserved communities access to high-quality education. The school has been approved to expand to a third location in the New York City’s Bronx borough, and is set to open in September 2019.

Capital Prep Schools is a free, public charter school network, currently operating in Harlem and Bridgeport, Connecticut. The schools provide students in grades K-12 with a year-round, college preparatory education and has sent 100 percent of its low-income, minority, first-generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006. Capital Prep Bronx will open to serve 160 students in 6th to 7th grade and will grow to serve 650 students in 6th to 11 grade during an initial five-year term.

“Mr. Combs’ commitment and leadership continue to inspire us. On behalf of the Capital Prep students, parents and teachers I want to express our sincerest gratitude for such a generous gift,” said Dr. Steve Perry, the founder of Capital Prep Schools. “Mr. Combs wanted to open schools to develop leaders. What he’s done with his investment is embody what we expect students to do, which is to invest their resources in our communities.”

Combs is a Harlem native and worked closely with Dr. Perry to expand the school to new locations as well as enlist a team of educators, parents, and business leaders to bring the idea to life. He is also a benefactor.

“I came from the same environment these kids live in every day,” Combs said. “I understand the importance of access to a great education, and the critical role it plays in a child’s future. Our school provides historically disadvantaged students with the college and career skills needed to become responsible and engaged citizens for social justice. We don’t just teach kids to read, write and compute, we teach them how to make a difference and nurture them to be future leaders of our generation.”

Read more: https://variety.com/2018/music/news/sean-diddy-combs-pledges-1-million-dollars-capital-prep-schools-1202990036/

Beyonce and Jay Z Help Raise Over $6 Million for Cancer Research at City Of Hope Charity Event

by Zoe Johnson via vibe.com

Apart from giving away more than $1 million dollars in scholarship funds to students across America, The Carters have been working overtime to raise more than $6 million dollars for the City Of Hope charity, Forbes reports.

The organization, which specializes in cancer treatment and research, held a gala earlier this week in Santa Monica, California. The power couple was in attendance to help raise money for the non-profit organization.

JAY-Z and Beyonce partnered with Warner/Chappell Publishing CEO and Chairman Jon Platt to combine their efforts to bring forth a well-rounded event with top-notch industry players. According to Forbes,  Dr. Dre, Tiffany Haddish, Usher, Quincy Jones, Wiz Khalifa, Timbaland, Kelly Rowland, and Rita Ora showed up in support of the event.

With more than 1,200 members of the entertainment industry present, Beyonce performed “Halo” and “Ave Maria” for the crowd.

The combined billionaires have greatly given back to their communities over their decades-long careers and constantly prove why they are considered the king and queen of hip-hop and evidently philanthropy.

If you would like to donate to City of Hope’s cancer research and treatment fund or find out more about the organization, click here.

Source: https://www.vibe.com/2018/10/beyonce-jay-z-city-of-hope-charity/

Dr. Prince: Musical Legend Prince is Posthumously Awarded Honorary Degree by University of Minnesota

Prince performs at the 19th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Monday, March 15, 2004, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. (photo via sfgate.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

The University of Minnesota honored music legend Prince Wednesday night with the institution’s highest award — an honorary doctor of humane letters degree, CNN reported.

“Prince emulates everything a musician should be,” Michael Kim, director of the university’s School of Music said.  Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson accepted the award from university President Eric W. Kaler and Regent Darrin Rosha at a ceremony in Minneapolis, the city where Prince was born and raised.

“If you (poked) him, you would probably hear a sound of music. He was music, kind of like how God is love,” Nelson offered.

Although Prince died two years ago in April, the university decided to continue a process that had begun in 2015 and honor him with the posthumous degree. Awarding someone who isn’t alive is rare, the school said.

The university said the degree is in recognition of the singer’s “remarkable talent, enduring influence in music, and his role in shaping the city of Minneapolis.”

Kim said the university’s honor to Prince also serves as an important lesson and reminder. “Society pressures young people to conform to certain standards, and Prince was anything but standardized,” he said. “Be yourself, know who you are and good things are going to happen.”

Aretha Franklin Exhibit to Open at Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit

An exhibit dedicated to the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin will open this week at a Detroit museum. (photo via freep.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to rollingstone.com, an exhibit dedicated to the life and legacy of musical legend Aretha Franklin will open this week at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

The estate-approved “Think: A Tribute to the Queen of Soul” arrives this Tuesday and will exhibit at the Wright Museum until January 21st, 2019. “This is an opportunity for people to come back and engage, reminisce and reflect,” Wright museum board member Kelly Major Green told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s the beginning of a much longer expression of who Aretha is.”

The exhibit will feature wardrobe, shoes, video displays and photos from Franklin’s decades-long career, including a copy of the first-ever recording Franklin released, a 1956 vinyl of “Never Grow Old” by “Aretha Franklin, Daughter of Rev. C.L. Franklin.”

The Charles H. Wright Museum previously hosted Franklin’s public viewing following the Queen of Soul’s death from pancreatic cancer at the age of 76. The “red, lace-trimmed ruffled suit and crimson satin pumps” that Franklin wore at the public viewing will display in the “Think” exhibit.

Over the exhibit’s four-month tenure at the museum, curators will rotate items in and out of display to “reflect the same ever-changing dynamics that marked the singer’s own life,” the Detroit Free Press writes.

The Franklin estate is also planning a long-term exhibit dedicated to the Queen of Soul housed at an undetermined location in 2020.

Ambassador Fenty: Rihanna Named Ambassador to her Home Country Barbados

(Photo by Eduardo Parra/Getty Images)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to thegrio.com, international singing star and cosmetics entrepreneur Rihanna has a new title to add to her resume – ambassador to her home country of Barbados.

“Rihanna has a deep love for her country and this is reflected in her philanthropy, especially in the areas of health and education,” Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said in a statement.

The prime minister hailed Rihanna — who grew up and was raised as Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty in Bridgetown, Barbados — as a music icon with “significant creative acumen and shrewdness in business. Mottley said Rihanna has made significant charitable contributions to the island. “She also shows her patriotism in the way she gives back to this country and continues to treasure the island as her home,” Mottley said.

According to the island’s Government Information Service website, Rihanna’s official title is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the island in the Caribbean Sea with 285,000 residents. Rihanna’s job in her new role extends beyond her 2008 role as cultural ambassador to promote tourism. Ambassador Fenty’s new responsibilities now extend to promoting education and investment for Barbados as well.

The songstress and creator of the year-old Fenty Beauty makeup line hailed for meeting the needs of women of all colors said in a statement that she could not be more pleased with her appointment. Rihanna maintains residences in Barbados and in Los Angeles.

Rihanna said she is proud to take on such a prestigious title in her home country. “Every Barbadian is going to have to play their role in this current effort, and I’m ready and excited to take on the responsibility,” she said in the statement, posted by CNN. “I look forward to working with Prime Minister Mottley and her team to reimagine Barbados.”

American Legend Aretha Franklin Laid to Rest in Epic Funeral filled with Detroiters and Dignitaries

via ap.com

Today was Aretha Franklin‘s homegoing service at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, MI. Some may have questioned why the Queen of Soul’s ceremony wasn’t held at her father C.L. Franklin‘s New Bethel Baptist Church (she did hold her final viewing there) – perhaps New Bethel just isn’t a big enough space for those attending her ultimate show. Because once again, the Queen sold out the house.

In a send-off equal parts grand and personal, an all-star lineup of speakers and singers included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, former President Bill Clinton, former first lady Hillary Clinton, professor Michael Eric Dyson, Cicely Tyson, Tyler Perry, Ron Isley, Chaka Khan, Faith Hill, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Ariana Grande, Gladys Knight, Shirley Caesar, mayors, senators, members of congress, family and loved ones.

Robinson, the Motown great, remembered first hearing Franklin play piano when he was just 8 and remained close to her for the rest of her life, talking for hours at a time. “You’re so special,” he said, before crooning a few lines from his song “Really Gonna Miss You,” with the line “really gonna be different without you.”

Bill Clinton described himself as an Aretha Franklin “groupie” whom he had loved since college days. He traced her life’s journey, praising her as someone who “lived with courage, not without fear, but overcoming her fears.” He remembered attending her last public performance, at Elton John’s AIDS Foundation benefit in November in New York. She looked “desperately ill” but managed to greet him by standing and saying, “How you doin,’ baby?”

Clinton ended by noting that her career spanned from vinyl records to cellphones. He held the microphone near his iPhone and played a snippet of Franklin’s classic “Think,” the audience clapping along. “It’s the key to freedom!” Clinton said.

Rev. Sharpton received loud cheers when he criticized Donald Trump for saying that the singer “worked for” him as he responded to her death. “She performed for you,” Sharpton said of Franklin, who had sung at Trump-owned venues. “She worked for us.” Dyson took it even further by saying, “She worked above you. She worked beyond you. Get your preposition right!”

Many noted her longtime commitment to civil rights and lasting concern for black people. Her friend Greg Mathis, the award-winning reality show host and retired Michigan judge, recalled his last conversation with her. They talked about the tainted water supply in Flint. “You go up there and sock it to ’em,” she urged Mathis.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced during the service that the city, come Tuesday, would rename the riverfront amphitheater Chene Park to “Aretha Franklin Park” to loud applause.  Michigan Governor Rick Snyder reminded those in attendance that Aretha Franklin’s voice is designated as a natural resource of the state in the 1980s.

Franklin died Aug. 16 at age 76. Her body arrived early in a 1940 Cadillac LaSalle hearse. She wore a shimmering gold dress, with sequined heels — the fourth outfit Franklin was clothed in during a week of events leading up to her funeral.

The casket was carried to the church that also took Franklin’s father, the renowned minister C.L. Franklin, to his and Parks’ final resting place at Woodlawn Cemetery, where the singer will join them. Pink Cadillacs filled the street outside the church, a reference to a Franklin hit from the 1980s, “Freeway of Love.”

Program covers showed a young Franklin, with a slight smile and sunglasses perched on her nose, and the caption “A Celebration Fit For The Queen.” Large bouquets of pink, lavender, yellow and white flowers flanked her casket.

Cristal Franklin, foreground left, hugs Vaughn Franklin as Victorie Franklin, left, and Jordan Franklin look on (photo via independent.co.uk)

Family members, among them granddaughter Victorie Franklin and niece Cristal Franklin, spoke with awe and affection as they remembered a world-famous performer who also loved gossip and kept pictures of loved ones on her piano.

Grandson Jordan directed his remarks directly to Franklin, frequently stopping to fight back tears. “I’m sad today, because I’m losing my friend. But I know the imprint she left on this world can never be removed. You showed the world God’s love, and there’s nothing more honorable.”

To see a large part of the almost eight-hour service, click below:

Beyoncé & Jay Z Announce New Program Offering $1 Million in College Scholarships

Beyoncé and Jay Z (photo via eatmytickets.com)

by Melanie Eversley via thegrio.com

Beyoncé and husband Jay Z may be raking in the dollars with their highly acclaimed On The Run II tour, but they are pouring those dollars back into communities all over the country, too.

The Carters announced a new scholarship program that will award $1 million in scholarships to “exceptional” high school seniors with financial needs, the couple’s representatives announced Saturday. The scholarships of $100,000 each will go to one qualified student in each of the following cities: Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, Arlington, New Orleans, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Clara and Seattle. Each of the cities is a site where the OTRII tour is appearing.

The Boys and Girls Club of America will choose the winners, according to the announcement.

The students must demonstrate “academic excellence” and “financial need” so great that it threatens to prevent them from attending college for the 2018-2019 academic year.

This is not the first time that the power couple has extended outreach toward needy students.

The Shawn Carter Foundation hosts tours to historically Black colleges and universities and offers scholarships to students headed to college. The organization was founded in 2003 by Jay Z and his mother, Gloria Carter.

The BeyGood initiative, headed by Beyoncé, has created a merit program called the Formation Scholars Award. The program helps female students reach educational goals. Another program, the Homecoming Scholars Award, provides resources for students to study at HBCUs, according to the announcement.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of America is based in Atlanta and has been in existence for 150 years. The organization runs more than 4,300 clubs that serve about 4 million young people and provides mentoring and youth development programs during non-school hours. Clubs are located all over – in cities, towns, public housing and Native American lands as well as on military installations.

Source: https://thegrio.com/2018/08/26/beyonce-jay-z-1000000-college-scholarships/