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November 1, 2014

THE REAL MONSTERS

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Robin Thicke: Blue Eyed Soul Man Serenades With Smooth Moves

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Robin Thicke commands the stage like an old pro.

Just ask audiences who are flocking to see him during his co-headlining tour -- with Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson.

The platinum-selling blue-eyed soul crooner brought his show to New York City's Wamu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Good Friday (April 10) and didn't disappoint. From the moment he stepped on the stage to the tune of James Brown's groovy classic 'Superbad,' the sold-out crowd knew it was in for something worth its while. Without skipping a beat, Thicke – a budding showman – started off his set with three thumpers from his latest opus, 'Something Else,' evoking the musical spirit (and falsetto) of the late, great Marvin Gaye.

Where Are They Now: Motown 50th Anniversary

    Debarge -- Then
    The Jackson 5 singer Jermaine Jackson discovered and signed Tommy and Bobby DeBarge to Motown's Gordy label as part of the group Switch. Through them, he met their sister, Bunny, and brothers Randy, Marty and Eldra, who formed The DeBarges. They too were signed to the Gordy imprint in 1979. The family quartet became five when James DeBarge joined the foil on the 1982 album 'All This Love,' with the single of the same name becoming their biggest hit. Thanks to their first live appearance on 'Motown 25,' a successful opening spot on tour with Luther Vandross, and recording the title track 'Rhythm of the Night' for 'The Last Dragon' film, they became Motown's most popular group in the '80s. El became the breakout star and Berry Gordy changed the group's name to DeBarge featuring El DeBarge, and like Diana Ross with the Supremes, he left to pursue a solo career.

    Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

    Debarge –Now
    The DeBarge family's story post-'80s fame has been a sad one. Following El and Bunny's exit, DeBarge had trouble finding a hit. Despite notable appearances on Quincy Jones' 'Secret Garden' and Fourplay's 'After the Dance,' El (recently pictured with Chico on the left) didn't become the solo star Motown had hoped but instead has been in and out of legal trouble. After a battery of arrests for vandalism, drug possession, alleged domestic abuse, El was sentenced to two years in state prison for possession of crack cocaine on Oct. 28, 2008. Bobby and younger brother Chico served five years in prison for drug trafficking. James, who married Janet Jackson, suffered drug and alcohol abuse, as did Randy, Marty and Tommy all of whom reportedly have long-term health problems. Bobby tragically died in 1995, at age 39, from AIDS. Bunny, who also had problems with drugs, failed to sell records as a solo artist but now is a born-again Christian and records gospel music. She released a new autobiography 'The Kept Ones,' chronicling the rise and fall of the family group and even detailing other family demons.

    Getty Images | WireImage

    Zhane -- Then
    Zhané was composed of Jean Baylor and Renee Neufville, who met while studying music at Temple University. Their single 'Hey Mr. DJ' earned them a contract with Motown in 1994 during the dawn of the neo-soul movement. The duo's gold-certified debut 'Pronounced Jah-Nay' also included 'Groove Thang' and 'Sending My Love.' They continued making appearances on movie soundtracks and projects with Busta Rhymes, The Notorious B.I.G. and De La Soul. Their final album together, only their second, was 1997's 'Saturday Night,' which featured a hip hop-tinged cover of Billy Joel's 'For The Longest Time.'

    Retna

    Zhane --Now
    Though the duo has disbanded, both members remain very active performers. Nuefville has toured with jazz legend Roy Hargrove in the past. While Norris' debut solo album 'Testimony: My Life Story' was released in 2007 and is available for download on her website, www.JeanBaylor.com.

    Getty Images | WireImage

    Diana Ross --Then
    Forming a singing group with Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, while living in Detroit's Brewster-Douglass housing projects, proved the smartest decision that Diane 'Diana' Ross could have made. The girl group, The Supremes, was one of the top groups on Motown and introduced the world to the label's signature sound. Ross was the lead singer of the trio before leaving to embark on a solo career in 1969, and becoming one of the most successful singers of all time. In her heyday, she crossed over into film, television and Broadway, earning numerous accolades including a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her 1972 portrayal of jazz icon Billie Holiday in 'Lady Sings the Blues.'

    Amazon.com

    Diana Ross -- Now
    Turning 65 in 2009, Ross continues to headline performances around the world. Some of her noteworthy ones in 2008 include a headline-grabbing appearance at the Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Music Festival, the Divas with Heart charity event at Radio City Music Hall in New York, the Liverpool Pops Festival in England and the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Norway. In 2006, she released a new studio album of classic rock and soul standards called, 'I Love You.' Though it debuted at Number 32 on the pop charts, it went on to sell 100,000 copies. In 2007, the mother of five was presented with a BET Lifetime Achievement Award and also was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient. Having sold over 100 million records over her career, Ross continues to re-release some of her most popular material in expanded editions featuring bonus tracks and alternative versions of the songs. In a Motown poll, her 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' was voted the Number Two greatest Motown song of all time second only to Marvin Gaye's 'I Heard It Through the Grapevine.'

    Chris Jackson, Getty Images

    Stevie Wonder -Then
    The Miracles' Ronnie White can be credited with bringing Stevland Hardaway Morris in to Motown Records to meet its president Berry Gordy, who was so impressed that he signed the 11-year-old on the spot. But not before he changed Morris' name to Little Stevie Wonder. One year later, Wonder, who has been blind since infancy, had his first Number One single with 'Fingertips (Pt. 2)' in 1963. Not only did the Saginaw, Michigan native wow audiences with his ability to play the harmonica, bongos and sing vocals, but he stayed busy behind-the-scenes composing songs both for himself and his labelmates. Stevie independently recorded two albums before re-negotiating his Motown contract and was able to demand full creative control and the rights to his own songs before re-signing in 1972. His classic opus, 'Music of My Mind' followed and shortly thereafter 1976's 'Songs In The Key of Life,' two offerings that sealed his fate as a Motown legend. By the end of the '70s, he had garnered 15 Grammy Awards, among other accolades, and would forever be known as a musical genius.

    Amazon.com

    Stevie Wonder -Now
    Famous artists in every genre cite Stevie Wonder as a musical influence. In his lifetime, the 58-year-old has released 28 major studio releases and sold over 72 million albums. He's pulled in 30 Top 10 hits, 11 Number One singles, not to mention 19 Grammy Awards, numerous lifetime achievement accolades and an induction into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame. He was influential in making Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday, even penning a special 'Happy Birthday' song for the late civil rights activist. In 1978, Wonder purchased the Los Angeles radio station, KJLH (re-christening the call letters to meaning "Kindness, Joy, Love and Happiness." He's never been afraid to embrace new artists, performing alongside the likes of Alicia Keys, India.Arie, Kim Burrell and John Legend in recent years. His most recent album, 'A Time to Love,' was released in 2005, which was his first album of new material in ten years. He has been very supportive of President-elect Barack Obama -- performing at the Democratic National Convention and on various campaign stops. As if touring Europe doesn't keep him busy enough, he's also reportedly working on two new albums, a new gospel project, 'The Gospel Inspired By Lula,' and another spiritual offering titled 'Through the Eyes of Wonder.'

    Bradley Kanaris, Getty Images

    The Jackson 5 -Then
    Brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael formed their family singing group, The Jackson 5, in 1966. Motown executive Suzanne de Passe is credited with bringing the group to Motown. During their six years on the Detroit label, the Gary, Indiana natives were one of the biggest pop music groups of the the time. Their four singles, 'I Want You Back,' 'ABC,' 'The Love You Save,' and 'I'll Be There' all topped the pop charts and catapulted The Jackson 5 to crossover fame.

    AP

    The Jackson 5 -Now
    Joseph Jackson, the boys' father, was unhappy with Motown's refusal to update the band's image and allow them more creative control. He found The Jackson 5 a new deal at CBS Records. Shortly thereafter, Michael starred in 'The Wiz' alongside Diana Ross. The film was produced by Quincy Jones, who helmed production on Michael's blockbuster hit 'Off the Wall,' which sold 20 million albums. This marked Michael's end with The Jackson 5 and the beginning of his place as "The King of Pop." Jermaine and Jackie also had moderate fame with solo careers. The Jackson 5's last album, '2300 Jackson Street,' released in 1989, was recorded without Michael and had disappointing sales. A reunion tour has been stalled for years because Michael is rumored to not want to participate.

    FilmMagic.com


When he took to the piano, the 32-year-old balladeer proved to be more than just another smooth voice as he serenaded the masses with aural pleasure. Slow songs ('Love,' 'The Sweetest Love') juxtaposed with up-tempo fare ('All Night Long' 'My Sweet Baby') kept his show at a steady pace.

Before performing his atmospheric and haunting ballad 'Dreamworld,' Thicke talked of the tough time he had during the writing of the song and revealed how he found hope and inspiration in President Barack Obama. "I know we're a long way away from there but at least we have the right person in charge," he said.

Thicke's homage to R&B greats such as Al Green ('Let's Stay Together'), Michael Jackson ('Don't Stop Til You Get Enough') and DeBarge ('All This Love') proved to be crowd pleasers, while his rendition of slow jams by D'Angelo ('Brown Sugar') and Jodeci ('Come and Talk to Me') drove them wild.

His hour-plus long set culminated with Thicke's signature song, the spellbinding ballad 'Lost Without You,' which served as a great prelude to Hudson's masterful 50-minute set. (See Jawn Murray's review of Hudson in Washington D.C.)

Black Music Notes Mar. 19

    3/19/09: Rihanna / Chris Brown
    Contrary to previous claims that Rihanna and Chris Brown reunited in the studio last month to record a new duet, record producer Polow Da Don recently confirmed that the couple recorded the newly surfaced track last year. "The reports are inaccurate," Polow's publicist, Laura Wright, told US magazine. "The duet was recorded long before the incident." According to People, the track, reportedly titled 'Bad Girl,' was intended to be on the soundtrack for 'Confessions of a Shopaholic,' but the song was eventually recorded by the Pussycat Dolls.

    Frank Micelotta, Getty Images

    3/19/09: Kanye West / The Dream
    Seven years ago this month, music heavyweights R. Kelly and Jay-Z released their highly anticipated collaborative album 'The Best of Both Worlds.' Now it appears Kanye West and The Dream are vying to work on a similar project. "Everybody is trying to talk us into it," Dream told 'MTV News' of his and West's friends and business associates. "It was first thought of by me. I was in Miami at the time, and I gave Kanye a call and said, 'The best thing would be for me and you to do an album.'... Let's take the best of both worlds and put it on a CD and try to make something we can sell to the consumers. He says he's with it. We're gonna try to make it happen." For now, you can catch Kanye on Dream's potential third single 'Walking on the Moon,' which is featured on his newly released album 'Love vs. Money.'

    Getty Images

    3/19/09: The Miracles
    Legendary Motown group The Miracles is the latest musical act to receive a Hollywood star on the world-renowned Walk of Fame. The 'Ooo Baby, Baby' singers were presented with the 2,381st star on March 20 by Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, President and CEO Leron Gubler. Motown founder Berry Gordy and Stevie Wonder were also on hand as guest speakers for the ceremony.

    Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

    3/19/09: Chester Gregory
    After several years of blowing audiences away on the 'Great White Way,' Broadway Star and R&B soul recording artist Chester Gregory is preparing the release of his debut album 'In Search of High Love.' The March 31 release finds the multitalented singer introducing himself as a thoughtful and sensitive songwriter blessed with a voice that captivates and demands attention. "While I've thoroughly enjoyed performing on Broadway -- eight shows a week and telling other people's amazing stories -- now it's time for me to share my own," explained Gregory. Highlights of 'In Search of High Love' include the poetic 'Clouds to the Ground,' the crossover-bound 'Say it's Over' and Jackie Wilson's soaring 1967 chart-topper 'Higher and Higher.'

    Jemal Countess, WireImage

    3/19/09: Sammy Davis Jr.
    Altovise Davis, the widow of Rat Pack member Sammy Davis Jr. , recently died at the age of 65. Two days prior to her death, she was admitted to Los Angeles'Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after suffering a stroke. The couple, who met in 1967 on the set of the musical 'Golden Boy,' married in 1970 and remained together until Davis' untimely death of throat cancer in 1990.

    Evening Standard / Getty Images

    3/19/09: Earth, Wind & Fire
    Iconic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group Earth, Wind & Fire is set to hit the road this summer for a 30-city tour beginning June 5 in Orange Beach, AL. In addition to Maurice White and company gracing the stage will be pop-rock band Chicago, which will perform a full show before joining for a final set together, according to Billboard. The tour will conclude on Aug. 1 in Lake Tahoe, NV.

    Santiago Llanquin / AP

    3/19/09: Kim Burrell
    Gospel vocalist Kim Burrell is on deck to release her first new album in nine years titled 'No Ways Tired.' The project's title is inspired by gospel pioneer James Cleveland's classic of the same name. In addition to covering Cleveland's hit, Burrell also tapped other timeless classics including 'My Faith Looks Up to Thee,' 'What a Friend We Have in Jesus,' 'O Lamb of God,' and 'I Surrender All.' There are also a few originals. 'No Ways Tired' is set to hit stores April 7 via Shanachie Records.

    Zomba

    3/19/09: Mike Jones
    Despite being on hiatus since the release of his debut album 'Who Is Mike Jones?' Houston's own Mike Jones is ready to make his mark on the charts once again with the release of 'The Voice.' Jones' sophomore effort is packed with some of the industry's most talented artist including, Lil' Wayne, T-Pain, Devin the Dude, Hurricane Chris and Twista. He's had recent success with his latest single 'Next To You,' which is currently number 16 on Radio and Records Rhythmic charts. "For the past four years, I have been doing a lot of restructuring, getting this record right, making sure my business is right and more," Jones said of his hiatus. "Now, I am ready to finish what I started. I'm hoping my fans will feel 'The Voice' was worth the wait." Mike Jones 'The Voice' is due in stores April 28.

    Gilbert Carrasquillo, FilmMagic

    3/19/09: Prince
    With the recent announcement that Michael Jackson will return to the stage this summer, another influential artist is also planning to make his return. Beginning March 25, Prince will be performing on the 'Tonight Show with Jay Leno' for three consecutive nights. In addition, the 'Little Red Corvette' singer is also readying the Mar. 29 release of his two new albums 'LOtUSFLOW3R' and 'MPLSoUND.' Prince is the latest artist to promote a release through multiple late-night talk show performances. U2 also recently performed five nights in a row on the 'Late Show with David Letterman' in support of its new album 'No Line on the Horizon.'

    Kevin Winter, NCLR / Getty Images

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