Billboard Bits: Dr Pepper, R.E.M., Elton John

News on Dr Pepper, R.E.M., Elton John

Groove ArmadaLL Cool J, Anastacia, and Paulina Rubio will pay tribute to Run-D.M.C., Cyndi Lauper, and Celia Cruz, respectively, in a new series of soft-drink Dr Pepper's "Be You" television ads. Both the artists paying tribute and those being honored are featured in the spots. The LL Cool J/Run-D.M.C. spot was filmed prior to the death of Jason Mizell, better known as Jam Master Jay, Run-D.M.C.'s DJ.

"After some deep thought and discussion about how appropriate it would be to air this commercial, the surviving members of Run-D.M.C., as well as members of Jason Mizell's family, felt it would be a fitting tribute," Dr Pepper/7-Up chief advertising officer John Clarke said in a statement. "Because this commercial is a tribute to Run-D.M.C.'s pioneering work in the hip-hop music genre, the timing is perfect to honor Jam Master Jay." The ad will include a brief memorial to the DJ for six to eight weeks following the ad's Jan. 18 debut, according to Clarke.

Anastacia and Lauper sing together in a bowling alley in their spot, while Rubio and Cruz perform in a Mexican plaza. English- and Spanish-language versions of the latter have been developed.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

Groove ArmadaThis holiday season, R.E.M. is treating its fans to a couple classic rock covers. The band's annual holiday package for fan club members includes its versions of Big Star's "Jesus Christ" and Badfinger's "No Matter What," both featuring lead vocals by bassist Mike Mills.

The CD also includes a video of frontman Michael Stipe wishing fans a peaceful holiday by reading from Martin Luther King Jr.'s book "Strength To Love." Stipe reads two passages from the book, also pulling the quote "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that" for use on the packaging.

As previously reported, R.E.M. is in Vancouver working on its next Warner Bros. studio album, due sometime next year. The band plans to begin a world tour June 27 at England's Glastonbury Festival.

-- Troy Carpenter, N.Y.

Groove ArmadaElton John's Dec. 16 and 17 shows at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire and associated events (including the Nov. 29 "Out of the Closet" sale of items from his wardrobe) raised close to £500,000 ($799,000) for his AIDS Foundation, according to the charity. The gigs were presented in association with fellow AIDS organization the M.A.C. Fund, with tickets at £35 and £75 and VIP seating at £100.

After the new year, John will return to the road with fellow pianist Billy Joel for a handful of U.S. arena dates, beginning Feb. 21 in Birmingham, Ala.

Here are John/Joel tour dates:

Feb. 21: Birmingham, Ala. (Jefferson Arena)
Feb. 24: Houston (Compaq Center)
Feb. 28: Dallas (American Airlines Center)
March 2: Oklahoma City, Okla. (Ford Center)
March 7: Pittsburgh (Mellon Arena)
March 9: Buffalo, N.Y. (HSBC Arena)

-- Paul Sexton, London


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