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Bill Withers, ‘Lean On Me’ and ‘Lovely Day’ singer, has died at 81

Bill Withers, the singer-songwriter whose soulful hits “Lean On Me,” Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lovely Day” became part of the soundtrack for a generation, has died.He was 81.

Withers died Monday in Los Angeles of heart complications, according to his family. “We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father. A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other,” his family said in a statement obtained by CNN. “As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world.

In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.”His songs have been considered timeless and “Lean On Me” has experienced a resurgence during the coronavirus pandemic because of its uplifting message of community support.”Bill Withers is the closest thing black people have to a Bruce Springsteen,” musician Quest Love told Rolling Stone in 2015.Withers passing was mourned Friday across musical genres and walks of life on Twitter.

“Rest in power Bill Withers. Your voice, songs, and total expression gave us love, hope, and strength,” rocker Lenny Kravitz tweeted.

“My soul always has & always will be full of your music. Your humility displayed & depth of your power as you carried us all to a better place. You’re still & always will be Bill.”Born in Slab Fork, West Virginia, Withers overcame a stutter as a child and joined the Navy as a teen.After a nine year stint in the military, Withers moved to Los Angeles in 1967 to pursue a career in music, taking a job at the Boeing aircraft company where he made toilet seats during the day.

At night Withers cut demos and eventually met the head of Sussex Records, the now famed music impresario Clarence Avant.Wither’s first album, “Just As I Am,” was released in 1971 and included the singles “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Grandma’s Hands.””Ain’t No Sunshine” was a hit and in 1972 Withers took home a Grammy for the single.That same year, “Lean On Me,” a song Withers wrote after being inspired by his childhood growing up in West Virginia, went to No. 1 on the R&B chart.The hit has since been covered by several other artists, including Club Nouveau. Their version won Withers a Grammy in 1987 as the songwriter.

The song is also the theme for the 1989 Morgan Freeman film of the same name and was performed at the inaugurations for both President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama.His 1972 album, “Still Bill,” launched another hit with “Use Me.”A legal battle with Sussex led to him signing with Columbia Records where he recorded “Lovely Day” as part of the 1977 album, “Menagerie.” Withers co-wrote the 1980 hit “Just The Two of Us,” which he recorded with saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. The tune won him his second best R&B song Grammy in 1981.Withers was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.His songwriting ability was as hailed as his singing.

“We lost a giant of songwriting today,” Paul Williams, president and chairman of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers said in a statement. “Bill Withers’ songs are among the most treasured and profound in the American songbook — universal in the way they touch people all over the world, transcending genre and generation. “”He was a beautiful man with a stunning sense of humor and a gift for truth,” Williams added. “I will miss him personally as will the entire ASCAP family. We love you, Bill.

Our hearts go out to his family.”In 1973 Withers made headlines when he married “Room 222” actress Denise Nicholas but the couple divorced a year later.He married Marcia Johnson in 1976 and is survived by her and their son and daughter, Todd and Kori.

By Lisa Respers France

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Entertainment News

HBO makes programming available free as part of #StayHomeBoxOffice

In advance of the launch of streaming service HBO Max, HBO will seek to ease the act of social distancing by making 500 hours of programming available free for a limited time, under the heading #StayHomeBoxOffice.The promotion kicks off April 3, and will include free streaming of such series as “The Sopranos,” “The Wire” and “Veep,” as well as HBO documentaries and an assortment of Warner Bros. movies. Many of the films are aimed at kids or a family audience, such as “Pokemon Detective Pikachu,” “Smallfoot” and “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.”The programming will be available to stream without a subscription on HBO Now and HBO Go. Other series included in the promotion are “Succession,” “Barry,” “Silcon Valley” and “Ballers,” as well as the older titles “True Blood” and “Six Feet Under.”HBO Max, the company’s streaming venture, is scheduled to launch in May. HBO, Warner Bros. and CNN are all units of WarnerMedia.

Several entertainment companies have juggled release dates to serve the vast audience hunting for something to watch while living through shelter-at-home orders due to coronavirus.Separately, TNT — another WarnerMedia network — announced that it would move up by two weeks, to May 17, the premiere of “Snowpiercer,” the dystopian sci-fi series based on the movie by “Parasite” director Bong Joon Ho.

By Brian Lowry

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Entertainment News

Dolly Parton donates $1 million toward coronavirus research

The legendary performer on Wednesday announced she was making a $1 million donation to Vanderbilt University’s coronavirus research.”My longtime friend Dr. Naji Abumrad, who’s been involved in research at Vanderbilt for many years, informed me that they were making some exciting advancements towards research of the coronavirus for a cure,” she wrote in a statement posted to Instagram.

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Parton is one of many celebrities making sizable donations towards worthy causes amid the global pandemic.Rihanna’s The Clara Lionel Foundation and Jay-Z’s Shawn Carter Foundation each donated $1 million to coronavirus response efforts this week.

Last week, Kylie Jenner donated $1 million to buy personal protective equipment for health-care workers, and Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively gave $1 million to two food charities.”We are incredibly grateful to Dolly (@DollyParton) for believing in our doctors and researchers as we work hard to fight COVID-19,” Vanderbilt University Medical Center said in a statement

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Entertainment News

Alex Trebek reciting Lizzo is 100% what we needed right now

We didn’t need a DNA test to know we 100% needed this moment.”Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek recited a Lizzo lyric as a clue to a question on the episode that aired Thursday night. And while his rendition was far from musical, it was still music to our ears.A contestant picked the category “Lyrics of Today” for $1,000. Up came the clue: “Her: New man on the Minnesota Vikings, truth hurts, needed something more exciting, bom bom bi dom bi dum bum bay.”Another contestant answered correctly with “Who is Lizzo?”, to which Trebek deadpanned, “Yup — and I did it exactly like she does, didn’t I? Yeah.” And the audience laughed.

They were, of course, the lyrics to Lizzo’s Grammy-winning song, “Truth Hurts.”Having a beloved game show host recite lyrics from the singer who makes us feel body-positive — and fully aware of the humor while doing it — is the perfect kind of feel-good moment these days.It’s not the first time Lizzo has been featured on the show, either. After she was the answer to a question last October, she celebrated on Instagram.”I MADE IT I LOVE YOU ALEX TREBEK,” she wrote.So to quote from another Lizzo song, “Baby how you feelin’?”We’re feeling a lot better now. Thank you, Alex Trebek.

By Melissa Gray

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Entertainment News

Golden Globes and Emmys change rules in light of coronavirus pandemic

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) and the Television Academy are implementing changes due to the coronovirus crisis.HPFA announced Thursday that it is temporarily modifying its eligibility rules for the Golden Globe Awards as movie theaters and screening rooms have had to close due to the pandemic.Under the new guidelines, motion pictures no longer have to be screened for HFPA members.”These rules have been provisionally modified,” a statement from HFPA reads. “In light of the closure of all theatres and screening rooms in Los Angeles, the requirement that a motion picture release must be screened for HFPA members in a theatre or screening room is temporarily suspended.”Film distributors still have to meet the timing requirements of the Golden Globes eligibility rules under which members must be able to screen English-language motion pictures no later than one week after the release in Los Angeles.In lieu of in-person screenings, “distributors must provide all HFPA members with a screening link or a DVD copy of the motion picture so that members may view it at home.”Previously, the eligibility rules held that films had to be in theaters or on pay-per-view cable or pay-per-view digital delivery (not subscription cable or digital delivery) in the greater Los Angeles area for a minimum of seven days before midnight on December 31 of the qualifying year.Now, under the temporary rules, motion pictures need only to have “had a bona fide theatrical release planned to begin in Los Angeles” to be deemed eligible.The modified rules are in effect from March 15 until April 30, 2020, though HFPA said it will continue to monitor the COVID-19 epidemic and reserves the right to extend those dates.Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are set to return to the Golden Globes as co-hosts for the 2021 telecast, the date of which has yet to be announced.On Friday, The Television Academy announced changes to be implemented for the 72nd Emmy Awards season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.The updates include a revised Emmy voting calendar, modification of the hanging episode rule for series and limited series, and suspension of For Your Consideration industry events.Due to production and programming delays, the Academy has extended the eligibility date for “hanging episodes” to June 30, instead of May 31.The revised Emmy Awards calendar is now as follows:

  • June 5: Entry deadline
  • July 2: Nominations-round voting begins
  • July 13: Nominations-round voting ends
  • July 28: Nominations announced
  • August 21: Final-round voting begins
  • August 31: Final-round voting ends

There are currently no plans to cancel or delay the September 20 Emmy telecast or the September 12 and 13 Creative Arts Emmy ceremonies

By Lisa Respers France

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Music News

Elton John to headline benefit concert amid coronavirus pandemic

Elton John wants to make sure America’s medical professionals feel the love on Sunday night.The superstar singer will host a benefit special, airing March 29 on Fox, that will pay tribute to front line health care workers and first responders amid the coronavirus pandemic and seek donations.Performers for “Fox Presents the iHeart Living Room Concert for America” will include Alicia Keys, the Backstreet Boys, Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mariah Carey and Tim McGraw.All the artists will appear from their own homes and be “filmed with their personal cell phones, camera and audio equipment,” according to a release from Fox.Feeding America and First Responders Children’s Foundation will benefit from proceeds raised.The hour-long special will have no commercials and air at 9 p.m. ET and be broadcast on iHeartMedia radio stations as well.

By Sandra Gonzalez

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Music News Video

Chino & Nacho’s Return, Tainy’s Solo EP & More New Music

Chino & Nacho – “Raro” (Universal Music Group)

After a four-year hiatus embarking on their solo careers, Chyno Miranda and Nacho have returned as a duo with the release of “Raro.” The highly awaited Chino & Nacho comeback was born thanks to their fans on social media asking the Venezuelan artists to record together again. “Raro,” which translates to rare, is a pop tropical fusion that best characterizes the Chino & Nacho essence. Directed by Daniel Duran, the music video (and single) tells the story of a rare-kind-of-love, one that’s not found nowadays. In the clip, Chino & Nacho are seen together like the good ole’ days as different couples, young, old, interracial and same-sex, are living their best life despite it all. As of now, Chino & Nacho only have plans for releasing this track together. Watch the music video below. — JESSICA ROIZ

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Music News Video

Alejandro Sanz & Juanes Launch Livestream Special After Coronavirus Cancelations

Alejandro Sanz and Juanes were forced to postpone upcoming concerts due to the coronavirus pandemic, but fans will get the chance to see them perform, together, during a special livestreaming event on Sunday (March 15).

Both Sanz and Juanes are grounded in Miami as a result of the precautionary measures they’ve taken by postponing their tours, which were set to bring them both to Colombia this weekend.

Determined to make the most of an unfortunate situation, the good friends and Grammy-winning collaborators will be be joining forces for ALEJANDRO SANZ & JUANES: El Gira Se Queda En Casa Para Todos” (The Tour Stays Home For All), a jam session with performances and a digital Q&A that will be livestreamed from Art House Miami Studio.

“Friends are onstage but also at home,” Sanz wrote on Instagram following news of the event. Though Juanes is sad to have to back out of his Bogotá performance, he shared a smiling photo of himself and encouraged his fans to tune into the livestream: “Tomorrow we’ll be sharing a good time and good music. Will you join us?”

The livestream is set to start at 4:30 p.m. E.T., an intentional choice so that as many fans in as many timezones as possible could tune in. For more information, visit arthouseacademy.com/live/.

Watch Sanz and Juanes’ livestream below

David Becker/Getty Images for LARAS

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Music News Video

Demi Lovato’s ‘I Love Me’ Is the Week’s Top-Selling Song

Lovato earns her latest top 20 hit on the Hot 100 & second No. 1 on the Digital Song Sales chart after prior release “Anyone.”

Demi Lovato’s “I Love Me” debuts at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 (dated March 21), arriving as the week’s top-selling song.

The track starts at No. 1 on the Digital Song Sales chart, with 38,000 sold in its first week, ending March 12, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data, following its March 6 release. It also drew 14.2 million U.S. streams in the week ending March 12, as it enters Streaming Songs at No. 36, and 15.9 million in all-format radio audience in the week ending March 15.

Lovato lands her second Digital Song Sales No. 1, with both leaders achieved consecutively: “Anyone” opened atop the Feb. 8-dated chart. “I Love Me” is also her 12th top 10 on the ranking.

Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

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Music News

Ricky Martin, J Balvin, Daddy Yankee & More Latin Artists Encourage Fans to Stay Home Amid Coronavirus

Many Latin artists, including Ricky Martin, Daddy Yankee, J Balvin and others, are using their platforms to encourage fans to stay home amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) global outbreak.

Since its outbreak at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, China, more than 80,000 people have contracted the disease, resulting in more than 2,700 deaths according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Over 1,600 cases have been reported in the U.S. at press time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As the disease continues to spread, the CDC recommends that organizers cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the U.S. for the next eight weeks. This is why many artists, such as Maluma, Aventura, Karol G, and Jorge Drexler, in addition to music festivals such as Coachella, are canceling or postponing their events.

Basic protective measures against the novel coronavirus, according to WHO, include washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, maintaining social distancing at least three feet between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing, and avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.

To help prevent the outbreak, many Latin artists are also asking their fans to stay home. On Instagram stories, Becky G told her fans “now is not a time for panic but to ground yourself. Our current state of the nation is not something to take lightly.”

Karol G and Anuel AA spent their weekend at home listening to reggaeton music and playing video games, while Alejandro Sanz and Juanes, who both had to reschedule their weekend shows, provided a Livestream concert to fans via YouTube.

J BALVIN

Via Twitter, J Balvin said: “It’s our responsibility to say home and take care of each other. This too will pass.”

RICKY MARTIN

Via a video posted on Instagram, Ricky Martin asks his fans to please take responsible actions and stay at home, giving an example of close friends he has in China and Italy.

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#YoMeQuedoEnCasa #CoronaVirus #STAYHOME

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DADDY YANKEE

A conscious Daddy Yankee social distanced himself over the weekend by jumping on his boat and enjoying nature in Puerto Rico. “It’s a tough challenge the world is facing but I know we will overcome it as the strong humans that we are,” he said.

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Tamo’ en ISLA-MIENTO! #distanciamientosocial

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KAROL G

Over at Twitter, Karol G told her fans that her upcoming concerts have been suspended because their health comes first. She cleverly used her song “TUSA” to send the message across too.

OZUNA

Celebrating his 28th birthday on a boat and with some bachata tunes in the background, Ozuna filmed a video thanking his fans for their birthday wishes. He also admitted he was a bit under the weather and hoped to not have the coronavirus. At the end of the clip, he told his fans to pray during these difficult times.

SEBASTIAN YATRA

Another artist who is staying at home amid COVID-19 is Sebastian Yatra. The Colombian singer serenaded his fans on Instagram, performing a cover of Shawn Mendes’ “Never Be Alone” and an acoustic version of his own single “No Hay Nadie Mas.”

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@shawnmendes #neverbealone

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