Assisted dying proposal poses grave risks to the vulnerable

We know that people in deprived areas of Scotland are more likely to present with late-stage cancer, and less likely to have access to quality end of life care. They would be at the front of the queue for an assisted death, ahead of middle-class Scots. Is this conducive to a just society?

I’d urge Ms Garavelli to consider how a change in the law could affect other groups as well: the disabled people’s community; elderly and isolated people; people battling suicidal thoughts. How much of a “choice” would these people have, given the struggles they face?

Proponents point to “safeguards”, but these always fail – there is no human system without error. In the context of assisted dying, error means irreversible, unjust deaths. We must ask: are such deaths a price worth paying so a small minority can end their lives as they choose?

I believe we owe it to the vulnerable not to open them up to grave risks. We need to craft laws with an eye to the whole of society – as emotive as pleas from assisted dying advocates are. Given the profound and unanswerable dangers associated with the practice, we must say no.

Palliative medicine, though not always well-understood and not as well funded as it ought to be, offers holistic care and support to dying people. Investing heavily in this, whilst fighting various inequalities faced by vulnerable and suffering people, is the better way forward.

Jamie Gillies, Angus.

Restrictions will not be permanent

DANI Garavelli’s critique of faith leaders for expressing concerns about the proposed Scottish Assisted Dying Bill overlooks the fact that all commentators are informed by a world view, whether religious or secular. The values drawn from this world view will naturally inform their contribution to public debate.

In the case of so-called assisted dying, Ms Garavelli, in citing public support, overlooks the important point, raised by the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care in its response to the McArthur consultation that “the term ‘assisted dying’ is non-specific, confusing and doesn’t reflect defining characteristics of the practice which differentiates it from palliative and end of life care … many members of the public understand ‘assisted dying’ to encompass existing elements of mainstream palliative care.”

Restrictions or safeguards will be removed or widened over time – those who say otherwise can offer no proof, and other countries tell a sad story. Ultimately, it is neither kind nor compassionate to present ill and vulnerable people with the “option” of medical assistance to take their own lives, for the invisible pressure for them to do so will be impossible to discern.

A truly dignified response is to provide those reaching the end of their lives with the best possible care, not to suggest premature termination might be best.

Michael Veitch, Parliamentary Officer, CARE for Scotland, Glasgow.

Read more: A good death is an extension of a good life

Let’s consider a middle way

HERE we go again, with debate centred on a binary choice between two polar opposites anent assisted dying. Why on earth can we not consider a middle way?

Two relatives both suffered intense pain and lay in a state of complete helplessness, in one case for four or five days and the other for nearly two weeks, requiring constant lifting, cleaning, changing and so on after palliative care reached the permitted legal limit but was no longer fully effective. I cannot by any stretch of the imagination imagine anything more cruel and degrading.

Where is the “dignity” which those of strict religious faith talk? Yet they believe that they have the right to impose such suffering on even those of no faith at all. On the other extreme is the idea that assisted dying should be a choice available to all who foresee only increasing deterioration leading to death.

Would it not be preferable to look at a middle way? Rather than put a limit on permissible palliative care, why not, when death is relatively imminent, make the priority to alleviate suffering completely, even if it has the side-effect of hastening that death by a few days or hours? Let us focus on palliative care on this basis. That would also lessen the distress of those relatives who have to watch the suffering of a loved one.

The Hippocratic oath, often quoted, includes the relief of suffering as well as preserving life. If the latter is not possible, the former should take precedence. No-one, to satisfy their religious beliefs, should presume to dictate that someone else should be left to suffer. Let each decide for themselves what constitutes a “dignified death” and make adequate palliative care available to all who reach that point.

I personally have made my wish known, in writing, that I want palliative care to be the priority when only extreme suffering lies ahead.

P Davidson, Falkirk.

Support claim is misguided

OPINION polls do indeed show very high levels of support for “assisted dying” but this is partly because people are confused by what the expression means. A poll in 2021 found that most people believed that “assisted dying” either meant the right to refuse treatment or meant providing hospice-type care. If surveys use the unambiguous term “assisted suicide”, as Margo McDonald MSP did for her Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill, then fewer are in favour.

The Yougov polling organisation has been tracking public opinion on “assisted suicide” every two months since August 2019. In Scotland, support for a change in the law to allow assisting the suicide of someone with a terminal condition has fallen from 75% to 70% in the last four years. Support in the case of someone with a painful and incurable but non-terminal condition has fallen from 56% to 42%. Most Scots do not support such a law.

The law being proposed in Scotland limits eligibility to people with a terminal illness. However, laws on assisted suicide, once passed, generally have a tendency to expand. In 2016, Canada passed a law on “medical aid in dying” for people with a terminal condition. In 2021, the law was extended to non-terminal patients. We should heed the example of Canada. It is naïve to believe that the same could not happen in Scotland.

Prof David Albert Jones, Director, Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford.

Read more: Alastair Campbell: Scotland won’t be independent in my lifetime

Appealing to the worst instincts

EDITOR Catherine Salmond asks for views on the polarised state of politics (“Ask not why politics has gone wrong – rather, what can I do to change it?, May 21), having hosted an event with Alastair Campbell who raised his concerns on this, as did Nicola Sturgeon recently. Interestingly, many would argue that both had played their own significant part in stoking divisions while they were themselves at the peak of their influence. Polarised opinions are not a new thing in politics of course, but populist leaders here and elsewhere in the world have seemingly been making the most of their skills in the black art of manipulating people, particularly by appealing to their worst instincts.

Here in Scotland the polarised positions on constitutional matters have enabled an example of this phenomenon, whereby normal political gravity has seemed to all but disappear. No amount of failings on the part of the SNP Scottish Government, or mistakes by the First Minister, appeared to damage their electoral results, as independence support provided an unquestioning underpinning of voting intentions. Only now, after Ms Sturgeon’s decision to step down and the unfolding drama of the police investigation into SNP party finances, does it seem there might be some reckoning for all the years of Scotland being let down by its leaders.

As a jaded floating voter, supportive of Scotland being in the UK and a Remain voter in 2016, I increasingly find elections as a time for choosing the least worst candidate or party. So many have proven to be deeply disappointing in practice compared with their election promises.

Polls now suggest a change of UK government is possible, and even Scotland might contemplate weakening the grip of the SNP. We must hope if alternate leaders manage to capture the public imagination, they will do so with a genuine interest in representing everyone, drawing people together rather than constantly seeking ways to divide them.

Keith Howell, West Linton.

SNP holding back indy

THOM Cross (Letters, May 21) cannot be serious when he claims that Alba is weakening the independence movement.

Your readers will already be aware of the countless times the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon marched Scots up the hill then down again. Indeed, are we not meant to have a “no ifs, no buts” vote on October 19? And why was there a poorly-attended separate Greens/Republicans rally on Calton Hill addressed by Tommy Sheppard the same day as 20,000 turned out at the AUOB Glasgow march? The next one scheduled for Stirling in June appears to clash with – quelle surprise – an SNP conference in Dundee.

The final straw must surely be reports of Ian Blackford “determined to fight for his seat” and Stephen Flynn prematurely gifting support to a potential Starmer government without the promise of a referendum. Have they conveniently forgotten why they were elected in the first place?

Mr Cross implies there may be British state agents within Alba, which is utterly laughable when you consider the performance of a significant number of SNP MPs. There’s no need, they’re doing a fine job on their own with 2031 their new target date for an imaginary referendum.

Marjorie Ellis Thompson, Edinburgh.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Framed Gallery Group Show Was Inspired by Maya Angelou Poem

“Still We Rise” by Michael  Escoffery

Framed Gallery on Waterloo specializes in art work by African-American artists from across the country and even some international artists, offering a wide range of styles and mediums on display in the gallery at any given time, while bringing in collections by particular artists for special showings.

This month, it’s opening a group show inspired by writer Maya Angelou’s well-known 1978 poem “Still I Rise,” about the strength, persistence and joy of being a Black woman. It opens with a free public reception on Sunday June 4 @ noon-4pm

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Dozens of east metro projects to benefit from $2.5B in state construction funds

Bipartisan infrastructure bills approved by the Minnesota Legislature in the final hours of the legislative session last week include dozens of east metro projects. The overall legislation combines $1.5 billion in state borrowing and about $1 billion from the historic budget surplus.

Democrats, who control the Legislature and the governor’s office, had threatened to pass a cash-only bill along party lines. But ultimately they also agreed to a GOP demand they spend $300 million on emergency funding for nursing homes.

The following is a partial list of funded projects, many of which will require additional fundraising or support from local, state and federal sources before construction can begin.

Capitol Complex

Demolition of the vacant but historic 1914 Ford Building on University Avenue, near the Minnesota State Capitol complex: $4.5 million.

Other Capitol Complex spending, including security upgrades and a sustainable building guidelines report: $18.5 million

Military, public safety training

Minnesota Army National Guard’s Readiness Center in Rosemount: $25 million.

A regional public safety training facility in Lakeville: $7.1 million.

Lake Johanna Fire Station headquarters in Shoreview: $6.37 million.

East Metro Public Safety training facility in Maplewood: $75,000.

Community colleges

Inver Hills Community College technology and business center: $22 million.

Metropolitan State University cyber security lab: $5 million.

St. Paul College academic excellence renovation design: $1.7 million.

St. Paul, Ramsey County

Kellogg Boulevard/Third Street bridge reconstruction in St. Paul: $25 million.

The Heights, which is the St. Paul Port Authority’s Hillcrest Golf Course redevelopment: $11 million

Mississippi River Learning Center in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood: $8 million.

The Park at RiversEdge, a Ramsey County project that’s part of efforts to redevelop the site of the former county jail and West Publishing complex in downtown St. Paul: $6.2 million.

North End Community Center in St. Paul: $6 million.

Bruce Vento Regional Trail in Ramsey County: $5 million.

An inclusive playground in St. Paul: $2.5 million.

Conway Community Rec Center in St. Paul: $2.5 million.

Rice Street revitalization for Ramsey County: $1 million.


Woodbury Central Park remodel: $7.5 million.

Stillwater’s downtown improvements: $6 million.

Forest Lake flood hazard preparation: $5.7 million.

Scandia regional arts and heritage center: $2.2 million.

Inver Grove Heights’ Heritage Village Park: $2 million.

Mendota Heights restoration of Historic Pilot Knob: $1.85 million.

West St. Paul wastewater infrastructure: $1.7 million.

Apple Valley’s inclusive playground: $1.4 million.

Arden Hills water and sewer improvements: $510,000.

Forest Lake veterans memorial: $250,000.

County regional parks, trails

Metropolitan regional parks: $16.6 million.

Veterans Memorial Greenway in Dakota County: $5 million.

Minnesota River Regional Greenway in Dakota County: $5 million.

Thompson Park in Dakota County: $2 million.


Proceed, a community center on Burns Avenue in St. Paul: $5 million.

Walker West Music Academy in St. Paul: $4.1 million.

Playwrights’ Center building renovation in St. Paul: $4 million.

Every Meal child hunger grant program in Roseville: $4 million.

Latino Economic Development Center renovation in St. Paul: $3.5 million.

The 30,000 Feet Black arts and tech center in St. Paul: $3.5 million.

Hmong 18 Council Inc., for a Hmong community center in St. Paul: $3 million.

Listening House shelter in St. Paul: $2.95 million.

Keystone Community Services food bank in Ramsey County: $2.6 million.

Lower Phalen Creek Project’s Wakan Tipi Center: $2.5 million.

YWCA St. Paul: $2.3 million.

Ain Dah Yung Center emergency shelter and youth lodge in St. Paul: $2.2 million.

Wellstone Center renovation in St. Paul: $2.15 million.

FilmNorth renovation in St. Paul: $2 million.

Special Guerrilla Unit Hmong veterans museum in St. Paul: $2 million.

Sanneh Foundation facility improvements in St. Paul: $1.82 million.

Accessible Space Inc., accessible housing units in St. Paul: $1.15 million.

African Economic Development Solutions in St. Paul: $1.5 million.

Irreducible Grace Foundation in the Black Youth Healing Arts Center in St. Paul: $1.5 million.

ReConnect Rondo Innovation Campus in St. Paul: $1 million.

St. Paul Urban Tennis: $750,000.

Washington County Heritage Society heritage center in Stillwater: $700,000.

Open Arms kitchen and counseling center in Ramsey County: $500,000.

Minnesota Transportation Museum in St. Paul: $100,000.

Other major spending

Hastings Veterans Home Campus: $77 million.

Metro Transit bus rapid transit projects: $72 million.

Minnesota Zoo upkeep and an animal hospital: $18 million.

Dakota County Behavioral Health grants: $6 million.

Statewide skate park grants: $4 million.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

On View: Six Art Shows to See in London This Summer

Summer used to be a slower, regenerative time for the art scene. But not so much anymore and definitely not in London this year, where a number of exciting solo and group shows are programmed. Among them, Anselm Kiefer presents new sculptures and paintings inspired by James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (June 7 through August 20). One of my favorite Ukrainian contemporary artists Iryna Maksymova regales with ebullient women-centered and freedom-infused works on recycled textiles (through June 24), and Sulger-Buel Gallery looks back at the last decade of Cameroon-born Adjani Okpu-Egbe’s paintings and installations on Afro-Surrealism and social justice (through June 30).

A quilted textile portrait of a woman
Iryna Maksymova, Self Portrait, 2023. 100% Renewable Textile. 134 x 124 cm. 52 3/4 x 48 7/8 in. Cour

That’s already a feast, and there’s plenty more. Below are six shows that have you covered through early September.

Isaac Julien, What Freedom is to Me

Tate Britain, through August 20 

Installation view, ‘Looking for Langston’, Tate Britain, 2023 Photo: Jack Hems © Isaac Julien Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro

For British Black artist Julien, archives serve to resurrect forgotten, non-dominant narratives. They are a creative labyrinth enabling self-expression and self-reflection on the space Black bodies occupy across our collective imagination, unearthing vibrant ways of remembering. This is best incarnated in Looking For Langston (1989), Julien’s breakthrough film work, which repositions “beauty for the Black gaze” and reclaims emancipatory aesthetics as they relate to prominent voices and figures of the Harlem Renaissance movement. The monochromatic film shows sensual queer desire, a private garden of seductive shadow and light.

In addition to poet and writer Langston Hugues, Julien engages with other cultural figures, such as poet Essex Hemphill, Bruce Nugent, Alain Locke and Palmer Heyden, notably in Once Again… (2022), conceived as a prequel to Looking For Langston, which explores the aura of African art, their place in the canon of Western museums and the burning issue of restitutions. These two lyrical films and others (a total of seven) are included in his major solo show at Tate Britain. They channel a timeless elegance, a poetic poise that marks Julien’s distinctive filmmaking, and at last, a commensurate recognition of his barrier-shattering cinematic journeys.

Hallyu! The Korean Wave 

V&A South Kensington, through June 25

A sculpture of a man stabbing another manA sculpture of a man stabbing another man
Gwon Osang, ‘Untitled G-Dragon, A Space of No Name’. Painted sculpture. Courtesy Gwon Osang

When I used to watch ajummas and oppas in Korean dramas during the 00s, it wasn’t as cool and mainstream as it is now. My bands weren’t BTS or Blackpink but Big Bang and girl band 2NE1. HyunA preceded Lisa and Jennie. The singer-actor Rain was all the rage and I eagerly waited for the next YG-produced hit song and stunning videos. Actors Kim Bum and Lee Min-ho made me swoon. Kimbap rolls became a staple, and I even took Korean language classes. And before Parasites and Squid Game, there were Coffee Prince, Winter Sonata and Boys Before Flowers. Hallyu, the Korean word for “wave,” has become a global pop culture phenomenon, a recent and not-so-recent history that the V&A retraces through film, photography, sculpture, design and fashion. In that show, Gwon Osang’s sculpture Untitled G-Dragon, A Space of No Name pastiches the iconography of Saint George killing a dragon with former Big Bang lead G-Dragon as both slayer and slayed. There are also incredible monochromatic archives from photographer Jun Min Cho showing Gangnam before Gangnam and unseen sides of Seoul’s rapid urbanization.

Vibeke Slyngstad, Entangled Life 

Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London Bridge, July 1 through July 22 

Painting of two lovers in a grassy fieldPainting of two lovers in a grassy field
Vibeke Slyngstad, ‘Brusand III’, 2023. Oil on canvas. 80 x 110 cm. 31 1/2 x 43 1/4 in. Courtesy Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery

Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery presents ten new works of Norwegian mid-career artist Vibeke Slyngstad for her London return after two years. Exuding impressionistic emotions through soft realism, her oil and watercolor paintings celebrate the vitality of nature and human love. Slyngstad alternates between a flowery field and a couple romantically strolling the patch of overgrown grass. Kjeholmen (2023), named after a Norwegian island, shows windswept daisies, a motif also found in the series Shuafat (2023). The close-up, macro-lensed daisies represent an age of innocence—of discoveries. The distant view of the couple emulates a similar feeling of freedom and wanderlust.

The two silhouettes come closer to one another in the series Brusand (2023) until they eventually embrace. The artist likes repetition and connections. While Brusand (2022) placed an anonymous couple in seaside hills, Brusand (2023) moved their fleeting escapade to a more open lush field. Her 2023 daisies contain more vibrancy; they burst with light, inviting the viewer to get lost outside in an epicurean communion with nature. The windswept, summery, grass-grazing peak suggests an ode to Monet’s Woman with a Parasol (1875), immortalizing in paint a moment of pure bliss. Like overexposed film, Slyngstad’s artworks seem ever-so-brittle.

Tomás Saraceno, Web(s) of Life 

Serpentine South, June 1 through September 10

Argentinian artist and environmentalist Saraceno is obsessed with spiders. Less haunting than Louise Bourgeois’s, Saraceno’s spiders primarily embody the notion of connective tissue and landscape. If you didn’t make it to his last show a year ago at The Shed, you can still explore his arachnophiliac production in his new show with collaborators, focusing on spiders as incarnations of fragile ecosystems. To him, they represent a source of fascination. He admires their architectural prowess. Spiders also lend themselves to an allegory of overcoming one’s fears. “Web(s) of Life” is conceived as a hybrid, renewable energy-powered show, with cloud-like sculptures installed in the Royal Parks that interrogate dwindling urban habitats and fauna. Inside the gallery, new installations and film—such as one highlighting spider diviners in Cameroon—underpin Saraceno’s work to examine the animal’s physical, mystical, and spiritual qualities. His commitment to revealing invisible networks serves to cement the fundamental relationship between living species altered by our climate crisis.

Shubbak Festival 

Various London locations, June 23 through July 9 

London’s celebration of North African and West Asian culture returns for the summer across 80 events featuring literature, performances, visual art, calligraphy classes, and film. The festival makes a point to elevate women artists (as well as honor Palestinian voices and narratives). For instance, it will premiere Woman at Point Zero, a feminist opera starring an all-women troupe, named after the 1975 novel of Egyptian feminist Nawal el Saadawi. In the novel, a sexually-abused incarcerated protagonist awaits her fate on death row after having been found guilty of killing a man. Saadawi, who based the novel on a real-life interview, explores in the book the psychological condition and violence of being born a woman in Egypt. Shubbak engages with timeless concerns as well as with timely issues. Of such urgent conversations, the intersectional play Dreamer discusses the experience of three Black women in Arab societies and the themes of community amid pervasive anti-Blackness. Subbak’s full program here to catch up on all the festival’s planned events.

The Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art

Various locations in Liverpool, June 10 through September 17

Not technically London but it’s just a train away. The 12th edition of the Liverpool Biennial, uMoya: The Sacred Return of Lost Things, borrows the isiZulu word for spirit and air to engage with power, transience, and postcolonial healing. Curated by Cape Town-based Khaniyisile Mbongwa who previously curated the 2020 Stellenbosch Triennale, the biennial presents 35 artists and collectives, across 15 venues, in locations such as Liverpool’s Tobacco Warehouse and Cotton Exchange building. The very-international biennial includes artists of Caribbean descent such as Rudy Loewe anchoring Trinidadian folklore in the UK’s colonial legacy and Julien Creuzet, who engages with the notion of creolization and will represent the French pavilion at the next Venice Biennale. The line-up is incredibly exciting with Colombian artist Gala Porras-Kim discussing Mesoamerican representations and art as living organisms, Sandra Suubi capturing issues of commodification and hyperconsumerism in her native Uganda, and so many great talents I regrettably can’t fit into this article. Go see it for yourself here.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

John McEnroe on the NYC icon that went from tennis to rock ‘n’ roll

Playing in his first US Open in singles at Forest Hills Stadium in 1977, tennis icon John McEnroe made his debut at 18 with a bang.

An unseeded upstart, the Queens native found himself on the same clay courts where he was once a ballboy — gliding and grinding in an interborough contest against Brooklyn-born Top Tenner Eddie Dibbs in his third-round match.

But, on the first changeover, something wildly unexpected happened.

“We were switching sides and then there was some commotion up in the stands, and the umpire said to us, ‘Someone’s been shot in the stands,’ ” McEnroe, 64, told The Post.

“And Eddie Dibbs was like, ‘I’m getting the hell outta here!’ We walked off the court, and we sort of waited to find out what was going on.”

It turned out that a spectator had been accidentally shot in the leg from a stray bullet fired from outside the stadium. But the incident pumped up a feisty young McEnroe to score one of his first big upsets.

John McEnroe at the 1977 US Open.
John McEnroe made his singles debut at the US Open as a headband-rocking 18-year-old in 1977.
Getty Images

John McEnroe, Meat Loaf, Vitas Gerulatis and Carlos Santana at Flushing Hills Stadium in 1982.
John McEnroe and Meat Loaf played doubles against Vitas Gerulatis and Carlos Santana at Forest Hills Stadium in 1982.
Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

“We went back and played the match, which was one of my biggest wins of my life at that time,” said McEnroe, who went on to lose to 1975 US Open champion Manuel Orantes in the fourth round.

“It was certainly a bizarre first US Open for me.”

It was also the last he would play at Forest Hills Stadium. The following year, the tourney moved a few miles north to Flushing Meadows, where McEnroe would eventually smash his way to four victories at what is now known as the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

But the magic at Forest Hills Stadium didn’t stop in 1977. Opened 100 years ago as America’s premier tennis site, the iconic venue has played host to not only racket royalty — but some of the biggest names in music, too, still to this day.

Forest Hills Stadium in the early years.
Forest Hills Stadium was built by the West Side Tennis Club to host such events as the US Nationals and the Davis Cup.
West Side Tennis Club

One of the trademark eagles at Forest Hills Stadium.
Majestic eagles have been presiding over Forest Hills Stadium for decades.
West Side Tennis Club

“It’s the stadium’s 100th birthday, and our 10th year of doing shows out here,” said Mike Luba, president of Forest Hills Stadium, who reopened the venue — after a 16-year drought — with a Mumford & Sons show in August 2013 that would herald its transformation into one of NYC’s hottest summer concert spots.

The West SideTennis Club commissioned the building of the stadium to hold events such as the US National Championships and the Davis Cup. In August 1923, it first hosted the Wightman Cup — the women’s team competition where the US faced off against Great Britain — before becoming the home of the US Nationals and then the US Open.

American ace Bill Tilden won the first US Nationals held at Forest Hills Stadium in 1924 and twice more while it was a grass-court tournament. “Basically, a lot of people believe it was built because Bill Tilden was so popular and he was playing to sell-out crowds,” said Beatrice Hunt, 67, a West Side Tennis Club member since 1971 who now serves as its archivist.

The stadium would go on to serve up historic tennis moments such as Harlem-born Althea Gibson breaking the color barrier in 1950; another African-American, Arthur Ashe, winning the inaugural US Open in 1968, as an amateur who had to forfeit his winnings to losing finalist Tom Okker and Aussie great Rod Laver completing two Grand Slams in 1962 and 1969.

Althea Gibson at Forest Hills Stadium.
Harlem-born Althea Gibson broke the color barrier at the US Open in 1950.
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Arthur Ashe at Forest Hills Stadium.
Arthur Ashe won the inaugural US Open in 1968, but had to forfeit his winnings because he was an amateur.
John G. Zimmerman /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

And in the modern tennis boom, there was a 16-year-old Chris Evert captivating the sports world with her two-handed backhand and ponytailed charm on her fairy-tale trip to the semifinals against Billie Jean King in 1971.

In fact, McEnroe was a ballboy at Forest Hills Stadium — watching champions such as Pancho Gonzales and Adriano Panatta smoke cigarettes around the grounds in between matches — before he became the Man at the US Open.

“I ballboyed there for three years,” he said. “I remember ballboying for Bjorn Borg, who later turned out to be my greatest rival. And I had an inkling that I wanted to be like him because … there was a lot of interest in what he was doing, particularly from young girls. So that made it a whole lot more interesting to hopefully [follow] in his footsteps.”

In addition to the elite tennis players of the world, Forest Hills Stadium also hosted some of the biggest music acts of the ’60s and ’70s — from the Beatles, who famously landed in a helicopter in 1964, to Bob Dylan, who folked up the venue in both 1965 and then 51 years later in 2016.

That second Dylan concert, though, might never have happened. By 2010, the storied stadium was on the verge of going condo.

Bob Dylan at Forest Hills Stadium in 1965.
Bob Dylan performed at Forest Hills Stadium in 1965 before returning to the storied venue 51 years later in 2016.
Forest Hills Stadium

The Beatles landing in a helicopter at Forest Hills Stadium.
The Beatles landed in a helicopter before performing at Forest Hills Stadium in 1964.
Henry Grossman/Mirrorpix

Joni Mitchell at Forest Hills Stadium.
The legendary Joni Mitchell graced the Forest Hills Stadium stage in 1979.
Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images

Forest Hills Stadium historian and preservationist Michael Perlman, 40, spearheaded the campaign to save the venue from being bought by developers and demolished when it had been long dormant.

“It was holy ground,” he said “I tried to show how it would be more profitable to restore it and benefit our community and city in the long term,” said the fifth-generation Forest Hills resident. “It felt like a ruin in Rome, like the Colosseum … Because it’s located in Queens, sometimes it doesn’t get all of the attention or the full appreciation.”

The members of the West Side Tennis Club never got the two-thirds vote required to sell off the property. And the stadium got a second lease on life after Luba had a moment of serendipitous inspiration in 2012.

“I had spent a couple of summers on the road with the Mumford & Sons guys — two of whom are actually from Wimbledon in England,” said Luba, 52. “And having grown up on Long Island and played tennis in high school, I was aware of the urban legend of Forest Hills. So I cold-called the tennis club, and the head pro picked up the phone and said, ‘I don’t know who you are … but your timing is pretty good.’”

Marcus Mumford at Forest Hills Stadium.
Marcus Mumford and his Grammy-winning band Mumford & Sons reopened Forest Hills Stadium in 2013.
Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Forest Hills Stadium.
Since reopening in 2013, Forest Hills Stadium has hosted everyone from Ed Sheeran to Robert Plant and Sheryl Crow.
Forest Hills Stadium

Michael Perlman at Forest Hills Stadium.
Forest Hills Stadium historian/preservationist Michael Perlman was there to see Zac Brown Band in 2014.

Now, even with some neighborhood residents recently raising noise complaints, Forest Hills Stadium is launching its best and biggest concert season yet, with upcoming shows by the likes of Dave Matthews Band (June 9), Fall Out Boy (Aug. 1) and Duran Duran (Sept. 22).

McEnroe — who once shared the stage on guitar with Carlos Santana at Forest Hills and even tried to buy the stadium to preserve it — is planning to be back where it all began for him this summer.

Except he won’t be rocking those short shorts and that headband like back in the day.

“It brings back memories. The red clay where there’s parking — that’s where I played when I was 9 or 10 years old,” said the seven-time Grand Slam champ, who, after covering the French Open for NBC and Eurosport May 28 to June 11, will launch his new ESPN+ show “McEnroe’s Places” later this summer.

“I’m happy that the rock and roll thing, the music thing, happens more often. It gives me more of a chance to go there.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Lizzo calls out ‘unfriendly’ Napa neighbour wanting to ‘silence’ and ‘choke’ people like her during the music festival

American rapper Lizzo made history by becoming the first black artist to headline the BottleRock Napa Valley music festival in its 10-year-long history. While the internet and fans praised the artist, she saw some unfriendly signs from people and gave them an epic reply like a boss and said at the JaM Cellars stage in Napa, “I saw some signs that were very unfriendly towards people like me.”

She added, “I saw signs talking about how they want to cancel people like me. Silence people like me. Choke people like me. And they right across the street. So we gonna sing this one more time so they can hear it because maybe they haven’t heard it in a long time.”

While she refrained to speak about the unfriendly signs, The Chronicle confirmed that one house near the gates had a sign displaying “Choke the Woke,” along with other derogatory words.

Donning a black and neon green fringe detailed with multiple crisscross designs, Lizzo accessorised her attire with a belt, silver hoop earrings along with some rings. The three-day prestigious event called the BottleRock Napa Valley music festival, ended on Sunday with performances by hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers, and rapper Lil Nas X.

Lizzo summed up her day by saying “BottleRock, this was an experience!”

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Shakin’ Stevens: “The Rolling Stones were a lovely bunch – very chatty and welcoming. Their fans liked us”

Not content to rest on his ‘80s hitmaking laurels – he was on Top Of The Pops fifty-six times! – Shakin’ Stevens has conjured up Re-Set, a deeply personal album that finds the 75-year-young singer refusing to play by the rules. Elvis, Johnny Cash, the Stones, Little Richard and Status Quo are all discussed as he meets Stuart Clark.

If you’ve heard a song that sounds like Johnny Cash jamming with The Traveling Wilburys and Depeche Mode on RTÉ Radio 1 recently but didn’t catch the title, chances are it’s Shakin’ Stevens’ remarkable new ‘All You Need Is Greed’ single, which is culled from his equally remarkable new Re-Set album.

“Those Johnny Cash American Recordings albums were unbelievable,” enthuses Shaky, whose admiration for the Man In Black dates back to the 1950s. “As he got older, the songs he chose to sing had to have a deep personal resonance – which is how I attacked things on Re-Set.

“The album is a reflection on the times and the way we live our lives,” he continues. “It was prolonged by the dreaded Covid but myself, John David and (his manager and partner) Sue Davis eventually got to bang our heads together in the studio and came up with most of what you hear on the record.”

Image: Andre Csillag/Shutterstock.

John David being his long-term friend and collaborator who’s also worked with Mark Knopfler, Robert Plant and Status Quo, more of whom anon.

Shaky’s twenty-first studio album gets off to the most poignant of starts with ‘George’, a stripped down piano ballad that bares scant resemblance to the likes of ‘This Ole House’, ‘Oh Julie’ and ‘Green Door’.

“You can almost hear me breaking down during the track – that’s where the rasp comes from – because it’s about a family member,” he reveals. “The common wisdom is that you kick an album off with an upbeat song, but I was like, ‘No, I’m not imposing any rules on myself with this record.’”

You can also hear the raw emotion in Shaky’s voice on ‘May’, a song dedicated to his mother who sounds like she was quite the character.

“She was,” he nods. “She came from a large family and had eleven children herself – me being the baby. She had a very, very, very hard time which I only found out about fully afterwards. You’d be told to take the dog out, which is when the adults did their talking. It knocked me for six when she passed away in the ‘80s.”

It’s often forgotten that before embarking on his remarkable run of thirty-three UK top 40 singles, the Welsh Artist Also Known As Michael Barratt was a serious spit ‘n’ sawdust rock ‘n’ roller who, with his band The Sunsets, was handpicked by The Rolling Stones to support them.


“That was terrific!” Shaky enthuses. “It was in 1969 at the Saville Theatre in London. When we arrived at the venue, the Stones were rehearsing and playing ‘High School Confidential’ and other rock ‘n’ roll stuff, possibly in our honour. They’d sent somebody down to a university show we were doing in Wales to check us out and he went back to the Stones and their manager and said, ‘Yep, great.’ So we got the gig.

“The Stones were a lovely bunch – very chatty and welcoming and we went down well with their fans.”

Having played him in London’s West End back in the ‘70s, Stevens was eager to see Baz Luhrman’s Elvis.

“I was the lead in Elvis The Musical from November 1977 to April ’79 with packed audiences throughout,” he recalls. “What the film highlighted – apart from Elvis’ talent – was how badly he was managed by Tom Parker who treated him like one of his dancing chickens. That Elvis never got to perform in other countries was sacrilege, I thought.”

The next rock ‘n’ roll-inclined film Shaky wants to catch is the tasty looking Little Richard: I Am Everything documentary, which includes Tom Jones, Nona Hendryx, Paul McCartney, Nile Rodgers, Pat Boone and John Waters among its celebrants.

ELVIS (credit: Warner Bros.)

“What a singer,” he enthuses. “You look at those early Little Richard performances – the big pompadour hair, the voice, the jumping on the piano, his band with the amazing tenor sax… it was just phenomenal and, given how conservative America was in the 1950s, brave too. Radio didn’t like playing black artists, so you had Pat Boone covering ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Long Tall Sally’, which wasn’t the same as Little Richard doing them! One of the few people who could hold a candle to him live, who I was lucky enough to see, was Fats Domino. I don’t know how he did it but he used to stand at this grand piano and push it across the stage.

“Another early rock ‘n’ roller I loved was Chuck Berry who walked into our dressing-room once at a venue thinking it was the gents: ‘I’m looking for the loo, where is it, where is it?’ To turn round and see Chuck standing there was very surreal!”

It’s almost impossible to watch a re-run of Top Of The Pops that doesn’t have Shaky on it performing one of his mega-hits. How big a deal was the show back then?

“I was on Top Of The Pops fifty-six times, so it was vitally important to me and countless other artists,” he concludes.

“A band who always seemed to be on it too were Status Quo. One of them offered me seven quid for the denim jacket I was wearing. I said, ‘You must be joking, it’s taken me years to get it this worn and faded’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, that’s why I want it!’ I did six shows with them in December, which was great because I was able to include ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ in the set-list. You can’t really do it the other eleven months of year. We ended with it every night and people went crackers!”

Little Richard: I Am Everything Official Trailer

Backstage revellers on the tour included actor and comedian Greg Davies.

“No spoilers but Greg invited me to appear in the new series of The Cleaner and I was happy to oblige,” Shaky concludes. “He’s a lovely guy and we had a lot of fun doing it.”

• Shakin’ Stevens’ Re-Set album is out now on BMG with plans to tour later in the year.

The new issue of Hot Press is out now.


RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

The Case For and Against Ed Sheeran

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One day in 1973, Edward Townsend, a singer-songwriter who’d had a minor hit with the 1958 ballad “For Your Love,” invited a friend, the R. & B. superstar Marvin Gaye, to his home in Los Angeles, to hear some new tunes. Sitting at the piano, Townsend played a four-chord progression in the key of E-flat major while singing a melody that harked back to his doo-wop days. Townsend, then forty-three, had recently been released from rehab, and the song was a plea to a higher power to help him stay sober. “I’ve been really tryin’ baby, tryin’ to hold back this feeling for so long” was one of the lines.

Gaye, who was suffering from writer’s block after the huge success of “What’s Going On,” for Motown Records, in 1971, heard his friend’s song as a hymn to sex. Together, they created “Let’s Get It On.”

Motown’s music-publishing company, Jobete, took fifty per cent of the song’s copyright. Gaye and Townsend agreed to split their share of the composition’s future earnings. Gaye recorded the song in L.A., in March, 1973, with members of the Funk Brothers, Motown’s house band, who added the wah-wah guitar introduction and the song’s undeniable groove, in which the second and fourth chords are anticipated—slightly in front of the beat. Gaye, in addition to his soaring vocal, played keyboard on the record. The song, Gaye’s first No. 1, was one of the biggest hits of the year. It became a foundational track in the quiet storm of seventies R. & B. and soul, and has remained an evergreen—a steady earner.

“Let’s Get It On” launched a new phase in Gaye’s career; four years later, his song “Got to Give It Up” also reached No. 1. Before his death, a filicide by Marvin Gaye, Sr., in 1984, Gaye had a final smash with “Sexual Healing.”

Townsend’s career peaked with “Let’s Get It On.” He fell back into alcohol abuse, acquired a cocaine habit, and ended up living on the streets of Los Angeles. He eventually beat his addictions, and, near the end of his life, devoted himself to helping others on the street. He died in 2003, at the age of seventy-four.

In February, 2014, an English singer-songwriter named Amy Wadge visited the pop star Ed Sheeran at his home in Suffolk. Wadge was an old friend and a frequent collaborator. Sheeran’s paternal grandfather had recently died, and his maternal grandmother was in a wheelchair, following cancer surgery. Sheeran and Wadge had a long talk that evening about enduring love.

Sheeran excused himself to shower before dinner with his parents, who live nearby, and Wadge picked up one of his acoustic guitars (a gift from Harry Styles) and began strumming a four-chord progression in D major. Sheeran heard it when he came out of the shower, and called out, “We need to do something with that!”

After dinner, Wadge and Sheeran returned home and continued writing in Sheeran’s kitchen. The first line, “When your legs don’t work like they used to,” referred to his grandmother’s condition. By midnight, “Thinking Out Loud” was finished. Sheeran recorded the song, in which the second and fourth chords are anticipated, just in time to include it on his second album, “Multiply.”

As a writer, Sheeran is known for his speed and facility. He can toss off four or five songs a day when he’s recording an album. His EP “No. 5 Collaborations Project” led to a deal with Atlantic Records, a Warner Music label, when he was nineteen. He writes ballads as well as bangers; he also raps. He has collaborated with artists including Taylor Swift, Rita Ora, and Justin Bieber. His songs are popular partly because they are so accessible. It’s as if you already know them.

Sheeran usually performs solo with a guitar—without costume changes, dancers, or pyrotechnics—backed only by looped tracks that he makes with a pedal as he plays. The two-year-long tour for his 2019 album, “Divide,” took in more than seven hundred and seventy-five million dollars, making it the second-highest-grossing tour of all time. Now, at thirty-two, he is one of the wealthiest people in the U.K.

“Thinking Out Loud,” released in September, 2014, was one of the first songs to be streamed half a billion times on Spotify; it has since passed 2.2 billion streams. It won the 2015 Grammy for Song of the Year, and its success shot Sheeran into the thin air of the world’s top hitmakers. The song also became a favorite at his concerts.

In a YouTube video of a Sheeran show in Zurich in November, 2014, the artist, playing an electric guitar, smoothly transitions from “Thinking Out Loud” to “Let’s Get It On” and back to “Thinking,” without changing chords or the harmonic rhythm—the syncopated cadence at which chords are played. He smiles a bit mischievously. The crowd loves it.

Most pop songs are made out of other pop songs. Many are constructed on three- or four-chord progressions, and have a near-identical blueprint—intro, verse, chorus, bridge, outro. Other than words and melody, not much in a composition is protected by copyright. As the Australian comedy trio Axis of Awesome demonstrates in a video that went viral, any number of pop songs can fit inside the same four chords. For this reason, the property lines of popular music are hard to draw. Inspiration, imitation, homage, and pastiche are all at play. Often, the trick is to sound new and old at the same time. But at what point do influence and interpolation become appropriation and plagiarism?

In 2019, the hitmaker Pharrell Williams spoke with the producer Rick Rubin, for a filmed conversation about creativity. Williams described his reaction to hearing a song that makes him feel something he hasn’t felt before: “I’m going to have to reverse engineer the feeling in order to get to the chord structure.” He did just that with “Blurred Lines,” his 2013 hit with Robin Thicke, for which he seemed to metabolize almost every aspect of Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up,” including the crowd noises and the cowbell.

“Sir, did you order the special meal?” Cartoon by Peter Kuper

But, according to a jury in Los Angeles, Williams went too far. In 2015, it found that the composers of “Blurred Lines” had illegally copied Gaye’s song. The songwriters were ultimately forced to pay the Gaye family $5.3 million, and to share half the song’s future publishing royalties. The verdict was a victory for the copyright attorney Richard Busch. Afterward, more than two hundred producers and other people in the music business signed an amicus brief predicting that, if the verdict was upheld, they would be forced to work “always with one foot in the recording studio and one foot in the courtroom.” It was upheld anyway, in a 2–1 vote, in 2018. The dissenting judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Jacqueline Nguyen, described the ruling as “a devastating blow to future musicians and composers everywhere,” because it allowed “the Gayes to accomplish what no one has before: copyright a musical style.”

Many people correctly predicted that the “Blurred Lines” ruling would trigger a wave of frivolous infringement cases. “I can’t tell you how many calls we get after the Grammys,” Judith Finell, who was the Gaye family’s expert musicologist in the “Blurred Lines” case, told me. “Mostly from lawyers wanting to see if their client’s claim of infringement is winnable.”

Taylor Swift, the Weeknd, and Justin Bieber are only a few of the artists who have been subject to recent allegations of infringement. The composers of Dua Lipa’s 2020 hit “Levitating” are being sued on both coasts: In Los Angeles, the reggae band Artikal Sound System is claiming that the song copied its 2017 track “Live Your Life.” In the Southern District of New York, L. Russell Brown and Sandy Linzer believe that “Levitating” infringes on two songs they wrote, “Wiggle and Giggle All Night,” from 1979, and “Don Diablo,” from the following year.

Two influential decisions in California’s Ninth Circuit in the past few years have repaired some of the “Blurred Lines” damage. In 2020, the appeals court confirmed a jury’s verdict that Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” did not infringe on “Taurus,” by the late-sixties rock band Spirit, because the descending A-minor figure in “Taurus” consisted of “common musical elements” that can’t be copyrighted. In 2020, a district judge in Los Angeles overturned a verdict that found Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” had infringed on eight notes from “Joyful Noise,” an obscure song by the Christian artist Flame. The judge’s decision was upheld on appeal.

This spring, a high-stakes copyright trial took place in New York City. The issue in Griffin v. Sheeran was whether Sheeran and Wadge had illegally copied from “Let’s Get It On” in creating “Thinking Out Loud.” The larger issues were how much songwriters like Sheeran should be allowed to borrow from earlier works, and the opaque and antiquated process by which the law determines what part of a pop song the composer actually owns.

Music copyright, which became law in the United States in 1831, allows composers to establish the “metes and bounds” of their intellectual property, just as mechanical inventors do in obtaining patents. But a patent is granted only after examiners have determined, by way of an investigation, that an invention is truly new and useful. A music copyright is more like a virtual rubber stamp that a musician gets automatically as soon as a song is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” If the song is a hit and the musician is sued—because “where there’s a hit, there’s a writ,” as an old adage goes—it is up to the courts to figure out how original the work is.

Copyright makes it commercially viable to be an artist. But painters can’t claim ownership of a color, and songwriters can’t monopolize notes or, for that matter, common chord progressions, modes, or rhythms. A composer is entitled to own only a particular expression or arrangement of a musical idea, not the idea itself. (The concept of an arpeggio, or of counterpoint, cannot be copyrighted.) The question is how to legally separate the two. The law, which represents the Apollonian side of human experience—the rational, analytical, and intellectual—is a leaky sieve for containing the Dionysian elements of music: the irrational, abstract, and emotional parts.

“Songwriters almost never steal melodies from one another on purpose,” Joe Bennett, a professor of forensic musicology at Berklee College of Music, told me. “In almost every case, the copying is inadvertent.” Still, outright theft does happen—compare Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” from 1955, to Gordon Jenkins’s 1953 song “Crescent City Blues.” Cash ultimately paid Jenkins seventy-five thousand dollars (which now amounts to some six hundred and sixty thousand) for lifting his melody and some of his lyrics.

Bennett explained that songwriters can be found liable for infringement of copyright even if the infringement was “subconsciously accomplished.” The phrase comes from the judge in a 1976 case, which found that George Harrison had unknowingly but unlawfully copied the Chiffons’ 1963 song “He’s So Fine” in his 1970 hit “My Sweet Lord.” The two melodies are virtually identical.

“Also known as ‘cryptomnesia,’ ” Bennett added. He defined the term as “a forgotten memory that is mistaken for an original idea.” Pop music is bursting with cryptomnesiacs.

Before the Internet, lack of access was the standard defense against a claim of subconscious copying: the composer couldn’t possibly have heard the accuser’s obscure song. At music publishers’ offices, assistants were instructed to return unsolicited recordings unopened, so that the sender couldn’t argue later that his work had been filched. But platforms like SoundCloud, Spotify, and TikTok have severely curtailed that defense. Finell, the musicologist, told me, “Some kid will come to me and say, ‘I just heard the latest Beyoncé song, and she stole my drum track!’ I say, ‘How did Beyoncé get to hear a drum track that you composed in your garage?’ ‘Well, I put it out on social media, and I have a hundred thousand followers. One of them could work with Jay-Z!’ ”

Can a style or a vibe ever be infringed on, if not all that much in pop is really new? True, some homages to past styles are more brazen than others: Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson took eighties funk grooves from the Gap Band’s “Oops Upside Your Head” and made them part of the Grammy-winning song “Uptown Funk” without asking for permission. After the “Blurred Lines” verdict, a number of songwriters were added to the song’s credits.

The music industry was recently shaken by “Heart on My Sleeve,” a song featuring a duet between a fake Drake and a fake the Weeknd, in which both vocals were created, using generative A.I., by an anonymous user called Ghostface. Artists and rights holders are concerned that their creations will be used to train A.I. generators that will eventually replace them. Faced with that possibility, rights holders are likely to seek more protection for style, even though doing so could make it harder for artists to do their work without infringing.

Ed Townsend had two sons, Clef Michael and David, born to his wife, Cherrigale, and a daughter, also named Cherrigale, born in Los Angeles in 1960 to a singer, who gave the child up for adoption at birth. The adoptive family, the Griffins, changed the baby’s name to Kathryn. When Kathryn was a child, her adoptive mother would point at a hysterectomy scar on her stomach and say, “This is where you came from.”

Kathryn showed an aptitude for music, which made her parents nervous. “My whole life, I wanted to play piano, flute, piccolo,” she told me. The family moved from L.A. to Hattiesburg, Mississippi: “They didn’t want me in the music industry, because they were afraid I’d find out who my father was and fall into the life he did.”

Griffin fell anyway. She became addicted to crack cocaine and got into sex work to support her habit. She was trafficked, she told me, and after escaping her abusers she lived for a time in a “cardboard condominium” under a bridge. She speaks in a hoarse Southern drawl; in spite of her past, she laughs a lot.

In 1986, when Griffin was twenty-six, her grandfather, a Christian minister, told her that she was adopted. Her mother then confessed that her biological father was a famous musician. Griffin called an acquaintance, Hubert Laws, the jazz musician. “Have you ever heard of a man named Ed Townsend?” she asked. Laws replied, “Everybody knows who Ed Townsend is!” Griffin said, “Well, I don’t!”

She recalled reaching Townsend by phone for the first time: “I said, ‘This is your daughter.’ He said, ‘I have looked for you your entire life.’ ” But he had been searching for a Cherrigale, not a Kathryn.

Townsend left Griffin a third of his “Let’s Get It On” royalties. (In the nineteen-eighties, he had sold part of his share of the song’s publishing copyright to Jobete.) She promised to protect his legacy. Griffin got sober in 2003, the year Townsend died. She began counselling women in prison in Houston who had been sex workers; she is now an expert in human-trafficking victims’ rights. Griffin estimates that she has rescued more than a thousand women from “the life.” When her half brother David died, in 2005, he left Griffin his share of his father’s royalties, as did her aunt Helen McDonald, in 2020.

Early in 2015, friends of Griffin alerted her to the similarities between “Let’s Get It On” and a new song called “Thinking Out Loud.” “They said, ‘This British guy, he just changed the words and kept all the music!’ ” she told me. Griffin listened to both: “And I went, ‘Oh, my God. Wow.’ ”

Griffin tried to notify Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the behemoth that had recently acquired the Jobete catalogue. But no one at Sony returned her calls. “Let’s Get It On” was in the American Songbook. Shouldn’t Sony want to protect its I.P. from infringement? Then Griffin figured it out: Sony was probably conflicted because it was also the publisher of “Thinking Out Loud,” along with much of the rest of Sheeran’s catalogue.

Sony eventually asked two musicologists to investigate the claim. Both advised the company that there was no infringement, as did a third musicologist, whom Sheeran had hired in the U.K. Still, it seemed to Griffin that no one at Sony was looking after her interests or her father’s legacy. (Sony says that it often finds itself on both sides of infringement suits, and that it remains neutral in these cases.)

Griffin found lawyers, Pat Frank and Keisha Rice, in Tallahassee, Florida. They contacted Alexander Stewart, a professor of music at the University of Vermont. Stewart heard enough similarities between the two songs to write a report saying that Sheeran and Wadge were infringing on Gaye and Townsend. In 2017, Griffin’s attorneys filed a civil suit in New York, where Sony is headquartered, which charged that “the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic compositions of ‘Thinking’ are substantially and /or strikingly similar” to “Let’s Get It On.” As with “Blurred Lines,” the claim focussed not on obvious similarities in the songs’ melodies or lyrics but on compositional elements associated with the rhythmic harmony—the groove.

On a Monday a few weeks ago, shortly after 11 A.M., Judge Louis L. Stanton, who is ninety-five years old, took his place at the bench in a federal courtroom in downtown Manhattan. The plaintiff, now Kathryn Griffin Townsend, was seated next to her attorneys. She wore a dark-green dress, a long black coat, and an expression of sombre resolve. Her daughter Skye was also in attendance.

In music-copyright trials, similarities are assessed by two kinds of people: expert listeners and lay ones. The élite ears belong to forensic musicologists, who are often academics with advanced degrees. They hear music intellectually, in quantifiable component parts: tempo, amplitude, arrangement. The musicologists offer supposedly objective analyses of the “musical fingerprints” of songs, but they manage to arrive at opposite conclusions, depending on which side is employing them—generally for around five hundred dollars an hour. The lay listeners on the jury, who are a kind of proxy for pop music’s audience, temper the experts’ testimony with what their own ears tell them.

In federal court, this methodology is known as the Arnstein test. It derives from Arnstein v. Porter—a famous 1946 case that was heard during New York’s heyday as a songwriting town—involving Cole Porter, the Broadway composer, and Ira B. Arnstein, a writer of Yiddish folk songs and light opera, who became convinced that many of the biggest hits of the era had been stolen from him. The songwriter accused Porter of copying the melodies in “Night and Day” and “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” among other songs, from sheet music kept in a trunk in his shabby Upper West Side apartment, possibly aided by a duplicitous landlord. Arnstein ultimately lost the case, as he lost every case in his long career as a copyright troll. However, as Gary Rosen notes in his book “Unfair to Genius,” from 2012, “It is within American jurisprudence and not popular music that the name Ira B. Arnstein reverberates.” He adds, “If only he could have collected a royalty on the case law that bears his name.”

Fourteen prospective lay listeners were called into the Griffin v. Sheeran jury box, and Judge Stanton asked whether anything prevented them from rendering impartial judgment.

“ ‘Perfect’ was my wedding song,” a young woman said.

Cartoon by Justin Sheen

“My teen-age daughters love Ed Sheeran,” another said. “I don’t know his music.”

Both women were eventually rejected during voir dire, as was a young man who said that he was pursuing a doctorate in musicology at Columbia University. Even though he was probably the best-qualified potential juror to decide the case, he clearly wasn’t a lay listener. The final seven-person jury included a lawyer, a special-ed teacher, a dramaturge, an amateur singer, a recent college graduate, and a guy who’d played trumpet in middle school.

Because “Let’s Get It On,” or “L.G.O.,” as the legal documents refer to the song, was recorded before 1978, it is governed by the 1909 Copyright Act, which stipulated that, in order for a musical work to be registered for copyright, a written composition must be submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office, in Washington, as the “deposit copy.” (It wasn’t until the 1976 Copyright Act, which went into effect on January 1, 1978, that sound recordings were admissible as deposit copies.)

In both the “Blurred Lines” and “Stairway to Heaven” cases, the jury was not permitted to listen to any pre-1978 recording. The jurors in Griffin v. Sheeran could listen to the recording of Sheeran’s song, but they had to rely on the five pages of sheet music for “Let’s Get It On,” a skeletal transcription that contained lyrics, melody, chords, and a notation of where the syncopated beats fall. Gaye’s piano and the Funk Brothers’ additions to the groove, such as the bass line, weren’t on the deposit copy. Gaye, who didn’t read music, probably never even saw the transcription. (Sheeran can’t read music, either, a fact that he readily admitted on the stand.) The only versions of “L.G.O.” that the jury could listen to were the experts’ MIDI audio files, which were made from the sheet music using musical software, and sung by a computer-generated voice. The tinny, wheedling sound of the synthesized music and the high-pitched android vocal made a classic soul song sound utterly soulless.

Almost all the major African American contributions to American music—ragtime, jazz, swing, hip-hop—were built on rhythmic innovations that weren’t transcribed in sheet music and copyrighted. (The bent third and seventh blue notes that lie at the heart of the blues can’t even be written in twelve-note chromatic-scale notation.) Ingrid Monson, the Quincy Jones Professor of African American Music at Harvard, who also served as an expert witness for the Gaye family in the “Blurred Lines” trial, told me, “There could be no copyright system less suited to rewarding the creativity of African American music than the one we have. It was obviously modelled on classical music, and on the idea that a real piece of music, one that was worthy of copyright, would be written in notation.”

Even though the Copyright Office now allows recordings to be submitted in place of transcriptions, melody and lyrics remain the most important elements of a musical copyright involving a song’s composition, partly because they can be seen by judges and juries on paper. The focus on protecting the topline seems out of step with the dominance in contemporary pop of the track—the harmonic and rhythmic bed for a song, usually made by a producer on a digital workstation—which frequently precedes melodies and lyrics. It’s often the track that makes a song sound unique.

Kathryn Griffin Townsend isn’t the first person to accuse Ed Sheeran of copying a song. In 2017, on the advice of counsel, Sheeran settled an infringement claim brought by the writers of “Amazing,” a song performed by Matt Cardle, an “X Factor” winner, who maintained Sheeran’s 2014 hit “Photograph” infringed on their track. Infringement claims are often resolved this way. In 2015, Sam Smith settled amicably with Tom Petty over the similarity between the chorus hook in Smith’s song “Stay with Me” and that in Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” In 2021, Olivia Rodrigo offered the band Paramore a writing credit and a share of the profits from her song “Good 4 You,” whose hook sounds a lot like the pre-chorus of Paramore’s “Misery Business.”

But Sheeran came to feel that settling (reportedly for five million dollars) made him a target for copyright trolls. “Shape of You,” a 2017 Sheeran megahit, was the subject of multiple disputes. He amicably resolved one, with the songwriters of TLC’s hit “No Scrubs,” for borrowing its melody. (While writing the song, he’d referred to it as “the TLC song.”) He initiated and won another case, brought in the U.K., against Sami Chokri, a British songwriter and grime artist, who’d asserted that Sheeran’s “Shape of You” had stolen the chorus from his 2015 song “Oh Why.” The magistrate who decided the case in Sheeran’s favor ordered Chokri to pay more than nine hundred thousand pounds, to cover Sheeran’s legal fees.

In a BBC Two “Newsnight” interview that aired in the U.K. after the victory, Sheeran and his co-writer John McDaid, of Snow Patrol, talked about the “extraordinary strain” of the lawsuit on their creativity and mental health. “The best feeling in the world is the euphoria around the first idea of writing a great song,” Sheeran said, perhaps recalling that night in the kitchen with Wadge. “The first spark, where you go, ‘This is special—we can’t spoil this.’ ” He went on, “But that feeling has now turned into ‘Oh, wait, let’s stand back for a minute, have we touched anything?’ You find yourself in the moment second-guessing yourself.” As a precaution, Sheeran added, he films all his songwriting sessions, should a claim later arise.

“This is not about money,” Sheeran said. “It’s about heart, honesty, and integrity. Win or lose, we had to go to court—we had to stand up for what we thought was right.”

Sheeran decided to go to court rather than settle with Griffin for the same reason. He testified that his songwriter and artist friends were urging him to fight, saying, “ ‘You have to win this for us.’ ” These days, Sheeran observed, “it’s just something that happens. When you write songs and they’re successful, someone comes after you.” He also said that, if he lost this case, he was going to quit music. “I’m finished,” he declared. “I’m done.”

Sheeran arrived in court the day after jury selection. He wore a dark-navy suit with double vents in the back, and a blue necktie with small white polka dots, but he still managed to look scruffy, like a subway busker turned banker. He sat at the defense table, where, in the course of seven days, the spectators behind him—a mix of copyright attorneys, music journalists, and superfans—could study his distinctive copper-colored coif.

Townsend sat just in front of Sheeran, at the plaintiff’s table. Her coat, a gift from the musician George Clinton, had the word “INTEGRITY” emblazoned on the back, directly in Sheeran’s line of sight. Townsend’s legal team included the civil-rights lawyer Ben Crump, a personal friend, who represented George Floyd’s family after Floyd’s murder, and worked with Keisha Rice on the Trayvon Martin wrongful-death case. This would be his first music-copyright trial.

A few weeks earlier, Crump had held a press conference outside the courthouse. With Townsend standing next to him, he’d said, “It is important that we understand that this is part of a larger issue. Far too many times in history, Black artists have created some of the most miraculous music in the world, only to see white artists come and usurp that music and reap untold fortunes while these Black artists and their families derive nothing from their genius.”

But surely the Yorkshire-born Sheeran wasn’t solely responsible for the shameful exploitation of Black artists within the U.S. music industry? As Jennifer Jenkins, a copyright-law professor at Duke, put it to me, “Sheeran isn’t Pat Boone covering songs by Little Richard, and he isn’t Alan Freed taking credit for Chuck Berry’s ‘Maybellene’ without writing a single note.” Nevertheless, Crump called on Sheeran to “do the right thing” and settle with Griffin before the trial started. Otherwise, Crump thundered, “let’s get it on!”

In his opening statement, Crump called for “credit where credit is due,” but he stopped short of accusing Sheeran of appropriating Black music. He characterized the video of Sheeran’s Zurich concert as a “smoking gun.”

“Maya Angelou tells us that when a person shows you who they are, it’s our duty to believe them,” Crump declared. “When someone provides you a voluntary confession, believe them.”

Ilene Farkas, a copyright specialist at the powerhouse firm Pryor Cashman, who along with Donald Zakarin led Sheeran’s legal team, delivered the defense’s opening. She said that the only similarities between the two songs were a common chord progression and an equally common syncopated rhythm. The plaintiffs, she argued, “cannot own these common musical elements.”

On the stand, Townsend described her feelings about Sony’s failure to respond to her inquiries. “I feel they’ve been so negligent,” she said, her voice thick with emotion. “And I promised my father I would protect his work and artistry.” She went on, “I have nothing against Mr. Sheeran personally. I think he’s a great artist with a great future. I am simply trying to protect my father’s legacy.”

After lunch, the plaintiffs called Sheeran to the stand, where Rice questioned him. Sheeran testified to hearing “L.G.O.” for the first time in an Austin Powers movie, but denied copying it.

Rice asked Sheeran about his song “Take It Back,” which boasts about stealing rap lyrics:

You’ll find me ripping the writtens

Out of the pages they sit in

And never once I get bitten

Because plagiarism is hidden

“Are those your lyrics?” Rice asked.

“Can I just give context?” Sheeran replied.

“If I need more context, I’ll certainly ask,” Rice said.

“I feel like you don’t want me to answer because you know what I’m going to say is going to make a lot of sense,” Sheeran said.

Finally, the plaintiffs played the Zurich video, which they saw as their strongest single piece of evidence. (The admissibility of the video as evidence had been the subject of much legal maneuvering by the defense, who appeared keen not to see it played.) Sheeran watched from the witness box, his moon face expressionless. Afterward, he remarked, with some heat, “Quite frankly, if I had done what you’re accusing me of doing, I would be an idiot to stand on a stage in front of twenty thousand people and show that.”

Sheeran is a master of the mashup. At shows, he often interpolates his songs and other people’s songs, as a kind of musical party trick; he sometimes takes requests from the audience. Throughout his time on the stand, he entertained the jury and spectators by demonstrating this with an acoustic guitar that his team placed within reach of the witness box. At one point, he started singing “Thinking Out Loud,” transitioned into Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One,” then into Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman,” and finished with Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love.” Recordings of Sheeran’s mashups were played: “Take It Back” with “Superstition,” by Stevie Wonder, and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” by Bill Withers.

“You can kind of play most pop songs over most pop songs,” Sheeran told the room. It was persuasive testimony, but it also helped explain why Sheeran’s songs sound familiar—they’re not so different from many other songs.

In the “Blurred Lines” trial, Judith Finell devoted much of her testimony to a PowerPoint presentation. Average listeners have a hard time comparing two songs aurally, she told me: “The first song doesn’t stay in their memory when the second song starts playing.” But, she added, “people do retain visual information.” Her presentation used a time-stamped map of intervals in the two songs which showed “significant similarities” by way of color-coded charts. To critics, her presentation was all smoke and mirrors, designed to trick the jury into thinking that a collection of unprotectable elements was forensic proof that “Blurred Lines” was stained with Marvin Gaye’s musical DNA.

Ed Sheeran leaves a Southern District of New York courthouse on April 26th, after testifying in Griffin v. Sheeran. Photograph by Luiz C. Ribeiro / New York Daily News / TNS / Alamy

Townsend’s expert, Alexander Stewart, had also prepared a slide show, and his presentation focussed on three areas of similarity between the songs. These were several melody fragments; the syncopated rhythm that anticipated the second and fourth chords; and the progression, which Stewart claimed was, in the Roman nomenclature of chords, a I-iii-IV-V progression. He testified that, of all the songs that came before “L.G.O.,” he could find only one—a version of “Georgy Girl” recorded by “a rather obscure Mexican bandleader” in 1966—that employed the same combination of chord progression and syncopation. He estimated that seventy per cent of the “musical value” of Sheeran’s song was derived from Gaye and Townsend’s.

Lawrence Ferrara, a professor of music at N.Y.U., was the forensic musicologist for the defense. He pointed out that the chord progression Ed Townsend had played for Gaye was so common that it was in elementary music-method books such as “How to Play Rock ’n’ Roll Piano,” published in 1967. He claimed that six songs had the same progression and rhythm as “L.G.O.,” including Holland-Dozier-Holland’s “You Lost the Sweetest Boy” (1963), sung by Mary Wells, and the Mexican recording of “Georgy Girl.” (In the Seekers’ hit version, the expert noted, the guitar is anticipated, but the bass plays on the beat.) If Sheeran were found to have illegally copied “Let’s Get It On,” then the rights holders of those earlier songs could claim that “L.G.O.” had infringed on them, resulting in a circular firing squad of lawsuits. Ferrara variously characterized parts of Stewart’s testimony as “farcical,” “absurd,” and “ludicrous.”

Sheeran also commented on Stewart’s presentation. “I think what he’s doing is criminal,” he said. “I don’t know why he’s allowed to be an expert.” What annoyed Sheeran most was that Stewart heard an F-sharp minor chord at the beginning of “Thinking Out Loud.” This would make it identical to the I-iii-IV-V progression in “L.G.O.,” if Sheeran’s song were transposed to E-flat. But, in fact, Sheeran said, Stewart was wrong: the chord was a D over F-sharp—a D-major first inversion, which Sheeran demonstrated by strumming both progressions.

“I know what I’m playing on guitar,” he said. “It’s me playing it.”

“And how do you know Dr. Stewart is wrong?” Farkas asked.

“I wrote it, and I play it every week, a lot,” Sheeran said.

The other third of Ed Townsend’s third of the “Let’s Get It On” royalties, which was once owned by his son Michael, now belongs to Structured Asset Sales, an L.A.-based company founded by the financier David Pullman. Pullman is a pioneer in packaging song catalogues as investment-grade securities, a common practice today. Essentially, an investor buys a share and reaps a portion of future earnings from royalties, licensing, and new technologies like streaming. Pullman created the first of these securities, Bowie Bonds, in collaboration with David Bowie, in 1997. He has worked on similar deals for catalogues belonging to the estates of James Brown, the Isley Brothers, and Holland-Dozier-Holland, among others.

Pullman filed a separate hundred-million-dollar suit against Sony in 2018. In another legal action, he is seeking to capitalize on an amicus brief filed by the Copyright Office in the “Stairway to Heaven” case, which noted that there could be “multiple, distinct copyrightable works that are all versions of the same song.” This opened up the possibility of refiling a sound recording with the Copyright Office as a new arrangement, which would be covered by the rules of the 1976 Copyright Act. After reading the brief, Pullman submitted the recording of “L.G.O.” and sued Sheeran again, based on substantial similarities that were not reflected in the original deposit copy. Sheeran might well spend the rest of his life defending his tender evocation of enduring love against an implacable opponent whose name, like Arnstein’s, is embedded in New York case law. (To “Pullmanize” someone is to legally remove an unwanted owner from a co-op building, named for the process that Pullman’s fellow-owners on West Sixty-fourth Street went through in state court in 2001.)

Pullman now lives in an art-filled villa high atop Hollywood, with an unbeatable view of the city from his trapezoidal pool. As a music investor, he favors evergreens. In his estimation, there are so many more infringement cases these days not because of frivolous lawsuits but because of bolder instances of theft. “It used to be, you’d find a song that wasn’t that big a hit,” he said, in his rapid-fire speaking style. “Now they’ll take hits. You have a better chance of having a hit if you take a giant hit. Why? Because people already recognize it!”

In Pullman’s opinion, Sheeran is a serial infringer: “Why does he write songs so quickly? Maybe it’s because parts of them are already written.” He mentioned the Zurich video: “He seamlessly goes into ‘Let’s Get It On’—did you pick that song out of a hat? Out of sixty million registered songs, why do you pick that song? It’s a tell.” He recalled the well-known story of Paul McCartney going around and asking people if the melody of “Yesterday,” which had come to him in a dream, was in fact remembered from another song. Today, Pullman said, it’s “infringe now, worry about it later.”

Pullman said that he would consider settling for a respectful sum: “I don’t understand why someone wants to go through so many trials. Every case against him will just get stronger.”

When I saw Kathryn Griffin Townsend in the courthouse cafeteria before closing arguments, she looked rested and happy. “Win, lose, or draw, it doesn’t matter, because we won,” she told me. “Now people know what happened. And they’ll think before they do it again.” She added, “This has never been about money.”

Ilene Farkas, who closed for the defense, noted that we were all here because, exactly fifty years ago, Ed Townsend sat down at his piano and played Marvin Gaye four chords. Townsend had been free to use them to make a song, just as Sheeran should be. “Do we have to tell the eleven-year-old next Ed Sheeran that they better find out who owns that chord progression?” she asked.

Ben Crump reminded the jurors that this Ed Sheeran had threatened to quit music if they decided against him: a heavy burden. Millions of Sheeran fans would despise them, and the promoters and stadium owners involved in Sheeran’s forthcoming world tour for his new album, “Subtract,” would be on the hook for the cancelled shows. “That’s simply a threat to try to play on your emotions,” Crump said. “I promise you, no matter what your verdict is, he won’t be done with music.” The lawyer observed that Sheeran is, above all, a performer. “Don’t be charmed,” he said. “I’m sure if Ed Townsend was alive and in this court, he would have been just as charming.”

The jury deliberated for less than three hours before handing its verdict to Judge Stanton: Sheeran and Wadge had independently created “Thinking Out Loud”; they had not infringed on “Let’s Get It On.”

Sheeran, who had missed his paternal grandmother’s funeral to testify, emotionally embraced Farkas and Zakarin. Wadge wept. The music executives looked pleased. The trial had given both songs streaming bumps.

Outside, on Worth Street, the pop star read a statement. “It looks like I’m not going to have to retire from my day job,” Sheeran said. However, “I am unbelievably frustrated that baseless claims like this are allowed to go to court at all.” He hoped that now he and his fellow-songwriters could “all just go back to making music.” (Judge Stanton dismissed the first of Pullman’s lawsuits a week later.) Then his artfully tousled head disappeared into a black S.U.V. and was gone.

Townsend did not seem at all downhearted by the verdict. She had honored her promise to her father, she told me, which was ��“to protect his intellectual property.” She’d embraced Sheeran in the courtroom after the verdict, and they’d chatted briefly. “ ‘All I ever wanted to do was talk to you about this,’ ” she said she’d told him. “ ‘I’m sorry it took all this to make that happen.’ ”

Townsend went on to say that Sheeran had offered her tickets to his upcoming concert at NRG Stadium, in Houston. She ended up declining the offer, opting to attend her grandson’s pre-K graduation instead. At the show, “Thinking Out Loud” came midway through. “Let’s Get It On” did not make the set list. ♦

Audio: Robin Thicke, T.I., and Pharrell Williams, “Blurred Lines” (Star Trak); Johnny Cash, “Folsom Prison Blues” (Sun Label Group); The Chiffons “He’s So Fine” (Capitol Records); Marvin Gaye, “Let’s Get It On” (Motown Record Company); Cory Daye, “Wiggle and Giggle All Night” (Featherbed Music); Tom Petty, “I Won’t Back Down” (MCA Records); George Harrison, “My Sweet Lord” (G.H. Estate); Gordon Jenkins, “Crescent City Blues” (Universal Music); Miguel Bosé, “Don Diablo” (Sony Music); Sami Switch, “Oh Why” (Sami Switch); The Gap Band, “Oops Upside Your Head” (One Media); Sam Smith, “Stay with Me” (Capitol Records); Paramore, “Misery Business” (Atlantic Recording); Ed Sheeran, “Shape of You” (Asylum Records); Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk” (Kobalt Music); Matt Cardle, “Amazing” (Columbia); Dua Lipa, “Levitating” (Warner Records UK); TLC, “No Scrubs” (LaFace Records); Katy Perry and Juicy J, “Dark Horse” (Capitol Records); Olivia Rodrigo, “Good 4 U” (Geffen Records); Ed Sheeran, “Photograph” (Asylum Records UK); Ed Sheeran, “Thinking Out Loud” (Asylum Records UK); Led Zeppelin, “Stairway to Heaven” (Mythgem); Marvin Gaye, “Got to Give It Up” (Motown Records); Flame, “Joyful Noise” (Cross Movement Records); Spirit, “Taurus” (Sony Music); Artikal Sound System, “Live Your Life” (Controlled Substance Sound Labs).

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

23 Celebrities Who Died in 2023: Remembering the Bright Stars

As we navigate through the journey of life, we are often touched by the talents and personalities of those in the public eye. Celebrities, with their unique abilities to entertain, inspire, and connect, often hold a special place in our hearts. In 2023, we bid farewell to a number of these remarkable individuals.

This article is a tribute to those celebrities who left us this year, honoring their contributions and remembering the joy and influence they brought into our lives. Their legacies continue to live on, reminding us of their impact and the timeless nature of their work.

Join us as we pay homage to these unforgettable personalities and reflect on their illustrious careers.

Burt Bacharach, 94

Esteemed six-time Grammy recipient and three-time Oscar awardee, Bacharach left an indelible imprint on pop music.

Bacharach, a renowned composer and pianist, is remembered for composing classics such as “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” for the film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Best that You Can Do” for the film “Arthur.” Both songs topped the charts.

Together with lyricist Hal David, the pair is recognized as one of the most accomplished songwriting teams. They are celebrated for their collaborations with Dionne Warwick, including hits like “Walk on By” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.”

Additional famous songs include “The Story of My Life” performed by Marty Robbins, and “Magic Moments” sung by Perry Como.

Bacharach passed away due to natural causes on February 8.

Jeff Beck, 78

Adored English guitarist from The Yardbirds, Beck spent a significant part of his career refining his style, drawing influence from blues to hard rock.

He is revered as one of the all-time greatest guitarists.

Both his contributions to The Yardbirds in the 1960s and his subsequent solo work earned him international recognition and respect among musicians and fans.

Beck received six Grammys for best rock instrumental performance and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice — initially with The Yardbirds and subsequently as a solo artist.

Beck passed away due to a bacterial meningitis infection on January 10.

Harry Belafonte, 96

Beloved musician, actor, and activist, Belafonte was adored globally for his diverse accomplishments.

He was not just an Emmy, Tony, and Grammy award winner, but also a tireless advocate for civil rights, working closely with his departed friends Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sidney Poitier.

His fame took off in 1954 with his Oscar-nominated role in “Carmen Jones” as Joe, paving the way for his impressive career in music and film.

His 1956 album “Calypso” sold millions, and he starred in numerous films like “Buck and the Preacher” (1972) and “Uptown Saturday Night” (1974) in subsequent years.

Belafonte, who actively participated in civil rights marches and voiced concerns about apartheid in South Africa, died of congestive heart failure on April 25.

Richard Belzer, 78

Since the early 1990s, Richard Belzer has been a staple in police procedural TV shows.

His portrayal of the witty detective John Munch on shows like “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “Law & Order” made him a staple. Unusually, his character Munch featured in shows across multiple networks.

Munch has appeared in 11 different TV shows, a first for a fictional character in television history. They include: “Homicide,” “Law & Order,” “The X-Files,” “The Beat,” “Law & Order: Trial By Jury,” “Arrested Development,” “The Wire,” “30 Rock,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

Before assuming the role of Munch, Belzer was a stand-up comedian and the warm-up act for “Saturday Night Live.” He also had a cameo role in “Scarface.”

Belzer passed away at his home in southern France on February 19 following “an illness.”

Robert Blake, 89

Blake spent a large part of his life in front of the camera. As a child actor, he was a part of the iconic “Little Rascals” series, playing the character Mickey.

Later, he starred as Little Beaver in the “Red Ryder” Western movie series, inspired by a popular comic strip.

In the 1950s, Blake made several guest appearances on TV shows before landing a pivotal role as murderer Perry Smith in the 1967 adaptation of Truman Capote’s true crime book, “In Cold Blood.”

Blake is perhaps best known for his role in the 1970s TV series “Baretta,” where he played a street-smart detective with a pet cockatoo named Fred, a role that won him an Emmy.

Notably, Blake’s personal life was shrouded in controversy as he faced charges for the 2001 murder of his wife, but was acquitted in a 2005 trial.

Blake passed away due to heart disease on March 9, as reported by the Associated Press.

Jim Brown

A legendary figure, lived a multifaceted life as a football icon, movie star, and social activist. His unwavering focus and drive made him one of the greatest football players in history. Despite playing in the NFL for only nine seasons, Brown left an indelible mark, shattering records as a running back, winning three MVP awards, and securing the NFL championship in 1964 with the Cleveland Browns.

After his remarkable retirement, he transitioned to the world of movies, starring in over 30 films, including notable works like “The Dirty Dozen,” “Three The Hard Way,” “He Got Game,” and “Any Given Sunday.” Throughout his life, Brown was also a prominent advocate for equality.

In 1967, he organized a gathering of influential Black athletes in support of Muhammad Ali’s stance against the Vietnam War, a meeting that included luminaries like Bill Russell and Lew Alcindor, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Jim Brown passed away at the age of 87 on May 18 from natural causes.

Paul Cattermole

A member of the English pop group S Club 7, brought joy to fans with his contributions to their music. Known for their hits like “Bring It All Back,” “Reach,” and “Don’t Stop Movin’,” the group achieved great success.

Earlier this year, it was announced that all seven original members would reunite for a tour in the UK, marking their first collective stage appearance since 2015.

Sadly, on April 6, Cattermole was found dead at his home, and the cause of death remains unknown. His untimely passing left a void in the hearts of fans who were eagerly anticipating the reunion.

David Crosby

An influential singer-songwriter, played a pivotal role in two iconic bands of the 1960s: The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

The Byrds gained popularity with their harmonized rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” which topped the U.S. singles chart in 1965, establishing them as America’s response to The Beatles. As a member of CSNY, their album “Déjà Vu” reached No. 1 in 1970, selling 7 million copies. Crosby’s musical contributions led to the sale of 35 million albums over his career.

However, his personal struggles with heavy drug use resulted in a nine-month prison sentence in 1985. Crosby passed away on January 18, and no specific cause of death was disclosed. He received the honor of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, leaving a lasting legacy.

Melinda Dillon

An actress known for her warm and motherly roles, graced the screen in some of the most beloved movies of all time. In Steven Spielberg’s iconic film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977), she portrayed a mother desperately searching for answers after her son’s abduction by aliens.

Her gentle features and soft voice made her performances resonate deeply with audiences, even in lighthearted films such as the comedy “A Christmas Story” (1983), where she played a mother raising two boys.

Dillon received critical acclaim, earning a Tony Award nomination in 1963 for her performance in the play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and two nominations for Best Supporting Actress in films. She passed away on January 9, and the cause of death was not disclosed.

Len Goodman

The esteemed head judge of “Dancing with the Stars,” brought his expertise and fair judgment to the popular dance competition for over 15 years and 30 seasons.

Known for his background as a champion ballroom dancer, Goodman’s critiques provided guidance to the novice stars as they attempted to master intricate dance routines alongside professional partners.

Additionally, he served as a judge on the UK version of the show, “Strictly Come Dancing,” from 2004 to 2016. Sadly, Len Goodman lost his battle with bone cancer and passed away on April 22. His presence and expertise on the show will be greatly missed.

Michael Lerner

A veteran character actor, left a lasting impression with his commanding voice and tough portrayals on screen. He delivered standout performances, such as playing a studio executive in the Coen brothers’ film “Barton Fink” (1991), which earned him an Academy Award nomination.

Lerner also portrayed legendary gambler Arnold Rothstein in “Eight Men Out” (1988) and a ruthless gangster in “Harlem Nights” (1989), alongside Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor. Michael Lerner passed away on April 8, and no specific cause of death was disclosed. Throughout his career, he showcased his versatility as an actor, leaving behind memorable contributions to the film industry.

Lisa Loring

Known for her portrayal of Wednesday Addams in the 1960s sitcom “The Addams Family,” became the original blueprint for the character who would be played by subsequent actresses in later adaptations.

Following her role as Wednesday, Loring starred alongside Phyllis Diller in the sitcom “The Pruitts of Southampton” and appeared in “As the World Turns” as Cricket Montgomery.

Her credits also included appearances in shows like “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Fantasy Island,” and “Barnaby Jones.” On January 28, Loring passed away due to complications from a stroke caused by high blood pressure. Her performances and contributions to television remain cherished by fans.

Lola Chantrelle Mitchell

Better known as Gangsta Boo, was a Memphis rapper and former member of Three 6 Mafia, playing a significant role in the “Dirty South” era of rap during the 1990s. After recording albums with Three 6 Mafia, she embarked on a solo career.

Her 1998 album, “Enquiring Minds,” featured the hit single “Where Dem Dollas At.” Gangsta Boo collaborated with prominent artists like Eminem, Gucci Mane, Run the Jewels, OutKast, Lil Wayne, Blood Orange, and Latto.

Tragically, she was found dead at her home in Memphis on January 1, and no official cause of death was provided. Her presence and contributions to the rap scene will be remembered by fans.

Lisa Marie Presley

Beloved daughter of Elvis and Priscilla Presley, spent her entire life in the spotlight. As a child, she was known worldwide as the daughter of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Following in her father’s footsteps, Lisa Marie pursued a music career, releasing three albums and even performing duets with her late father through the magic of technology.

She gained further attention through her marriage to Michael Jackson, making them a prominent couple for a brief period. Tragically, Lisa Marie’s life was marred by personal struggles, including the loss of her son, Benjamin, to suicide in 2020.

On January 12, she experienced cardiac arrest at her Calabasas home and passed away at the age of 54. Her presence in the entertainment industry and her enduring connection to Elvis will be remembered by fans worldwide.

Lance Reddick

Respected character actor, left a lasting impact with his notable performances in various TV shows and movies. He gained recognition for his portrayal of Lieutenant Cedric Daniels, a tough but fair character, in the acclaimed HBO series “The Wire.” Reddick also played Charon, the concierge of The Continental, in the popular “John Wick” franchise.

With his ice-cold looks and serious demeanor, he was well-suited for dramatic TV shows like “Fringe” and “Bosch,” as well as action films such as “Angel Has Fallen” and “Godzilla vs. Kong.” Lance Reddick passed away at his Los Angeles home on March 17 due to natural causes, leaving behind a legacy of memorable performances.

Andy Rourke

renowned as the bassist for the influential British rock band The Smiths, contributed to the creation of iconic music in the 1980s. His bass lines can be heard in hit songs like “This Charming Man” and “There is a Light That Never Goes Out.”

Following the band’s breakup in 1987, Rourke continued working with former bandmate Morrissey on his solo tracks, including notable songs like “Piccadilly Palare,” “Interesting Drug,” and “November Spawned a Monster.”

Sadly, Rourke lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on May 19 at the age of 59, leaving a lasting impact on the music industry.

Tom Sizemore

An actor known for his gritty and intense performances, left an indelible mark in the 1990s. With roles in films like “Natural Born Killers,” “Heat,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Black Hawk Down,” Sizemore captivated audiences with his ability to seamlessly transition between charming and unhinged characters.

However, his career was marred by personal struggles and drug addiction, which hindered his professional opportunities. Sizemore’s life became tabloid fodder, featuring incidents such as jail time for domestic violence and multiple drug-related arrests. On March 3, he passed away following a brain aneurysm that occurred on February 18 at the age of 61.

Jerry Springer

Controversial talk show host, became a prominent figure in daytime television during the late 1990s with his show, “Jerry Springer.” Known for featuring guests who often engaged in physical altercations on stage, the show captivated audiences with its taboo topics and outlandish guests.

Prior to his career in entertainment, Springer served as the mayor of Cincinnati from 1977 to 1978. “Jerry Springer” ran for 27 seasons and gained immense popularity, even surpassing “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in ratings. Springer peacefully passed away in his suburban Chicago home on April 27 at the age of 79, leaving behind a controversial but influential talk show legacy.

Ray Stevenson

An Irish actor, was known for his portrayal of larger-than-life characters. He played one of the Knights of the Round Table in Antoine Fuqua’s 2004 film “King Arthur” and landed the lead role as Frank Castle in the Marvel movie “Punisher: War Zone.” Stevenson also made appearances in the “Thor” and “Divergent” franchises.

His most recent role was as the villain Governor Scott Buxton in the globally successful film “RRR.” Additionally, Stevenson was set to portray a Jedi-turned-villain in the upcoming “Star Wars” series “Ahsoka” on Disney+. Sadly, on May 21, he passed away at the age of 58, with no specific cause of death provided.

Tina Turner

Widely regarded as the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, made an indelible impact on the music industry with her powerful singing and dynamic performances.

From her early years with ex-husband Ike Turner to her monumental comeback in the 1980s, Turner captivated audiences with her energetic stage presence. She also ventured into acting, starring in films like “Tommy” and “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” while a biographical film, “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” showcased her life story.

With 12 Grammy Awards, her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and being the first black artist and female to grace the cover of Rolling Stone, Tina Turner solidified her status as an icon. On May 24, Turner passed away at the age of 83, leaving behind a legacy of unforgettable hits and an enduring influence.

Raquel Welch

Known for her striking looks and strong-willed portrayals, became more than just a sex symbol, establishing herself as a formidable force in the entertainment industry. Her breakthrough role came in the 1966 sci-fi film “One Million Years B.C.,” where she gained instant fame as the poster image in a furry bikini.

Throughout her career, Welch starred in a range of movies, including “Bedazzled,” “Bandolero!,” and “The Three Musketeers,” for which she won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in 1973. Spanning over 50 years, her filmography showcased her comedic talent and fashion-forward style. On February 15, Welch passed away following a brief illness, according to her manager.

Annie Wersching

A talented actress, made notable contributions to various TV shows. Her roles included playing the Borg Queen in the second season of “Picard” and portraying serial killer Rosalind Dyer on “The Rookie.” Wersching’s appearances extended to shows like “Bosch,” “Timeless,” and “24,” where she played F.B.I. agent Renee Walker opposite Kiefer Sutherland.

Unfortunately, she succumbed to cancer on January 29, after being diagnosed with the illness in 2020. Her performances showcased her versatility and talent, leaving behind a body of work that will be remembered by fans.

Cindy Williams

Known as one half of TV comedy royalty alongside Penny Marshall, achieved fame for her role as Shirley in the late 1970s sitcom “Laverne & Shirley.”

Williams also starred in memorable films, including George Lucas’ “American Graffiti” (1973), where she played Ron Howard’s love interest, and Francis Ford Coppola’s acclaimed drama “The Conversation” (1974), where she portrayed Gene Hackman’s obsession.

With her comedic skills and chemistry with Penny Marshall, Williams left an indelible mark on television history. She passed away on January 25, with no specific cause of death disclosed.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Forbes profiles the new Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts

The renovated Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock is the centerpiece of a new Forbes travel review, in which the former Arkansas Arts Center is referred to as “the most inviting art museum in America.”

Travel contributor Chadd Scott has plenty of positive things to say about the museum’s collections and architecture. A couple of notes include:

The museology equivalent of an all-star game, if that all-star game included the best players from the 100 years spanning roughly 1860 to 1960.

Curators aren’t trying to put over their thesis work by highlighting obscure artists unfairly left out of the canon or niche movements, instead, they’ve brought familiarity and accessibility to what, for many, can be unfamiliar and intimidating spaces. But everyone can like and recognize a Monet. On the walls are names people have heard of.

The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts achieves a level of diversity in work on view for an historic museum that could only result from a complete reboot, which the renovation provided for. Black artists share equal footing with white artists. Native American, Asian American, Latin American artists receive more than token representation. Ryan RedCorn’s (Osage) monumental photograph of a Plains Cree mother and daughter just inside the gallery door makes a dramatic statement.

Women artists are equal to men.

For every white face represented staring back from the walls, there’s a Black face.


In addition to the Museum of Fine Arts, Scott goes on to brag on Little Rock’s other cultural attractions and the food and beer scene. Read the review at this link.

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