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January 31, 2015

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Apollo Theater: Celebrating 75 in A Very Special Way

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The world's famous Apollo Theater returned to its former glory last night with a gala fete that brought out some of the biggest and brightest of the entertainment and business communities.

Celebrating its 75th Anniversary, the historic venue – widely recognized as one of the nation's greatest cultural treasures – hosted its annual spring gala with a three-hour-plus concert and awards gala. With Steve Harvey as the master of ceremonies, the event was jam packed with heartfelt tributes to Quincy Jones, Bill and Camille Cosby, and Patti LaBelle, tour-de-force performances from promising newcomers Chanj and Zaccheus Denwiddie, memorable speeches from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Coca Cola Company executive Ingrid Saunders Jones and surprise guests, which included Prince, Fantasia and The O'Jays.

Black Music Notes June 1

    6/1/09: Minnie Riperton
    A very fitting homage will be paid to late, great songbird Minnie Riperton when a new batch of the acclaimed TV One docu-series 'Unsung' hits the small screen this month. Best known for her signature ballad 'Lovin' You,' the Chicago-born singer/songwriter's career and life were cut short after a three-year battle with breast cancer in the late 1970s. After Riperton's cancer diagnosis, she went public instead of retreating, serving as a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. . She was only 31 years old when she died at the prime of her career. 'Unsung' premieres June 7 at 8 PM ET, repeating at 11 PM, as well as Thursday, June 11 at 10 PM and Friday, June 12 at noon and midnight.

    Wire Image

    6/1/09: Grace Jones
    The one and only Grace Jones has been tapped to perform live at the 'We Love' festival in Ibiza on Aug. 9. For the first time ever, the 'Pull Up To The Bumper' singer will grace the Spanish island's celebrated summer concert series, as part of the Wall Of Sound recording company's 15th anniversary. Last year, festival organizers bought The Chemical Brothers back to the Ibiza after a ten-year hiatus. This year, they are ready for Amazing Grace, who recently released a new music project titled 'Hurricane' on the United Kingdom based label. "We are putting on a line-up to inspire and one that will take all lucky enough to be there on a journey they will never ever forget," Wall of Sound founder Mark Jones said.

    Getty Images

    5/28/09: Chaka Khan
    Fresh from a headlining gig at the 2009 St Lucia Jazz Festival, Chaka Khan is ready to take on the nation's capital. The 10-time Grammy Award winning diva will fill in for previously announce headliner Natalie Cole, who is recovering from a live saving kidney transplant surgery, at 'The 18th Annual Capital Jazz Fest' running June 5 - June 7. The 'I Feel For You' chanteuse will join a slew of noted musical acts at the lovely wooded setting of Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. According to a spokesperson for the event, the line-up includes performances by Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten, George Duke, Al Jarreau, Lalah Hathaway, Fourplay, Norman Brown, Roy Ayers, Will Downing, Kirk Whalum, Pieces of a Dream with special guest Phil Perry, Guitars & Saxes (f/ Jeff Lorber, Euge Groove, Jeff Golub and lady saxophone newcomer Jessy J) , Regina Belle, Marion Meadows and trumpeter Joey Sommerville.

    AFP/Getty Images

    5/28/09: Grandmaster Flash
    Grandmaster Flash will be honored with the Living Legend award at the Urban Music Awards USA 2009, set to be held at New York City's Highline Ballroom on July 17. According to a spokesperson for the event, more than 175,000 music fans across the world have voted online for the hip hop veteran to receive the honor. "Flash is an absolute legend and he remains an inspiration to the hip hop culture all together by flying the flag from its inception to the success it has become today," said Jordan Kensington, who is the C.E.O of Invincible Group & Founder of the Urban Music Awards. Nominees for the inaugural awards show include Amy Winehouse, Rihanna, Bobby Valentino, M.I.A, Day 26, The Dream, Estelle, Kat de Luna, Akon, Kanye West, Keri Hilson, Ne-Yo and Eminem.

    Getty Images

    5/21/09: Jay-Z
    Despite stepping down from his Def Jam presidency in late 2007, hip hop mogul Jay-Z has finally left the label as an artist. Rumors started surfacing online that the platinum-selling lyricist, who owed the label one last album, brought himself out of his contract for $5 million. "I can honestly say, working with Doug Morris and LA Reid has been a unique and fulfilling experience and I respect them immensely," he revealed to hip hop site Rap Radar. "I've been in the family for almost my entire career. Doug and I spoke directly and had one of the most unique 'negotiations' ever...I thank him for allowing me to be a completely independent artist. Not every artist can say they own or are given the opportunity to own all of their music."

    Frank Micelott, Getty Images

    5/19/09: Mary J. Blige
    Mary J. Blige recently expanded her brand by signing with The William Morris Agency. According to Variety, the diversified entertainment agency, which also represents Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Kanye West, and Prince (to name a few), will assist the Queen of Hip Hop Soul in all areas of her career including the expansion of her entertainment company, Matriarch Entertainment. This fall the Queen of Hip Hop Soul will make her feature film debut in Tyler Perry's 'I Can Do Bad All by Myself,' scheduled to hit theaters September 11. She can be heard in the trailers for the Oprah Winfrey-presented drama 'Precious,' due out in November.

    Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

    5/19/09: The Dream
    Following in the veins of fellow hip hop stars DMX and Tupac Shakur, singer-songwriter The Dream is planning on releasing his second album of 2009 entitled, 'Love King.' The R&B crooner, who recently released his certified gold album 'Love vs. Money' in March, revealed to Billboard magazine that he already has seven songs in the can and expects the album to hit stores in December. "I have to pace myself 'cause there's so much time between here and then," he said, "but the seven records I do have are timeless records. Whether they come out now or later it's not really going to matter what kind of records they are." In between recording sessions for 'Love King,' fans can now catch The Dream on tour with Keyshia Cole.

    Getty Images

    5/19/09: The Whispers
    After releasing classic hits such as 'In The Mood' and 'Rock Steady,'R&B stalwarts The Whispers are set to release their first gospel album on Kingdom Records. Grammy Award-winning gospel star Fred Hammond is expected to produce a bulk of the tracks. "We've been wanting to do this for ten years," explained founding member Nick Caldwell. "God has been really, really good to the Whispers. He was looking out for us even when we were ignoring Him. He allowed us to live long enough to do this inspirational CD that we want to use to inspire people to get closer to God." The as-yet-untitled anticipated album is tentatively scheduled for release later this year.

    5/19/09: Mariah Carey
    On May 23, Mariah Carey is set to perform a one-hour set at the opening of the most expensive resort in Europe, The Mardan. Carey alongside legendary British soul singer Tom Jones will reportedly be paid £1 million each to perform at the exclusive £926 million Turkey development, which features five acres of fresh water swimming pools and a sunken aquarium. Actress Sharon Stone and Paul McCartney are among the many guests invited to the 560 room hotel opening.

    Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

    5/19/09: Will Downing
    Overcoming his bout with the muscle disorder Polymyositis, Will Downing has set the stage to release is latest musical offering, 'Classique.' The balladeer's 14th album and second Peak Records project features his signature baritone vocals over 10 smooth-sensual tracks. Vocalist Phil Perry joins the 'After Tonight' singer for Marvin Gaye penned 'Baby I'm for Real.' Other album highlights include 'Love Suggestions,' 'More Time,' 'Something Special' and Barry White's classic hit 'I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby.' 'Classique' hit stores June 16.

    Verve

Produced by Ron Weisner of Ron Weisner Entertainment, the show's musical director Ray Chew kept audience members delighted with a full orchestra capable of performing anything from big band standards to groovy R&B.

According to Apollo Theater Foundation President and CEO Jonelle Procope, the evening's festivities – which were sponsored by TV One, Belvedere Vodka, American Airlines and Coca Cola, among other major corporate entities, raised funds that exceeded its the organizations goal of $1.3 million. "As we celebrate our 75-year legacy, we are also enhancing our role as a center of artistic innovation, education, and discovery for the next 75 years," she said. "The artists we're honoring today provide irrefutable proof of the Apollo's continuing power as a transformative cultural force in America and around the world."

Some of the evening highlights:

- Steve Harvey cracking jokes about Apollo's chairman of the board Richard Parsons lack of humor during his lengthy introduction to Bloomberg.
- Award presenter Jamie Foxx doing impersonations of Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, Gayle King, Ray Charles and President Barack Obama.
- Award honoree Quincy Jones reminiscing of first coming to the Apollo theater in 1951 with Lionel Hampton at the age of 19.
- Fantasia jumping in the audience while performing an R&B medley including Aretha Franklin's 'Rock Steady,' Rufus featuring Chaka Khan's 'Tell Me Something Good' and Prince's 'Purple Rain'
- Award presenter Phylicia Rashad glowing as she presented Bill and Camille Cosby with the Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis Arts and Humanitarian Award.
- The stage going dark, dramatically, then when the lights rose: Prince appeared in tribute to Patti LaBelle, who he referred to as his sister, mother, cook, stylist and teacher.
- Mariah Carey tearing up as she introduced LaBelle, referring to her as a "headliner's headliner."
- LaBelle joining the band in singing 'If Only You Knew' after the end of her speech about being "no better than any other singer out there" and embracing her blessings.
- Harvey admitting to having a "punk ass moment" when he saw Prince standing in front of him – and then breaking out into song (Prince's 80s ballad 'Adore').
- The O'Jays closing out the show with a string of their hits, including 'For The Love of Money.'

"The Apollo Theater shares a unique relationship with everyone who walks through its doors-from the generations of stars whose careers were launched on our stage to our world-famous, international audience to the thousands in Harlem who are served by our programs," Parsons said. "With the support of businesses combined with commitments from civic-minded individuals, this milestone event will go far in helping to guarantee the future of the Apollo and its programs."

Black Music Notes June 1

    6/1/09: Minnie Riperton
    A very fitting homage will be paid to late, great songbird Minnie Riperton when a new batch of the acclaimed TV One docu-series 'Unsung' hits the small screen this month. Best known for her signature ballad 'Lovin' You,' the Chicago-born singer/songwriter's career and life were cut short after a three-year battle with breast cancer in the late 1970s. After Riperton's cancer diagnosis, she went public instead of retreating, serving as a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. . She was only 31 years old when she died at the prime of her career. 'Unsung' premieres June 7 at 8 PM ET, repeating at 11 PM, as well as Thursday, June 11 at 10 PM and Friday, June 12 at noon and midnight.

    Wire Image

    6/1/09: Grace Jones
    The one and only Grace Jones has been tapped to perform live at the 'We Love' festival in Ibiza on Aug. 9. For the first time ever, the 'Pull Up To The Bumper' singer will grace the Spanish island's celebrated summer concert series, as part of the Wall Of Sound recording company's 15th anniversary. Last year, festival organizers bought The Chemical Brothers back to the Ibiza after a ten-year hiatus. This year, they are ready for Amazing Grace, who recently released a new music project titled 'Hurricane' on the United Kingdom based label. "We are putting on a line-up to inspire and one that will take all lucky enough to be there on a journey they will never ever forget," Wall of Sound founder Mark Jones said.

    Getty Images

    5/28/09: Chaka Khan
    Fresh from a headlining gig at the 2009 St Lucia Jazz Festival, Chaka Khan is ready to take on the nation's capital. The 10-time Grammy Award winning diva will fill in for previously announce headliner Natalie Cole, who is recovering from a live saving kidney transplant surgery, at 'The 18th Annual Capital Jazz Fest' running June 5 - June 7. The 'I Feel For You' chanteuse will join a slew of noted musical acts at the lovely wooded setting of Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. According to a spokesperson for the event, the line-up includes performances by Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten, George Duke, Al Jarreau, Lalah Hathaway, Fourplay, Norman Brown, Roy Ayers, Will Downing, Kirk Whalum, Pieces of a Dream with special guest Phil Perry, Guitars & Saxes (f/ Jeff Lorber, Euge Groove, Jeff Golub and lady saxophone newcomer Jessy J) , Regina Belle, Marion Meadows and trumpeter Joey Sommerville.

    AFP/Getty Images

    5/28/09: Grandmaster Flash
    Grandmaster Flash will be honored with the Living Legend award at the Urban Music Awards USA 2009, set to be held at New York City's Highline Ballroom on July 17. According to a spokesperson for the event, more than 175,000 music fans across the world have voted online for the hip hop veteran to receive the honor. "Flash is an absolute legend and he remains an inspiration to the hip hop culture all together by flying the flag from its inception to the success it has become today," said Jordan Kensington, who is the C.E.O of Invincible Group & Founder of the Urban Music Awards. Nominees for the inaugural awards show include Amy Winehouse, Rihanna, Bobby Valentino, M.I.A, Day 26, The Dream, Estelle, Kat de Luna, Akon, Kanye West, Keri Hilson, Ne-Yo and Eminem.

    Getty Images

    5/21/09: Jay-Z
    Despite stepping down from his Def Jam presidency in late 2007, hip hop mogul Jay-Z has finally left the label as an artist. Rumors started surfacing online that the platinum-selling lyricist, who owed the label one last album, brought himself out of his contract for $5 million. "I can honestly say, working with Doug Morris and LA Reid has been a unique and fulfilling experience and I respect them immensely," he revealed to hip hop site Rap Radar. "I've been in the family for almost my entire career. Doug and I spoke directly and had one of the most unique 'negotiations' ever...I thank him for allowing me to be a completely independent artist. Not every artist can say they own or are given the opportunity to own all of their music."

    Frank Micelott, Getty Images

    5/19/09: Mary J. Blige
    Mary J. Blige recently expanded her brand by signing with The William Morris Agency. According to Variety, the diversified entertainment agency, which also represents Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Kanye West, and Prince (to name a few), will assist the Queen of Hip Hop Soul in all areas of her career including the expansion of her entertainment company, Matriarch Entertainment. This fall the Queen of Hip Hop Soul will make her feature film debut in Tyler Perry's 'I Can Do Bad All by Myself,' scheduled to hit theaters September 11. She can be heard in the trailers for the Oprah Winfrey-presented drama 'Precious,' due out in November.

    Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

    5/19/09: The Dream
    Following in the veins of fellow hip hop stars DMX and Tupac Shakur, singer-songwriter The Dream is planning on releasing his second album of 2009 entitled, 'Love King.' The R&B crooner, who recently released his certified gold album 'Love vs. Money' in March, revealed to Billboard magazine that he already has seven songs in the can and expects the album to hit stores in December. "I have to pace myself 'cause there's so much time between here and then," he said, "but the seven records I do have are timeless records. Whether they come out now or later it's not really going to matter what kind of records they are." In between recording sessions for 'Love King,' fans can now catch The Dream on tour with Keyshia Cole.

    Getty Images

    5/19/09: The Whispers
    After releasing classic hits such as 'In The Mood' and 'Rock Steady,'R&B stalwarts The Whispers are set to release their first gospel album on Kingdom Records. Grammy Award-winning gospel star Fred Hammond is expected to produce a bulk of the tracks. "We've been wanting to do this for ten years," explained founding member Nick Caldwell. "God has been really, really good to the Whispers. He was looking out for us even when we were ignoring Him. He allowed us to live long enough to do this inspirational CD that we want to use to inspire people to get closer to God." The as-yet-untitled anticipated album is tentatively scheduled for release later this year.

    5/19/09: Mariah Carey
    On May 23, Mariah Carey is set to perform a one-hour set at the opening of the most expensive resort in Europe, The Mardan. Carey alongside legendary British soul singer Tom Jones will reportedly be paid £1 million each to perform at the exclusive £926 million Turkey development, which features five acres of fresh water swimming pools and a sunken aquarium. Actress Sharon Stone and Paul McCartney are among the many guests invited to the 560 room hotel opening.

    Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

    5/19/09: Will Downing
    Overcoming his bout with the muscle disorder Polymyositis, Will Downing has set the stage to release is latest musical offering, 'Classique.' The balladeer's 14th album and second Peak Records project features his signature baritone vocals over 10 smooth-sensual tracks. Vocalist Phil Perry joins the 'After Tonight' singer for Marvin Gaye penned 'Baby I'm for Real.' Other album highlights include 'Love Suggestions,' 'More Time,' 'Something Special' and Barry White's classic hit 'I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby.' 'Classique' hit stores June 16.

    Verve

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