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Motown’s Smokey Robinson, Berry Gordy celebrated at pre-Grammy gala

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Motown's Smokey Robinson, Berry Gordy celebrated at pre-Grammy gala

Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy, the visionary creative duo behind the revolutionary Motown genre, saw their legacy play out onstage Friday at a pre-Grammy gala honoring their life’s work.

From Robinson’s “The Tracks of My Tears” to “My Girl” songs, Motown defined the 1960s and influenced scores of artists that followed.

Gordy’s now iconic Motown Records, which the 93-year-old founded in Detroit in 1959, also played a pivotal role in uniting Black and white music fans in a decade convulsed by racial divisions.

Robinson was only 17 years old when he was recruited to join the label, where the balladeer became a prolific songwriter and seminal figure of the early days of R&B and soul.

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“There had never been anything like Motown before Motown,” the now 82-year-old artist told AFP on the red carpet. “There will never be anything like Motown again.”

The star-studded gala that this year included Motown prodigy Stevie Wonder is an annual pre-Grammy tradition from MusiCares, the charitable wing of the Recording Academy that raises money to help musicians in need.

Friday marked the first time the show honored two artists, a decision MusiCares said was necessary to fete the two musical legends “of equal and parallel esteem.”

“Both loom so large in music, and their stories are so intertwined, that picking just one as the MusiCares Person Of The Year — an honor previously bestowed on Joni Mitchell, Quincy Jones, Aerosmith, and other luminaries — would be a half-measure,” the institution said.

‘Motown family’

Industry darlings turned out in full Motown swing with performers including the Four Tops, the Isley Brothers, Dionne Warwick, John Legend and Brandi Carlile.

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The Temptations opened the show with a rollicking rendition of their smash hit “The Way You Do The Things You Do” and later crooned “My Girl” as Gordy and Robinson flashed megawatt smiles and bopped along.

Sheryl Crow belted out Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” in a feathered, sparkling minidress, and Jimmie Allen performed “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” with Valerie Simpson, who co-wrote that hit, which Marvin Gaye and later Diana Ross made famous.

A trio of Best New Artist Grammy nominees — DOMi and JD Beck, Samara Joy, and Molly Tuttle — did a genre-bending medley of Motown classics.

“How in the world did I get to be in the Motown family? How in the world did I get a chance to have a catalog and be sitting here in front of my two amazing mentors?” said Lionel Richie in a heartfelt tribute.

“You guys mean the world to me,” he said before singing “Easy,” the beloved track he made famous with the Commodores in a performance that bought the room to its feet.

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Wonder had the room standing once again as he delivered a reggae-tinged version of “Tears of a Clown.”

“I wouldn’t be here” without Robinson and Gordy, said Wonder — the virtuoso and music luminary who auditioned for Motown at just 11 years old.

“I can never repay you,” he said. “Thank you, I love you, thank you, I love you.”

“We should write a song like that!”

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Bella Hadid’s sister lunches Palestinian film company to expose Israel

Bella Hadid’s sister lunches Palestinian film company to expose Israel

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Bella Hadid's sister lunches Palestinian film company to expose Israel

American supermodels Bella and Gigi Hadid’s sister, fashion designer and film producer Alana Hadid, has introduced a film production company to expose Israeli atrocities against Palestine to the world.

According to international media, Alana Hadid has incorporated her production company’s logo, which resembles a watermelon, with the flag of Palestine. Not only this, but she has also named her company ‘Watermelon Pictures.’

The report stated that under her production company, Alana Hadid will produce a documentary film based on the history of Israeli occupation and atrocities in Palestine, titled “Walled Off,” which will be released soon.

Teaser posts have been made on the official Instagram handle of Watermelon Pictures, showing the history of atrocities in Palestine and also showing how Israel has seized the lands of innocent Palestinians.

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A promo released by the production company revealed that now our production company will remain present in the field to expose Palestine’s case to the world.

We will present the story of Palestine with facts in our own style on every platform, the post said.

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‘Godzilla x Kong’ dominates North American box office for a second week

‘Godzilla x Kong’ dominates North American box office for a second week

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'Godzilla x Kong' dominates North American box office for a second week

Godzilla x Kong” extended its monstrous reign over the North American box office for a second weekend, according to estimates Sunday from industry watcher Exhibitor Relations.

The feature, which sees the enormous gorilla and reptilian giant set their differences aside and team up to save their species — and ours — took in $31.7 million over the weekend in the United States and Canada, according to the figures.

In second place with an estimated $10 million in ticket sales was action film “Monkey Man,” which British actor Dev Patel both directs and stars in.

The thriller, set in India, is “ultra-violent, driven by class differences, corruption and personal vengeance,” said analyst David A. Gross.

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“Foreign stories do not always work in North America; it’s working here,” he wrote, adding: “it’s going to be very profitable.” In third place was “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire,” which took in $9 million.

Co-written by Jason Reitman, whose father Ivan Reitman directed the first “Ghostbusters” in 1984, the film teams a new cadre of ghost catchers with the original cast as they take on a frightening deity trying to launch a new Ice Age.

In fourth place was the horror film “The First Omen,” an intrigue between the Catholic Church and the forces of evil. It grossed $8.4 million in North American cinemas.

Relegated to fifth place, “Kung Fu Panda 4,” Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s martial arts comedy, which earned $7.9 million.

Rounding out the top 10 were:

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“Dune: Part Two” ($7.2 million)

“Someone like you” ($3 million)

“Wicked Little Letters” ($1.6 million)

“Arthur the King” ($1.5 million)

“Immaculate” ($1.4 million) 

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In Nashville, preserving a Black neighborhood’s music legacy

In Nashville, preserving a Black neighborhood’s music legacy

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In Nashville, preserving a Black neighborhood's music legacy

 Country music capital Nashville was once also a hotbed of blues, rock and jazz, thanks to a historically Black neighborhood that brought then-budding greats like Jimi Hendrix to town.

But Jefferson Street’s vibrant community and its robust club scene faced mid-20th century decimation after the construction of an interstate highway slashed it in two, a classic tale of ruinous urban planning that all but extinguished the area’s rich musical legacy.

Lorenzo Washington, a lifelong Nashville resident who grew up in the area, has been vying to keep that history alive, operating a small museum out of his home that’s chock-full of music ephemera as well as records and maps exhibiting the district’s long-lost vitality.

“We had it all. We had banks, we had grocery stores, clothing stores, flower shops, ice cream parlors — just whatever you would need to survive as a community was right here on Jefferson Street,” the 81-year-old told AFP.

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He recalls a strip lined in revelers spilling out from supper clubs, speakeasies, dance halls, dives and pool rooms, a string of venues where on any given night you might catch stars from Hendrix to Etta James, Ray Charles to BB King.

“Everybody had fun on Jefferson Street,” Washington said with a wide smile, sporting a sharp blue suit jacket and felt hat. “That’s just the atmosphere that we had built.”

For decades Jefferson Street was a hotspot on the Chitlin’ Circuit, a network of venues where Black entertainers were welcome to perform in the era of racial segregation in the United States.

Hendrix arrived in the early 1960s, nabbing a residency at the Club Del Morocco and living in a Jefferson Street walk-up.

But the 1968 construction of Interstate 40, a major east-west thoroughfare, cut directly through the neighborhood, displacing more than a thousand Black residents and destroying the cultural and business district, triggering a severe economic decline.

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The clubs shuttered and all but one, Club Baron, was demolished.

Artists gravitated elsewhere — Memphis or Chicago, for example — and “the blues left Nashville,” said Washington.

“That was tragic to the city when we lost Black music,” he continued, saying the city was focused on its country scene and paid little attention to Jefferson Street.

“It was tragic to see our musical culture being split up like it was, the different artists and musicians just sort of scattered,” Washington said. “They went to wherever they could find work, or a record label, that would record them.”

“So it all left Nashville, and it was heartbreaking.”

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‘My part of town’

Washington is not a musician himself, but he did own a record shop throughout the 1970s and grew up surrounded by artists, his friends including Jefferson Street fixtures like Herbert Hunter and Marion James.

He moved back to the neighborhood in 2010, inspired by a newspaper article he’d seen in which a councilman friend of his said the only way to revitalize Jefferson Street was for Black folks to return and open businesses again.

“I need to move back to Jefferson Street — to my part of town,” Washington recalls thinking.

“And so that’s what I did.”

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Friends of his including the late James — Nashville’s “Queen of the Blues” — encouraged him to open the museum in a bid to “do more about keeping our legacy going.”

“They said you could be the curator. And I said, ‘The curator? Now what does a curator do?’” he remembers with an infectious chuckle. Well over a decade later, he says, “I’m still here on Jefferson Street representing the artists and musicians.”

Along with the museum, which officially opened in 2011, Washington operates a recording studio out of his home, along with a small performance space.

Washington was integral to ensuring the Club Baron — where then up-and-comer Hendrix lost a famous guitar duel to Nashville bluesman Johnny Jones — would get protection via designation as a local historic landmark.

The building now is owned by the local Elks Club, a fraternal order, and efforts are underway to begin hosting shows there once more.

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Today’s Nashville is “an aggressive city” compared to the city Washington knew growing up, he said, where high rollers call the shots.

“It’s sort of sad to see that all of this isn’t existing now,” Washington says, as he points out all the old haunts on a lot map hanging in his museum.

“My intention was to… encourage other businesses to move back to Jefferson Street, so we could pick up sort of where we left off at.”

“This little place has gotten attention,” Washington said. “There’s not a lot that’s going on publicly in this city that represents the Black community, and that’s what we’re representing.” “It’s not huge, but I can see growth.” 

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