Billboard Bits: John Whitehead, Duran Duran, Talib Kweli

News on John Whitehead, Duran Duran, Talib Kweli

JohnIn the wake of the May 2004 shooting death of R&B songwriter/artist John Whitehead, his widow Elnor has created the John Whitehead There's No Stoppin' the Music Foundation and plans to open the John C. Whitehead Charter School for the Creative and Performing Arts in 2006.

To get the ball rolling, the foundation is mounting its first major fundraiser April 20 at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center. The benefit concert and award show will be hosted by Patti LaBelle and feature Gerald Levert, Floetry and Melba Moore, among others. Award recipients include Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and Universal Motown's Sylvia Rhone.

"Unfortunately, you don't think about things like this until something happens," Elnor Whitehead says. "John loved children, and I wanted to do something like a scholarship. Then it escalated from there."

A four-song tribute CD, "Messages From Whitehead," is also available at One track is a newly discovered love song that Whitehead wrote for his wife, "Love Don't Come No Better Than You." Vocalists on the track include Whitehead's longtime partner Gene McFadden, who is battling cancer.

-- Gail Mitchell, L.A.

DuranGuitarist Andy Taylor has left Duran Duran's in-progress
North American tour for an undisclosed number of shows. According to the band's official Web site, the artist received word of his father's quickly deteriorating health on Monday (Mar. 14) before the band was to play at the Joint in Las Vegas. Taylor returned to Britain on Tuesday and is being temporarily replaced by Dominic Brown, who subbed for him during some shows last year.

"I am obviously extremely disappointed that I'm going to be missing a few dates, but hope that our fans will appreciate the situation and understand why I have had to go home to see my father," Taylor said. "I will be back to finish the tour as soon as I can and am relieved that Dom was available to take the reins for a couple of days, so that we didn't have to cancel any of our shows."

Duran Duran rolls into Chicago tonight.

-- Jason MacNeil, Toronto

TalibSocially conscious rapper Talib Kweli will take on the role of guest master teacher for the music education program "harman: how to listen." The annual program was founded by Dr. Sidney Harman, chairman of Harman International Industries (which owns such audio equipment brands as JBL) and musician Wynton Marsalis.

Now in its eighth season, the program is designed to introduce elementary school students to new ways of listening to music and thereby boost their creativity. The new season, targeting 20 schools, launches April 8 in New York at Gibson Studios. Kweli will also teach master classes in Detroit (April 19), Phoenix (April 25), Miami (April 27) and Baltimore (May 3). Soon-to-be-announced special musical guests will also participate. Past guest participants include Betty Carter, Chris Thomas King and Bobby McFerrin.

"Hip-hop came out of kids in the inner city having no music programs," Kweli tells Billboard. "Through their scratching and rapping, they came up with a whole new genre. The beauty of hip-hop is creating something out of nothing. And the music is going to keep growing, like the weed growing through concrete."

-- Gail Mitchell, L.A.