Music News Digest, May 11, 2020

Choir! Choir! Choir! and Rufus Wainwright invites singers from around the world to help create an epic live video of the beloved Beatles song, Across The Universe. The open call asks singers to record themselves at home singing harmonies to the song. The submissions will be edited together into a piece featuring Wainwright on lead vocals. Choir! Choir! Choir! has uploaded two guide tracks as well as instructions on its website to help guide participants in recording their videos. Submissions are due by May 15.

– Canadian guitar star Liona Boyd is Sending Love In The Time Of Corona by way of a new single of that title available now. Proceeds from the song’s release go to the Unison Benevolent Fund to help support musicians and industry professionals.

– Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber have collaborated on a new song, Stuck with U, out via Def Jam/Republic/Universal. Proceeds from the track benefit the First Responders Children’s Foundation, which support children of paramedics, EMTs, police, firefighters, and healthcare workers. 

– Saturday's live-streamed edition of the Oshawa Music Awards named Crown Lands as Artist or Band of the Year, beating out the other finalists, Chastity and Robyn Ottolini. The episode featured Gordon Deppe of The Spoons joining the regular host, his bandmate Sandy Horne, and the pair premiered a new Spoons song and video, New Day New World.

– Without much advance fanfare, blues-rockers Big Sugar released a new album, Eternity Now, last Friday, via Universal Music Canada. Here’s its new single.

– Taco Pica, a popular Latin American restaurant and music venue in uptown Saint John, NB,  for 26 years has closed its doors, after 26 years. The restaurant hosted live shows for all different genres of music, from Spanish and Latin to rock/punk, and was known as one of the few venues in the city that hosted all-ages shows. Source: Huddle

– For many music lovers, the return of Bob Dylan has been a rare bright spot in a bleak year. On Thursday, for the third time during the pandemic, the bard released a surprise new single, False Prophet. He also announced the planned June 19 release of an upcoming full-length album, Rough and Rowdy Ways. On Dylan’s website, the album is listed for preorder as a two-LP and two-CD set - given the length of several of the album’s 10 tracks. This will be his first album of original material since 2012’s Tempest.

– Newfoundland country artist Justin Fancy made a mark on radio with his debut single, Long Time Comin’, in February. He returns with a second single, Think About You, and you can check it out here. 

– Much-heralded and prolific East Coast singer-songwriter David Myles released his 12th studio album, Leave Tonight, on May 8. Here's the title track.

– This week CIMA is hosting two members-only online (Zoom) roundtable discussions, entitled Navigating the World of Paid/Non-Paid Live-Streams, and hosted by Shauna De Cartier of Six Shooter. The first, on May 12, is sold out, and the second is on May 14, 4-5 pm. Register here

Obits

Andre Harrell, music mogul and founder of influential R&B and hip-hop label Uptown Records, has died, age 59. Details of his death are not yet known. Harrell's passing was first announced by DJ D-Nice on his Instagram Live early Saturday morning (May 9).

Raised in the Bronx, New York, Harrell started a career in music as half of the early-'80s hip-hop duo Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (with Alonzo Brown). The pair had a handful of minor hits on Billboard's Hot R&B Songs chart, but Harrell soon turned to work at record labels.

Hired by Def Jam, Harrell quickly worked his way up to vice president and general manager of the label, but left shortly thereafter to start his own New York City-based label: Uptown Records. The label quickly rose to preeminence in late-'80s hip-hop and R&B with early hits from rap group Heavy D & The Boyz, R&B singer Al B. Sure! and New Jack Swing outfit Guy -- the latter of which helped bring eventual super-producer Teddy Riley to stardom.

Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, later to be known as Diddy, started off at Uptown as an intern of Harrell's, and eventually worked there full-time as a talent director, where he helping develop '90s R&B megastars like Mary J. Blige and Jodeci.

Harrell fired him from Uptown in 1993, leading to Combs starting the famed Bad Boy label with friend The Notorious B.I.G. as his marquee artist.

The '90s saw MCA, Uptown's distribution partner, offer Harrell a multimedia deal, through which he executive produced the hit TV show New York Undercover and the 1991 film comedy Strictly Business. In 1993, the label also recorded the first-ever label showcase edition of MTV's very popular Unplugged series.

Harrell left Uptown in 1995 to become CEO of Motown, but he was fired in 1997. Harrell  was instrumental in kickstarting the career of a young Robin Thicke in the '00s, and in the early '10s launched Harrell Records, though the new label failed to produce hits or stars on the level of his earlier ventures.

Sean Combs recruited Harrell accepting a position as Vice Chairman of REVOLT, the music television network and multi-platform brand started by Combs in 2013. There, Harrell was responsible for the creation of the REVOLT Music Conference, which began in 2014 and lasted for a half-decade before being rebranded the REVOLT Hip-Hop Summit.

In December, it was announced that Harrell would be working with BET to bring the Uptown Records story to life as a 2020 three-night scripted miniseries. Source: Billboard

Betty Wright (born Bessie Regina Norris), a Grammy-winning soul singer, died on May 10, age 66. No cause of death has been reported.

Her singing career started by performing with the Echoes of Joy, her family’s gospel group in Miami. By the age of 15, she released her first solo album My First Time Around and had her first Top 40 song Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do.

Known for R&B classics such as Tonight Is the Night and No Pain, (No Gain), Wright’s ubiquitous 1972 single Clean Up Woman became part of hip hop soul history when it was sampled for the remix of Mary J. Blige’s Real Love.

Wright won a Grammy Award in 1974 for best R&B song, Where Is the Love?

Throughout the late 70s and early 80s, the singer-songwriter would continue releasing music and her 1988 hit No Pain, (No Gain) would be Wright’s last significant song on the charts in a career spanning five decades. She would continue performing, writing and producing, as well as being an active member of The Recording Academy.

In the 2000s, she co-produced the first two albums by young English soul singer Joss Stone.

A newer generation knew her from the Making the Band reality series, where she appeared as a vocal coach. In 2011, she partnered with The Roots for Betty Wright: The Movie. Sources: Essence, Heavy

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