Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse - A Beautiful Voice Cut Short

It is sad to hear that the brilliant British singer Amy Winehouse passed away on July 23, 2011.

A beautiful voice she was, but she failed to face up to her inner demons and the perils of drug addiction.

Read all about her here.

Thanks, Wikipedia.

Amy Jade Winehouse (September 14, 1983 – July 23, 2011) was a British singer-songwriter known for her powerful contralto vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres including R&B, soul and jazz.

Winehouse's 2003 debut album, Frank, was critically successful in the UK and was nominated for the Mercury Prize.

Her 2006 follow-up album, Back To Black, led to six Grammy Award nominations and five wins, tying the record for the most wins by a female artist in a single night, and made Winehouse the first British singer to win five Grammys, including three of the "Big Four": Best New Artist, Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year.

On February 14, 2007, she won a BRIT Award for Best British Female Artist.

She won the Ivor Novello Award three times, one in 2004 for Best Contemporary Song (Musically And Lyrically) for Stronger Than Me, one in 2007 for Best Contemporary Song for Rehab and one in 2008 for Best Song Musically And Lyrically for Love Is A Losing Game.

The album was the third biggest seller of the 2000s in the United Kingdom.

Winehouse was credited as an influence in the rise in popularity of female musicians and soul music, and also for revitalising British music.

Winehouse's distinctive style made her a muse for fashion designers such as Karl Lagerfeld.

The singer's problems with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as self-destructive behaviour, were regular tabloid news from 2007 until her death.

She and her former husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, were plagued by legal troubles that left him serving prison time.

Winehouse died at the age of 27 on July 23, 2011 at her home in London.

Winehouse was born in the Southgate area of north London to a Jewish family who were the source of her interest in jazz.

Winehouse was the younger of two children (elder brother Alex) of Mitchell Winehouse, a taxi driver and Janis Winehouse Seaton, a pharmacist.

Mitchell often sang Frank Sinatra songs to young Amy.

When Winehouse was 10, she founded a short-lived rap group called Sweet N Sour with childhood friend Juliette Ashby.

Winehouse received her first guitar when she was 13 and began writing music a year later.

She began working soon after, including as a showbiz journalist for the World Entertainment News Network, in addition to singing with local group the Bolsha Band.

Winehouse signed to Simon Fuller's 19 Management in 2002.

Winehouse's greatest love was 1960s girl groups.

She borrowed her "instantly recognisable" Beehive hairdo and Cleopatra makeup from The Ronettes.

Winehouse's debut album, Frank, was released on October 20, 2003.

Produced mainly by Salaam Remi, many songs were influenced by jazz and, apart from two covers, every song was co-written by Winehouse.

The album entered the upper levels of the UK album chart in 2004 when it was nominated for BRIT Awards in the categories of British Female Solo Artist and British Urban Act.

It went on to achieve platinum sales.

Later in 2004, she won the Ivor Novello Songwriting Award for Best Contemporary Song, alongside Salaam Remi, with her contribution to the first single, Stronger Than Me.

The singer won the 2008 Grammy Awards in the categories of Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the single Rehab, while her album Back To Black was nominated for Album Of The Year and won the Best Pop Vocal Album award.

Producer Mark Ronson's work with her won the Grammy Award for Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical category.

The singer also earned a Grammy in the Best New Artist category.

This earned Winehouse an entry in the 2009 edition of the Guinness Book Of World Records for Most Grammy Awards won by a British Female Act.

British singer Adele credited Winehouse's success in the United States for making her and fellow British singer Duffy's journey to the United States "a bit smoother".

American singer Lady Gaga credited Winehouse with paving the way for her rise to the top of the charts.

Winehouse's last public appearance took place at Camden's Roundhouse, London on July 20, 2011, when she made a surprise guest appearance on stage to support her god daughter Dionne Bromfield.

Winehouse married on-off boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil (born August 1978), a former video production assistant, on May 18, 2007, in Miami, Florida.

They divorced in 2009.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Facundo Cabral - Voice Of The Oppressed.

Thanks, Wikipedia.

Facundo Cabral (May 22, 1937 – July 9, 2011) was an Argentine singer and songwriter.

He was best known as the composer of "I'm Not From Here Nor There", which he improvised during one of his concerts.

His songs have been covered by Spanish language interpreters such as Alberto Cortez, who was also a friend of his, Juan Luis Guerra and Joan Manuel Serrat.

After touring the world, Cabral enjoyed popularity in his home country during the early 1980s, when Argentine radio demanded local content after the Falklands War.

He was enormously popular in all Latin American countries. When he performed in Peru or Mexico, which he called his second home, tickets were sold-out long before the performance date(s).

Facundo Cabral was named a United Nations Messenger Of Peace in 1996.

Cabral was born in La Plata.

He first sang in Tandil, 350 km from Buenos Aires.

From the most humble of beginnings he came to inspire millions around the world through his songs, poems and 66 books.

He walked 3,000 km at the age of nine to look for work to support his mother and six siblings after his father abandoned them.

When he left his mother told him "This is the second, and last gift I can give you. The first was to give you life, and the second one, the liberty to live it".

He wrote music that inspired millions. He met Mother Teresa and Jorge Luis Borges. He performed in over 165 countries in eight different languages.

His wife and one-year-old daughter were killed in a plane crash in 1978.

He was nearly blind and crippled, and was a cancer survivor.

He once said: I always ask God, why did you give me so much? You gave me misery, hunger, happiness, struggle, lights. I saw everything. I know there is cancer, syphilis and spring and apple fritters.

Cabral was shot and killed during a tour in Guatemala City while en route to La Aurora International Airport on July 9, 2011.

He was mourned throughout Latin America.

Guatemala's 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu described his death as a great loss for humanity. She likened Cabral as a man who walked the path of Jesus.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez described Cabral as the greatest troubadour of Latin America and the Che Guevara of music.

Dreamgirls - The Mowtown Musical

Thanks, Wikipedia.

Dreamgirls is a 2006 musical drama film, directed by Bill Condon and jointly produced and released by DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures.

Adapted from the 1981 Broadway musical of the same name by composer Henry Krieger and lyricist Tom Eyen, Dreamgirls is a roman a clef of the histories of the Motown record label and one of its acts, The Supremes.

The story follows the history and evolution of American R&B music during the 1960s and 1970s through the eyes of a Detroit, Michigan girl group known as "The Dreams" and their manipulative record executive.

The film adaptation of Dreamgirls stars Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson, who won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Effie White.

The film also features Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson, Sharon Leal, and Hinton Battle.

Produced by Laurence Mark, the film's screenplay was adapted by director Bill Condon from the original Broadway book by Tom Eyen.

In addition to the original Kreiger/Eyen compositions, four new songs, composed by Krieger with various lyricists, were added for this film.

Dreamgirls is the most expensive film to feature an all African American starring cast in American cinema history.

Dreamgirls received three awards at the 64th Golden Globe Awards, including Best Picture — Musical Or Comedy, and two Oscars at the 79th Academy Awards.

The plot of Dreamgirls is broken up into two sections or acts: The first taking place from 1962 to 1966, and the second taking place from 1973 to 1975.

Backstage at an amateur talent show at the Detroit Theatre in 1962, Cadillac salesman Curtis Taylor Jr (Jamie Foxx) meets a girl group known as "The Dreamettes": lead singer Effie White (Jennifer Hudson), and back-up singers Deena Jones (Beyonce Knowles) and Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose).

Curtis presents himself as the Dreamettes' new manager and arranges for the Dreamettes to become backup singers for local R&B star Jimmy "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy).

With ambitions of making Black singers mainstream successes among White audiences, Curtis starts his own record label, Rainbow Records, out of his Detroit car dealership, and appoints Effie's brother, CC (Keith Robinson), as his head songwriter.

However, when their first single fails after a White pop group releases a cover version, Curtis, CC and their producer Wayne (Hinton Battle) turn to payola to make Jimmy and the Dreamettes pop stars.

Offstage, Effie becomes infatuated with the slick-talking Curtis, while the married Jimmy begins an affair with Lorrell.

Jimmy's manager Marty (Danny Glover) grows weary of Curtis' plans to make his client more pop-friendly and walks out.

However, when Jimmy bombs in front of a mostly white Miami Beach audience, Curtis sends Jimmy out on the road alone, keeping the Dreamettes behind to headline in his place.

Feeling that Effie's large figure and voice will not attract White audiences, Curtis appoints the slimmer Deena lead singer and renames the group "The Dreams".

With the aid of new songs and a more glamorous image, Curtis and CC transform The Dreams into a top selling mainstream pop act by 1965.

However, Effie begins acting out, particularly when Curtis' affections also turn towards Deena.

Curtis drops Effie from the group, hiring his secretary, Michelle (Sharon Leal), to take her place.

Nine years later, in 1973, Effie has become an impoverished welfare mother, living in inner-city Detroit with her daughter Magic.

Meanwhile, Rainbow Records has moved to Los Angeles, where the Dreams - now "Deena Jones & The Dreams" - have become superstars.

Jimmy Early, on the other hand, has descended into drug addiction, his career neglected due to Curtis' preoccupation with Deena, now also his wife.

When Jimmy has a breakdown onstage at Rainbow's tenth anniversary TV special the following year, Curtis drops him from the label, and Lorrell ends their long affair.

Some time later, Jimmy is found dead in a hotel room from a heroin overdose.

Angered over Curtis' increasing control over his music, and his lack of sympathy upon learning of Jimmy's death, CC quits and returns to Detroit to find Effie, who has been rebuilding her career in music with Marty as her manager.

The two siblings reconcile, and CC writes and produces Effie's comeback single, "One Night Only".

Just as the record begins gaining radio play in Detroit, Curtis uses payola to force radio stations to play a disco cover of "One Night Only" by Deena Jones & The Dreams instead.

His plan falls apart when Deena, angry over Curtis' control of her career, finds evidence of his payola schemes and contacts Effie and CC.

Deena and Effie reconcile, while Curtis, wanting to avoid being reported to the FBI for his payola operation, agrees to give Effie's record national distribution.

Inspired by Effie's victory, Deena leaves Curtis to make it on her own.

As a result, Deena Jones & The Dreams give a farewell performance at the Detroit Theatre.

At the conclusion of the concert, Deena invites Effie to join the group onstage and sing lead for the final performance of the group's signature song, "Dreamgirls".

As the concert ends, Curtis notices Magic in the front row and realises that he is the girl's father.


Jamie Foxx as Curtis Taylor Jr - Based upon Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr.
Curtis is a slick Cadillac dealer-turned-record executive who founds the Rainbow Records label and shows ruthless ambition in his quest to make his Black artists household names with White audiences.
At first romantically involved with Effie, Curtis takes a professional and personal interest in Deena after appointing her lead singer of the Dreams in Effie's place.

Beyonce Knowles as Deena Jones - Based upon Motown star Diana Ross.
Deena is a shy young woman who becomes a star after Curtis makes her lead singer of The Dreams.
This, as well as her romantic involvement and later marriage to Curtis, draws Effie's ire, though Deena realises over time she is a puppet for her controlling husband.
Knowles was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role.

Eddie Murphy as James "Thunder" Early - Inspired by R&B/soul singers such as James Brown, Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye, Early is a raucous performer on the Rainbow label whom Curtis attempts to repackage as a pop-friendly balladeer.
Jimmy's star fades as The Dreams' star rises and he falls into drugs and an adulterous affair with Dreams member Lorrell.
Murphy won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the film.

Jennifer Hudson as Effie White - Inspired by Supremes member Florence Ballard and soul singers Etta James and Aretha Franklin.
The plus-sized Effie is a talented yet temperamental singer who suffers when Curtis, the man she loves, replaces her as lead singer of The Dreams and his love interest, and later drops her altogether.
With the help of Jimmy's old manager Marty, Effie attempts to resurrect her career a decade later, while raising her daughter Magic, the offspring of her union with Curtis.
Hudson won a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Effie.

Anika Noni Rose as Lorrell Robinso - Inspired by Supremes member Mary Wilson.
Lorell is a good-natured background singer with The Dreams who falls deeply in love with the married Jimmy Early and becomes his mistress.

Danny Glover as Marty Madison, Jimmy's original manager before Curtis steps into the picture.
Marty serves as both counsel and confidant to Jimmy, and later to Effie as well.

Keith Robinson as CC White - Inspired by Motown vice president, artist and songwriter Smokey Robinson.
CC is Effie's soft-spoken younger brother and his real name is Clarence Conrad.
He serves as the main songwriter for The Dreamettes and later the entire Rainbow roster.

Sharon Leal as Michelle Morris - Based on The Supremes member Cindy Birdsong.
Michelle replaces Effie in The Dreams and becomes CC's love interest.
She is at first Curtis' secretary until she becomes one of The Dreams' background singers.

Hinton Battle as Wayne, a salesman at Curtis' Cadillac dealership who becomes Rainbow's first record producer and Curtis' henchman.

Dreamgirls also features supporting performances from Mariah I. Wilson as Magic, Effie's daughter, Yvette Cason as May Jones, Deena's mother, Ken Page as club owner Max Washington and Alexander Folk as Ronald White, Effie and CC's father.

Cameo appearances in the film are made by John Lithgow and John Krasinski as a film producer and writer/director, Jaleel White as a talent booker at the Detroit Theatre, Dawnn Lewis as Melba Early, Jimmy's wife and Loretta Devine, who originated the role of Lorrell on Broadway, as a jazz singer in Max Washington's club.

Throughout the film, a number of musical acts depicted as allusions to or analogues of real-life R&B performers appear, among them Little Albert & The Tru-Tones (Little Anthony & The Imperials), Tiny Joe Dixon (BB King), The Family Funk (Sly & The Family Stone or the Motown house band The Funk Brothers) and The Campbell Connection (The Jackson 5).

The musical Dreamgirls was staged in the National Theatre, Malaysia from July 14-24, 2011.

It was produced by Broadway Academy and starred among others, TV personalities Cheryl Samad and Azura Zainal and reality show graduates Dina Nadzir and Dafi Ismail Sabri.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Jim Morrison - Troubled Rocker, Troubled Genius

From Wikipedia.
James Douglas Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) was an American lead singer and lyricist of the rock band The Doors, as well as a poet.
Born in Melbourne, Florida, he was of British and Native American ancestry.
In 1947, Morrison, then four, witnessed a car accident in the desert, where a family of Native Americans perished.
He referred to this incident in the song Dawn's Highway from the album An American Prayer, and again in the songs Peace Frog and Ghost Song.
Morrison believed the incident to be the most formative event of his life and made repeated references to it in his songs, poems and interviews.
With his father in the United States Navy, Morrison's family moved often. He spent his childhood in San Diego, California.
In 1958, Morrison attended Alameda High School in Alameda, California. He graduated from George Washington High School (now George Washington Middle School) in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1961.
Jim was inspired by the writings of philosophers and poets. He was influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Rimbaud, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Patchen, Michael McClure and Gregory Corso.
In 1964, Morrison moved to Los Angeles, California, to attend the University Of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Morrison completed his undergraduate degree at UCLA's College Of Fine Arts in 1965.
Morrison subsequently led a bohemian lifestyle in Venice Beach. Living on the rooftop of a building inhabited by his old UCLA cinematography friend Dennis Jakobs, he wrote the lyrics of many of his band's songs there.
The Doors, formed in 1965 by Morrison, took their name from the title of Aldous Huxley's The Doors Of Perception (a reference to the "unlocking" of "doors of perception" through psychedelic drug use).
Morrison was its lead singer and songwriter. The group's best known songs included Light My Fire, Love Me Two Times, Love Her Madly and Touch Me.
Light My Fire eventually reached number one on the Billboard Pop Singles chart.
In 1967, Morrison and The Doors produced a promotional film for Break On Through (To The Other Side), their hit single.
The Doors also made music videos for The Unknown Soldier, Moonlight Drive and People Are Strange.
Morrison became addicted to drugs over the course of his singing career and in 1969, he was seriously overweight.
His close friends nicknamed him Jumbo Jim. During his early days, Morrison was nicknamed the Lizard King.
Morrison self-published two volumes of poetry in 1969.
In 1971, Morrison visited Paris and lost some weight. He was found dead by his girlfriend, Pamela Courson, on July 3, 1971 in his bathroom.
He was believed to have overdosed on drugs. Courson died of an overdose three years later. Like Morrison, she was also 27.
Morrison was buried in Paris' Pere Lachaise Cemetery.
In 1991, Val Kilmer played Morrison in Oliver Stone's film The Doors.

Madonna Louise Ciccone - Queen Of Pop

From Wikipedia.
Madonna Louise Ciccone (born August 16, 1958) is an American recording artiste, actress and entrepreneur also known as the Queen Of Pop.
Born in Bay City, Michigan, she moved to New York City in 1977 to pursue a career in modern dance.
After performing in the music groups Breakfast Club and Emmy, she released her debut album in 1983.
She... followed it with a series of albums in which she found immense popularity by pushing the boundaries of lyrical content in mainstream popular music and imagery in her music videos, which became a fixture on MTV.
Throughout her career, many of her songs have hit number one on the record charts, including Like A Virgin, Papa Don't Preach, Like A Prayer, Vogue, Frozen, Music, Hung Up, and 4 Minutes.
She is widely admired by liberal people for speaking her mind and challenging cultural orthodoxy.
Her career was further enhanced by film appearances that began in 1979.
She won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress In A Motion Picture Musical Or Comedy for her role in Evita (1996).
Madonna's other ventures include being a fashion designer, children's book author, film director and producer.
Madonna has sold more than 300 million records worldwide and is recognised as the world's top-selling female recording artiste by the Guinness World Records.
In 2008, Billboard magazine ranked Madonna at number two, behind only The Beatles, on the Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artistes, making her the most successful solo artiste in the history of the Billboard chart.
She was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in the same year.
Considered one of the "25 Most Powerful Women Of The Past Century" by Time for being an influential figure in contemporary music, Madonna is known for continuously reinventing both her music and image.
Madonna's mother Louise Fortin was of French descent from Canada and a relative of Canadian singer Celine Dion.
Her father Anthony Ciccone, is a first-generation Italian American.
The Ciccone family originated from Pacentro, Italy.
She is the third of six siblings.
Her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 30 in 1963.
Madonna attended Rochester Adams High School, and was a straight-A student.
She went to New York in 1977 to learn dance.
She formed a rock band called The Breakfast Club, and served as its vocalist and guitarist.
Her debut single, Everybody, was released on October 6, 1982.
IN the same year she started developing her debut album Madonna, which was primarily produced by Reggie Lucas of Warner Bros.
It contained the chart-topping hit Like A Virgin and was released in 1983.
In 1985, Madonna acted in the film Desperately Seeking Susan which featured her hit song Into The Groove.
In the same year she married Lithuanian-American actor and producer Sean Penn.
They were divorced in 1987.
True Blue, Madonna's third studio album, was released in 1986. It spawned three number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100: Live To Tell, Papa Don't Preach and Open Your Heart.
It also had two top five singles, True Blue and La Isla Bonita.
In 1990, Madonna starred as Breathless Mahoney in the film Dick Tracy, with Warren Beatty playing the title role. To accompany the film, she released the soundtrack album I'm Breathless, which included songs inspired by the film's 1930s setting.
In 2000, Madonna starred in the film The Next Best Thing, and contributed two songs to the film's soundtrack: Time Stood Still and American Pie, a cover version of Don McLean's 1971 song.
She released her eighth studio album, Music, in September 2000.