Our Own Tina Jenkins Crawley is the WINNER of The Chicago Music Awards "BEST GOSPEL ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR!"
BMI Celebrates Israel Houghton, LaShun Pace and The Anointed Pace Sisters at 2015 Trailblazers Event
Pictured: The Anointed Pace Sisters and Israel Houghton (center) with BMI Executive Director, Writer-Publisher Relations Wardell Malloy (far left), BMI Vice President, Writer-Publisher Relations Catherine Brewton (center), and BMI Director, Writer-Publisher Relations Byron Wright (far right). Photo: Arnold Turner
Broadcast Music, Inc. brought legends and contemporary stars together to celebrate the careers of gospel giants Israel Houghton, LaShun Pace and The Anointed Pace Sisters at its 16th annual Trailblazers of Gospel Music Awards yesterday in Atlanta.
The event, held at the Rialto Center for the Arts, also recognized BMI’s Most-Performed Gospel Song of the Year: “The Gift,” written and performed by Donald Lawrence. The song, featured on Lawrence’s album Best For Last, topped the Billboard Gospel Airplay chart and achieved wide-spread success. BMI also recognized five additional opuses as Top-Performed Gospel Songs of the Year (2014): “1 On 1,” written by Lucius B. Hoskins and performed by Zacardi Cortez; “Clean This House,” co-written by Philip Cornish and Isaac Carree, who is the performer; “God Will Make a Way,” written by Ay’Ron Lewis and performed by Shirley Caesar; “Here in Our Praise,” co-written by Michael Bethany and Fred Hammond, who is the performer; and “It’s Working,” co-written by Aaron Lindsey and William Murphy, who is the performer.
Musical tributes began with an awe-inspiring nod to The Anointed Pace Sisters, featuring Zie’l (“Safety Zone”), The Walls Group (“Contentment”), The Company (“U-Know”), Dorinda Clark Cole (“Be a Fence”) and Lisa Page Brooks and Tasha Page-Lockhart (“When God is in the Building”). The charismatic songs of LaShun Pace were then celebrated with dynamic performances by B. Slade (“I Know I’ve Been Changed”), Kathy Taylor (“Just Because God Said It”), and Rance Allen (“He Keeps Doing Great Things For Me”). Serving as the event’s triumphant finale, the exalted songs of Israel Houghton were then celebrated with dynamic performances by Tommy Sims (“Nothing Else Matters”), Fred Hammond (“Friend of God/Again I Say Rejoice”), Kim Burrell (“It’s Not Over (When God Is In It”), Micah Stampley (“New Season”), Tasha Cobbs (“Alpha & Omega”), and Jonathan McReynolds (“Moving Forward”).
Gospel music authorities Kim Burrell and VaShawn Mitchell hosted the ceremony, along with Mike O’Neill, BMI President and CEO and Catherine Brewton, BMI Vice President, Writer/Publisher Relations, Atlanta.
BMI’s impressive roster of gospel songwriters includes Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams, Jessica Reedy, Marvin Sapp, Twinkie Clark, BeBe Winans, Wess Morgan, Kim Burrell and many others.
JANUARY 23, 2015 | 10:14AM PTElizabeth Wagmeister@EWagmeister
TruTV has ordered a scripted comedy pilot for Shaquille O’Neal, the cabler announced Friday.
“Shaq. Inq.” will star the former basketbal player who will also exec produce the workplace comedy, loosely based on the team running his business empire.
“There is no denying Shaq’s multifaceted appeal,” said Chris Linn, president, head of programming for truTV. “Thus, we couldn’t be happier to be collaborating with him, as well as Mike Tollin and Mandalay Sports Media, as we continue to push into new formats.”
Tollin, who is exec producing with O’Neal, added, “Shaquille and I have been friends for 20 years, and his growth as a businessman never ceases to amaze and amuse me.”
Jeremy Garelick (“The Wedding Ringer,” “The Break Up”) will write the pilot, John Fortenberry (“Galavant,” “Instant Mom”) will direct, and Dan Kaplow (“Trophy Wife”) and Jon Weinbach (“The Other Dream Team,” “Straight Outta L.A.”) will serve as co-executive producers on the pilot. Mandalay Sports Media is producing.
Just as the Berlin Film Market is set to bow, Open Road has picked up the distribution rights to the remake of the 2011 French film “Sleepless Night” and will produce with Jamie Foxx and Michelle Monaghan attached to star.
Baran Bo Odar is directing.
The pic was originally set up at Warner Bros. before being put into turnaround even though Foxx had expressed interest in starring. After hearing Foxx was circling the project, Open Road moved quickly to acquire it and plans to sell international rights next week in Berlin.
Story follows an undercover police officer who scours a nightclub in search of his kidnapped son.
Roy Lee and Adam Stone will produce for Vertigo Entertainment, and Open Road Films will finance production and take worldwide distribution rights under its recently announced partnership with FilmNation. Open Road Films’ Tom Ortenberg and Peter Lawson are executive producers.
Andrea Berloff penned the script.
“With a sharp script and a first rate team of talent in front of and behind the camera, we are proud to produce ‘Sleepless Night’ and to make this project the inaugural film under our international distribution agreement with FilmNation,” Ortenberg said.
Foxx continues to keep busy, having also recently announced plans to play Mike Tyson in an untitled biopic; he also has a starring role in Harmony Korine’s “The Trap.” The actor was most recently seen in Sony’s “Annie.”
Monaghan is coming off the first season of “True Detective,” which earned her a Golden GLobe nomination, and can be seen next in “Pixels.”
David Oyelowo (left) as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King in Selma.
Atsushi Nishijima/Paramount Pictures
The most beautiful thing about Ava DuVernay's film Selma -- the first major biographical film feature about Martin Luther King, Jr. — is its deep recognition of how private encounters inform and even shape historic events. The portrayal of public confrontation and violence on the Alabama town's Edmund Pettus Bridge earn their pathos; watching them raised emotions in my school-age daughter that no social studies class has yet inspired. But DuVernay builds toward her climaxes with many other interior scenes — in a kitchen where a woman feeds the cause with breakfast biscuits, or on a nighttime car drive during which a young freedom fighter turns his elder's rationalizations around with some simple truths, or in a family living room where a wife's decision to cope quietly with her husband's infidelity becomes a profound act of movement solidarity. Even the controversial portrayal of Martin Luther King's relationship with President Lyndon Baines Johnson unfolds almost entirely behind closed doors, within startlingly intimate arguments. It's crucial that a black feminist determined to fill in the gaps left by history's focus on great men is the first to create a portrait of one of America's greatest: In a year when a new, non-hierarchical style of activism in Ferguson and beyond is again changing history, DuVernay illuminates a different path for Hollywood biopics, one that gets at the truth of how individuals grow into themselves, and their fates, in relationship with others.
Given this vision, it's not surprising that when it comes to music, DuVernay stays away from the big group sing-alongs and celebrity sightings weighing down our memories of King's crusades. At the film's conclusion, we hear a very 21st-century anthem crafted by John Legend and Common and now nominated for an Oscar for Best Song; Common's rap in particular calls for action while connecting the film's historical events to the present day. That's followed by the old crowd-pleaser "This Little Light Of Mine." But there's no folksy chorus during a march and no majestic solos like the ones Mahalia Jackson and others took on the Washington Mall in 1963. Instead, one of Selma's most powerful moments — one frequently singled out by critics for praise — captures a secret, crucial reassurance murmured into that most tenderly held instrument, the telephone receiver. Afraid of what Selma holds for him, King makes a late-night call to his friend and fellow freedom fighter Mahalia Jackson (portrayed by the versatile vocalist Ledisi) and asks her to share "the Lord's voice" with him. She answers by singing his favorite gospel song, "Take My Hand, Precious Lord."
Whether this phone call really ever happened is unknown, but King really did adore Thomas A. Dorsey's elemental plea for divine intervention. He frequently requested it of the gospel greats he ran across at benefits and other gatherings, and told Jacksonshe should sing it at his funeral if he died before she did. The song is fatefully linked to King's last night: Right before he was shot by a vicious racist on a Memphis balcony, he called out to the saxophonist Ben Branch to play it "real pretty" at an upcoming meeting. Jackson did end up wailing the hymn at King's funeral, and Aretha Franklindid so at his memorial service. In the narrative he left behind, King lived, died, and was spiritually resurrected through Dorsey's glorious hymn.
But Martin Luther King, Jr. could hardly claim "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" only for himself. It is the composition that changed gospel music, setting the terms for the miracles of personal transformation within performance that define the Golden Age of Gospel that Jackson, Clara Ward, Dorothy Love Coates and so many other profound artists inhabited. Written at a time when singers in storefront churches and on city streets were pouring urgency into gospel music, but when the songs that formed the genre's canon still avoided the gut that the blues had accessed, "Take My Hand, Precious Lord," showed how music floating toward heaven could also be frank about the pain and pleasure of physical life. And the story of how the song was written, it turns out, is one that would make for a perfect Ava DuVernay vehicle.
In 1932, Dorsey, a Chicago-based gospel choir director and composer, wrote the song that changed his life and gospel's course. But it was inspired by a terrible loss. For years Dorsey had written dirty blues to pay the rent, under the name Georgia Tom, even as he tried to shore up his career as a man of God. He was doing pretty well by 1930, planning to leave sin behind: he had a home church, Ebenezer Baptist, where he was the musical director and had sold some hymns to songbook publishers. But he still hadn't figured out how to bring the urgency and sensuality he found in the blues into his sacred work.
Nettie Dorsey, then 24, was nearly due to deliver the couple's first child when Thomas decided to jump over to St. Louis to promote his songs among the local choirs there. In a postcard dated August 24, 1932, Dorsey wrote: "Dear Nettie, old dear, I'm having a pretty good time and success. I'll be home about the last of the week. Take care of yourself, bee [sic] sweet." Before he arrived back, Nettie died in childbirth. Dorsey rushed home in horror and grief and was able to hold his son before the infant perished the next morning. Dorsey, already prone to depression, fell into a tailspin. "I became so lonely I did not feel that I could go on alone," he later told his biographer, Michael W. Harris.
Yet bereft as he was, Dorsey wasn't alone. Like DuVernay's King, he found his strength and ultimately his artistic vision in community. The women members of his church sent him a steady stream of condolence letters and made countless visits to the Dorsey home, bringing covered supper dishes and enveloping the young sacred songwriter in healing compassion. And Dorsey also still had his muse, the blues, though it was dragging him into dark places.
On one of those letters from a congregant, Dorsey scrawled the lyrics of the song he wrote right before "Precious Lord" — "I Am Thinking of a City," which would berecorded in 1937 by Alabama's Ravizee Family Singers. The song is a dream of escape through death. "I am thinking of a city in a beautiful land where there's joy and pleasure untold," Dorsey's handwritten draft begins. That place offers peace and "riches I'll share" — not the afflictions of the earth or the fickleness of friends who leave. This song expresses Dorsey's eagerness for the Lord to get him out of this uncertain mortal realm. "I Am Thinking of a City" is a nihilistic daydream couched in the language of transcendence. In that way, it's like many pre-Civil Rights Era hymns and spirituals, focusing on a land somewhere else — beyond Jordan, beyond Southern clay farmlands or dirty Northern slums, beyond the everyday realities of physical life. This was a crucial survival tool. But it lacked earthiness, literal earthiness — the acknowledgment that we don't live "over there," even when we want to.
Dorsey's church community, especially the women, exemplified that earthiness. The condolence letters they sent after Nettie's death implored Dorsey to surrender his grief while in Jesus's arms. They advised Dorsey to take emotional action right away. "The Great Ruler of the Universe doeth all things for the best, and we therefore commend you to Him," one reads. "Lean thou upon Him for He will strengthen you for the ordeal — Remember the words — "O Lord, I'm In Your Care." Nothing can be more consoling." Lean on Him. Resign yourself to his will. Bow your head and admit you're vulnerable. The gentle admonishments in these condolence letters foreshadowed what Dorsey would eventually express in "Take My Hand, Precious Lord."
Precious Nettie would never return. Therefore, Dorsey's church sisters told him, he needed to turn to his Precious Lord. That's exactly what Dorsey did in the midst of this avalanche of condolence. The composer would tell the story many times of how he took a walk with his choir's co-director, Theodore Frye, and happened into the community room of a beauty school in his neighborhood, where he found a piano. From memory, he began to play an old hymn, "Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone," a 19th-century update of the 18th-century favorite "Amazing Grace." Tweaking the melody a bit to focus on the slow climb of its first few phrases, Dorsey started coming up with new words. He found himself speaking directly to that God the letters told him to seek out, pleading, "Blessed Lord, take my hand!"
According to Dorsey, Frye suggested a crucial change — though it's one the songwriter might have already noticed in Underwood's note. Not "blessed," Frye allegedly said. "Precious." In a song lyric, as in a whispered seduction, one word can make all the difference.
"Take My Hand, Precious Lord" would go on to be recorded by virtually every major gospel star and countless secular ones before becoming forever associated with Martin Luther King. Within its legend, that one word means everything. Dorsey used the possessive, glittering adjective "precious" to step away from transcendence and to live fully in a complicated private moment, in pain and the desire to stop that pain. As both Jackson's and Franklin's versions prove, "Precious Lord" requires a singer to stay within her body while reaching heavenward, calling to God as a bereft blueswoman calls to a straying lover. Spirituals and hymns are meant to soothe need, promising experiences beyond it. "Precious Lord" comes alive within need, showing that need is, in fact, desire: yearning for a union so deep it might dissolve you.
The writing of "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" showed how a believer like Dorsey could find, in music, a passageway reconciling the separate realms of flesh and spirit. The holy music acknowledges that flesh and spirit are, after all, intertwined. This song, so seemingly simple, created a space where the beauty and poeticism of longing was revealed, and where the physicality of spiritual longing could be manifest. As in the mid-century milieus DuVernay portrays in Selma, the spaces where this song rules are private ones that open up into something bigger. There, women act in kind ways to point men toward revelations. Women also experience revelations, of course, as Jackson did whenever she sang, no matter if her audience was one person or thousands. Take my hand: In history told this way, the small gestures that unite people can build new artistic moments, new movements, new Americas.
The commercial logic informing “Empire,” Fox’s new primetime soap, is obvious: Music provides a backdrop with ancillary benefits, especially on a network airing “American Idol”; and while diversity has improved, there remains a dearth of serious drama with predominantly African-American casts. Yet the show that emerges, despite an impressive ensemble headlined by Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, feels perfunctory — as if subplots were chosen from a preordained serialized-TV checklist. By that measure, this handsome series dutifully plucks all the chords, yes, but doesn’t invest them with much surprise or conviction.
Howard plays Lucious Lyon, who has spent his life building Empire Entertainment into a Motown-like juggernaut. Still, a silent visit to the doctor suggests trouble lies ahead, which is hastened when he informs his three sons, without explaining why, that he intends to begin grooming one of them to succeed him.
This sets off a competition among the kids (one actually mentions “King Lear,” just in case anyone misses the parallels), who consist of the married businessman (Trai Byers); the closeted gay singer (Jussie Smollett) who dad doesn’t accept; and the youngest brother (Bryshere Gray), also a performer, who doesn’t feel wholly comfortable in the musical niche into which his father has shoehorned him.
The fireworks, however (or at least, the hope of them), are just starting, as Lucious’s wife Cookie (Henson) is released from prison wearing an outfit that makes clear she’s no wallflower, determined to claim a portion of the company she sees as rightfully hers. But securing Cookie’s fortune will require not just reconnecting with her sons, who have grown up without her, but if necessary manipulating them to do her bidding.
Created by director Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, who collaborated on “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” (which counted Howard among its cast), “Empire” owes an obvious debt to “Dreamgirls,” exposing the ruthlessness that surrounds the music industry. The premiere effectively uses flashbacks to putty in some of the family history, but almost every beat is so familiar the narrative can employ a kind of shorthand. That includes the music, which is plentiful, catchy, written by Timbaland, and as slick and derivative as everything else on display.
With “Idol” past its heyday, Fox could clearly use a break, and the way the network is promoting and scheduling “Empire” suggests the honchos think this might be the answer to their prayers. Certainly with all the talent involved — including an understated Malik Yoba as Lucious’ right hand, and Gabourey Sidibe, of Daniels’ “Precious,” in a guest stint — they haven’t scrimped on the cast, look or auspices.
For now, though, “Empire” feels more like an opening act than a marquee player, one that will need — even more than a good lead-in — luck and time to find its groove.
TV Review: 'Empire'(Series; Fox, Wed. Jan. 7, 9 p.m.)
Production Filmed in Chicago by Imagine Television in association with 20th Century Fox Television.
Crew: Executive producers, Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brian Grazer, Ilene Chaiken, Francie Calfo; director, Daniels; writers, Daniels, Strong; songs, Timbaland. 60 MIN.
Cast: Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Malik Yoba, Jussie Smollett, Bryshere Gray, Trai Byers, Grace Gealey, Kaitlin Doubleday, Gabourey Sidibe
The numbers show that 1989 deserved the attention, in the last week of 2014 it became the top-selling album of 2014 in the United States. According to Soundscan data, Swift’s album sold 3.66 million copies. The album has only been out for nine weeks, but it narrowly beat out Disney’s Frozen soundtrack sales (the soundtrack came out at the end of 2013). Beyoncé’s self-titled album came in at number six this year.
Overall, 257 million albums were sold in the United States in 2014, 11 percent less than 2013. Digital album sales fell by 9 percent, continuing 2013’s first-ever decline in digital sales. Swift’s 1989 was the top-selling digital album, selling 1.41 million units.
Vinyl record sales continue to rise (Fat Possum recently opened a new vinyl pressing plant to meet demand). Sales are are up 52 percent this year at 9.2 million. Jack White’s Lazaretto was the top selling vinyl album, selling 87,000 units.
DECEMBER 23, 2014 | 01:06PM PT
Paramount’s “Selma” easily swept the board with prizes from the Black Film Critics Circle, winning six awards, including best picture and acting ensemble.
SEE MORE: Awards: The Contenders
The film also won for Ava DuVernay, director; David Oyelowo, actor; Carmen Ejogo, supporting actress; and Paul Webb, original screenplay.
Other winners include actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw for “Belle”; supporting actor J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”; adapted screenplay, Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl”; cinematography, Emmanuel Lubezki, “Birdman”; foreign film, Poland’s “Ida”; documentary, the Alan Hicks-directed “Keep on Keepin’ On”; and animation, “The Lego Movie.”
Voting was done at the organization’s annual meeting in New York on Dec. 21.
In making the announcement, the org’s co-president Mike Sargent said, “This has been an incredibly diverse and progressive year for black film. Not only have we had dramas, comedies, thrillers and action films, 2014 has seen the rise of the black female director. This is also a year where we have seen biopics on no less then five black historical figures. And we’ve seen films starring black actors from the diaspora and, with the rise of Nollywood in the global marketplace, the future of black film looks very bright.”
A new chapter has been announced in Cuba-U.S. relations. But for more than half a century there have been serious diplomatic hostilities and blunders between the two nations. The most recent accusation is that the United States Agency for International Development covertly funded anti-government artists in Cuba.
Cuban rap duo Los Aldeanos has been criticizing the Castro regime for years. But these days, the duo's political position is coming under scrutiny.
A recent investigation published by The Associate Press says USAID secretly funneled money to contractors to recruit, promote and set up concerts for young rappers like Los Aldeanos — artists seeking social change. The program reportedly took place between 2009 and 2011.
Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst with the National Security Archives, is the author of the book about secret negotiations between Cuba and the U.S., Back Channel to Cuba. He says the allegations aren't really surprising — the hip-hop community represents a disenfranchised part of Cuban society. "The hip hop groups are mostly Afro-Cuban young people who have by in large been more marginalized. They have less relatives in the United States sending money than the white and lighter skinned Cubans. So you know, there's been a lot of frustration."
For his part, Rapper El B says he has never received money from USAID. He goes on to say that the AP's accusation that he and his musical partner received "political training" is simply untrue.
But he also says he sees no problem with organizations funding dissent on the island. "What is the problem with receiving help? And funding? How do you think Fidel Castro made a revolution? Do you think he broke his piggy bank? Fidel Castro went looking for money everywhere," he says.
USAID declined NPR's interview request, but provided this statement: "For decades, USAID has provided assistance to the people of Cuba to meet basic human needs. Allegations that USAID has conducted or supported covert operations are baseless."
Nevertheless, between 2009 and 2011, Congress allotted $55 million for Cuba programs — more than half of which went to USAID.
Christopher Sabatini is the senior policy director at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas, a think tank and business organization focused on Latin American issues. "Congress, currently Sen. [Robert] Menendez, but previously under the Bush administration, will not let USAID scale back these programs. There was one point during the Bush administration, $20 million allocated to these programs. This is a country of 11 million people. It's absurd. That's the scandal, in part."
If USAID involvement in Cuban hip-hop is true, it won't be the first such program. In fact, the USAID hip-hop project took place around the same time as two other high-profile failed ventures. Zunzuneo, or "Cuban Twitter," was a 2010 project to build a social media network to facilitate regime change. And Alan Gross, the imprisoned American who was released from a Cuban prison last week after President Obama's announcement of the thaw in Cuba-U.S. relations, was a USAID telecommunications contractor.
But the U.S. and Cuban government have been building cultural bridges for years. Kornbluh points to a 1999 independent cultural exchange program. "The Cuban government hosted something called Puentes musicales, 'musical bridges,' in which a whole bunch of artists went down. Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac was there; Bonnie Raitt was there."
And, earlier this year when Jay-Z and Beyonce went to the island, it was with the people-to-people program, which stipulates that travelers must support civil society.
But do recent changes really mean there will be no more Cuban Twitters, or USAID funding rappers? Kornbluh hopes so. "We have begun now a new era. And in the writing of this next chapter of U.S.-Cuban relations, the whole issue of regime change is going to fall by the wayside. We're going to have normal relations. Normal diplomatic relations, normal cultural relations, hopefully down the line normal economic relations."
As for rapper El B, it's not the accusations of being a USAID puppet that hurt him; it's the fact that anyone would believe them. "Everything I did, I did because I wanted to. I never felt used at any time. And people who know me, know I'm genuine. The part that really hurts me, is how the people get manipulated."