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Billy Joel is Ultimate Rock Classic! Tags: billy joel ultimat rock classic word life production new qulaity entrtainment

Singer Billy Joel topped the charts in the 1970s and '80s with hits like "Piano Man," "Uptown Girl" and "We Didn't Start the Fire."

Born on May 9, 1949, in New York, Billy Joel bounced back after a disappointing first album, Cold Spring Harbor (1971), with 1973's Piano Man, featuring hits like "Piano Man" and "Captain Jack." He went on to make successful albums like Streetlife Serenade (1974), The Stranger (1977) and 52nd Street (1978). In the 1980s, Joel married supermodel Christie Brinkley, and topped the musical charts with "Uptown Girl" and "We Didn't Start the Fire." By 1999, his worldwide song sales had topped $100 million, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Several years later, in 2013, he received the Kennedy Center Honors.

Early Life

Singer-songwriter William Martin "Billy" Joel was born in the Bronx, New York, on May 9, 1949, to Howard and Rosalind Joel. Shortly after he was born, the family moved to a section of America's famous "first suburb," Levittown on Long Island. Although his father was an accomplished classical pianist, it was Joel's mother who pushed the young boy to study piano. He began playing at the age of four and showed an immediate aptitude for the instrument. By the time he was 16, Billy Joel was already a pro, having joined his third band before he could drive.

Early Career

It wasn't long before the artist, inspired by the Beatles' iconic Ed Sullivan Show performance, committed heart and soul to a life in music. He dropped out of high school to pursue a performing career, devoting himself to creating his first solo album Cold Spring Harbor, which was released in 1971. The terms of Joel's contract with Family Productions turned out to be onerous and the artist was unhappy with the quality of the album they released. It wasn't a commercial success.

Disillusioned with trying to make it as a rock star, Joel moved to Los Angeles to fly under the radar for a while. In early 1972, he got a gig working as a lounge pianist under the pseudonym Bill Martin. His time playing at The Executive Room on Wilshire Boulevard would later be immortalized in his song "Piano Man," which describes a no-name lounge's down-and-out patrons.

By late 1972, an underground recording of Joel's "Captain Jack" had been released on the East Coast and was garnering positive attention. Executives from Columbia Records sought out the lounge player and gave Joel a second chance to become a rock star.

Career Breakthrough

With the momentum of a Top 20 single ("Piano Man") to his name, Joel began recording new songs and albums, coming out with Streetlife Serenade in 1974. Many of his songs related to a growing frustration with the music industry and Hollywood, foreshadowing his exit from Los Angeles in 1976. As the years passed, Joel's style began to evolve, showing his range from pop to the bluesy-jazz stylings that are now closely associated with his name. The Stranger (1977) was Joel's first major commercial breakthrough, landing him four songs in the Top 25 of the U.S. Billboard charts. By 1981, Joel had collected a slew of awards, including a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance and a People's Choice Award.

Awards and Achievements

Through the 1980s, Joel would be crowned a hit-maker with smashes such as "Tell Her About It," "Uptown Girl," "Innocent Man" and "The Longest Time." He would release two volumes of Greatest Hits and become the first American performer to unleash a full-scale rock production in the Soviet Union. While churning out hits, Joel would also frequent the benefit circuit, performing with stars such as Cyndi Lauper and John Mellencamp to raise money for various causes.

In 1989, on the heels of the successful single "We Didn't Start the Fire," Joel was presented with the Grammy Legend Award. His professional success continued unabated into the early 1990s, although his personal life became somewhat dramatic. After the release of River of Dreams (1994), Joel slowed his studio recordings but continued to tour alone and in combination with fellow artists such as Elton John. In 1999, the worldwide sales of his songs passed the 100 million mark. Also that year, Joel was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by his idol, Ray Charles. Several years later, in 2013, Joel received the Kennedy Center Honors.

Later Career

In the early 2000s, Joel found himself in and out of rehab, struggling with an ongoing alcohol addiction. In 2007, Joel released the single "All My Life," his first song with original lyrics in 13 years. Though semi-retired in terms of recording new pop songs, Joel has continued to tour and branch out as an artist. He has composed a number of classical songs and even reworked older ballads with an orchestral backing.

Throughout the years, Joel's songs have acted as personal and cultural touchstones for millions of people, mirroring his own goal of writing songs that "meant something during the time in which I lived... and transcended that time."

When Joel's residency at Madison Square Garden was announced in 2013, his devoted fans proved how much the singer's music resonated with them. As the first music franchise in MSG's history, Joel broke records; his monthly concerts have sold out every time, and as of October 2015, he has grossed over $46 million in sales.

Personal Life

In 1982, Joel split with his first wife, Elizabeth Weber Small, who had been his partner since 1973. In 1984, Joel would famously meet and marry supermodel Christie Brinkley. Soon after, their daughter Alexa Ray (named after Ray Charles) was born on December 29, 1985.

Joel divorced Brinkley in 1993. In 2004, he married the television personality and journalist Katie Lee. They would eventually divorce after five years of marriage.

In 2015, Billy Joel and his girlfriend of six years, Alexis Roderick, announced they were expecting a baby together. That summer, Joel and Roderick tied the knot at the couple's annual Fourth of July party at his Long Island estate. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo presided over the nuptials. Their daughter Della Rose Joel was born on August 12, 2015.

Source: Biography.com

Bill Withers is an artist to be remembered Tags: bill withers music hall fame word life production new quality entertainment

Bill Withers was simply not born to play the record industry game. His oft-repeated descriptor for A&R men is “antagonistic and redundant.” Not surprisingly, most A&R men at Columbia Records, the label he recorded for beginning in 1975, considered him “difficult.” Yet when given the freedom to follow his muse, Withers wrote, sang and in many cases produced some of our most enduring classics, including “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lean on Me,” “Use Me,” “Lovely Day,” “Grandma’s Hands” and “Who Is He (and What Is He to You).”

“Not a lot of people got me,” Withers recently mused. “Here I was, this black guy playing an acoustic guitar, and I wasn’t playing the gut-bucket blues. People had a certain slot that they expected you to fit in to.”

Withers’ story is about as improbable as it could get. His first hit, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” recorded in 1971 when he was 33, broke nearly every pop music rule. Instead of writing words for a bridge, Withers audaciously repeated “I know” 26 times in a row. Moreover, the two-minute song had no introduction and was released as a throwaway B-side. Produced by Stax alumni Booker T. Jones for Sussex Records, the single’s structure, sound, and sentiment were completely unprecedented and possessed a melody and lyric that tapped into the zeitgeist of the era. Like much of Withers’ work, it would ultimately prove to be timeless. Reaching Number Three pop and Number Six R&B, “Ain’t No Sunshine” would go on to win the Grammy for Best R&B Song of the year. The song has since been covered more than 250 times, sampled by a bevy of rappers, and is routinely featured in movies and TV shows.

Born in 1938 in Slab Fork, West Virginia, one of 13 children (only six survived past infancy), Withers spent much of his childhood shuttling between his mother’s home in nearby Beckley and his father’s home in Slab Fork. For African-American males growing up in that part of West Virginia, working in the coal mines was about the only option available. In fact, Withers was the first male in his family not to work in the mines, opting instead to join the navy at the age of 17. Slowly learning to overcome a debilitating stammer under the employ of Uncle Sam, Withers elected to stay in the navy for nine years.

While serving overseas, Withers arranged for his mother to move from West Virginia to San Jose, California, where he joined her upon being decommissioned in 1965. For the next two years, Withers worked a variety of jobs, while cruising the local music clubs most evenings. Whenever the opportunity presented itself, he would sit in, singing blues standards with such West Coast stalwarts as Clifford Coulter and Johnny Heartsman.

His then-girlfriend bought him a plane ticket to New York, where he stayed with his sister, whose landlord happened to be Clarence “C. B.” Bullard, Atlantic A&R man and manager of Harlem’s legendary Record Shack. Bullard arranged for Withers to record a single for a short-lived West Coast label owned by Hy and Sam Weiss and Mort Garson.

Chasing the dream, in 1967, Withers moved to Los Angeles to work with Garson, who produced and arranged Withers’ first single, “Three Nights and a Morning,” the only release on the obscure Lotus Records. When “Three Nights and a Morning” sank without a trace, Garson introduced Withers to jazz pianist Mike Melvoin, who then recommended him to Charles Wright (“Express Yourself”); Wright, in turn, connected Withers with keyboardist Ray Jackson, then a member of Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. Withers was working for McDonnell Douglas, and then Weber Aircraft, assembling washrooms and air stairs; he used his earnings to record demos with Jackson of “Justified” (later recorded by Esther Phillips), “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh” (subsequently cut by Diana Ross), and a couple of other songs.

After being rejected by several labels and industry moguls, the tape eventually landed in the hands of Clarence Avant, founder of Sussex Records. Liking what he heard, Avant wanted Bones Howe, who’d just produced several Fifth Dimension hits, to produce Withers’ first record. Avant’s friend, Stax VP Al Bell, had a stroke of genius and suggested that Booker T. Jones produce the record. Jones opted for a stripped-down ensemble, employing Booker T. & the MG’s bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn and drummer Al Jackson, with Jones himself handling keyboards and guitar. Stephen Stills sat in on piano on a couple of tracks, including “Grandma’s Hands.”

During a third session, held six months later, Chris Ethridge and Jim Keltner replaced Dunn and Jackson. Jones crafted the ethereal string arrangement for “Ain’t No Sunshine” and suggested that Withers bring his carpet-covered drafting board to the studio – it was the same board Withers used at home to stomp out the beat while playing acoustic guitar. It was also Jones who convinced Withers that repeating “I know” over and over again would increase the tension in the song exponentially.

In 1972, by the time Withers was ready to record his second album, Still Bill, Jones had relocated to Northern California. Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band had recently split up, and Ray Jackson, drummer James Gadson, guitarist Benorce Blackmon, and bass player Melvin Dunlap had joined forces with Withers, creating one of the greatest unsung ensembles in R&B history. Rehearsing the new material in Gadson’s garage, Withers – with the help of Al Bell – persuaded Avant to let him produce himself.

“Al Bell is my guardian angel,” asserts Withers. “Clarence is a business guy. Al Bell is a music guy who did business. Al Bell got me!”

The result was an extraordinary sophomore effort that includes both “Use Me” (Number Two pop and R&B) and “Lean on Me” (Number One pop and R&B). Heavily in demand, Withers then wrote songs for both José Feliciano and Gladys Knight, while turning down opportunities to write soundtracks for what he considered to be degrading blaxploitation flicks. Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall and +’Justments followed, the latter producing three R&B hits, before Sussex Records went bankrupt in 1975. Columbia bought the company’s tapes at auction and, in a separate deal, signed Withers to a long-term contract.

Four albums, Making Music, Naked and Warm, Menagerie and ’Bout Love appeared on Columbia in 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1979, each album getting further and further away from the funky, sparse sound that had originally made Withers such a success. When Withers blanched at a Columbia A&R man’s suggestion that he record a cover of “In the Ghetto,” his career was placed on hold.

“I couldn’t get into the studio from 1979 to 1985,” he says.

Unable to record for his own label, Withers cut “Soul Shadows” with the Crusaders in 1980 and then the Top Five hit “Just the Two of Us” with Grover Washington Jr. in 1981. The latter appeared on Washington’s label, Elektra, and won Withers his second Grammy for Best R&B Song. Staying on the jazz-pop tip that had worked so well with the Crusaders and Grover Washington Jr., Withers recorded a Number 13 R&B hit with Ralph MacDonald, “In the Name of Love,” released on Polydor in 1984, and in 1985 recorded – under his own name – a final album for Columbia, Watching You, Watching Me.

“I didn’t navigate that corporate thing well,” explains Withers. “They would have some A&R guy that had nothing to do [with me] culturally, didn’t understand at all where I was from, or what I was doing or why. . . . That’s when it ended for me.”

Since 1985, withers has spent his time raising a family, living off his considerable songwriting royalties, and enjoying life out of the spotlight. On occasion, he will write a song at the request of a friend, contributing two such compositions to Jimmy Buffett’s 2004 album License to Chill, one to George Benson’s 2009 CD Songs and Stories, and most recently, in 2013, penning “I Am My Father’s Son” for the unveiling of a statue of basketball great and Withers’ friend Bill Russell.

Withers’ gifts are many and varied. His ability to address fundamental aspects of the human condition not commonly considered in popular music, such as friendship (“Lean on Me”), the importance of one’s grandparents (“Grandma’s Hands”), and male vulnerability (“Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Let Me in Your Life,” “I Hope She’ll Be Happier” and “Better Off Dead”) sets him squarely apart from most rock and R&B artists. His knack for simple, memorable, yet poignant turns-of-phrase is equally remarkable, and his melodic gifts are extraordinary.

Alongside Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway and Gil Scott-Heron, Withers was the leading figure in the nascent black singer-songwriter movement of the early 1970s. In addition to his quintessential ballads, he also crafted funky groove-based songs such as “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?,” “Use Me” and “Railroad Man,” situating himself squarely within current and past African-American traditions. He penned a number of songs addressing social issues specific to black culture, history, and living conditions, including “Harlem,” “Cold Baloney” and “I Can’t Write Left Handed,” all featured on the superb 1973 set, Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall. The latter track may be his finest moment on record, with Withers masterfully articulating the incredibly moving lyric with a variety of blues and gospel vocal devices.

Withers’ songs have proved to have a life of their own. In 1987, Club Nouveau cut a dance version of “Lean on Me” that topped the pop charts, settled at Number Two R&B, and garnered Withers his third Grammy for Best R&B Song. Originally a Number Six R&B hit for Withers in 1977, a 1988 remix of “Lovely Day” by Dutch DJ Ben Liebrand reached the UK Top 10. Eight years later, Meshell Ndegeocello had a Number One dance hit with a cover of “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?” That same year, Blackstreet, featuring Dr. Dre, hit the top of the charts with “No Diggity,” featuring a prominent sample from “Grandma’s Hands.”

Other artists who have sampled Withers’ recordings include DMX, Jay Z, Akon, Kanye West, Tupac Shakur, Fatboy Slim, and R. Kelly. In addition, Withers’ songs have been covered by a staggeringly diverse array of artists, ranging from Michael Jackson, The Temptations, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Isaac Hayes, Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, and Gil Scott-Heron to Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Maroon 5, Brian Eno, Michael Stipe, Alt-j and the cast of Glee.

In 2005, Withers was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Two years later, “Lean on Me” was enshrined in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Source: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame  

- See more at: https://rockhall.com/inductees/bill-withers/bio/#sthash.RkukWftA.dpuf

 

Ultimate Rock Classic - Billy Joel Tags: ultimate rock classic billy joel word life production new qulaity entertainment

Artist Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Although Billy Joel never was a critic's favorite, the pianist emerged as one of the most popular singer/songwriters of the latter half of the '70s. Joel's music consistently demonstrates an affection for Beatlesque hooks and a flair for Tin Pan Alley and Broadway melodies. His fusion of two distinct eras made him a superstar in the late '70s and '80s, as he racked an impressive string of multi-platinum albums and hit singles.

Born in the Bronx, Joel was raised in the Long Island suburb of Hicksville, where he learned to play piano as a child. As he approached his adolescence, Joel started to rebel, joining teenage street gangs and boxing as welterweight. He fought a total of 22 fights as a teenager, and during one of the fights, he broke his nose. For the early years of his adolescence, he divided his time between studying piano and fighting. Upon seeing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, Joel decided to pursue a full-time musical career and set about finding a local Long Island band to join. Eventually, he found the Echoes, a group that specialized in British Invasion covers. The Echoes became a popular New York attraction, convincing him to quit high school to become a professional musician.

While still a member of the Echoes, Joel began playing recording sessions in 1965, when he was just 16 years old. Joel played piano on several recordings George "Shadow" Morton produced -- including the Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack" -- as well as several records released through Kama Sutra Productions. During this time, the Echoes started to play numerous late-night shows.

Attila

Later in 1965, the Echoes changed their name twice -- once to the Emeralds and finally to the Lost Souls. For two years, he played sessions and performed with the Lost Souls. In 1967, he left the band to join the Hassles, a local Long Island rock & roll band that had signed a contract with United Artists Records. Over the next year and a half, the Hassles released two albums and four singles, all of which failed commercially. In 1969, the Hassles broke up. Joel and the band's drummer, Jon Small, formed an organ-and-drums duo called Attila. In Attila, Joel played his organ through a variety of effects pedals, creating a heavy psychedelic hard rock album completely without guitars. On the cover of the band's eponymous album, both Joel and Small were dressed as barbarians; in an interview on the back of the album, Joel claimed to forget the name of his previous band and stated that he only "sweated" two things -- perfecting his sound and the war in Southeast Asia. Epic released Attila early in 1970 and it was an immediate bomb and the duo broke up. While the group was still together, Joel began a romance with Small's wife, Elizabeth; she would eventually leave the drummer to marry the pianist.

After Attila's embarrassing failure, Joel wrote rock criticism for a magazine called Changes and played on commercial jingles, including a Chubby Checker spot for Bachman Pretzels. However, Joel entered a severe bout of depression, culminating with him drinking a bottle of furniture polish in an attempt to end his life. Following his failed suicide attempt, Joel checked himself into Meadowbrook Hospital, where he received psychiatric treatment for depression.

Cold Spring Harbor

Joel returned to playing music in 1971, signing a deal with Family Productions. Under the terms of the contract, Joel signed to the label for life; the pianist was unaware of the clause at the time, but it would come back to haunt him -- Family Productions received royalties from every album Joel sold until the late '80s. Joel refashioned himself as a sensitive singer/songwriter for his debut album, Cold Spring Harbor, which was released in November of 1971. Due to an error in the mastering of the album, Cold Spring Harbor was released a couple of tape speeds too fast; the album remained in that bastardized form until 1984. Following the release of the album, Joel went on a small live tour, during which he would frequently delve into standup comedy. The tour received good reviews but Joel remained unhappy with the quality of his performance and, especially, the quality of the album. Furthermore, he lost a manager during this time and Family Productions was experiencing legal and financial difficulties, which prevented him from recording an immediate follow-up.

Early in 1972, he moved out to Los Angeles with his girlfriend Elizabeth. Joel adopted the name Bill Martin and spent half a year playing lounge piano at the Executive Room. Toward the end of the year, he began touring, playing various nightclubs across the country. At the beginning of 1973, Joel married Elizabeth Weber and she enrolled at UCLA's Graduate School of Management. Around the same time, a radio station began playing a live version of "Captain Jack" that was recorded at a Philadelphia radio broadcast. Soon, record companies were eagerly seeking to sign the pianist, and he eventually signed with Columbia Records. In order for Joel to sign with Columbia, the major label had to agree to pay Family Productions 25 cents for each album sold, plus display the Family and Remus logos on each record Joel released.

Piano Man

By the end of 1973, Billy Joel's first album for Columbia Records, Piano Man, had been released. The record slowly worked its way up the charts, peaking at number 27 in the spring of 1974. The title track -- culled from experiences he had while singing at the Executive Room -- became a Top 40 hit single. At the end of the summer, Joel assembled a touring band and undertook a national tour, opening for acts like the J. Geils Band and the Doobie Brothers. By the end of 1974, he had released his second album, Streetlife Serenade, which reached number 35 early in 1975. After its success, Joel signed a contract with James William Guercio and Larry Fitzgerald's management company, Caribou, and moved from California to New York. Through songs like "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" and "New York State of Mind," Joel celebrated the move on his 1976 album, Turnstiles. The sessions for Turnstiles were long and filled with tension, culminating with Joel firing the album's original producer, Guercio, and producing the album himself. Once he fired Guercio, Joel also left Caribou, and hired his wife as his new manager.

The Stranger

Turnstiles stalled on the charts, only reaching number 122. Joel's next album would prove to be the make-or-break point for his career, and the resulting album, The Stranger, catapulted him into superstardom. The Stranger was released in the fall of 1977. By the end of the year, it peaked at number two and had gone platinum, and within the course of a year, it would spawn the Top 40 singles "Just the Way You Are" (which would win the 1978 Grammy for Record of the Year and Song of the Year), "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," "She's Always a Woman," and "Only the Good Die Young." Over the next two decades, the album would sell over seven million copies. Joel followed The Stranger with 52nd Street, which was released in the fall of 1978. 52nd Street spent eight weeks at number one in the U.S., selling over two million copies within the first month of its release. The album spawned the hit singles "My Life," "Big Shot," and "Honesty," and won the 1979 Grammy award for Album of the Year. Although he had become a genuine star, critics had not looked kindly upon Joel's music, and the pianist became a vocal opponent of rock criticism in the late '70s. In one incident, he denounced Los Angeles Herald Examiner critic Ken Tucker on-stage and then, as a form of protest, tore up the critic's reviews.

Glass Houses

In the spring of 1980, Joel released Glass Houses, theoretically a harder-edged album that was a response to the punk and new wave movement. Glass Houses reached number one in America, where it stayed for six weeks; the album spawned the Top 40 singles "You May Be Right" (number seven), "It's Still Rock'n'Roll to Me" (number one), "Don't Ask Me Why" (number 19), and "Sometimes a Fantasy" (number 36) and won the 1980 Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male. In the fall of 1981, Joel released Songs in the Attic, a live album that concentrated on material written and recorded before he became a star in 1977. The album's "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" and "She's Got a Way" became Top 40 hits.

The Nylon Curtain

Songs in the Attic bought Joel some time as he was completing an album he had designed as his bid to be taken seriously as a composer. Before the album was finished, he suffered a serious motorcycle accident in the spring of 1982. He broke his wrist in the accident -- it would take major surgery to repair the wound. In July of 1982, Joel divorced his wife, Elizabeth. His new album, The Nylon Curtain, was finally released in the fall. A concept album about baby boomers and their experiences, the album was a commercial disappointment, only selling a million copies, but it did earn him some of his better reviews, as well as spawning the Top 20 hits "Pressure" and "Allentown." Joel quickly followed the album in 1983 with the oldies pastiche An Innocent Man.

An Innocent Man restored Joel to his multi-platinum status, eventually selling over seven million copies and spawning the hit singles "Uptown Girl" (number three), "Tell Her About It" (number one), "An Innocent Man" (number ten), and "Keeping the Faith" (number 18). Several of the songs on the album were about model Christie Brinkley, who was engaged to Joel by the time the album was released. During 1983 and 1984, Joel became one of the first '70s stars to embrace MTV and music videos, shooting a number of clips for the album that were aired frequently on the network. Brinkley and Joel were married in the spring of 1985.

Greatest Hits, Vols. 1-2 (1973-1985)

Joel released a double-album compilation, Greatest Hits, Vols. 1-2 in the summer of 1985. Two new songs -- the Top Ten "You're Only Human (Second Wind)" and the Top 40 "The Night Is Still Young" -- were added to the hits collection; the album itself peaked at number six and would eventually sell over ten million copies. In the summer of 1986, Joel returned with the Top Ten single "Modern Woman," which was taken from the soundtrack of Ruthless People. "Modern Woman" was also a teaser from his new album, The Bridge, which was released in August. The Bridge was another success for Joel, peaking at number seven, selling over two million copies, and spawning the Top 40 hits "A Matter of Trust" (number ten) and "This Is the Time" (number 18), as well as "Big Man on Mulberry Street," which was used as the basis for an episode of the popular Bruce Willis/Cybill Shepherd television series Moonlighting.

Kontsert: Live in Leningrad

In the spring of 1987, Joel embarked on a major tour of the U.S.S.R., during which he had an on-stage temper tantrum and shoved a piano off the stage. His Leningrad concert was recorded and released in the fall of 1987 as the live double album Kohuept, which means concert in Russian. Joel was quiet for much of 1988, only appearing as the voice of Dodger in the Walt Disney animated feature Oliver and Company.

Storm Front

Joel fired his longtime manager and former brother-in-law Frank Weber in August of 1989, after an audit revealed that there were major discrepancies in Weber's accounting. Following Weber's dismissal, Joel sued Weber for 90 million dollars, claiming fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. Immediately after filing suit, Joel was hospitalized with kidney stones. All of this turmoil didn't prevent the release of his 12th studio album, Storm Front, in the fall of 1989. It was preceded by the single "We Didn't Start the Fire," whose lyrics were just a string of historical facts. The single became a huge hit, reaching number one and inspiring history students across America. Storm Front marked a significant change for Joel -- he fired his band, keeping only Liberty DeVito, and ceased his relationship with producer Phil Ramone, hiring Mick Jones of Foreigner to produce the album. Storm Front was another hit for Joel, reaching number one in the U.S. and selling over three million albums.

During 1990, Joel undertook a major U.S. tour, which ran well into 1991. In January, the court awarded Joel two million dollars in a partial judgment against Frank Weber, and in April, the court dismissed a 30 million dollar countersuit. At the end of the year, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences honored Joel with a Grammy Living Legend award; that same year, Quincy Jones, Johnny Cash, and Aretha Franklin were also given the honor.

River of Dreams

Following the Storm Front world tour, Joel spent the next few years quietly. In 1991, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Fairfield University in Connecticut. In the summer of 1992, Joel filed a 90 million dollar lawsuit charging his former lawyer Allen Grubman of fraud, breach of contract, and malpractice; in October of 1993, the two parties settled their differences out of court. Joel returned in the summer of 1993 with River of Dreams, which entered the charts at number one and spawned the Top Ten title track. Following the River of Dreams tour, Joel divorced Christie Brinkley. In 1996, he gave a series of lectures at a variety of American colleges. He performed at the 1999 New Year's Eve Party in Times Square, and 2000 Years: The Millennium Concert, a live album of this concert, was released early the following year.

Fantasies & Delusions (Music for Solo Piano)

His next studio record, Fantasies & Delusions, arrived in 2001 and was his first album of his own classical compositions. A year later, Twyla Tharp choreographed and directed Movin' Out, a Broadway musical based on Joel's music. A new venture as a children's author began in 2004 with the release of his first book, Goodnight, My Angel: A Lullaby. The 54-year-old Joel married the 23-year-old Katie Lee that same year and was making tabloid headlines again in March of 2005 when he checked into the Betty Ford Clinic for treatment of alcohol abuse. He checked out in April, and in November his four-CD/one-DVD career retrospective My Lives was released. Live in Madison Square Garden NYC and the accompanying 12 Gardens Live arrived in 2006.

In 2007, Joel released his first original composition since River of Dreams -- a ballad called "All My Life." He quickly followed it with "Christmas in Fallujah," a tune he wrote but did not sing; it was performed by Cass Dillon. After this brief burst of activity Joel returned to touring regularly, his most notable performance being the closing shows at the legendary Shea Stadium in July 2008. These two concerts were recorded and released as DVDs and CDs in the spring of 2011. On the heels of this live album came word that Joel was penning a memoir, but the book was quickly scrapped after the announcement.

Over the next couple of years, Joel transitioned toward performing in public frequently and, along with it, started to give more interviews. In 2013, he toured the United Kingdom and then performed at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn for his first New York solo headlining gig in five years. It wouldn't be his last: he soon announced that he'd have a regular residency at Madison Square Garden, performing 21 concerts in 2014 alone with an option to play there indefinitely. In addition to his New York shows, Joel also toured elsewhere in the U.S. He promoted these shows and the release of A Matter of Trust: The Bridge to Russia -- an expanded version of his 1987 live album Kohuept, containing two CDs of live performances from that Russian tour in addition to a documentary about the whole endeavor -- with a number of interviews, highlighted by a live "town hall" radio show with Howard Stern.

Source: AllMusic

One of rock and roll’s most talented musicians - Billy Joel Tags: ultimate rock classic billy joel hall famer word life production featured blog

Billy Joel ranks among rock and roll’s most talented musicians and accomplished songwriters.  His classical training and reverence for Broadway musicals have been counterpointed by his early grounding in the Long Island bar-band scene and his love of rhythm & blues, resulting in an enthusiastic yet musically sophisticated approach to rock and roll. His diverse influences include Beethoven, the Beatles, Dave Brubeck, George Gershwin, Phil Spector, Ray Charles and Fats Domino, whom Joel inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986. From romantic balladry to hard-rocking material, with elements of jazz, pop and soul thrown into the mix, Joel has applied his skills in a diversity of settings. He is the pop crooner of “Piano Man” and the jazz-tinged romantic of “Just the Way You Are.” Yet he’s also capable of harder-rocking fare (Glass Houses), production-heavy pop with a Sixties influence (The Nylon Curtain) and vocal-group soul and doo-wop (An Innocent Man).

As an artist, Joel has stated that his goal is to make music that “meant something during the time in which I lived...and transcended that time.” Joel’s popularity is such that he tied the Beatles for the most multi-platinum albums in the U.S. With the success of “Piano Man"-a slice-of-life autobiography, written about Joel’s extended gig as a lounge pianist-Joel inaugurated a staggering run of hit singles. Between 1974 and1993, Joel placed at least one single in the Top Forty in every year but three. To date, 13 of Joel’s 42 hits have made the Top Ten, and three of them-"It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” (1980), “Tell Her About It” (1983) and “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (1989)-reached #1.

Billy Joel was born on May 9, 1949, in the Bronx. He displayed an early aptitude on the piano and began taking lessons at four. The training continued till he was sixteen, by which time Joel was already a veteran of three bands. In 1967, Joel joined the Hassles, a popular Long Island group that played blue-eyed soul with a twist of psychedelia. Gravitating back to the acoustic piano during the early stirrings of the Seventies singer-songwriter movement, Joel recorded Cold Spring Harbor, his debut as a solo artist. In a self-penned bio included with review copies, Joel wrote: “After seven years of trying to make it as a rock star, I decided to do what I always wanted to do-write about my own experiences.”

After the album flopped, Joel dropped out of sight, working as a lounge pianist in Los Angeles. He immortalized that experience in “Piano Man,” which served as the title track from his first album for Columbia Records. (He remains with the label to this day). His next album, Streetlife Serenade (1974), included “The Entertainer,” a withering portrait of the music industry. On Joel’s fourth album, the self-produced Turnstiles (1976), the singer/pianist stretched himself as a songwriter and stylist on a varied set that ranged from the Brill Building pop of “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” to the cabaret-styled tribute to his home turf, “New York State of Mind.” Joel made his commercial breakthrough with The Stranger, a hit-studded album that surpassed Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water as the top-selling album in Columbia’s history (until Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. displaced it in the Eighties). With its jazzy sheen and compositional cunning, Joel hit his stride on The Stranger, which yielded “Just the Way You Are,” “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” and the suite-like “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” Its followup, 52nd Street, produced another round of hits, including the hard-rocking “Big Shot.”

Beneath their fluid, polished surface, Joel’s songs teem with a New Yorker’s brashness. Joel had boxed with his fists as a teenager and, on occasion, with his songs as an adult-no more so than on 1980’s Glass Houses. Its chart-topping first single, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” rebutted punk and New Wave acts who’d taken potshots at perceived old-wavers like Joel. This further inflamed a war of words with his detractors in the rock press. However, the critics came around to Joel’s corner on the strength of such albums as The Nylon Curtain, which couched social themes in ornate pop productions inspired by the late-period Beatles, and An Innocent Man, his fond tribute to the doo-wop era. Greatest Hits Volume 1 & Volume 2, a double album that collected his singles, became Joel’s seventh consecutive Top Ten album.

Joel further refined his craft on The Bridge (1986) and Storm Front (1989)-mature later works on which he assimilated various genres into a cohesive personal style. Joel’s historic tour of the Soviet Union in 1987 resulted in a live album and video. Joel also turned a history lesson into a hit single with his rapid-fire recitation of 20th-century names and places in “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” from Storm Front. Both single and album reached #1, as Joel’s superstar status remained unabated despite ongoing shifts in musical trends. His marriage to and divorce from model Christie Brinkley, along with various business-related lawsuits, raised his profile as a celebrity and newsmaker. In 1993, Joel released River of Dreams, his first album of new material in four years, which entered Billboard‘s album chart at #1.

Subsequently, Joel has toured with Elton John and on his own. He also has lectured on college campuses, released Greatest Hits Volume III and composed instrumental pieces in a classical vein. Joel has remained in a state of semi-retirement as a pop songwriter and recording artist since River of Dreams. Meanwhile, worldwide sales of his back catalog topped the 100 million mark in 1999. Joel closed out the century with a gala Millennium Eve concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden.”

Source: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

 

This week's celebrity pick is the awesome actor, Billy Dee Williams
Category: Celebrity Pick
Tags: celebrity pick billy dee williams word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

William December "Billy Dee" Williams, Jr. (born April 6, 1937) is an American actor, artist, singer, and writer known for his work as a leading man in 1970s African-American cinema, in movies including Mahogany and Lady Sings the Blues, and for playing the character of Lando Calrissian in the movies Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

Williams was born in New York City, New York, the son of Loretta Anne, a West Indian-born elevator operator from Montserrat, and William December Williams, Sr., an African-American caretaker from Texas. He has a twin sister, Loretta, and grew up in Harlem, where he was raised by his maternal grandmother while his parents worked at several jobs. Williams graduated from the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art in Manhattan, where he was a classmate of Diahann Carroll, who coincidentally played the wife of his character Brady Lloyd on the 1980s prime-time soap opera Dynasty.

He first appeared on Broadway in 1945 in The Firebrand of Florence. He returned to Broadway as an adult in 1960 in the play version of The Cool Word. He appeared in A Taste of Honey in 1961. A 1976 Broadway production, I Have a Dream, was directed by Robert Greenwald and starred Williams as Martin Luther King, Jr.[4] His most recent Broadway appearance was in August Wilson's Fences, as a replacement for James Earl Jones in the role of Troy Maxson in 1988.

He made his film debut in 1959 in the Academy Award nominated The Last Angry Man, opposite Paul Muni, in which he portrayed a delinquent young man. He rose to stardom after starring in the critically lauded blockbuster biographical television movie, Brian's Song (1971), in which he played Chicago Bears star football player Gale Sayers, who stood by his friend Brian Piccolo (played by James Caan), during his struggle with terminal cancer. The film became so popular that it was given a theatrical release. Both Williams and Caan were nominated for Emmy Awards for best actor for their performances.

Having broken through, Williams became one of America's most well-known black film actors of the 1970s, after starring in a string of critically acclaimed and popular movies, many of them in the "blaxploitation" genre. In 1972, starred as Billie Holiday's husband Louis McKay in Motown Productions' Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues. The film was a box office blockbuster, becoming one of the highest grossing films of the year and received five Academy Award nominations. Diana Ross starred in Lady Sings the Blues opposite Williams; Motown paired the two of them again three years later in the successful follow-up project Mahogany.

The early 1980s brought Williams the role of Lando Calrissian, which he played in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Calrissian's charm proved to be popular with audiences and Williams now had a substantial fanbase within the science fiction genre as well. He reprised this role when he lent his voice for the character in the 2002 video game Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, as well as the audio dramatization of Dark Empire, the National Public Radio adaptation of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, and two productions for the Star Wars: Battlefront series: Star Wars: Battlefront II and Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron. (However, the appearance in Battlefront II was archive footage and it is unknown whether it was him or another actor in the role of Calrissian in Elite Squadron however he appears through Archive footage for that game's full-motion sequences). Between his appearances in the Star Wars films, he starred alongside Sylvester Stallone as a cop in the critically acclaimed film Nighthawks. He co-starred in 1989's Batman as district attorney Harvey Dent, a role that was planned to develop into Dent's alter-ego, the villain Two-Face, in sequels. Unfortunately for Williams, that never came to pass; he was set to reprise the role in a more villainous light in the sequel Batman Returns, but his character was deleted and replaced with original villain Max Shreck. When Joel Schumacher stepped in to direct Batman Forever, where Two-Face was to be a secondary villain, Schumacher decided to hire Tommy Lee Jones for the part.

There is a rumor that Joel Schumacher had to pay him to hire Tommy Lee Jones, but Billy said that it was not true. “You only get paid if you do the movie. I had a two-picture deal with 'Star Wars.' They paid me for that, but I only had a one picture deal for 'Batman.'”

Television

Williams's television work included a recurring guest-starring role on the short-lived show Gideon's Crossing. He has had a brief cameo in the television series Scrubs Season 5, where he plays the godfather of Julie (Mandy Moore). Turk hugs him, calling him "Lando", even though he prefers to be called Billy D. He is also well known for his appearance in advertisements for Colt 45 (a brand of malt liquor) in the 1980s and early 1990s, for which he received much criticism. Williams responded indifferently to the criticism of his appearances in the liquor commercials. When questioned about his appearances, he allegedly replied by saying, "I drink, you drink. Hell, if marijuana was legal, I'd appear in a commercial for it."[9]

Williams was paired with actress Marla Gibbs on three situation comedies: The Jeffersons (Gibbs's character, Florence, had a crush on Williams and challenged him on everything because she thought he was an imposter); 227 (her character, Mary, pretending to be royalty, met Williams at a banquet); and The Hughleys (Gibbs and Williams portrayed Darryl's parents).

In 1992, he portrayed Berry Gordy in The Jacksons: An American Dream.

In 1993, Williams had a guest appearance on the spin-off to The Cosby Show, A Different World as Langston Paige, a grumpy landlord, in a backdoor pilot for his own series.

Williams made a special guest appearance on the hit sketch comedy show, In Living Color, in 1990. He portrayed Pastor Dan in an episode of That '70s Show. In this episode entitled "Baby Don't You Do It" (2004), his character is obsessed with Star Wars, and uses this to help Counsel Eric Forman (himself a major Star Wars fan) and Donna Pinciotti about their premarital relationship. Williams made a cameo appearance as himself on the television series Lost in the episode "Exposé". He also appears regularly on short clips on the Jimmy Kimmel Live! as a semi-parody of himself.

In February 2006, Williams appeared in Scrubs, where he guest starred as himself, in the episode "Her Story II". He played Toussaint Dubois for General Hospital: Night Shift in 2007 and 2008. Williams reprised his role as Toussaint on General Hospital itself beginning in June 2009. Also in 2009, he took on the role of the voice of Admiral @!$%#face the head of the military on the planet Titan in the Adult Swim animated series Titan Maximum. In July 2010, Williams appeared in the animated series The Boondocks, where he voiced a fictionalized version of himself in the episode "The Story of Lando Freeman".

In February 2011, Williams appeared as a guest star on USA Network's White Collar as Ford, an old friend of Neal Caffrey's landlady June, played by Diahann Carroll. In February 2012, Williams was the surprise guest during a taping of Oprah spotlighting Diana Ross. Ross and Williams were reunited after having not seen each other in 35 years. In October 2012, Williams appeared as a guest star on NCIS in Season 10 Episode 5 titled Namesake, as Gibbs' namesake and his father's former best friend, Leroy Jethro Moore. On January 9, 2013, Williams appeared as himself in a cameo role on Modern Family, Season 4 / Episode 11 "New Year's Eve".

It was announced on March 4th, 2014 that Williams will be competing on the 18th season of Dancing with the Stars. He partnered with professional dancer Emma Slater. The couple had to withdraw from the competition on the third week due to an injury on Williams' back.

Music

In 1961, Williams ventured into the music industry when he recorded a jazz LP produced by Prestige Records entitled Let's Misbehave, on which he sang several swing standards. The album, which was a commercial success at the time, made Williams eligible for an appearance in the legendary Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever (1983).

Video games

Williams voiced Mr. Lando Calrissian in the video game Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast and Star Wars Battlefront as well as the spin-off Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron (however, the Battlefront appearances were archive footage and his voice-appearance in Elite Squadron is left uncredited or unknown). He also played a live-action character, GDI Director Redmond Boyle, in the game Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, which was released in March 2007. This made him the second former Star Wars actor to appear in a Command & Conquer game, with the first being James Earl Jones as GDI General James Solomon in Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun.

Internet

In 2008, Williams reprised his role as Lando Calrissian to appear in a video on FunnyOrDie.com in a mock political ad defending himself for leader of the Star Wars galaxy against vicious attack ads from Emperor Palpatine. Williams is currently a cast member of Diary of a Single Mom, a web based original series directed by award-winning filmmaker Robert Townsend. The series debuted on PIC.tv in 2009.

Art

Even before he began acting, Williams attended the National Academy of Fine Arts and Design in New York. In the late 1980s, he resumed painting. Some of his work can be seen at his online gallery BDW World Art. He has had solo exhibitions in various galleries around the United States, and his work hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian Institution and the Schomburg Museum. The covers of the Thelonious Monk Competition programs since 1990 are by him. He was also on the Martin Lawrence situation comedy Martin.

Source: Wikipedia

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