Billboard Bits: Grammys, Elton, Maiden, Cnt'l Drifters

News on Grammys, Elton John/Justin Timberlake, Iron Maiden, Cnt'l Drifters

Jon StewartJon Stewart will reprise his role as host of the annual Grammy Awards at this year's ceremonies, set for Feb. 27 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. This will be the second year in a row the actor/comedian has handled hosting chores for the show, which will air on CBS television.

"Jon was a joy to work with last year and demonstrated a real passion for the music and genuine understanding of his job as host," Recording Academy president/CEO Michael Greene said in a statement where he praised Stewart's "razor-sharp wit and unique connection to our audience."

Aside from hosting the 44th annual Grammy Awards and "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, Stewart will soon be seen on the big screen in "Death to Smoochy." Stewart stars opposite Robin Williams, Edward Norton, and Catherine Keener, as well as Danny DeVito, who also directed the film.

As previously reported, U2 leads the field with eight Grammy nominations, including album of the year for "All That You Can't Leave Behind" (Interscope), song of the year for "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of," record of the year for "Walk On," and best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal for "Elevation." India.Arie has seven nominations, while fellow rising R&B star Alicia Keys and conductor Pierre Boulez snared six each.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

Elton JohnIf his 'N Sync gig ever dries up, Justin Timberlake could always get a job as an Elton John impersonator. The pop music heartthrob looks uncannily like the Grammy-winning singer did in the 1970s in John's new video, "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore," complete with the oversized glasses, receding hairline and gaudy clothes.

Even John was surprised at how much the 'N Sync singer favored him. "I was so knocked out with this video and so amazed with Justin's performance because he'd obviously done his homework. It was incredible," said John. "When he's walking along the corridor with the scarf and he plays the fake, imaginary piano -- it's strange because that was the '70s for me and he got it. It's so bizarre ... it freaks me out."

This is the second video from John's latest Universal album, "Songs from the West Coast," in which the singer doesn't appear. His first, "I Want Love," features a lip-synching Robert Downey Jr. The set is nominated in the best pop vocal album category at the 44th annual Grammy Awards, to be handed out Feb. 27 in Los Angeles.

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MaidenVeteran U.K. metal act Iron Maiden will play a pair of shows March 20-21 at London's Brixton Academy to benefit former drummer Clive Burr, who is suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS). The concerts will be the band's only appearances in 2002, as the members of the group are in the midst of a break before beginning work on a new studio album, due out next year.

"We were gutted to hear of Clive's condition," Maiden guitarist Steve Harris said in a statement. "It must be a very scary prospect for him to face. It seemed natural that we should try and help Clive by trying to improve his future quality of life. We are setting up a special trust, the Clive Burr MS Trust Fund, and are keen to help him as much as we possibly can."

The band and all those affiliated with the two shows are donating their services for the shows in order to maximize the contribution to the fund. All merchandising profits will also be donated. Tickets will be available to members of the Iron Maiden fan club prior to the Jan. 25 public on sale date. For more information, visit the band's official Web site.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

DriftersOft-shifting roots rock act Continental Drifters has changed its ranks again with the exit of guitarist/songwriter Susan Cowsill (formerly of the Cowsills) and drummer Russ Broussard. "In the ever-changing and evolving world of the Continental Drifters, the shifting of membership has been ongoing since our conception in 1991. The newest evolutionary period is now upon us," reads a note on the band's official Web site. "Change has always been as much the life of the band as is the music itself. Happy Trails... "

Reduced to a quartet, the group now consists of Cowsill's former husband/keyboardist Peter Holsapple (db's), bassist Mark Walton (Dream Syndicate), guitarist Robert Mache, and bassist Vicki Peterson (Bangles). There is no word as to whether or not Cowsill will be replaced, or who will be behind the drum kit for the band's upcoming tour dates, or on a more permanent future basis.

The group has three late-April shows on its itinerary, all around its New Orleans home base. April 26 will find the Drifters playing the Festival International in Lafayette, La., followed two days later by a performance during the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The group will close out the month with an April 30 show at the Howlin' Wolf club in the Big Easy.

The shows come in support of last year's acclaimed Razor & Tie album, "Better Day." Since that June release, the band has issued a seven-track EP, "Listen Listen," through Germany's Blue Rose label. The collection of Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny covers was recorded at Bavarian radio station HO*T-FM during the band's 2000 German tour, save for the title track, which was captured in August in New Orleans. The set is available for order through the band's Web site.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

Copyright 2002 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

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