Cirque du Soleil Honors Michael Jackson’s Work: Interview With Dance Master Laurie Sposit

Source: News & Record – By Leah Hughes

The woman with the notepad knows every move of this show. She predicts when that dancer will go left and the other will break right. That jump was supposed to be higher. That person in the back was late. She counts every beat.

Laurie Sposit joined “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour” in July 2011 as the dance master. Her job involves overseeing the dancers and preserving the show’s original choreography.

She and her dancers and the entire 49-member cast that also includes acrobats and musicians will perform at Greensboro Coliseum on Friday and Saturday in the Cirque du Soleil production that honors the life work of Michael Jackson.

Sposit grew up listening to Jackson, watching his videos and mimicking his moves.

“I was that kid that had all the posters plastered on the wall,” she said.

For Sposit and fans around the world who grew up idolizing Jackson, “The Immortal” is for them. The show includes more than 35 of Jackson’s songs. It balances his original work and recordings with new interpretations.

Musical director Greg Phillinganes worked with Jackson for more than 25 years. The Cirque du Soleil flair enhances each song. During the “Wanna Be Starting Something” scene, the gates of Neverland open to reveal “The Immortal” band, which includes Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffett, who played drums for Jackson for 30 years. The scene then brings in dancers and acrobats in tribal costumes.

“The costumes are great,” Sposit says. “A lot of them are replicating what he had in his videos and his style. … And the other side is the genius of the Cirque du Soleil wardrobe department.”

“Beat It” highlights a couple of Jackson’s famous accessories. A dancer inside a 6-foot-tall glove forms hand positions with his entire body. And a pair of 8-foot-long shoes made of orthopedic foam with a vinyl skin represent Jackson’s penny loafers.

Sposit remembers wanting a red, leather jacket when she was younger to match the one in the “Thriller” video. (Her father said no.) The music and choreography of Jackson and his sister Janet influenced her decision to become a dancer. She toured with Janet Jackson on the “All for You” tour in the early 2000s.

“Having worked with his sister, that was awesome,” Sposit said. “I never got to meet him, but working on this is a way to be part of his legacy.”

The show carries forward Jackson’s overarching themes — love, peace and unity — found throughout his work.

“I think the main kind of message of the show is Michael’s love for life and humanity,” Sposit said.

Sometimes sitting and watching the show is difficult for her. Sposit danced professionally for more than 20 years. But chronic back pain forced her to take a different role. She works with a dance captain who acts out the examples she can no longer manage.

But she likes this side, too. She occasionally tries to watch without taking notes, but she finds it hard to turn off that make-it-better mind-set.

“I never get sick of it,” she said. “I can go out there every day and go, ‘Oh wow, what a great show we have.’”


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Famous Actors In Music Videos

 Source: Backstage – By Rebecca Strassberg

tumblr_lx08jamjsN1qfwi17o1_500Music video acting is acting, too! Take it from these very famous faces.

1. Courtney Cox in Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”

Does Bruce Springsteen have a twin or is that…Courteney Cox? Monica Gellar-Bing, is that you?! That hair! That muscle tank! If this music video doesn’t scream 1984, I don’t know what does.

2. Macaulay Culkin in Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”

In Michael Jackson’s 1991 video for the hit song, we get to see a young Macaulay Culkin as a rockstar kid. The video was released when both Culkin and Jackson were in their primes, and two of the most famous entertainers in the world. The video’s got an inspirational message to boot!

3. Matt LeBlanc in Jon Bon Jovi’s “Miracle”

Courteney Cox isn’t the only “Friends” star to make this list, and to have been in a music video pre-“Friends.” Matt LeBlanc can be seen in this classic 1990 Jon Bon Jovi video, and if I could jump into this video and say one thing to him, it’d be, “How you doin’?”

4. Hugh Laurie in Annie Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass”

This 1992 period piece-inspired video features Dr. House himself—wig, pale face, and all—playing some type of royalty. With all the make-up, he’s nearly unrecognizable!

5. Eddie Murphy in Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time”

Early Michael Jackson videos have always been extravagant, and the 1991 video for “Remember the Time” is no different, except that it stars Eddie Murphy.

6. Alicia Silverstone in Aerosmith’s “Cryin’ ”

Forget about “Clueless,” this is the performance of Alicia Silverstone’s career. No sarcasm, seriously! This is before “Clueless,” too! She’s perfect in the classic 1993 video for this heartbroken ballad.

7. Angelina Jolie in The Rolling Stones’ “Anybody Seen My Baby?”

What’s there to say other than that Angelina Jolie is a complete badass in this 1997 Rolling Stones vid? Jolie had previously shaved her head for the HBO movie “Gia,” about model Gia Carangi, who died from AIDS at just 26 years old. Jolie rocks the look, and shows off her acting chops in “Anybody Seen My Baby?”

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Jonathan Moffett: Drummer for the King of Pop

Source: Charlotte Observer – By Courtney Devores


Jonathan Moffett’s credits read like the dream resume of any musical child of the ’70s and ’80s. In his 35-year career, the New Orleans drummer has backed The Jacksons (including Michael, Janet and Jermaine’s solo tours), George Michael, Elton John and Madonna on her “Virgin,” “Who’s That Girl,” and “Blonde Ambition” tours. “Nobody tops Michael,” Moffett said this week by phone from Raleigh, where “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour” had its opening night. “Production-wise and in terms of staging, props and magnitude, Michael always exceeded expectations.” Moffett – along with several other musicians who were gearing up to tour with Jackson’s “This Is It” tour before his 2009 death – is part of the Cirque du Soliel tribute to the King of Pop, which returns to Time Warner Cable Arena Tuesday and Wednesday. The show features Cirque-style acrobatics and Jackson-style dancing to a soundtrack that includes some of Jackson’s biggest hits as well as lesser-known selections. Moffett began working with the Jacksons in 1979, when he moved to L.A. at the behest of Jermaine. He quickly got noticed by other artists, who would see him on stage behind the elaborate sculptural drum rigs he designed and request him for their tours. 101780_0 Despite his impressive resume, “Immortal” has been a new experience for Moffett. “With Elton John and Madonna we had dancers, but we didn’t have acrobats and contortionists,” Moffett said. “It’s interesting to see those aspects. No one was doing amazing feats.” “There’s so much happening on stage you have to see the show three or four times before you’d see everything,” he added. Some might think revisiting Jackson’s legacy would be difficult for Moffett, considering he worked with the pop star for 30 years. But the drummer didn’t hesitate to accept the position with Cirque. “Michael is so much in my heart and spirit,” he said. “I was with him the night before he passed almost until 1 in the morning. He was a major part of my life. I feel like he’s here with me … (or) like he could come along any minute. … “But on a professional level, I know he’d want me to do the same thing I was doing before playing with him.”   ‘Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour’  WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.  WHERE: Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St.  TICKETS: $58.15-$172.20.  DETAILS: 800-745-3000;


The Last Duet….

Source: BBC – By Sinead Garvan


In 2009, aspiring American singer Judith Hill was on the verge of being a part of one of the world’s most anticipated tours and her big break.

She had been picked as Michael Jackson’s duet partner for his This Is It tour.

The 29-year-old was rehearsing with the late singer up until the day before he passed away.

“I was in a state of shock for so long and it was really really hard,” she told Newsbeat.

Michael Jackson died in June 2009 from an overdose of prescription medication.

At the time he was about to embark on his comeback tour with 50 dates at the O2 in London.

“It was so traumatizing when he died because it’s like I saw him literally the night before and everything was fine,” Hill explained.

“For him to pass over the night you just don’t even believe it really.”

The rehearsals for the tour were filmed and turned into a documentary, which have provided some happy memories for Hill.

“I think now, looking back, we can all say it was an honor to have been able to be the last people to spend with him, his last days here on earth,” she said.

“Not only that but to be able to be the last ones to perform with him, to share his stage, it’s so bittersweet, it’s a special thing.”


While it was an sad time for Judith personally, she admits professionally, it was difficult too.

“Yeah definitely, it would have been the biggest show ever, you know, the biggest thing so I definitely feel that the way,” she said.

This would have meant huge exposure for the aspiring musician and fulfilling a dream thousands of singers had, to perform alongside Michael Jackson.

“It’s a weird feeling because we would have wanted to celebrate with him alive.

“Doing the shows, that was the way it was supposed to go, not him passing away and talking about him dying for the rest of our lives.”


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Judith Hill Talks About Working After Michael’s Death, Other Projects And Becoming A Solo Act

Source: The Independent – By Sarrah Morrison


She has sung with the King of Pop, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, the Roots and Kylie Minogue. But given the choice between joining “Stevie” on another glamorous tour and travelling around small clubs in America with her own band, former backing singer Judith Hill knew what she had to do.

She had to go it alone. She has had more than enough experience singing behind the stars, as shown in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, which is released this weekend. The film, which chronicles the stories of the backing singers working for some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century, depicts what life is like for those whose job it is to make others sound good.

For some, it is heaven – they get to sing to huge crowds without bearing the responsibility of fame on their shoulders. For others, it is harder – they get little creative control or chances to develop their individual talent. Their fans might know their voices, but few remember their faces.

Yet just as the world is finally starting to listen to the untold tales of backing singers, and recognise them in their own right, Hill, 29,  has her eyes on centre stage. After almost a decade of singing in the shadows, she has known more than anyone how hard it can be to leave it all behind. Others have tried and failed but, luckily for her, she has just been signed up by Sony. Her debut album is out this summer.

“When you’re a backing singer, it’s a commitment – sometimes one or two years on tour with an artist. And when you’re not, you’re always on call. You’ve got to be available and drop whatever you’re doing to sing with an artist,” Hill said. “I had to make a hard decision: I was either going to really prioritise writing my album or keep letting the years go by. It’s comfy, good pay and you have amazing experiences. I’ve seen it happen to so many singers. They look back and ask: ‘Where did the time go? Years have passed and I haven’t really done what I wanted to do as an artist.’ I was afraid of that.”

Hill was chosen in her early twenties to be Michael Jackson’s female duet partner on his (then cancelled) This Is It tour. At this point, she lived at home in LA with her parents. She and Jackson rehearsed together for weeks, perfecting the show; she remembers those days as “pure magic”. She added: “The room changed when he walked in. Everyone got excited and he would come in dancing. You could tell he had loads of ideas as he stepped on that stage; he’d be directing everyone and telling them what he wanted. He was very kind, too, very sweet and soft-spoken, but also kind of silly and childlike.”

When Jackson died shortly before the start of the sold-out tour, it was she who sang “Heal the World” for an estimated billion viewers at his memorial service. She was totally unprepared for the exposure. Her email and mobile phone number were on her website and she received about 50 emails per second from people who were desperate to know more about her. She says she felt “lost” in the aftermath of Jackson’s death, going directly to rehearsals once she found out. “I get to the Staples Center and the stage was already collapsing. They were already packing things up and people were crying. It was hysteria in that place and I couldn’t believe it. I just saw him like 12 midnight last night and everything was great.”

Immediately, she canned her own carefully crafted album which she had been about to release, believing that “after the tragedy, it didn’t feel like the right music”. Perhaps like some of her other co-stars in 20 Feet – including Darlene Love (who sang with Sam Cooke, Dionne Warwick, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley), Merry Clayton (Joe Cocker, Rolling Stones) Lisa Fischer (Sting, Chris Botti, Rolling Stones) and Tata Vega (Elton John) – she did not want to divert attention from the main act.

But others were less supportive of her decision to stay on the sidelines. Hill even took to straightening her hair in an attempt to disguise herself when she sang a one-off gig behind Kylie Minogue. “There were a lot of people who had this idea that I was off to the stars just because I’d sung with Michael Jackson,” she says. “They had this weird expectation on me that my album was going to be released, that everything was going for me, and that this was my moment. But it was not that at all. I was still an artist who had to pay my bills. I was still living with my parents. People were saying, ‘I’m really disappointed seeing Judith doing background after singing with Michael.’ I felt lots of pressure and I just disguised myself. I was so much in the public eye and didn’t know how to handle it.”

Yet it wasn’t that Hill never wanted to make a go of it as a solo act. The daughter of two musicians – an African-American father and Japanese mother – she studied music composition at the evangelical Christian Biola University in California. (Her family is religious and she grew up singing gospel in the church choir.) After Jackson, she was going to take time out and develop her own sound, until she was asked to tour with Stevie Wonder – a man she describes as the “ultimate improvisational genius”.

And, boy, was it fun. “When you’re a backing singer, you’re flying first class and staying in great hotels all the time. Everything is taken care of and it’s a big bill. When you’re an aspiring artist, you’ve got to pay for your band and you’ve got a small budget. It was really, really hard for me to step away from singing with Stevie. I loved it so much. I didn’t want to let that go, [but] he was gracious enough to understand. He still keeps in contact and I see him from time to time.”

She is full of praise for Wonder. “He’s incredible and sweet,” she says. “Michael and Stevie are so different. Michael put on this crazy show and visually, from every angle, it was about the show and creating a magical world. He was a perfectionist, planning every lighting cue. Stevie is the exact opposite. He doesn’t tell you what the shows are going to be like. He just feels it in the moment and sometimes he’ll create a song on stage. Creativity frickin’ oozes out of him. I learnt how to wing it, to be in the moment, free up and let things flow more. That’s something I learnt from Stevie.”

Then she went on The Voice last year – her attempt to showcase her talent in her own right. She made it to the top eight before being knocked out, but secured a record deal all the same. While she admits she was never a fan of the show before she did it, she says it gave her creative control in a way she never had as a backing singer. She knows there are hurdles. Backing singers, she says, are known for being versatile. Solo artists need to be “unique and different from anyone else”. But she has learnt a lot from her past. “When I worked with Michael, people wrote horrible things to me, just for the fact I was working with him. I took it to heart and cried many times from all that, but I developed a tougher skin from it.”

And now she knows to remove her contact details from her website.


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Kevin Antunes Tells How A Brief Meeting With The King Of Pop Turned Into A Lasting Tribute

Source: News Observer – By Corbie Hill

Daniel Lamarre and Kevin Antunes, musical creator of The Immortal Tour

Daniel Lamarre, Chef Operating Officer for Cirque du Soliel and Kevin Antunes, musical creator of The Immortal Tour


A few weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, at the “United We Stand: What More Can I Give” concert at DC’s RFK Stadium, Kevin Antunes met Michael Jackson. It was a fleeting encounter at what would turn out to be the King of Pop’s last public concert, but the keyboardist and producer remembers it vividly. He was in his dressing room which, for some reason, had no door, when security cleared the hallway.

“They were saying a celebrity was coming through and they wanted all the people to clear the room, to clear the walkway,” Antunes said. He was told to move, but replied that he was technically still in his dressing room. So he stood in the doorway. “And here he comes, Michael Jackson, walking all by himself,” Antunes recalls, still amazed some 12 years later. “And he turns and looks at me and goes, ‘Hello. I’m Michael.’ 

Antunes, too, has a long history in pop music: he was immersed in it from a young age, as his dad plays saxophone with John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. By 18 he and his keyboards hit the road with New Kids on the Block on their “Hangin’ Tough” world tour. He has played three Super Bowl halftimes, worked as musical director for Justin Timberlake and Rihanna, and recently been given privileged access to Michael Jackson’s master recordings – all of them.

It’s from this vault that the musical designer constructed Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson: The Immortal,” which comes to Raleigh’s PNC Arena April 1 and 2. The massive show, featuring acrobats, dancers and a dozen musicians, is built around Jackson’s voice. There’s an arena-style rock band, sure, but the vocals are Jackson’s originals, selected by Antunes.

“Not even his producers that did his records got to hear things the way I did,” he said. “I got to hear his music over his lifetime, while most of the producers were there for two albums, maybe.”

Antunes’ mission was to present Jackson’s voice as clearly as possible – the masters, he says, represent exactly how Jackson sounded in the studio, while vinyl records present more degraded audio – but also to present long-familiar hits in new and unexpected ways.

“It was an honor to be able to sit there and go through ‘ABC’ and find an alternate vocal take that Michael had done,” Antunes said. “There’s parts of the music where I’ll break the music down and I’ll let the people hear Michael just snapping his fingers, clapping his hands.”

It could be daunting, having his hands on the masters of “Thriller,” “Billie Jean” or “Beat It,” and Antunes admits it was challenging to dig through the archives, rearrange decades-old Jackson hits for a Cirque du Soleil production, and communicate honest emotion. Sometimes this required dueling guitars and cellos, but sometimes Antunes chose a light touch.

Near the end of “The Immortal,” there’s a gentle moment: Antunes isolated an 11-year-old Jackson’s vocals from the 1970 Jackson 5 hit “I’ll Be There,” and paired it with piano played by the singer’s onetime music director and keyboardist Greg Phillinganes – and that’s it.

“None of the other music, none of the other background – just acoustic piano,” Antunes said. It’s a fitting touch from a man who, 12 years ago, had an equally personal, fleeting encounter with the King of Pop.

What: Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson: The Immortal”

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday

Where: PNC Arena, 1400 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh

Cost: $50-$165




Interview With MJ Percussionist Bashiri Johnson

Source: The Charlotte Post – By Michaela Duckett

Musical crew of This is It. Bashiri Johnson, is sitting on the right side, front

Musical crew of This is It. Bashiri Johnson, is sitting on the right side, front.


It’s been almost five years since the death of Michael Jackson. Yet, his legacy continues to live on.

As one of the greatest performers and musicians of all time, Jackson’s influence on pop culture is undeniable. He was a revolutionary who changed the game in so many ways from music to dance, fashion and videography. He’s had an impact in some way or another on every artist that has came after him.

Jackson’s music and inspirational lyrics, underscoring his global message of love, peace and unity, are being brought to life in Cirque du Soleil’s production of “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour.”

The tour stops in Charlotte April 8-9 at Time Warner Cable Arena. Tickets range from $45 to $150 each and are available through Ticketmaster.

The show, which is presented in a rock concert format combined with Cirque du Soleil’s signature acrobatic style, features 49 international dancers, musicians and acrobats.

The band includes artists who previously worked side by side with Jackson. Among them is percussionist Bashiri Johnson, whose resume reads like the Who’s Who of the music industry. Johnson has worked with everyone from Jay-Z to Celine Dion, Eric Clapton, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige and Miles Davis.

In the following Q&A, Johnson discusses what he learned working with the King of Pop and which contemporary artists he believes are legends in the making. Some questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: What was it like to work with Michael Jackson?

A: It was a quite incredible and very surreal. It’s sort of like being in orbit, in his orbit, and you’re orbiting around the Earth and everyone is watching what you do up in space. Then after the show is over or the rehearsal is done, you return back to Earth. But for a short time, you get to enjoy being in orbit with him.

Q: Did the opportunity to work with Jackson change you as a musician? What did you take away from the experience?

A: It didn’t change me as a musician, but it helped me to realize that there is a bar that is set even higher than what I can envision because his bar is kind of set in outer space. He had a very, very high standard of excellence, and in order to be on stage with him you have to meet that level of excellence.

One thing I learned is to never think that you have reached the pinnacle musically or in life. There’s always another level above and beyond what you think is the ultimate.

Q: You worked with Jackson on the “This is It” tour before his death. What was his energy like at the time?

A: His energy was upbeat. He was totally involved in all aspects of the production. He would check in on the dancers. He would check on the lighting. He would check in on the sound, and then he would spend the rest of the evening with us in the band. He was highly present, and he seemed like he was in great shape and excited to go out and do the 50 shows in London just like we all were.

Q: Even at his age, Jackson was an incredible performer. What was it like to see him in action?

A: It’s interesting because the movie “This is It” is really a documentary portrayal of what we went through during rehearsals. So it’s amazing to see how incredible the movie is with all of this excitement and energy and we’re only doing rehearsals. We didn’t even have a live audience.

Michael Jackson, I liken him to Bruce Lee. He’s sort of like this real slender type of athlete that is able to perform at the highest level, and that’s what he was like even during rehearsals… There were a few moments when he actually dances full out and sings full out, and it really got a lot of us excited when we witnessed it.

Q: How does it feel to be a part of the Cirque du Soleil “Michael Jackson The Immortal” tour and to pay tribute to the King of Pop?

A: It’s a great honor to be here. This is a magnificent show. It’s doing great all over the world. It’s the number 2 grossing show on Billboard Top 25 World Tours. The audience has been really enjoying every aspect of the show. We have great film clips. We have great dancers and an amazing band.

It is a show not to be missed. I don’t know how long the tour will continue, but while it’s up and running, I think everyone should run and see it. It’s a great interactive and participatory show celebrating Michael Jackson.

Q: Michael Jackson is one of several artists that you’ve worked with that are no longer living, including Whitney Houston, Ray Charles and Luther Vandross. Are there any artists living today that you think will also become legends and that are blazing a trail for artists of the next generation to follow?

A: There are a lot of artists that I think are paving their way towards legendary status. I think Beyoncé is one. I think that Esperanza Spalding is another. I really love what Bruce Springsteen is doing. I love what Bono is doing. I also love Adele. I like how she sounds. I think she’s on the way to greatness. I also like Angélique Kidjo. I love what she’s doing. So there is going to be a new league of greats and legends coming around soon enough.

Q: As a musician, you’ve experienced a lot and met a lot of different people. What is some the best advice you’ve ever received?

One of the best pieces of advice is to just be you. Be the best you, you can be. Don’t compete with anyone else. Don’t compete with anything else. Just be the best you, you can be and you will always win.

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Judith Hill: “I Feel Honored And Blessed To Have Worked With So Many Of These Incredible People” (Video)

Source: BBC


Imagine spending your life performing on stage, but nobody really knows your name.

That is the reality for the thousands of backing singers who forge their careers helping to make hit music for others, but never get the credit.

The documentary Twenty Feet from Stardom, which has just won an Oscar, is placing them firmly in the spotlight, however. Judith Hill is one of those singers; she has performed with the likes of Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.

Hill joined BBC Breakfast to talk about what it is like to go from being a backing singer to fronting her own music.

Footage courtesy of Altitude Film Distribution


Administrator’s Note: 20 Feet From Stardom will be released in UK cinemas on March 28.


Orianthi Sets The Record Straight: “I’m More A Singer And A Songwriter”

Source: Entertainment. MSN


Orianthi is perhaps best known for being Michael Jackson’s lead guitarist for This Is It concert series and now as the lead guitarist in Alice Cooper’s live band.

TheFIX sat down with Orianthi to get the scoop on what it’s like working a range of talented artist and her plans for the future.

“I’m gonna do a new record when I get back from touring with him [Alice Cooper]… I’m gonna try and cram in to record an album in a couple of months and then head out with Alice and the crew.”

Her debut single According to You peaked at No.3 in Japan, No.8 in Australia and No.17 in the US, and Orianthi was named one of the 12 Greatest Female Electric Guitarists by Elle magazine.

When asked about working with Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora, Orianthi told TheFIX:

“Touring with Richie, I just met him in Maui on New Years and I instantly just connected with him…We are going to release an album together in April”

She also wanted to set the record straight that “I’m more a singer and songwriter” and to keep an eye out in April for her collaborative album with Richie.

“Getting to do it now with Richie is amazing, I’m really excited to be working with him”

“There are gonna be guitar solos, a couple actually”.

Watch the full interview with the guitarist-turned-popstar below!


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Bruno Mars, Siedah Garrett, Janelle Monae, Jamie Foxx And More Featured On Rio 2 Soundtrack

Source: Star105 Toledo/ USA Today


Not only does he make his voice acting debut in the upcoming animated film Rio 2, but Bruno Mars is also featured on the movie’s soundtrack, which now has a release date.

Rio 2: Music from the Music Picture will arrive in stores March 25, and it features the song “Welcome Back,” which is performed in the movie by Bruno as Roberto, the former boyfriend of the Anne Hathaway’s character Jewel.

Other artists on the soundtrack include Bruno’s longtime musical collaborator Phillip Lawrence, as well as B.o.B, who teamed with Bruno on his first #1 hit “Nothin’ on You.” The soundtrack lineup also includes Janelle Monáe, Jamie Foxx, Kristin Chenoweth, former X Factor contestant Rachel Crow, Amy Heidemann of the pop duo Karmin and Siedah Garrett, who’s probably best known for duetting with Michael Jackson on “I Just Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” and co-writing the King of Pop’s classic “Man in the Mirror.”, who was in the original Rio, also returns for the sequel.

Rio 2 will be in theaters April 11.

The complete track listing:

What Is Love – Janelle Monáe

Rio Rio – Ester Dean (Featuring B.o.B)

Beautiful Creatures – Barbatuques, Andy Garcia, and Rita Moreno

Welcome Back – Bruno Mars

Ô Vida – Carlinhos Brown and Nina de Freitas

It’s A Jungle Out Here (Brazilian) – Philip Lawrence (Featuring UAKTI)

Don’t Go Away – Anne Hathaway and Flávia Maia

Batucuda Familia – Carlinhos Brown, Siedah Garrett, Jamie Foxx, Rachel Crow, Amy Heidemann, Andy Garcia, and Rita Moreno

Poisonous Love – Kristin Chenoweth and Jemaine Clement

I Will Survive – Jemaine Clement and Kristin Chenoweth

Bola Viva – Carlinhos Brown

Favo De Mel – Milton Nascimento

It’s A Jungle Out Here – Philip Lawrence

What Is Love (Cast) – Janelle Monáe, Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Jamie Foxx, and Carlinhos Brown

What Is Love (The GoonRock Mix) – Janelle Monáe

Angry Birds Rio 2 Theme – Barbatuques

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Orianthi Endorses Fretlight Guitar

Source: Fretlight/ PRweb


RENO, Nev., Feb. 28, 2014 /PRNewswire/ –Optek Music Systems, Inc., makers of the Fretlight Guitar, announced today that rock guitar superstar Orianthi Panagaris will endorse the Fretlight learning system. The 29-year old Australian sensation, handpicked by Michael Jackson to play lead guitar in his This Is It concert tour, is internationally recognized as one of the best guitar players in the world. Orianthi joins the ranks of music legends Alice Cooper and Chris Isaak as the newest ambassador for Fretlight, the world’s fastest and most innovative way to learn to play guitar.

Orianthi will be featured in print, broadcast and online advertising and promotional materials highlighting the advantages and breakthrough technology of the Fretlight Guitar Learning System. Fretlight guitars are beautifully crafted guitars with one ingenious difference – they are all equipped with the world’s only built-in LED Learning System. Fingering positions for chords, scales, songs, riffs and even tablature light up where players need the information most, right under their fingers.

Orianthi has won fans the world over with her original music as well as for her jaw-dropping lead guitar work for the likes of Santana, Michael Jackson, Steve Vai, Alice Cooper, Michael Bolton, Prince, ZZ Top, Adam Lambert, Carrie Underwood, John Mayer, Dave Stewart and others. Currently on tour in Germany, Orianthi returns to the U.S. to rejoin Alice Cooper on the Motley Crue Farewell Tour in July. In 2013 she released her second major studio album, Heaven In This Hell, produced by Stewart.

The partnership with Fretlight will ultimately include an endorsed product line to excite a new generation of guitar players. With her message of inspiration and empowerment, Orianthi provides Fretlight with a spokesperson who is not only able to reach a broad consumer demographic, but also has rock-solid credibility among the most hard-core players.

“I’ve always looked for ways to inspire people, especially young people, to play guitar,” said Orianthi. “When I first saw Fretlight, I immediately connected with the vision. Today’s kids expect technology to help them on their journey, and that’s exactly what Fretlight does.”

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Industry studies indicate that 80 percent of first-time guitar players eventually give up because of the slow, difficult and often frustrating process of learning to play. The Fretlight Guitar breaks down these difficult barriers by eliminating the back-and-forth routine from traditional books and diagrams. The Fretlight Guitar truly has something for every level of player. Ideal for beginners wanting to play their favorite riff fast, to advanced players looking to audition new scales and improvise new solos.

“We’re very proud to have a player of Orianthi’s talent on our team, helping with this important cause,” said Rusty Shaffer, CEO and inventor of the Fretlight Guitar. “She immediately understood that Fretlight is all about getting more people to experience the joy of playing guitar, even if they’re complete beginners. We’re hoping more artists will step up and join us, the way Ori has, to help create more guitar players.”


Connecting to a PC or Mac, Fretlight Guitar comes complete with software, interactive video lessons and play-along interactive videos. Thousands of song tabs can be downloaded from the internet and learned on the Fretlight Guitar using the optional Guitar Pro 6 Fretlight Ready software. Fretlight’s extensive catalog of instructional videos features songs by Stevie Ray Vaughan, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Bob Seger, The Doors, Nirvana, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Jimi Hendrix and many other guitar heroes, plus videos dedicated to songs in a variety of genres, including acoustic, rockabilly, blues, classic rock and more.

About Optek Music Systems, Inc.
Based in Reno, Nevada, Optek Music systems is the manufacturer and distributor of the groundbreaking Fretlight Guitar Learning System. Invented in 1987 by Optek founder and CEO Rusty Shaffer, the Fretlight Guitar has changed the way the world learns to play by combining advanced digital and LED technologies within the timeless form and function of classic electric, acoustic and bass guitars. Optek has many U.S. and international patents as well as patents pending for its interactive guitar learning systems and musical instrument manufacturing designs. Fretlight Guitars can be purchased at select retailers or online at

About Orianthi Panagaris
A guitar prodigy from Adelaide, Australia, Orianthi was heavily influenced by the music of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Santana, Cream and others introduced to her by her musician father. Growing up in the mid-80′s, she also listened to and studied the techniques of guitar rockers Van Halen, Whitesnake, Aerosmith, Guns n’ Roses and Joe Satriani.At 15, she left school to pursue her passion full time, playing in a local cover band in Adelaide. When she opened for Steve Vai and ZZ Top, her world changed forever. Upon hearing of her, Carlos Santana asked Ori to jam with him during a tour stop in Adelaide, inviting her on stage to play for her home town audience. At the age of 20 she launched her career in earnest with her first independent release, Violet Journey, in 2005. A year later she realized her dream of moving to America where she signed on with Geffen.After an on-stage appearance with Carrie Underwood at the 2009 Grammy Awards, she went from little-known lead guitarist to the latest buzz on the internet. To her disbelief, Michael Jackson asked if she would join his band on his This Is It concert series in London. She readily accepted and immediately joined the ranks of prestigious guitarists who worked with Jackson, including Eddie Van Halen, Slash and Jennifer Batten and more. Sadly, the world lost one of its most treasured musical icons and the tour never happened. However, Orianthi was present at all the rehearsals prior to Jackson’s death, and considers the lessons learned working with the King of Pop as some of the most profound of her career. In the fall of 2009, Orianthi released her major label debut, Believe. The album produced the platinum single “According To You” which was a worldwide hit. Coming off the success of Believe and headlining shows around the world, Orianthi was asked to join Alice Cooper’s band for its 2011 U.S. tour. She has continued to tour with Alice Cooper through 2013 and will rejoin the band in 2014.

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Michael Jackson Immortal Returns To Worcester / Behind The Scenes With Desiree Bassett

Source: – By Richard Duckett


A guitar prodigy, Desiree Bassett of Ashford, Conn., had been accepted at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

But before she showed up for her first classes, an opportunity presented itself that Bassett couldn’t turn down. Greg Phillinganes, music director of Cirque du Soleil’s pending “Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour,” offered her a role in the show as lead guitarist.

The tour hit the ground running in Montreal in October 2011, and is still rolling along, returning to the DCU Center (the show was also here in May 2012) for two performances, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Bassett, 21, has been with the show from the start, toured the world with it, and plans on sticking around. “Until the tour ends,” she said during a recent telephone interview. “I’m not really sure when it ends.”

The estate of Michael Jackson (who died in 2009) and Cirque du Soleil (the French-Canadian “Circus of the Sun”) came together to create the “Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour.” The show has Jackson’s voice singing through the sound system; his songs (more than 30); a live band that includes Bassett along with musicians who performed with Jackson; a huge cast of dancers and performers, underscored by aerial performance, driving acrobatics and vivid choreographies; and multiple screens. Trademark Jackson and Cirque visuals and fantasy blend together, according to the show’s director of creation, Chantal Tremblay, in a previous interview. “It’s a show about him, with him. It’s a fusion of Cirque du Soleil plus a big rock touring concert.”

To put it another way, “It’s been a really fun experience. It’s mind-blowing for me,” said Bassett.

Since listening to Jackson’s music from childhood, Bassett had always been a fan. But she didn’t know how much of a fan she was going to become. “On the tour, I’ve been able to feel the music and get a better understanding of who he was as a person,” she said. “It’s made me 10 million more times a fan.”

Jackson started out young musically, and so did Bassett.

She said she started playing the guitar when she was 3 years old. “I just gravitated, not knowing how to play it, really.” She was encouraged by her parents, and soon was correcting her father, Daniel Bassett, when they were playing guitar together.

At 8, her father took her to perform in a talent show. “It was a little nerve-wracking, but I said ‘I can really do this.’ I forgot about people watching.”

A year later she started taking lessons in the University of Connecticut music program.

In 2005 she was selected as one of 16 finalists at the Olympics of Entertainment in New York City. She performed at the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, bringing up Jimi Hendrix’s original percussionist Geraldo Velez to end the night with “Purple Haze.” She has shared the stage with such artists as Sammy Hagar, Ted Nugent, The Marshall Tucker Band and members of the Allman Brothers.

Phillinganes is a keyboard player who toured with Michael Jackson and many other well-known artists, and was the musical director for Jackson’s “Bad” and “Dangerous” concert tours.

While casting his net for The Immortal tour, he saw Bassett’s YouTube performance videos. Bassett said Phillinganes called her father. Coincidentally, Bassett was home listening to Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” When her father said to her a few minutes later “you won’t believe the opportunity” that was just presenting itself, Bassett replied right away “Michael Jackson.”

The band, with Jackson’s drummer Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffett providing the beat, performs the songs from the original recordings (with some variations), although the players cut loose in terms of movement on stage.

Bassett said rehearsals lasted 2½ months. “It was a lot of work. A lot of long hours.”

Besides enhancing her appreciation of Jackson, being involved with the tour has been a tremendous learning experience, she said. “I’m a better player. It’s expanded my knowledge.”

The show has performed to an audience of more than 2 million worldwide. With the show coming back to the DCU Center, Bassett will be close to home again. Ashford is only 40 minutes from Worcester, and she’s been here many times, she said.

When the tour ends, Bassett said she wants to focus on her own music, which, in addition to playing guitar, includes writing, singing and playing bass, drums and keyboards.

As for Berklee, “It’s never too late to go to college,” she said.

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Judith Hill: From ‘The Voice’ To The Oscars

Source: CBS News – By Luchina Fisher


Judith Hill has had an amazing year.

It began with the fourth season of “The Voice” last March and culminates with Sunday’s Academy Awards. Hill will be there along with some of the other backup singers profiled in the Oscar-nominated film “20 Feet from Stardom,” one of last year’s highest-grossing documentaries.

“It’s been crazy, crazy exciting,” she told ABC News. “This whole thing has been an amazing journey and surprise.”

Though Hill, who grew up in a musical family – her mom is a pianist, her dad had a funk band – has been pursuing a career as a solo artist in earnest since she appeared on NBC’s “The Voice” and was shockingly eliminated in the Top 8 show, she hasn’t turned her back on singing background.

“Because of the way the film presented me, stepping out and doing my own thing, I feel there’s this pressure not to sing background,” she said. “Though if it’s a great gig, I love to do it. Singing background has always been such a precious thing. I’m always going to be excited to sing behind an artist and learn from them.”

And Hill, 29, has sung behind and beside some of the world’s biggest artists. The public first got to know her after she was hired in 2009 as Michael Jackson’s duet partner for what was to be his final concert tour, “This Is It.” Jackson died before the tour opened but Hill attracted global attention when she sang lead on Jackson’s “Heal the World” at his memorial service.

Recently, Hill sang backup for Ringo Starr at the Grammy Awards and the Beatles’ 50th anniversary celebration special. “It was a crazy honor to be a part of that and the whole Grammy week,” Hill said.

She’s also excited to see her own solo career finally taking off.

Hill just completed a three-month tour opening for Josh Groban. Now, she’s staying put in her hometown Los Angeles to finish writing her first album scheduled to be released by Sony later this year.

But first there’s Saturday’s Independent Spirit Awards, where “20 Feet from Stardom” is nominated in the best documentary category and Hill will perform with fellow backup singers Merry Clayton, Tata Vega and Darlene Love.

Then, there’s the Oscars, of course. Hill still hasn’t decided what she’s wearing. “It’s been so much fun, playing dress-up,” she said.

Hill is grateful that director Morgan Neville, whom she met through Elton John, asked her to be a part of the film, whose message she can relate to: “never giving up … how perseverance pays off when you believe in something so much and how rewarding that is,” she said.

“Right now, I’m really coming into my own, developing my own sound,” she said. “All the pieces are finally coming together. I feel really grounded and understand more about who I am as an artist. I’m ready to do it.”

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Michael Jackson Studio Alumni To Reunite For Thrilling Orlando Seminar On Recording The King of Pop

Source: Damien Shields


The King of Pop’s longtime recording engineer, Matt Forger, will join forces with the pop icon’s former studio technical director, Brad Sundberg, in Orlando this Saturday (February 8, 2014) for an extra-special installment of Sundberg’s ‘In The Studio With MJ’ music seminar.

“I’m terribly excited and I feel fortunate that I am able to come on board with what Brad has initiated and what he has created,” said Forger. “To be able to do this with Brad is going to be a lot of fun. When we worked together with Michael we got along famously.”

Forger brings a fresh new dynamic to the seminar, having worked intimately on the “Thriller” album (1982) and Captain EO film soundtrack (1986) – both of which were completed before Sundberg joined the team. These two projects will be where Forger focuses most of his energy.

“This is real-deal stories and music from the man who was there for Thriller, and who recorded and mixed Captain EO,” said Sundberg on his ‘In The Studio With MJ’ Facebook page.

Following the completion of Captain EO, Sundberg and Forger worked both together and separately on a range of iconic Jackson projects including the “Bad,” “Dangerous,” “HIStory,” and “Blood on the Dance Floor” studio albums, as well as video mixes, dance mixes, world tours, and more.

Believe it or not, Forger, whose highly-coveted career centred largely around his ability to bring the musical ideas Michael Jackson was hearing in his head to fruition in the studio, never studied music or recording.

“Instead I studied fine arts,” explained Forger in an exclusive interview conducted for this article. “And all the time that I worked on projects with Quincy, or with Michael, I tried to learn as much about what they were doing as possible, so that I could continue to get better at what I did.”

“When different people would work with Michael, everyone would work in a slightly different style,” recalled Forger. “Bruce Swedien was the person whose sound was the RnB sound. The big, beautiful, pulsating bass. The beautiful ballads. Bill Bottrell’s sound was the quirky songs and the rock n roll songs. And then when Teddy Riley worked with him he had the New Jack Swing sound. Bryan Loren’s style and sound was really quite funky.”

“And I realised that when I came to work with Michael, I didn’t bring a sound. Because of my studies in fine arts and creativity it was my goal to understand what was in Michael’s head, and how his creativity was forming the songs, and to try to pull that out and to remain faithful to what was in Michael’s head and capture that character. It’s what I call acting as a facilitator. It wasn’t my goal to say ‘Oh how about we get it sounding like this Michael.” It was more like ‘Michael, how to we get this sound the way you’re imagining it?’”

The key to capturing the magic was, as Michael Jackson often said himself, to get out of the way of the music and let the music write itself. Forger tells how he made a conscious effort not to get in the way of the music.

“When I worked in the studio with Michael, and I worked many years with him, I always felt I didn’t want to analyse it,” explains Forger. “I didn’t want to disturb the vibe. Because what I found about working in the studio is you have to be in the moment – especially working with Michael. You have to be in the moment with him, and I thought that if I thought about it too much I might disturb that.”

Forger’s contributions to ‘In The Studio With MJ’ on Saturday will by no means be his first public speaking engagement. The seasoned engineer has previously spoken about the music industry, and his work with Michael Jackson, on a variety of panels, in workshops and at seminars, and is looking to continue sharing his wealth of knowledge with new audiences.

“I have recently begun examining and writing about my experiences and now I really want to pass this knowledge on,” says Forger. “To the college audiences. To those who are studying music and music recording, plus all students in general; because the lessons I’ve learned from working with Michael Jackson apply to whichever field it is that you wish to pursue. I cannot imagine a better person to use as an example of achieving success, of having work ethic, focus, motivation and discipline in creativity.”

“Recalling some of the musical moments from the making of this legendary music will be great fun for us and should be enlightening for everyone who attends,” said Forger in a recent press release. “It is going to be terrific to play some of the large number of mixes of tracks from all the projects we worked on. Brad and I have enjoyed so many different aspects of the creative process of Michael’s singles and albums and it will be exciting to share them.”

Sundberg has presented his ‘In the Studio with MJ’ sessions all over the world and says he loves the “no script” approach that concentrates on the “stories, music and home videos” of many extraordinary sessions.

“With the presentations of music, videos, personal behind-the-scenes stories and photos, this is a unique opportunity for people interested in the music industry, and in Michael Jackson in particular, to see, hear and learn what it was like to work side-by-side with a true music legend,” said Sundberg.

The seminar will take place from 12-noon to 8pm on Saturday, February 8 at Starke Lake Studios in Orlando and is strictly limited to 50 attendees.

“This event is ideal for anyone who is a fan of Michael’s music, or who is curious about how those albums were recorded and the staggering amount of tapes, tracks and time that was put into them,” Forger adds.

The entire presentation will be played through the exact speakers that many of Michael Jackson’s studio projects were mixed on. Dinner, featuring Jackson’s favorite foods, will also be provided in honor of him and his love of eating together, as a family.

Click here to book your tickets today!

Matt Forger Joins Brad Sundberg For ‘In the Studio with MJ’

Source: Florida Newswire – By Jennifer Hedly – MJ-Upbeat


LOS ANGELES, Calif., Jan. 27, 2014 (SEND2PRESS NEWSWIRE) — What was it like to be in the recording studio as Michael Jackson created the iconic tracks for such monumental albums as “Thriller,” “Bad,” “Dangerous,” “HIStory,” and “Blood on the Dance Floor”? Truly dedicated fans will find out from two of the recording engineers who were there with MJ, Quincy Jones, and all the famous musicians as Matt Forger joins Brad Sundberg for the next “In the Studio with MJ” session scheduled for February 8, 2014, in Orlando, Florida.

Together and separately, Forger and Sundberg worked with Michael Jackson on studio recording sessions, video mixes, dance mixes, world tours, and more. In addition, Forger recorded and mixed “Captain EO,” the groundbreaking film and music project that involved Jackson, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas.

“Recalling some of the musical moments from the making of this legendary music will be great fun for us and should be enlightening for everyone who attends,” Forger states. “It is going to be terrific to play some of the large number of mixes of tracks from all the projects we worked on. Brad and I have enjoyed so many different aspects of the creative process of Michael’s singles and albums and it will be exciting to share them,” Forger adds.

Sundberg has presented his “In the Studio with MJ” sessions all over the world and says he loves the “no script” approach that concentrates on the “stories, music and home videos” of many extraordinary sessions.

“With the presentations of music, videos, personal behind-the-scenes stories and photos, this is a unique opportunity for people interested in the music industry, and in Michael Jackson in particular, to see, hear and learn what it was like to work side-by-side with a true music legend,” Sundberg states.

The event will be held in a professional recording studio and limited to 50 attendees. “This event is ideal for anyone who is a fan of Michael’s music, or who is curious about how those albums were recorded and the staggering amount of tapes, tracks and time that was put into them,” Forger notes.

“In The Studio with MJ” will take place from Noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday, February 8 at Starke Lake Studios, 275 North Lakeshore Drive, Ocoee, FL 34761. Tickets are $249, dinner included.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: For ticket information, please visit the event’s Facebook page or the event page itself: .

To request more information or to schedule an interview with Matt Forger, please contact John Scott G at G-Man Marketing.

John Scott G

Film: The Man Behind the Throne – Vincent Paterson (Video)


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The Man Behind the Throne
Kersti Grunditz, 2013
Sweden | 58 minutes

Director Kersti Grunditz in person!


Until now, Vincent Paterson has remained the dance world’s best kept secret, avoiding the spotlight and concentrating on the work itself. So it may come as a surprise to learn that he is, as the film’s title suggests, the man behind the careers of superstars Michael Jackson and Madonna—in fact, the inventor of some of their defining dance moves—as well as the choreographer who created the ensemble dance numbers for Björk and dancers in Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark. Through previously unseen rehearsal footage from Paterson’s own private collection and iconic films clips that made history (Smooth Criminal, Blonde Ambition and more), the film looks at the private Vincent. From his family oriented Catholic boyhood in suburban Pennsylvania to the glamor factory of Hollywood and the heady experience of choreographing for Cirque du Soleil’s Viva Elvis!, this is a personal and professional journey to be savored.


Mon, Feb 3

8:30pm Buy Tickets
Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th Street, New York, NY – (212) 875-5600

Sheryl Crowe Says She Was Happiest Being Michael Jackson’s Back Up Singer The Bad Tour

Source: Daily Mail – By Jon Wilde


What is your earliest memory?

I must have been two. I remember lying in an old crib at my grandmother’s house. I could hear my mum, my grandma and my two aunts in the kitchen laughing their heads off. I was wide awake and I kept wondering when they were coming to get me. But everything was fine with the world at that moment because the house was full of laughter. You can’t beat the sound of genuine laughter, knowing people around you are having a great time.

What sort of child were you?

I grew up in Missouri, in a strong God-fearing community. There was always music around me. My dad played trumpet. My mum played piano and sang. I was a big reader. I loved books and thought I might become a novelist but music always drew me back. I was very driven. That came out of being a real people-pleaser. I figured that, if I excelled, people would like me more.

When were you last really happy?

Being Michael Jackson’s backing singer on his Bad tour from 1987 to 1989. I was in my mid-20s. I hadn’t released any records. I didn’t even own a passport when I landed the job. And there I was, travelling the world with the biggest pop star on the planet. Walking out in front of full stadiums every night was exhilarating enough. To be performing alongside Jackson was something else altogether. Seeing him dance a few feet away from me was an other-worldly experience. It was the happiest of times.

Various Locations

What are you best at?

I throw a good party. I have a barn with a bar on my property in Nashville, a perfect party venue.

What would you like to be better at?

I come from an artistic family but I seem to be the only one who is useless at drawing. Ask me to draw a person and you’ll get something that resembles a stick insect.

Who would your dream dinner date be?

I’d be torn between Mahatma Gandhi and Ricky Gervais. I often wonder what it would have been like to sit in Gandhi’s presence and listen to him talk about how he changed the world through entirely peaceful means. And I’ve been a huge Ricky Gervais fan since The Office. He never fails to make me laugh. Gervais and Gandhi together would be an interesting combination.

What is your best character trait?

I never get bored.

What is your worst character trait?

I’m a compulsive cuticle-biter. I’m forever gnawing away at my fingernails and I’m completely aware that it’s far from being the most attractive thing about me.


What is your most treasured possession?

My 1964 Gibson Country Western. It was one of the first guitars I ever bought, in 1990, just after I’d come off tour with Jackson. I call that guitar the old money-maker, because all the hits I’ve ever had were written on it. One time I dropped it and broke the neck off it. I cried my eyes out until I found a guy who could fix it.

Tell us a secret about yourself

Not many people know that I’m a collector of weird junk. If you come to my house you’ll more than likely trip over piles of antique devices used in eye surgery, innumerable doll heads, bizarre examples of folk art and some of the world’s strangest advertising signs. It makes for a very intriguing house.

What was your best night out?

I’ve had so many memorable nights but the evening of December  19, 1997, would be hard to beat. That night I stood on stage at a theatre in Los Angeles and sang Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door with Bob Dylan. There was another night 15 years ago when I went to see Bob at The Palladium in LA. He spotted me in the balcony and called me to the stage where I sang Highway 51 Blues with him. Both those events were great ‘pinch me’ moments.

What is your biggest fear?

In 2006 I was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. In 2011 I discovered I had a meningioma, a kind of brain tumour. Having come through those traumas, there is a fear I might have to go through more of that at some time.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

For any singer, there’s nothing much more embarrassing than forgetting lyrics. That’s happened to me a whole bunch of times. The last occasion was at a gig in Florida in 2012. I was halfway through Soak Up The Sun, one of my biggest hits, and my brain just emptied.  At least no one can accuse me of lip-syncing.


Who – or what – do you dream about?

I have a recurring dream about a house. It’s ancient, with hundreds of rooms, all packed with antiques. I have no idea why I keep visiting it. Maybe I lived there in a previous life.

Who do you most admire?

Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks is an extraordinary woman and it was one of the great privileges of my life to record with her.  Also, on my new album I’ve ventured properly into country music. My chief inspiration was the great country star Loretta Lynn who, through the 1960s and 70s, raised the bar in terms of what was acceptable subject matter within the genre. She sang about birth control, sexism and Vietnam, encouraging other female singers to write about stuff that was personal to them. I admire her greatly.

Award-Winning Guitarist ORIANTHI Offers Musicians The Chance To Join Her On Stage



STEVENSVILLE, MD) January 23, 2014 – Orianthi is inviting all musicians to submit a video of their best live performance for the chance to join her onstage in Los Angeles. The PRS Artist is using the Talenthouse platform to find a guitarist, bass player, keyboard player and drummer for ‘BeMyBand’, a new song in development from Dave Stewart, co-founder of the Eurythmics. Orianthi encourages and challenges players, “I’m definitely looking forward to meeting four ace musicians who can rock my world.”

“I always think about all those great players out there in various towns and cities who would love to play alongside a major artist and go through the whole experience of rehearsing and then perform a big show,” Stewart said in a statement. “There are so many singing competitions; this one is about the players in the band. The guys and girls who help create that magic.”

Orianthi, an award-winning, Platinum Australian-born guitarist, has been playing PRS guitars since she was 11 years old. Named one of the 12 Greatest Female Electric Guitarists by Elle Magazine, Ori has played her PRS Custom 24 electric guitars with music legends including: Michael Jackson, Steve Vai, Prince, Alice Cooper, Carrie Underwood and Santana.

Ori will be present at PRS Guitars’ winter NAMM Performance Room 210B and will do a half hour-long signing that will start at 2:30 on Friday.

Musicians interested in BeMyBand will have until January 24, 2014 to submit their details at .

More information about Orianthi can be found on her PRS artist profile page at:



Oscar-Nominated ’20 Feet From Stardom’ Puts Spotlight On ‘Unsung Heroes’

Source: MTV – By Natasha Chandel

‘Voice’ alum Judith Hill, who sang with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, shares ‘magical moments’ with MTV News.

Morgan Neville

They’re behind some of the greatest musicians of the 21st Century — literally. They’re the background singers and stars of “20 Feet From Stardom,” who received the ultimate nod Thursday morning (January 16) with an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature.

The emotional music doc looks back on the careers of some of the best background singers in the game: Merry Clayton (background for Ray Charles, Mick Jagger), Darlene Love (Elvis Presley, Dionne Warwick), Lisa Fischer (Luther Vandross, Tina Turner), Claudia Lennear (Joe Cocker) and “The Voice” alum Judith Hill (Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder). MTV News chatted with Hill about the film after her run on the hit reality competition ended back in May 2013.

“’20 Feet From Stardom’ is this incredible music documentary about these unsung heroes, these background singers who have done so much, and yet, you may not know their names, but you know their voices, because they’re on every record, and just their incredible stories,” Hill said of the film that features candid interviews with artists including Mick Jagger and Sting. “I’m really thrilled that it’s coming out and they’re getting the recognition they deserve.”

While the film sheds light on the singers’ struggles to step out from the shadows and find their own spotlight, being 20 feet from stardom does have its advantages: “The magical moment of being in Rio de Janeiro on Christmas and singing in front of millions of people with Stevie Wonder,” Hill recalled. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve learned so much and had so many magical moments as a background singer.”

The 86th annual Academy Awards will air live March 2.

Interview with Judith Hill:

20 Feet From Stardom is now available on DVD at Amazon:

A Conversation with Really, Really Brad Sundberg

Originally posted on dancing with the elephant:

Willa: This week Lisha McDuff and I are so honored to be joined by Brad Sundberg, who worked with Michael Jackson for nearly two decades. He served as Technical Director on the Bad, Dangerous, and HIStory albums, and helped design the sound system at Neverland. While working on Bad, Michael Jackson gave him the nickname Really, Really Brad, as in “I’m Brad, I’m Brad, I’m Really, Really Brad.” That cracks me up!

Over the past year Brad has been offering seminars in the U.S., Canada, and Europe to share his insights as well as sound recordings from his work with Michael Jackson. Several of our friends and contributors – Lisha, Susan Fast, and Joe Vogel – attended his recent seminar in Toronto, and from everything I’ve heard it was incredible! Lisha asked Brad if he’d like to talk with us, and he said yes. Brad, thank you…

View original 4,547 more words

Guitarist Jennifer Batten Discusses Working With MJ And Upcoming Event To Support Local Schools

Source: Pamplin Media – By Lisa K. Anderson


When Michael Jackson and his band took the stage at the 1993 Super Bowl, their halftime show became one of the most watched broadcasts in American television history.


For guitarist Jennifer Batten, it was a career high.

“It was such a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Batten, 56, said. “I’ll never play for a billion and a half people at the same time again for the rest of my life.”

That was almost 21 years ago. Batten moved to East Clackamas County 10 years ago, ready for a different pace.

“I wanted a break and got everything I wanted up here — the opposite of L.A.,” she said.

During her career, Batten has toured with Michael Jackson and Jeff Beck, along with producing three solo albums and writing two music books.

That first year in Oregon, Batten took time off, attending every craft and music show in the area.

“You can’t always output; sometimes you just have to take time to input,” Batten said. “I got into the visual arts, and when I returned to music, it was much fresher.”

Does she get stopped by fans in the Portland area?

“No, not with this haircut,” Batten joked. “If I had the MJ haircut (an iconic bleach blond rock star ‘do), it might be a different story, but I left that hairspray in the ‘80s.”


OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK – Guitarist Jennifer Batten moved to East County 10 years ago, seeking a fresh start away from Los Angeles. On Jan. 24, she will perform at a special event for Gresham area children and families. Here, she is pictured with event organizer Jesse Schmunk.

MJ and jen 3

Today, Batten keeps busy with an international tour circuit, teaching guitar lessons and creating “steampunk” metal art, which has amassed in her home.

As a longtime fan of Batten and the father of a young daughter, Gresham resident Jesse Schmunk thought the guitarist was a prime example of someone who had achieved success.

He wanted to emphasize the significance of music and character education in an event for East County families, and invited Batten to perform last June.

Schmunk is organizing a second celebration to honor Gresham area elementary, middle and high school students from 6-9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24, at David Douglas High School, Room 168, 1001 S.E. 135th Ave., Portland.

The event has no association with Gresham area school districts (or the David Douglas School District) and has a capacity for about 100 students and family members.

The evening will feature food, activities, a performance by Batten and a speech by Terry Lynn Link, the creator of the children’s television series “Tails of Abbygail.”

“Our intention is to encourage, inspire, challenge, educate and entertain,” Schmunk said. “We bring success closer for local students and families alike.”

Batten received her first guitar — a red and blue electric — at age 8, but didn’t announce her plans for becoming a professional guitar player until age 12.

“I had four years to get it together,” she joked.

Batten remembers the early years when she would watch “bootleg, VHS tapes” of English rock guitarist Jeff Beck, pausing to see where his fingers were on the guitar neck and rewinding the tape to learn his songs.

Though Batten flunked the initial entrance exam for guitar school at age 19, she was chosen from 100 guitarists to work with Michael Jackson and went on to play with Jeff Beck, one of her greatest musical influences.

images (1) “It’s incredibly phenomenal to see how many young geniuses are out there today,” Batten said. “They live on the Internet and learn everybody’s stuff. These are the years you don’t have to work, where you get absorbed into your passion.”

She wants to emphasize to students that with the Internet, they can learn almost anything they want without spending a million dollars. Batten also encourages students to be kind and gracious in whatever they pursue.

“Really, the whole point of performing is to communicate and inspire,” Batten said.

For more information or to RSVP for the event, contact Schmunk at 971-221-3242 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Tickets cost $10 per person.

Long Time Jackson Drummer “Sugarfoot” Chats About Michael

Source: Time Out Dubai – Peter Feely


Where are you right now?
I’m out in Orange County in California. I’m looking forward to coming to Dubai – it’ll be my first time.

When did you first meet The Jacksons?
I first auditioned for them on February 21, 1979 and we started that particular tour in the spring. I took a chance and drove my car 3,200 miles just to follow a dream. I ran into the musical director, who’s from New Orleans, and by chance, they were on the last day of the auditions. He [the director] said he would ask the organisers to extend the auditions so that I would have a chance – they had been auditioning for two weeks.

When did you first meet Michael Jackson?
When we started rehearsing two days after the audition, he was there. He was really very cordial with me and he said that the [Jackson] brothers spoke very highly of me and my playing and he said, ‘he will see’. He was very shy – deeply shy. And he was always courteous and very humble and also very respectful. Some people think this was overly so but that was his true nature – he was a soft, gentle human being who was concerned about everybody else’s feelings.

Did people around him manipulate this?
Yes of course. I was that way myself when I first came to Hollywood but not the way he was. I had to get my guard up too but for Michael it was more problematic. You have to remember that he was a superstar when he was a child – seven or eight years old.

You worked on the singer’s final tour This Is It…

I was in the rehearsals and the film. From the rehearsals it was absolutely phenomenal and the film only depicts about 75 percent of what the audience were going to see. We had one more week to go and a lot of the surprises were kept secret. It was truly one of his [Michael’s] greatest tours. For the first time when I’d worked with him he did whole new arrangements on songs.

Who came up with the new ideas?

It was a combination of his [Michael’s] ideas and the directors’ ideas – Kenny Ortega and Travis Payne [choreographer]. But Michael came up with most of the ideas himself. He was a creative person.

But many people criticized his behaviour…

It is easy for people to criticize [Michael] when they’re not in the person’s shoes. Maybe you’d make better decisions – maybe they’d be worse. People love to criticize other people. Everybody’s critical of everybody else and no one wants to be criticized themselves.

The Man In Michael’s Mirror

Source: Gulf News – By Manjari Saxena

POB11 1002

Both Michael Jackson and Cirque du Soleil are mavericks in their field, says dancer and choreographer Jamie King, director of Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour, the massive show that rolls into Dubai this Monday.

“When I looked out my hotel window and saw all these huge buildings and the manmade islands, I felt, this is Michael,” King said during an interview with tabloid! in September. “Michael Jackson believed in the illogical. What you have created here is not just remarkable but seems just as illogical. I feel Michael would have wanted to be here. He was not just a global superstar but wanted the world to become one. And I’m proud that the Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour has brought his fans, old and young, together to celebrate his legacy, his music, his showmanship and the man who was a great teacher, all over the world”.

Brought by Duvent Events, Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour begins at Dubai World Trade Centre Arena on December 30 and will run until January 14 as part of Dubai Shopping Festival. The show, with 60-plus performers, is a fusion of visuals, dance, music and fantasy from the late King of Pop’s work. And King, as the director, is the pivot on which it rests.

“How can you not have a big show if you mix the world of Cirque du Soleil and Michael Jackson, the greatest entertainer in the world? As a writer-director it is a huge responsibility,” said King. “It has actors, artists, dancers, acrobats, and musicians… all things Michael Jackson loved. It’s a combination of theatre and a rock-style show. The music, the acrobatics, the dances are all larger than life. No one can be Michael — he was one of a kind. But what we can do, and respectfully, is making sure we have a cast that is diverse yet interprets Michael in the best possible way. There will be 65 Michaels on stage. It will be reliving, in the most spectacular way, those moments we all love about Michael Jackson”.

In the past 16 years, King has worked with Madonna, Rihanna, Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Ricky Martin, Christina Aguilera, Avril Lavigne, Mariah Carey, Shakira, George Michael, Korean superstar Rain, Elton John, Diana Ross and even Ellen DeGeneres. He is a multiple Emmy Award and MTV Video Music Award nominee. “I think it is all about how you walk into the room,” he says about working with such big names in the industry. “What you give is what you get. When I walk in for a first meeting with an artist it is important to be really, really open and make sure they are comfortable in the space of being creative. And I think they’ve realised that too, so I’ve never had a bad experience”.

The story

Reinterpreted in the Cirque-way, it is really a journey of the characters, which go into this fantastical world called Michael Jackson that we all remember, love and know. Here we get to experience his music, his iconic looks — remember the sequined glove that we all probably had at one time? — and into different areas of himself. We see the humanitarian Michael Jackson and his love for animals. We also see the iconic, Smooth Criminal-Thriller dance star that we loved, and show culminates with all of us in the fairy tale land of Neverland.

Here happens a twist where you will see one of the characters evolve into and become a part of that world in a very special way. We delve into Michael’s head and feel and see the essence of the man. Immortal Tour is different from Michael Jackson One (also directed and written by King) because it’s a combination of theatre and rock and roll. Where the latter, showing at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, is available to about 2,000 or so people at a time, Immortal Tour shows in arenas with capacity of up to 20,000 people at a time. It’s built for spectacle. It’s less about a story and more about a journey. That’s how Michael would have wanted to do it.

The man

Michael Jackson was the ultimate professional. And often he would switch and become a comedian. He had all these different sides to him. He was a loving man, funny man, generous man, he was the greatest entertainer on earth.

Former MJ Dancer Cris Judd Finally Fullfills Golf Pro Dreams

Source: – By Philip Chandler


Celebrity dancer Cris Judd will live his former dream when he tees off at the New Zealand Open golf tournament in the Wakatipu next year.

Judd – who has worked with music royalty such as ex-wife Jennifer Lopez, the late Michael Jackson and Celine Dion – is the latest big name to sign for the NZ Open pro-am at Arrowtown’s The Hills and Millbrook courses, starting on February 27.

His invitation came after a round with tournament chairman John Hart and former All Black Andy Haden.

Haden manages Rachel Hunter, a co-judge with Judd on entertainment contest New Zealand’s Got Talent.

Judd (44), of the United States, is relishing the invitation – he has never been to Queenstown but nearly had a golf career.

Taught from age 8 while growing up in the Philippines, Judd started playing junior tournament golf at 10. He placed third in his first outing and later captained his high school team in Florida.

While starting his dancing career, he also played on US mini-tours and in California as an amateur.

”I was making that push forward to see if I could try to swing it and go pro.

”But unfortunately I got asked to go on a different tour, so I ended up going on tour with Michael Jackson.”

Judd was a lead dancer on the ”King of Pop’s” Dangerous and HIStory world tours and, after his death, performed a dance tribute to him at the MTV Video Music Awards along with Jackson’s sister, singer Janet Jackson.


During his entertainment career, Judd has played golf intermittently.

He shot 76 at his first tournament at California’s Pebble Beach course in 2009.

”When I’m out on the course, especially when I’m at a tournament, I always like to think, ‘this is where I should be’.

Alfonso Ribeiro, Cris Judd, NYPD Blue guys

Alfonso Ribeiro, Cris Judd, NYPD Blue guys

”I always in the back of my head have that dream to still be a professional,” he said.

Judd says his iron play, from the tee to the green, is probably his major strength.

”[But] my putting is probably the weakest link,” he says, admitting he still gets butterflies on the first tee.

Immortal World Tour Is “Next Best Thing To A Michael Jackson Concert,” Says Sugarfoot

Source: The National – By Afshan Amed


You have to take the musician Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffett at his word when he dubs Michael Jackson – The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil, as “the next best thing to a Michael Jackson concert that the audience will witness”.

After all, the drummer performed and toured with the late King of Pop and the Jackson brothers for more than 34 years and infuses a similar dynamism into Cirque du Soleil’s largest grossing production, which premiered in Montreal in 2011. The Immortal World Tour will be staged at the Dubai World Trade Centre from today until January 14. The show is the highlight of the 2014 Dubai Shopping Festival and is being organised by Duvent, an arm of Meraas Leisure and Entertainment.

“Everyone who comes to the show is there to see and feel the Michael experience,” says Moffett, who began playing for the late Jackson and the Jackson brothers in 1979.

“The show will be more than what they expected. They will feel Michael’s spirit in the hall, feel his presence through the music, dances, the video we present and the energy in the show. They will want to see it more than once.”

The concert is a collaboration between Cirque and the artists who worked with Michael Jackson on albums and live shows.

After his sudden death in 2009, weeks before his sold-out This Is It run of shows in London, the Cirque du Soleil team approached Jamie King, who had accompanied the star on his Dangerous World Tour, to conceptualise and direct a show that would keep his memory alive for millions of fans around the world.

Moffett, or “Footery” as Jackson fondly called him during the HIStory World Tour in 1996-1997, was brought in along with other long-serving band members and choreographers to keep the show true to the zeal Jackson brought to stage.


“We have been seasoned on Michael,” he says.

“We know his level of perfectionism and we all work on that level and give our best in that given moment. That was his expertise.”

The Jackson family gave Moffett a major professional break when they included him in the Destiny Tour in 1979.

“Michael used to give himself up in every show and that was a lesson. He would get the greatest performance out of himself and others on stage and during rehearsals.”

About 65 acrobats, dancers and musicians bring together everything Jackson was known for in the rock style theatrical show. King says they wanted to develop a concert that would take the audience inside the performer’s head. “We are reliving, in the most Cirque-spectacular way, the moments we love from when we have seen him perform young,” he says. “The iconic costumes, dances and acrobatics, everything is larger than life.”

“All of it [is] ending with a humanitarian message on a stage that we will convert into the famous Neverland Ranch.”


Staying true to the diversity that the members who toured with Michael had come to expect, Cirque gathered performers from all over the world for the concert, which took eight months to put together. The show runs for 90 minutes and features 35 of Jackson’s memorable numbers.

“There is no Michael impersonator,” says King. “No one can replace MJ that way, but what we could do honestly and respectfully is to make a show that represents him in the best possible way. They have the same passion and drive he had. It’ll be like watching 65 Michaels on stage.”

Moffett says he is looking forward to playing his personal favourite Smooth Criminal, along with several other hits favoured by the audience including Can You Feel It, Wanna Be Startin’ Something, They Don’t Care About Us, Man in the Mirror and Dance Machine by the Jackson 5.

“I love all of his songs, even the slow ones,” Moffett says. “I relate to his music, the same way he related to my sense of playing the drums. He always said that when I played it made him want to dance.”

He says travelling with the cast and crew allows him to relive a part of the experience he had while on tour with the most successful entertainer that ever was.

“So many people, so many elements, it is more like a travelling community,” he says.

“And it has so much, right from the staging, the instruments, lighting. I cannot even being to explain the magnitude. You feel like you are in downtown New York with all the traffic and energy going,” he laughs.

The show has proved a popular one, earning US$340 million (Dh1.25billion) for Cirque du Soleil and the Michael Jackson Company since performances began in 2011 in Montreal.

“The reception to the show is fantastic,” says Moffett. “Children and adults alike come to watch. They dress up as MJ, the audience tries to dance as MJ. His whole spirit permeates the area in the cities we go to.

“This is our way of saying goodbye,” King says.

“In a spectacular and grand way as MJ would have wanted it. To create and go beyond bigger and grieve through a creative process.”

For ticketing details, visit or call 800 TMUAE (86823)