Billboard Bits: Nelly, Bon Jovi, Stevie Wonder, and more
News on Nelly, Bon Jovi, Stevie Wonder, Tenacious DAnimated versions of Nelly and his rap collective St. Lunatics star in "Rip Van Nelly," a new online Macromedia Flash game. With a Rip Van Winkle-like premise, Nelly wakes up under the St. Louis Arch after a 20-year nap, and users must navigate the rapper through a series of events in his hometown on his way to a concert.
Designed by Pileated Pictures, the game will debut tomorrow (June 19) on Nelly's official Web site.
In other news, Nelly will on June 27 join Missy Elliott, Timbaland, and Angie Martinez in celebrating New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter's 27th birthday. A limited number of tickets to the party -- which will take place at the WWF - The World theme restaurant/club in Times Square -- are on sale to the public via Ticketmaster.
-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.
In a 20-minute speech to students at the prestigious Oxford Union debating society in London, Jon Bon Jovi said that the secrets of his success were "passion, perseverance and possibility." Extolling the virtues of hard work and self-belief on Friday to students of the elite 800-year-old university, the New Jersey-born rocker said, "Nothing is more important than passion ... Whatever you decide to do in life, just be passionate about it. Don't be intimidated by competition, as success is sweeter and failure less bitter when you have given everything.
"You have to be true to yourself -- it's your life. You are the masters of your destiny and passion, not pedigree, will win the end," he said.
Bon Jovi, who also advised the students to "be humble and stay humble," took time out from his band's British tour to address the 178-year-old society -- which has played host to world leaders and Nobel Prize winners, as well as such pop culture icons as O.J. Simpson, Jerry Springer, and Michael Jackson.
Stevie Wonder had a surprise graduation present for his son and his classmates. The singer made an appearance last Thursday at commencement ceremonies at Highland High School in Palmdale, 60 miles north of Los Angeles, treating the stunned audience to a song a cappella and providing encouraging words to departing seniors.
Wonder flew in from the East Coast for the graduation of his son, Mumtaz Morris, whom few at the school knew was Wonder's son. Wonder was born Steveland Morris.
Senior Jason Faulk said students ''went wild'' when they saw Wonder driven to the speaker's platform in a motorized cart. "It was pretty amazing. I didn't expect that one," Faulk said.
Cult favorite duo Tenacious D (Jack Black and Kyle Gass) will release its long-awaited Epic debut on Sept. 25. Guests on the self-titled set include Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, Phish keyboardist Page McConnell, Redd Kross' Steve McDonald, and the Vandals' Warren Fitzgerald. The album sports studio versions of live staples such as "Tribute," "Lee," and "F**k Her Gently," plus a host of new tunes. A North American tour is in the works for the fall.
The group, first seen on the HBO sketch comedy series "Mr. Show" and later in its own HBO specials, is developing a feature film. Gass and Black co-wrote the forthcoming "Mr. Show"-themed movie, "Run Ronnie Run."
-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.
Copyright 2001 Billboard.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.