Billboard Bits: Willie Hutch, Trak Starz, 4AD

News on Willie Hutch, Trak Starz, 4AD

WillieVeteran singer/songwriter/producer Willie Hutch died Monday (Sept. 19) of undisclosed causes in Dallas. He was 59.

Best known for his work at Motown, his association with the label began in 1970 when record producer Hal Davis asked Hutch to help complete a song for the Jackson 5. "I'll Be There" became a huge hit for the group as did Hutch's subsequent collaborations with the quintet ("Never Can Say Goodbye") and Michael Jackson ("Got to Be There" ).

Hired to work regularly with other Motown artists by label founder Berry Gordy, Hutch logged production credits on albums by the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, among others.

Branching into soundtracks, he penned the music for the 1973 blaxploitation movie "The Mack." The critically acclaimed soundtrack spun off two of Hutch's biggest R&B hits, "Brother's Gonna Work It Out" and "Slick." Hutch's other Motown solo albums during the 1970s include "Fully Exposed," "Foxy Brown" and "Concert in Blues," as well as his 1975 top 10 R&B hit, "Love Power."

-- Gail Mitchell, L.A.

TrakHip-hop production duo Trak Starz will release its debut album, "Star Studded," in November via its eponymous imprint through Blackground. First single "Take It Off" features feature R&B trio STL, while fellow producers/artists Timbaland and Lil Jon will contribute to the appropriately named "Producers' Anthem."

Other acts pegged to appear on "Star Studded" include David Banner, Twista, Nate Dogg, Juvenile, Bun B and Chingy, whose debut album the Trak Starz produced.

Beyond the album, the pair is also working on projects with Ludacris, Nas and Janet Jackson, as well as co-writing with Babyface for an upcoming Aretha Franklin duets album. One track is pegged to be sung by Franklin and Beyoncé.

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

TVRevered label 4AD will usher in its 25th year with a London concert series and several upcoming releases. The shows will begin Nov. 17 at the Scala with TV On The Radio and will also encompass appearances by the Breeders, Kristin Hersh, the Mountain Goats, Blonde Redhead and Mark Kozelek with Mojave 3, performing songs by Red House Painters.

On Nov. 22, the label will issue the retrospective compilation "1980 Forward," which will also be available in a collector's edition that fans will be able to customize via 4AD's soon-to-be relaunched
Web site.

Also in the pipeline before the end of the year from 4AD is a four-disc Cocteau Twins boxed set and a new album from label founder Ivo Watts-Russell's Hope Blister project.

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.