Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, India.Arie, Angie Stone, Luther Vandross, the Isley Brothers, and Al Green lead the lineup for the Essence Music Festival, set for July 4-6 at the Superdome in New Orleans. The annual festival is back in New Orleans for a fourth time after difficulties in negotiations between city officials and organizers were resolved. Destiny's Child, Erykah Badu, and Jill Scott were among last year's performers.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion will kick off a 21-show North American tour April 25 in Washington, D.C. The trek comes in support of the group's upcoming album "Plastic Fang," due April 9 via Matador. It's the group's first set since 1998's "Acme," which earned the group it's highest chart placement on The Billboard 200 at No. 121.
Musician/actor Little Steven Van Zandt will launch a weekly syndicated radio show with an April 7 gala taping in New York. "Hard Rock Cafe Presents Little Steven's Underground Garage" will showcase music by 1960s-era garage rock pioneers and the bands carrying on the tradition today. The two-hour show will bow in 20 broadcast markets on a combination of rock and talk stations, with most planning to air "Underground Garage" on Sunday nights (see affiliate list below for details).
South African singer Miriam Makeba and Tatarstani avant garde composer Sofia Gubaidulina have been designated as the winners of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music's annual Polar Music Prize. Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf will present the honors at a gala May 27 ceremony in Stockholm.
Veteran rock artist Don Henley and recent Grammy winner Train have signed on to perform at Tiger Jam V, set for April 20 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Presented by Coca-Cola, the annual benefit concert raises funds for the Tiger Woods Foundation and Las Vegas- and Los Angeles-based children's charities.
As a principal member of what was arguably the greatest rock'n'roll band of all time, John Paul Jones was in need for a change by the time Led Zeppelin dissolved in 1980. Putting his own music on the backburner, he thrived as a producer and arranger with artists as diverse as Diamanda Galas, the Butthole Surfers, and R.E.M. But since 1999, Jones, now 56, has turned his attentions inward to make his own solo albums. His second album, "The Thunderthief," arrived in early February via King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp's Discipline Global Mobile label.
Veteran rock artist Bob Mould has joined the label collective United Musicians, founded by musicians Aimee Mann and Michael Penn. The company, in conjunction with RED Distribution and Mould's own Granary Music label, will promote the artist's upcoming album "Modulate."
The biggest-selling various artists compilation series in history will bow its latest installment March 19, as the 20-track "NOW That's What I Call Music! 9" (UTV Records, a division of UME) hits stores with recent hits from Jennifer Lopez, 'N Sync, Britney Spears, and others. Remixes of tracks by Pink, City High, and Petey Pablo are also included.
Even though artists who win Grammy awards or perform during the annually televised ceremony can traditionally expect a sales bump in the weeks following the event, a majority of music fans say the show holds no sway over their purchasing plans. Out of 4,372 respondents to a recently completed Billboard.com poll, 51% said their music purchases were not influenced by Grammy accolades or performances.
"It was kind of a challenge for us," Jon Spencer offers, relaxing at the Matador Records offices in lower Manhattan. "We just wanted to make a more traditional record. And, personally, I was looking for someone to pat me on the back and push me to something new." The record in question is Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's "Plastic Fang," due April 9 in the U.S. on Matador.
INXS is lining up its first North American tour since original lead singer Michael Hutchence's 1997 suicide. The 40-city tour will begin May 30 in Anaheim, Calif., with vocalist Jon Stevens filling Hutchence's role, as he has since the spring of 2000. "Much of our career has been spent in America and Canada and it'll be great to be back playing there again," guitarist Kirk Pengilly said in a statement.
Rapper C-Murder (real name: Corey Miller) has been indicted on a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the January shooting death of a teenager at a nightclub in Harvey, La, Billboard Bulletin reports. Miller -- the younger brother of hip-hop mogul Master P -- was arrested Jan. 19.