Category Archives: Music

Kirk Franklin Prepares For First Solo Tour, Encourages Us To Lose Our Religion

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*Gospel superstar Kirk Franklin has never shied away from controversy. In 2007, he admitted that his “addiction” to pornography almost ended his marriage. Last fall, he apologized to the gay community for the way the church has treated gays, behavior that Franklin thinks is homophobic and not in line with Christ’s message.

Now, one of gospel music’s biggest stars is encouraging listeners to lose their religion with the release of his 11th studio album, appropriately entitled Losing My Religion. The album debuted at the #1 position on Billboard’s Gospel Album chart, marking Franklin’s 11th consecutive #1 debut. The album’s initial single, “Wanna Be Happy”, debuted atop the Gospel Digital Songs and Hot Gospel Songs charts and has earned Franklin his latest Grammy nomination, for Best Gospel Song / Performance.

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Franklin is busily preparing for his 20 Years In One Night Tour this spring. It’s the star’s first-ever solo tour and will be a retrospective of his career, which has garnered him nine Grammy Awards, 40 Stellar Awards and 16 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards.

The 45-year-old superstar graciously made time for an in-depth conversation about his new album, how he’s overcome the bounds of fear, how Christians have fallen short of representing God, and what we can expect from him on his upcoming tour. The following are excerpts from our incredible conversation.

On why he’s encouraging folks to “lose their religion”: Continue reading

“Enjoy the moment! Enjoy the journey! Enjoy the ride!” A Conversation with Oleta Adams

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*Although superstar Oleta Adams emerged as a vocal phenom with the British rock group Tears For Fears, it was “Get Here,” a cover of a Brenda Russell composition and a benediction of sorts to US troops who were stationed overseas during the first Gulf War, that really catapulted her to the international stage.

Other standout recordings of Adams’ include the definitive cover of Billy Joel’s “New York State Of Mind,” “Captain Of My Ship” (a reverent tribute to Rosa Parks), and superb gospel (Come Walk With Me) and holiday (Christmas Time With Oleta) albums.

The 62-year-old vocal powerhouse has toured the world along with artists including Luther Vandross, Phil Collins, and Michael Bolton. She has delighted Bay Area audiences a number of times over the years at the annual Colors of Christmas show with Peabo Bryson and the San Francisco Symphony.

Adams’ voice is truly one of the most powerful and identifiable I’ve ever heard. It simultaneously enfolds, comforts, seduces, and ignites. Listen to “I Just Had To Hear Your Voice” from her brilliant 1993 Evolution album and you’ll understand — you’ll feel — what I mean.   And it’s truly wonderful — and increasingly rare — to hear an artist who can deliver the same vocals live that you’ve come to love on record.  Adams is one of those artists.

The four time Grammy-nominee — I can’t tell you how in the world she’s never won one! — is finalizing work on a stunning new album, she’s just released two new singles, and she’s preparing for two solo shows in Oakland on February 21. Trust me: if you can get to Oakland in February, get there if you can!

Adams and I chatted by phone recently, and I had to share highlights of my incredible conversation with one of the music industry’s most gifted artists. Continue reading

Johnny Mathis Talks Christmas Music — Our Exclusive Conversation!

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*While Christmas shopping recently, I paused while listening to a hauntingly beautiful song recorded by the incomparable Johnny Mathis. It’s called “Count Your Blessings (Instead Of Sheep)” and it’s featured on Mathis’ latest Christmas collection, 2013’s exceptional, Grammy-nominated Sending You A Little Christmas.

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Mathis, 80, is one of few artists who has recorded so many Christmas albums over the years, beginning with 1958’s classic Merry Christmas, that you can use the word “latest” to differentiate between them!

Chances are you’ve played — or at least heard — something from Mathis this holiday season. His vast Christmas collection is the soundtrack of, literally, generations of music lovers. As the gorgeous track faded down, I wondered what Mathis himself enjoys listening to at Christmastime. Continue reading

A Charlie Brown Christmas Live, with The Little Mermaid!

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*I don’t care how old you are, or what race, gender or sexual orientation — when a Disney Princess calls you, you have at least a small “freak out” moment.

“Hi, Michael.  This is Jodi Benson.” on the other end of my phone yesterday morning did it for me.

For the uninitiated, Benson is the Broadway star, actress, and singer who gave a voice to Ariel in the Disney animated classic The Little Mermaid.  She gave me a call to tell me about her upcoming gig with the San Francisco Symphony, A Charlie Brown Christmas LIVE.  She’ll perform holiday hits and a hit or two of her own (“Part Of Your World, anyone?) with the San Francisco Symphony, at Davies Hall.   The show runs December 18-24.

“The conductor, Randall Fleischer, and I are old friends,” Benson, 51 told me by phone in her distinctive, still-girlish voice. “We have worked together for almost two decades, and I have sung with the San Francisco Symphony I believe three times, but it’s been several years since I’ve been there! So when Randall got this particular gig, and he told me he would love for me to come celebrate the holidays with him and the San Francisco Symphony, of course I said ‘yes’.”

A Charlie Brown Christmas and Disney’s Little Mermaid? THAT’s a ticket that’ll be hard to beat this holiday season! Continue reading

After 22 Years, the Curtain Closes on Peabo Bryson & the Colors Of Christmas

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*Colors of Christmas is a peerless blend of holiday favorites and chart-topping hits performed by vocal titan Peabo Bryson and some of the absolute best R & B and pop vocalists who have ever walked the planet.

In two days, we’ll have to say “Colors of Christmas HAS BEEN a peerless blend…”, as this is the show’s final year.

Since 1993, Bryson has anchored the show, and was joined that first year by Patti Austin, Roberta Flack, and Jeffrey Osborne.   The program delivered sterling performances year after yuletide year, by a phenomenal group of artists including James Ingram, CeCe Winans, Ruben Studdard, and Jennifer Holiday.

Oleta Adams, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr., and BeBe Winans will take the stage on December 14 and 15 at San Francisco’s Davies Hall, with Bryson and the San Francisco Symphony.

“We have always enjoyed the opportunity to sing our hits as well as celebrate the Christmas season,” McCoo told me by phone. “Christmas is a very special time of year, and it’s important to our faith.”

“Colors of Christmas also gives us a chance to see and fellowship with artists that we know very well, but aren’t able to see much because of our schedules,” Davis added. “It’s a wonderful time of camaraderie. The show also gives us a chance to sing God’s praises.”

Over the last three decades, very few have sung God’s praises more successfully than gospel superstar BeBe Winans, who is new to the Colors of Christmas lineup this year. Continue reading

Early Gift to Motown Fans: Expanded, Remastered 50th Anniversary Edition of The Supremes’ Merry Christmas

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*Diana Ross fans are getting a second Christmas present this year!

On the heels of the long-awaited, successful release of Diana Ross Sings Songs From The Wiz, Motown Universal is releasing a remastered, expanded version of The Supremes’ classic Merry Christmas album.

In addition to the original mono and subsequently released stereo version of the 1965 album, this reissue delivers bonus tracks including a never-before-heard version of “Silver Bells” that features an additional verse, the rare “Lonely Lonely Christmas”, and a prized version of “Silent Night” that features Florence Ballard on lead vocals. The album also includes a previously unreleased live version of “My Favorite Things” from a 1967 concert at the legendary Copa. The show was one of the final concerts by the original Supremes lineup, before Cindy Birdsong joined the rechristened Diana Ross & the Supremes. Continue reading

Court Says Baby Can Bounce to ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ By Prince on YouTube (Watch)

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*A YouTube video of a 13-month-old boy happily bouncing up and down to the Prince song, ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ while pushing his little Fisher-Price stroller has caused quite a stir with the Universal Music Group. Though the 30-second-video clip was uploaded by the child’s mom, Stephanie Lenz, in 2007, Universal demanded it be taken down — saying it infringed upon copyright rules. Apparently, they didn’t think the mother had an inkling about ‘fair use’ and used this argument to appeal the ruling.

A court has cleared the way for her Appeal to move forward.

Intellectual Property continues to be a prickly situation because of its intangible nature. And usage of such properties on the Internet seems to have only exacerbated the problem.  Universal Music had demanded YouTube take the video down (they did for a while) and cited copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Continue reading

San Francisco’s Castro Theatre Offers Sing-A-Long Fun For Families

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*I may be the only person alive who never understood the whole Rocky Horror Picture Show thing.

You’ve seen or read about these events. For decades now, rabid fans of the movie have been packing theaters around the world, dressed as their favorite characters from the movie, to enjoy a viewing experience that I’m told is quite interactive. To be frank, I never quite got why anyone would waste their time and money.  I was never even much of a Halloween person, so dressing up as a character to watch a movie seemed crazy.

As it turns out, Rocky Horror was just the wrong movie for me. I recently discovered San Francisco’s Castro Theatre’s sing-a-long lineup, and I took my eldest daughter, Janet, to see Disney’s The Little Mermaid. We had an absolute blast.  The theatre enjoyed five sold-out shows last weekend, quite a feat for a movie that’s over 25 years old and has seen at least three releases on home video formats dating back to the Laserdisc. Continue reading