Tag: Lionel Richie

LL Cool J to Become Kennedy Center’s First Hip-Hop Honoree

LLCoolJ (photo via npr.org)

by Rodney Carmichael via npr.org

Thirty years after becoming rap’s first sex symbol, LL Cool J will be the first hip-hop artist to receive Kennedy Center Honors in its 40-year history.

The rapper-turned-actor born James Todd Smith will be inducted with a prestigious 2017 class — including pop stars Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan, television icon Norman Lear and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade – on Sunday, Dec. 3 at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C.

The honorees will be saluted by performers while seated alongside President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. While Kennedy Center Honors acknowledge the lifetime achievements of contributors to American culture, the list has traditionally been limited in scope. But the inclusion of LL, born James Todd Smith, in this year’s honoree list further expands the center’s growing embrace of hip-hop culture.

Earlier this year the center appointed Simone Eccleston as its first director of Hip-Hop Culture after naming A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip as artistic director of Hip-Hop Culture in 2016. Historic performances by Kendrick Lamar and Common have also underlined the center’s investment, and more programming for the 2017-18 season is expected to be announced in the coming months.

At 49, LL will be the Kennedy Center’s youngest honoree since Stevie Wonder. It’s a long way from home for the St. Albans, Queens native who made his first record, “I Need A Beat,” at 16, after his demo tape made it to the ears of producer and Def Jam founder Rick Rubin. As rap’s first bona fide solo star, LL was larger than life in the 1980s, the first to embody the street-corner swagger and sex appeal that would become a blueprint for future hip-hop icons ranging from Big Daddy Kane to Biggie.

Before an artist like Drake could legitimately mix hip-hop lyricism with R&B vulnerability, LL turned out the first hit rap ballad with 1987’s “I Need Love.” And the ladies loved him for it. Best known today for his starring roles in TV and film, he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year. But after a career spanning 30-plus years and 13 albums, he’s yet to leave rap alone — he’s rumored to be in the studio recording with Dr. Dre.

To read full article, go to: LL Cool J To Become Kennedy Center’s First Hip-Hop Honoree : The Record : NPR

R.I.P. George Michael: Requiem for a Soul Man

Pop/R&B Superstar singer/writer/producer George Michael (photo via bet.com)

essay by Keith Murphy via bet.com

There’s an avalanche of thoughts that tumble through one’s mind when you are left to ponder the extraordinary (yet criminally underrated) career of George Michael following his shocking death on Christmas Day at the age of 53. But for this writer, the date of January 30, 1989, remains a moment that underlines the sheer gift, curse and deeply complex appeal of the ultimate white rhythm and blues vocalist. It was at Los Angeles’s Shrine Auditorium during the American Music Awards where Michael stepped on a debate-igniting, cultural land mine.

The former member of the monstrous pop duo Wham! was coming off the unfathomable commercial triumph of his critically-acclaimed solo debut Faith, which would go on to sell 25 million copies worldwide (10 million in the U.S. alone). Michael was now being viewed as a worthy addition to the ‘80s holy pop trinity of Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna. When you headline your own sold-out world tour (The 1988 Faith trek became the second-highest-grossing tour of that year, pulling in nearly $20 million), fire off six consecutive top five singles on the Billboard charts (fueled by the one-two punch of the No. 1 rockabilly-dipped-in-soul title track and the dark, controlling church-infused ballad “Father Figure”) and win Album of the Year at the Grammys, you can pretty much write your own check.

But before that coronation solidified his place as a legit music industry behemoth, Michael found himself at the center of a racial tsunami when he won two AMAs for Favorite Album (Soul/R&B) and Favorite Male Artist (Soul/R&B). This was the era of the “Crossover Negro,” especially in the recording biz, as the aforementioned King of Pop and The Purple One — alongside the likes of Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, and Lionel Richie — all took turns ruling the top of the charts. Teddy Riley was leading the multi-platinum New Jack Swing wave. And hip-hop’s golden age was just kicking off, forcing MTV to create Yo! MTV Raps just to keep up with the street-infused genre’s groundbreaking stars like N.W.A., Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa and De La Soul. Black culture was cool and was only going to get cooler in the next decade.

For many African-American followers, their first introduction to the East Finchley, London native was Wham!’s 1982 cheeky, disco-rap rave-up “Young Guns (Go For It).” Michael and his conspicuously silent partner Andrew Ridgeley were pushed as cutesy teen idols that indulged in the funk.

But while Wham!’s No. 1 commercial breakthrough, 1984’s overtly day-glow single “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” made them global stars, it was a heaven-sent slow jam that forever gave Michael his ‘hood pass. At just 17 years old, the gifted singer/songwriter wrote and produced the mournful torch song “Careless Whisper,” a mammoth hit that not only reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, but also became a top 10 hit on the U.S. Hot Black Singles, earning its place as a quiet storm staple on R&B radio. “I’m never going to dance again/Guilty feet have got no rhythm,” remains one of that era’s most heartbreaking lines ever recorded. This was a different cat.

To read full essay, go to: George Michael: Requiem for a Soul Man

Smokey Robinson to Executive Produced Animated Children’s Series Based on Motown Music for Netflix

Smokey Robinson performs at A Capitol Fourth concert at the U.S. Capitol, West Lawn, on July 4, 2016 in Washington, DC.
Smokey Robinson (photo via eurweb.com)

article via eurweb.com

Netflix has picked up an original animated children’s series that will feature contemporary artists performing hit songs from the Motown catalog that will serve as inspiration for each episode.

From writer/director Josh Wakely (“Beat Bugs”), the as-yet-untitled project will feature Motown icon Smokey Robinson as its executive music producer.

The series will include 52 classic Motown hits, including those made famous by all-time greats like Robinson, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5, Lionel Richie, The Supremes, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder and many more.

Per Netflix:

The series revolves around a lovable, funny and slightly shy eight-year-old boy named Ben, who discovers he has the extraordinary ability to bring street-art to life. Ben and his family live in the imaginary city of Motown, based on Detroit and its rich musical heritage. Inspired by the words and melodies of Motown’s classic songs, Ben and his friends Angie and Mickey, along with an amazing cast of enchanting street art characters, discover that creativity is magic as they revive vibrancy to their city and learn life lessons.

Lionel Richie Inducted into L.A. Hall of Fame During African American Heritage Month Celebration

Singer/Songwriter Lionel Richie is honored with the Living Legend Award at Los Angeles City Hall on February 3, 2016, Photo: Getty/Earl Gibson III
Singer/Songwriter Lionel Richie is honored with the Living Legend Award at Los Angeles City Hall on February 3, 2016 (Photo: Getty/Earl Gibson III)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

Four-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Lionel Richie was honored on Feb. 3 with the City of Los Angeles’s Hall of Fame Award for “Outstanding Achievement in Education” at its kick off of African American Heritage month in the city.  Richie was also honored during the celebration with the “Living Legend Award.”

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who provided opening remarks for the ceremony that took place in council chambers, said the celebration not only recognizes the countless contributions of the awardees and all African Americans in the city, but the “collective history” of all Angelenos.

“We are honoring a musician, a philanthropist, a leader in education, a brilliant legal mind, and an outstanding official. And every single one of them is an Angeleno,” said Garcetti. “These people represent the best of who we are. They are angels here in the city, visionaries who follow their own paths, but are devoted to a common goal.”

(LtoR) Recording artist Lionel Richie, California Court of Appeal Justice Audrey Collins, DOE Chair Jerome Horton, and CSUDH President Willie J. Hagan. (photo via csudhnews.com)
(LtoR) Recording artist Lionel Richie, California Court of Appeal Justice Audrey Collins, DOE Chair Jerome Horton, and CSUDH President Willie J. Hagan. (photo via csudhnews.com)

Other inductees into the Hall of Fame were California State University, Dominguez Hills’ (CSUDH) President Willie J. Hagan, California Board of Equalization Chairman and CSUDH alumnus Jerome Horton (’79, B.S., business administration), and California Court of Appeal Justice Audrey Collins.

Garcetti, who introduced Richie, not only praised him as a distinguished musician, but as a philanthropist who is low-key about his giving, which is often done “when no one’s around, and no one’s looking.”

Richie, who has sold over 100 million albums worldwide, joined the Commodores in 1968, which became one of Motown’s most successful groups. He launched his solo career in 1981 and wrote some of the most “beloved” songs in the world, such as “All Night Long,” “Hello,” and “Endless Love,” a ballad he wrote and sang with Diana Ross.

“Who knew the power of how far one Afro can go,” Richie joked. “There was one great point of view that was prominent [throughout my college career], and that was that failure is not an option. … I was raised by a fabulous village, and one thing that I have carried throughout my life is that we have to give back. Around the world I tell kids, gang members—you name it—that parenting is probably one of the hardest jobs in the world. And if you don’t have a full set of parents, find someone who you can fall in love with and mirror.”
Continue reading “Lionel Richie Inducted into L.A. Hall of Fame During African American Heritage Month Celebration”

Diana Ross Headlines Mini-Residency at Venetian in Las Vegas This April

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Superstar singer Diana Ross has inked April dates for the first nine performances of her new mini-residency contract at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. Soon to follow in this new entertainment lineup set for the former “Phantom — The Las Vegas Spectacular” theater will be Janet Jackson, Lionel Richie and Ricky Martin.

Diana, named “Most Successful Female Vocalist of All Time,” takes the stage for her new show “The Essential Diana Ross: Some Memories Never Fade” as of April 1.  Tickets are on sale for three weekends of shows April 1, 3-4, 7-8, 10-11, 15 and 17-18.  To purchase, click here.

She will include songs from her remarkable, nearly five-decade career that made music-history milestones and a significant contribution to pop culture music of the 20th century. She’s promising Motown classics “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to pop favorites “I’m Coming Out” and hits including “Endless Love.”

Continue reading “Diana Ross Headlines Mini-Residency at Venetian in Las Vegas This April”

Essence’s 20th Anniversary Festival Largest Ever With 550,000 Attendees

This past weekend’s Essence Festival surpassed its record setting attendance of last year’s 543,000 attendees by 7,000. At the 20th anniversary of the famed festival, more than 550,000 people attended and saw various performances, activities, and speakers throughout the Fourth of July weekend in New Orleans.

“Through a unique combination of entertainment and empowerment programming, the ESSENCE Festival has become the place where we come together to revel in culture and connect to our community,” said ESSENCE Communications President Michelle Ebanks. “In recognition of our 20-year milestone, we are tremendously proud to have offered more curated content than ever before—live in New Orleans for our more than 550,000 festival-goers and available digitally on multiple screens for our ESSENCE community of 11.5 million.”

There were more than 80 performers including such dignitaries as Prince, Mary J. Blige, Lionel Richie, Robin Roberts, Alicia Keys, Steve Harvey and Rev. Al Sharpton.

article by Cedric “BIG CED” Thornton via blackenterprise.com

Chaka Khan Chosen For Apollo Legends Hall Of Fame

Chaka Khan

NEW YORK — R&B star Chaka Khan will be inducted into the Apollo Theater’s hall of fame.  The theater announced Thursday that Patti LaBelle and Mary J. Blige will perform in Khan’s honor at its June 10 New York gala.

The annual event raises funds for the Apollo’s education and community outreach programs.  Khan and Blige received a Grammy Award together in 2008 for “Disrespectful.”  Singer-songwriter Lionel Richie and the late Etta James were inducted last year into the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame.

Other previous inductees include LaBelle, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin, to name just a few.  Sarah Jessica Parker will present this year’s corporate award to Time Warner Inc.

via Chaka Khan Chosen For Apollo Legends Hall Of Fame.