Britain’s Got Talent Shaheen Jafargholi Talks About Dreams of A Career, New Album And Performance At MJ’s Memorial Service

Sources: Wales Online – By Robin Turner | All Things Michael


His extraordinary voice propelled him to international fame and a performance at Michael Jackson’s funeral after he appeared on Britain’s Got Talent.

Now, five years after he sang at the pop star’s globally televised funeral, Swansea teenager Shaheen Jafargholi has revealed he is still hoping to build a singing career.

Shaheen, now 17, says he plans to move to London from Swansea next year and aims to release a new album after taking a break for two years to concentrate on his GCSEs at Swansea’s Dylan Thomas School.

He said: “I eventually got seventeen and a half GCSEs. I think the half is something to do with computer technology.

“Ever since I’ve been concentrating on writing and recording songs and travel to London every week. I can be in a recording studio, a booth or a warehouse but as long as I’m putting down songs I don’t care where it is being done.

Beyonce wowed by 12-year-old singing star Shaheen

“I’ve written over 40 songs and I plan to market a finished album next year when I’m 18 when I move to London, the heart of the music business. This time I want my music to reflect me, my experiences over the past five years or so and not want people want me to be. It’s going to be more Shaheen.”

The young singer won over the nation’s hearts on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009 with his audition song, a cover of the Amy Winehouse version of The Zutons song, Valerie, initially being stopped after two lines by Simon Cowell who remarked: “You got this really wrong.”


Unusually, Cowell requested Jafargholi sing another tune, as he felt the first song did not suit him and after only a moment’s hesitation he belted out Michael Jackson’s Who’s Lovin’ You, the performance being highly rated by the audience and the judges, earning a standing ovation.

Although he only reached seventh place in the show he was invited to sing at a public memorial service for Michael Jackson on July 7, 2009 at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles.


Rehearsal for memorial service

The service was watched the world over and included stars such as Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Queen Latifah, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie, Janet Jackson and Jermaine Jackson. Soon after, Shaheen flew to Chicago to tape an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show performing “Who’s Lovin’ You”, which aired on 14 October.

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He later produced an album made up mainly of covers and a double A-side single and also took part in a reality documentary about his life and appeared in shows and had parts in TV progammes including Casualty, Torchwood and Grandpa in My Pocket.

He said: “Now I’ve got my school work out of the way I want to continue creating original songs. Looking back at the memorial concert it was so wonderful to be even with those big stars let alone singing on stage with them.

“Five years on Michael Jackson still has a big influence as an artist. He 100% inspired me to sing and his volume of work still inspires me today.”


Read more at Wales Online


Alfonso Ribeiro Brings His Love Of Baseball And “Carlton Dance” To Dow Diamond

Source: – By Hugh Bernreuter | All Things Michael


MIDLAND, MI — Before Alfonso Ribeiro became a Broadway star, Michael Jackson’s child double and Will Smith’s foil on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, he was a Little League shortstop from the Bronx who was in love with the New York Yankees.

“Because I’m short,” Ribeiro said Friday at Dow Diamond before the Great Lakes Loons faced the Lansing Lugnuts in a Midwest League game.

“I could hit better than I could field … I could go out there and have a good time hitting right now,” Ribeiro said. “I’m a kid from the Bronx, so it had to be the Yankees for me. Dave Winfield was my No. 1 guy. He gave me one of his Hall of Fame balls for my 40th birthday.”

Ribeiro’s career, however, put him in front of a different kind of audience. He landed the lead role in the Broadway Musical The Tap Dance Kid. Ribeiro, 42, landed the role as Michael Jackson’s “child double” for a Pepsi commercial and a spot on the sitcom Silver Spoons.

“If people ask me what I’m most proud of, it’s The Tap Dance Kid,” Ribeiro said. “I was a 12-year-old kid with a leading role on Broadway.”

But he received his greatest fame starring next to Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, playing Carlton Banks. The sitcom ran from 1990 through 1996, serving as a platform for Smith.

Ribeiro’s greatest fame from the sitcom came from a dance, which has become known as The Carlton Dance, a series of scripted moves that accentuates a lack of dancing ability.

“I actually took the dance by Courteney Cox on the Bruce Springsteen video and combined it with Eddie Murphy’s White People dance from Delirious,” Ribeiro said. “You take things from other people. I put my own flair on it.

“It’s fun. I danced with Michael Jackson, but that’s the thing I’ll be remembered for and that’s OK because people love it.”

In the last five years, Ribeiro has worked as a game-show host, a reality-show contestant and director.

He also golfs in charity events, which led to a friendship with Jamie and Karen Moyer and, by extension, Great Lakes Loons shortstop Dillon Moyer, who caught Ribeiro’s First Pitch.

“I will get it to him, but I’m not sure how close it will be to him,” Ribeiro said. “On the elevator up here, my wife just asked me not to do something that gets put on ESPN. We don’t want any 50 Cent pitches.”


His wife, Angela Unkrich, didn’t need to worry. Ribeiro’s first pitch to Moyer had decent velocity and hit the outside corner.

Ribeiro’s love of baseball was forced to take a backseat when his childhood drifted toward Broadway and dancing.

“I know I missed a lot of things because of my career, but I was doing something I loved, something I had a passion for,” Ribeiro said. “So I don’t really regret it, but I do realize that there were things I missed during my childhood.

“If someone asked me for advice, I would tell them to enjoy their childhood, enjoy doing dumb stuff. It’s a different time now, where everybody has a cell phone with a camera on it. You’re not allowed to be young and famous and stupid anymore.

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Read more at Mlive

Marsha Ambrosius Breaks Down Her Biggest Hits

Source: La Times – By Gerrick D. Kennedy


Marsha Ambrosius knows how to craft a hit.

The singer-songwriter — formally known as one-half of the neo-soul/spoken-word hybrid Floetry — had already crafted tracks for Michael Jackson, Alicia Keys and Jamie Foxx before she broke out with her solo debut, 2011’s “Late Nights & Early Mornings.”

Ahead of her follow-up, “Friends & Lovers,” and a slot at the 2014 BET Experience (she plays Friday alongside Maxwell and Jill Scott), Ambrosius told Pop & Hiss the stories behind some of her biggest hits.

“Run” (“Friends & Lovers,” 2014)

“I remember it being somewhat of a solemn day. There had been a death in the family and it was one of those days where you either get up and get on with your life, or not. And I remember everyone feeling that sense in the room. I got at the piano and … it started to write itself. Once the music was together, I could only hear one word, ‘Run.’ It’s just about running away, or running towards. Before I knew it, we had a whole song. What used to be the bridge is now the hook — we flipped a couple of things around. We preferred certain melodies. But it really started as an emotional-based, nonconventional song. ‘Run’ was about me fulfilling a dream I didn’t know existed. I didn’t know basketball would never be in my life. I didn’t know tearing ligaments would tear up my dreams and I’d have to find out what my Plan B was. It just so happened music was my Plan B and I’m thankful that worked out. So I ran.”

“Getting Late” (Floetry, “Floetic,” 2002)

“I really wanted it to feel like 1958. I could see this woman. She’s singing and she’s heavyset and swinging her head and she’s got this press and curl. I did my own background [vocals]. I could hear like three other chicks in the background … yelling ‘Don’t be afraid, girl.’ I had to be this whole character. What was initially just a hook and a song turned into a whole Floetry moment.”

“Go Ahead” (Alicia Keys, “As I Am,” 2007)

“Alicia is one of those few artists that I’ve worked with that could truly embody strength and empowerment. I can remember the zone she was in for that album. It was very Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. I was feeling that vibe, so I kind of just tuned into where she was in her life and she wanted something strong and empowering. I feel like I filled that void that she didn’t have on the album and that’s why it worked amongst the songs on there.”

“Cry Me A River” (Justin Timberlake, “Justified,” 2002)

“They were recording in Philadelphia at the time. Timbaland sat me down to see where my head was. He said he had this song that had a couple of missing elements that he thought I could fine-tune. I’m listening to what is this phenomenal song and at the time it didn’t have the hook all the way [or] the outro. I went into the booth, matched my vocal with Justin’s and did it a couple of times to get the feel, which is why barely anyone knows I’m on the song because we sound the same. I sang that ‘You don’t have to say, what you did” [line], did the outro. I was playing when I did it and Timbaland kept it. I knew it was a great song in the studio. I didn’t know it would be that song.”

“Butterflies” (Michael Jackson, “Invincible,” 2001)

“I first recorded ‘Butterflies’ in London in 1997. Just me and the piano. It was about a boy I had a crush on that worked at McDonald’s. It was that simple, that initial feeling. Three years later I get to Philadelphia and start working with Andre Harris [of production duo Dre & Vidal]. I loved what he did with Jill Scott’s [debut] album. The night before we recorded ‘Say Yes’ together, so it was a kind of magical week. When we played it for everybody, they went crazy. Before I know it, it’s a part of the demo for the Floetry album and then Michael Jackson hears it and wants to cut it and the rest is history.”

“Say Yes” (Floetry, “Floetic,” 2002)

“Hope She Cheats on You (With a Basketball Player)” (“Late Nights & Early Mornings,” 2014)

“It was really a freestyle on my UStream channel for a friend who got cheated on by his girl at the time. It was really bad. You’re trying to be a good friend, and you really want to call [the person] all types of [expletives], but you can’t because your friend is still in their feelings. I remember beatboxing and telling the fans what happened. We were going back and forth and I said “I hope she cheats on you with a basketball player, hope that she Kim Kardashian her way up” and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s funny.’ So I continued to write it. Eventually I had this whole song.”

Watch the video for Marsha Ambrosius’ single “Run.”


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The Prime Of Miss Judith Hill: Glowfair Headliner Steps Front And Center

Source: – By Peter Robb


Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Sly and the Family Stone. What do these great performers have in common beyond the obvious great talent?

They have all, in one way or another, been part of the life and the singing career on Judith Hill, who will help inaugurate the first ever Glow Festival in Ottawa June 20.

Hill comes from a musical family and she learned to sing with the help of a woman named Rose Stone, of Sly and the Family Stone, who was the choir director at the church. Hill heard her voice every day and she copied her. Her dad was Billy Preston’s bass player for years, so the connection to the funk and soul music of the 1960s and 1970s was direct and strong.

Her home life was a chaotic, stimulating, engaging household of musicians, combined with a deep religious faith. It is what she knows.

The music bug was biting deeply and Hill pursued music composition at the evangelical Christian Biola University in California. Her Japanese mother was a classical piano teacher and she learned piano when she was young. But that didn’t keep her interest.

“I wanted to have the ability to create whatever it was that I wanted to create.” On her yet-to-be released album, she has been writing alone and with collaborators. The album, she says, has deep soul and pop influences, some of which we will hear in Ottawa.

Grounded in the “grammar” of musical performance, Hill  chased a career full-time after graduation. The breaks don’t always come easily, but eventually the door opened. In her early 20s,  she was in Los Angeles doing  open mic auditions with some musicians she had just met. Three weeks later one of them called and said:  “Michael Jackson is looking for a female duet partner. What do you think about auditioning?” Uh, yes!

She was called to perform for the King of Pop as he was preparing for his ill-fated This Is It tour, scheduled to start in July 2009. Hill says she still doesn’t really know how she succeeded on that day. She was “so nervous” she could barely speak, but apparently she could still sing. “I don’t know how I did it. It was a blur. He ended up being really so sweet and welcoming that it worked.”

Sometimes the music gods smile on you and that day they were beaming.

She impressed everyone in attendance, but most importantly, she impressed Michael Jackson. She was hired to be his duet partner on what was going to be a massive worldwide farewell tour.

With Jackson, the focus was getting to work. She spent a lot of time with Jackson on stage. “I was under the spell. You kind of get lost in his world. He was so intense and passionate. When you start singing, you start singing in a way that you never would have if he hadn’t been in the room. You start taking risks and trying new things. It’s kind of infectious.”

The gig was to be the break of a lifetime, but unfortunately the fates intervened. But not before she soaked up whatever lessons she could from Jackson and the many talented people around him.

Jackson died on June 25, 2009, after being injected with a powerful drug by his personal physician. Hill said she got the news that day just before she left to go to rehearsal. She went to work and “everyone was just crying on stage.”

After the shock and grief cleared, Hill went back to work. She, with the rest of the This Is It cast, performed at Jackson’s memorial service and her version of Heal the World was seen by a massive audience. Her next big step would involve yet another giant of American music. Stevie Wonder remains one of the most innovative and talented performers to ever emerge from Motown. He needed a new back-up singer and Hill got the job.

“Working with Stevie is so magical. He creates on the spot, it is just incredible,” she said. “I had no idea any of this would happen.”

One thing she learned from Stevie Wonder was how to be prepared for any eventuality. The man does not have a set list. He just wings it, she says, every show, and you had better be ready or you could be left standing at a microphone, not ready for prime time.

But finally that desire to be at the front of the stage forced a decision. After about a year with Wonder’s band, she auditioned for The Voice, where she definitely made a mark, even though she did not win. Before taking the plunge into a solo career, she asked Wonder what he thought and he said go for it.

So far so good. Along the way Hill has been featured in an Oscar-winning documentary about back-up singers called 20 Feet from Stardom. She has opened for the performer Josh Groban on his 2013 tour. And now she has just finished her very first album, which is expected out in a few months.

Judith Hill

at the Glowfair festival

Saturday June 21 at 10:15 p.m.

Bank Street, between Slater and Gilmour  Streets

Glowfair is a free event. For information please see


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Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins

Source: Grantland – By Justin Charity

Xscape, the once feared, then anticipated, and ultimately accepted new Michael Jackson album dropped earlier this month, the second posthumous LP release since Jackson’s death in 2009. As with much of MJ’s final studio album, Invincible, released in 2001, Xscape’s title track was produced by none other than modern dance-pop maestro Darkchild. The prime-time pop-and-lock resemblance between Invincible andXscape could very well be due to Xscape’s abundance of material that was initially recorded during the Invincible sessions, when MJ’s signature cross-pollination of R&B and pop was the foundation for a new generation of FM radio kids.

Hip-hop’s biggest producers rarely struggle with self-promotion. But then, it’d be a tad misleading to describe Darkchild, a.k.a. Rodney Jerkins, as a hip-hop producer. He’s a beat-maker, sure, but even more so an American pop composer, having crafted and redrafted the sound of three generations of BET, MTV, and the Hot 100 over the last two decades. From the late ’90s comeback stylings of Jackson, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, and Toni Braxton to foundational grooves of Mary J. Blige, Destiny’s Child, and Beyoncé, his broad, pervasive influence has gone both credited and uncredited in the modern pop soundscape.

Despite the hype tags and shout-outs from artists at the top of career-defining/reviving smashes such as “Say My Name,” “You Rock My World,” “Top of the World,” and “He Wasn’t Man Enough,” Darkchild doesn’t have much pull as a music celebrity. You’ve heard of him, certainly, but don’t tend to hear much about him, especially compared with contemporary heavyweights Timbaland and Pharrell. But Darkchild not only redefined pop as we know it, he continues to reliably put his mark on pop music, just as he has since the days of two-way pagers and triple-XL baggy chic.

“If You Had My Love” (1995-99)

From the age of 5, Rodney Jerkins began studying classical music via his father’s piano instruction, and from the age of 10, new jack swing via Teddy Riley, Guy, and Keith Sweat. By 1991, at 14, Jerkins was taping rap and R&B production demos for local artists and groups in his hometown of Atlantic City, New Jersey. One of those demos gained the attention of Riley, who told the group their beats were good — high praise for a 14-year-old’s tinkering. After Jerkins and his father met with Riley later that same year, the kid committed to chasing Riley’s sound for a living, with his pastor father’s Pentecostal blessing. Three years later, “Darkchild” was born, and by 1995 he was signed to a global publishing deal with EMI.

Jerkins found his first success in the days when R&B was still the sole domain of KISS FM and BET, and with singer-songwriter Joe he crafted the ballad of a generation. Initially released with Jeff Pollack’s Booty Call soundtrack in early 1997, “Don’t Wanna Be a Player” popped once as a single from Joe’s All That I Am and again as sequel-remix (“Still Not a Player”) on South Bronx rapper Big Pun’s Capital Punishment debut a year later.

I don’t think it’s insufferably nostalgic of me to note that no, they really don’t make R&B like they used to. Jerkins continued to perfect that tender yet two-snapping sound of a radio decade, crystallizing it with Mary J. Blige’s “I Can Love You,” a man-snatcher anthem featuring both Lil’ Kim and Mary in their primes, and Whitney Houston’s woman-scorned 1998 heartbreak smash “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay.” Jennifer Lopez may have been struggling to hit those highest notes of her own verses — note how overwhelmingly Auto-Tuned her “live” vocals are in the VH1 performance below — but “If You Had My Love” was the Fly Girl’s first smash single, and Jerkins was instrumental in sealing her reinvention as an R&B star (which she won by the power of groove, if not voice).

Darkchild’s earliest Billboard chart prominence coincided with the Bad Boy/Trackmasters era of ’90s hip-hop. And just as Poke & Tone would strike crossover gold in producing Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women,” Darkchild’s most well-known beat-maker credit echoes as a tag — “Darkchild, nine-nine” — at the top of “Say My Name.” Yet his styling rings most definitively in his work with frequent collaborators Brandy and Monica; yes, he produced “The Boy Is Mine,” plus Brandy’s All That-spirited “Top of the World” featuring Ma$e — R&B at its brattiest and baggiest.

BET to Nickelodeon wasn’t Darkchild’s only crossover attempt. When I was a black Baptist country boy in 1998, I could’ve sworn that gospel group Kirk Franklin and the Family had straight jacked a certain BET urban-ballad sound for their single “Revolution.” Little did I know that Darkchild was in on the crossover, having produced the group’s second gospel radio smash, the remix of which features Darkchild rapping a forgivably Whopper-quality 16 in the amen stretch.

With “Revolution,” as with much of the rest of Franklin’s catalogue, the key to the turnup was the choir. With massive claps and choral background, moans amplified and reverberated as stomps. All of Darkchild’s new jack and gospel influences harmonized to a fit of hallelujah shouts.

“You Rock My World” (2000-08)

By the end of the ’90s, Darkchild still had a hand in the sound of singers who had clearly peaked in previous decades — Brandy, Monica, Mariah, Mary J., Janet Jackson. His signature funk spread to the new pop century via Michael Jackson’s final studio album, Invincible, released six years after Jackson’s HIStory compilation. Darkchild produced six of Invincible’s 16 tracks, including the album’s jackpot boogie, “You Rock My World,” released as a lead single late in the summer of 2001. A year before, Darkchild had produced a late-stage Spice Girls double A-side, “Holler” / “Let Love Lead the Way,” and Toni Braxton’s twilight hit, “He Wasn’t Man Enough.”

What Darkchild gave both the Spice Girls and Braxton was a light touch of contemporary hip-hop polish. An earthly pulse, a clavier mating call, jam block prancing, a cabasa drizzle: rainforest pop. Meanwhile, Jerkins continued to translate his sound for gospel airwaves with Mary Mary’s “I Sings,” the lead single for the group’s 2000 album, Thankful.

Jerkins spent much of the mid-aughts spinning a formative, signature impact on the first and subsequent chapters of Beyoncé, the Pussycat Dolls, Danity Kane, and Bobby V’s careers. He could do “urban,” he could do Grade-A pop, all the while gravitating toward semi-auto big beats and Hottest Rapper-Sanger collabos (Beyoncé and Jay, Mariah and Twista, Breezy and Luda, Ciara and 50).

“Telephone” (2009-present)

Did black women and beat-makers redefine pop music, or are white Idol-era spawn ransacking R&B? Or both? Somewhere between Rihanna and Robin Thicke, the answer lies (half-naked).

Even the most collegiate Darkchild tracks of the past few years are the sort of rock and roll that post-Beatles imitators would have dreamed up had they been raised five decades late in Hollis, Queens. Take Justin Bieber, for instance. Tree trunk–traditional as it is, the Darkchild-penned-and-produced Bieber song “Die in Your Arms” is a stupid dope ballad, and I mean that as the highest possible praise. And on the other, delightfully aggressive end of the spectrum, Darkchild rang in 2010 with Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” featuring Beyoncé and, in the video treatment, a schlub cameo from “Sweet Lady” grinder Tyrese.

Which brings us to Michael Jackson’s second posthumous album, which debuted this month. Darkchild’s lone production credit is for the title track, which knocks. While one could dismiss “Xscape” as a reheated leftover from the 1999 Invincible sessions, it’s got a glittery jolt of energy and a more aggressive vocal from MJ than most of the tracks on that album, including “You Rock My World.” “Xscape” props MJ back to some trace of life as a pop-locking action figure, courtesy of its 808 throb and arena synth brass.

Nelly Furtado’s arena campfire vibe on “Spirit Indestructible.” Ciara’s loudspeaker mainstreaming of Fatman Scoop electrocution on “Got Me Good.” This is pop nowadays. This is how it sounds to the ears tucked to the headrest of that baby seat. I’ve long credited Missy Elliott and Timbaland for teaching white girls how to dance in a post-Britney, post-bend-and-wriggle America. But Tim’s earliest beat-boxing, dice-rolling bounce is but a wonder twin of Darkchild’s innovation. Hallelujah to these products of evolution: It’s 2014, and pop standards go BOOM-ba-doom-boom-BOOM-ba-doom-boom-boom. Teddy Riley ought be proud.


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Jazz Guitarist Larry Carlton Talks About Playing For Michael Jackson And His Award Winning Career

Source: – By Tom Cardy


Even if you’re not a fan of jazz or don’t recognize Larry Carlton’s name, chances are you’ve heard him play.

That’s because the four-time Grammy Award-winning American guitarist has played on big-selling albums – and the theme to the popular television drama Hill Street Blues. And it’s not just simply being a session man. Carlton’s distinctive playing style, usually on his signature Gibson ES-335 guitar, has been essential to the music.

One of the best known is Michael Jackson’s She’s Out of My Life, from Off the Wall in 1979, both produced by Quincy Jones. But Carlton, who for a time was doing session work up to 500 times a year, says it was a fluke. “When Quincy was doing Off the Wall I had already discontinued doing session work. Tom Bahler, who works with [Jones], wrote the song. Tom called personally. He said, ‘Larry, we’ve got this one tune for Michael and Quincy and we both looked at each other and said it’s gotta be Carlton’.

“So I went in and did She’s Out of My Life – and that’s the only tune I played on the album.”

Elsewhere, Carlton’s played across whole albums. It’s him on guitar on Joni Mitchell’s acclaimed 1973 release Court and Spark, when Mitchell was moving away from folk roots to rock and jazz.
Among the many other artists he’s worked with are Sammy Davis Jr, Paul Anka, Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Carole King, Dolly Parton, Billy Joel and the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia.
Talk of Garcia reminds Carlton that at one point he was playing on so many albums, he’d have to be reminded what he’d played on.

“The [Garcia] album was in the can and unreleased for I don’t know how long. So when it came out and I was doing interviews people would say, ‘you’re on the Jerry Garcia album’ – and I had no idea. It was too long ago.

“There are songs that are still surfacing that I’ve forgotten that I’ve played on. I go, ‘wow! I did play that’.”

In 1976, Carlton also made what’s now considered a historic contribution to popular music: Steely Dan’s 1976 funk and jazz-fused Kid Charlemagne. His guitar solo is ranked at No 80 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 greatest guitar songs.

Carlton, who has played on recent Steely Dan tours, doesn’t take the kudos for granted. “You can’t plan on magic – and when it happens you’ve got to stand back and say, ‘I’m sure glad I was along for that ride’. I’m very proud of the stuff I did with them.

Larry Carlton Quartet performs at Wellington’s Opera House on June 7, 6pm and Auckland June 6. Find details here.

For the full June 5-8 Wellington Jazz Festival program go to


Read more about Larry’s career here.


From Michael Jackson To Superbowl Via SpaceJam: Is Joe Pytka The World’s Best Director?

Source: Brand Republic – By Eric Brotto


Campaign takes a look at some of the work of the director Joe Pytka, following the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity awarding him the Lion of St Mark.

In his 33-year career, he has directed ads for brands including Nike, IBM and Pepsi, as well as music videos and feature films. Read a full interview with Pytka in Campaign tomorrow.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1938, Pytka entered the film world while still in college, slowly moving up the ladder from editor and animator, all the way up to director. (See video)

He has cited influences such as the American directors John Ford and Howard Hawks, and European directors Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and Frederico Fellini.

Pytka feels that it was his background in painting that drew him to the formality of commercials.


He has also stated that he preferred to read scripts before brands “got their hands on them. That way you can read the original creativity before it is affected by the opinions and requirements of the clients.”

Below you can find a sampling of some of his best work over the years including his personal favorite, a music video he did for the Beatles entitled ‘Free As A Bird.’

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Read more about Joe’s award and work with Michael here:

Interview With Immortal Tour Keyboardist Charlie Wilson

Source: Creative Thinking


As time passes through the winds, change being the only constant, the idea of something being immortal seems wistfully intangible. Still, the music, the legacy of Michael Jackson has left a mark on our world that might just be everlasting. The creative minds from Cirque du Soleil and Jackson’s estate have set out on the road with a beautiful new masterpiece,Michael Jackson: The IMMORTAL World Tour. Combing a lifetime of musical hits, and a legacy for unmatched showmanship, this Cirque show is a departure from their usual touring production.

CL had the opportunity to chat with one of the many talented musicians from the show, keyboardist Charlie Wilson. What’s it like working in the King of Pop’s shadow? Find out after the jump.

CL: This is your first time working with Cirque du Soleil, what has this experience been like for you? Is it comparable to anything else you’ve ever done?

Charlie Wilson: Yes, this has been an absolutely amazing experience. The only thing I can compare it to is my first world tour. The only difference being that this has the Michael Jackson overtone, which makes it larger than life. Working with Cirque is a new experience. I’ve never had the chance to work with acrobats and all those other elements. It’s inspiring for me! Any guy who can hang from the ceiling by his mouth is obviously inspiring.

You’ve had a tremendous career in the music industry, and have worked with a multitude of high-caliber artists from Justin Timberlake to John Mayer. Michael Jackson: The IMMORTAL World Tour showcases the legendary King of Pop. Is there an extra pressure to represent someone so iconic?

Absolutely. The major pressure is that Greg Phillinganes put this all together and was Michael’s musical director for 30 plus years. I play every show as if Michael was there and that is extreme pressure because he has such a high standard. He’s the King of Pop.

Did you ever have the opportunity to work with Michael Jackson himself, during his life? How has his music inspired your career, if at all?

Unfortunately I was not able to work with Michael while he was alive, but I think his music has inspired every musician. I can remember being a child and watching the BAD Tour and having a desire to be on stage and pursue a career as a touring musician. And thinking how cool is Don (Boyette) and now I get to work with him on stage. It’s such an honor. Every show is a dream come true.

Have you learned anything while working on Michael Jackson: The IMMORTAL World Tour, and working with Cirque du Soleil?

I’ve learned to push the envelope. That you can never be good enough and you always have to train to work to get to that next place. With the music, we have to practice a lot because every show is a different show with new fans bringing a new energy.

You majored in Performance and Film Composition at Bethune-Cookman College and later continued your studies as a recording engineer at Full Sail University. How do you think your schooling prepared you for your career, and what advice do you have for aspiring musicians? 

My schooling helped me realize what I wanted to do and enabled me to focus on that goal. For all musicians, I would say set a goal, find out where your goal exists – whether that’s LA, New York, Atlanta, wherever — and go there. Jump in head first. Meet as many people as you can, play as much as you can, hang as much as you can because the social interactions are just as important. Keep practicing, keep getting better. Improvement should be a daily goal.

Michael Jackson: The IMMORTAL World Tour, May 20-21, 8 p.m., Tampa Bay Times Forum, 401 Channelside Dr, Tampa, $50-$125.

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