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Tuesday , January 31 2023

Pharrell, others want to talk about race – Blige encourages life with ‘no more drama’

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Musician Willie Nelson plays a guitar that was donated to the Library of Congress by Burl Ives, during a tour of items from Musical Division at the Library of Congress in Washington, Nov 17. Nelson is being honored as the new recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song and with him are his wife Annie D’Angelo (left), and son Lukas Nelson (right). (AP)
Musician Willie Nelson plays a guitar that was donated to the Library of Congress by Burl Ives, during a tour of items from Musical Division at the Library of Congress in Washington, Nov 17. Nelson is
being honored as the new recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song and with him are his wife Annie D’Angelo (left), and son Lukas Nelson (right). (AP)

NEW YORK, Nov 18, (AP): When Pharrell Williams signed up to perform at an all-star concert highlighting race relations in America, the multi-layered musician didn’t want to “have a kumbaya type-of-moment” onstage with his fellow performers, as he put it.

“That’s not what these communities need. They don’t need another song, they need action,” Williams said in an interview Monday. “And if that’s accompanied by music, that’s a beautiful thing.”

What came from that are two specials airing on A&E on Friday. The two-hour “Shining a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America” — which includes Bruce Springsteen, Smokey Robinson, Ed Sheeran, Sia and John Legend — will tape Wednesday at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. It will air at 8 pm Eastern on Friday.

“Shining a Light: Conversations on Race in America,” a one-hour special, will follow at 10 p.m. Eastern and includes conversations about racial inequality and violence in communities like Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.

Williams visited and taped a performance earlier this month at the South Carolina church where nine black parishioners were shot and killed on June 17.

“We feel like for the first time a major network was very generous and (was) open to the concept of there being a platform for people in communities to voice their opinions and talk about their stories,” said Williams, who was joined by Soledad O’Brien in Charleston, South Carolina. “Even if they agree or disagree, they have a platform to do it in an organized way.”

Alicia Keys performed in Baltimore, where protests and rioting followed in April after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died a week after he was injured in police custody. Legend visited the area where 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed last year in Ferguson and filmed a performance in St. Louis.


“I think A&E … and everybody wanted to do the show because they were looking at a clear groundswell of activism around Black Lives Matter, a clear heightened of awareness of the issue of the relationships between the black community and the police, and seeing so much unrest in the black community over the past couple years. They wanted to do something to bring people together,” Legend said Monday.

“My thought was that if we’re going to bring people together, we need to have real discussions and talk about the real pain and distrust that has been deeply rooted in the American culture and American history.”

Springsteen will perform “American Skin (41 Shots)” at Wednesday’s concert, while Sheeran will sing the Impressions’ “People Get Ready,” Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross” will be performed by Sia, and Legend will duet with Pink on Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free.”

R&B newcomer Andra Day will sing her song “Rise Up” with Nick Jonas, while Rhiannon Giddens will perform “Cry No More.”

“All these songs fit, and it doesn’t make a difference what generation they’re from, they’re all songs of conscience and they’re all done by artists who have a conscience,” executive producer Ken Ehrlich said.

Sting, Tom Morello, Zac Brown Band, Eric Church, Jamie Foxx, Tori Kelly, Miguel, Pink, Jill Scott, Aloe Blacc and Big Sean will also perform. Presenters include Morgan Freeman, Nicki Minaj, George Lopez, LL Cool J, Mario Lopez and former NFL players Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner.

Friday’s two-hour concert special on A&E will also air on HISTORY, Lifetime, H2, LMN and FYI, as well as on more than 130 iHeartMedia broadcast radio stations and AOL. The hour-long conversation on race following the concert will just air on A&E.

A&E said tickets for the concert sold out in three hours and raised more than $150,000 for the Fund for Progress on Race in America via The United Way Worldwide.

“I think musicians have a special role in society and artists have a special role,” Legend said. “I was with Harry Belafonte this weekend and he admonished us that artists are gatekeepers of the truth and we have a special ability to influence the culture.”

R&B star Mary J. Blige is hoping she can offer love and support to those who “are sitting in their car in traffic about to jump out and kill somebody or kill themselves” with a positive and inspirational radio show.

The singer, who launched “Real Talk” this month on Apple Music’s Beats 1 Radio, said she wants to motivate fans with her show — much like her songs have.

“So many people out there are hurting and there are so many people out there that need to be reached, and there are so many people I wish I could … give a word of encouragement to,” Blige said in an interview last week. “If I can reach somebody and say, ‘…You’re beautiful and I go through the same things, too, and right now I’m thinking the same thing’ — it means so much to them.”

Blige, 44, added that if she “could have had Michael Jackson on a radio station back then, or had Janet Jackson talk to me when I was growing up, it would have meant the world to me.”

Each episode of her show will be named after songs by Blige, whose hits include “Not Gon’ Cry”, “Real Love”, “Family Affair” and “No More Drama.”

Her first show, “My Life,” looked back at her groundbreaking 1994 sophomore album of the same name.

“It was special to me because I got a chance to express to people that didn’t know exactly what was happening during the making of the ‘My Life’ album and what I was dealing with,” said Blige, who was battling drug addiction at the time. “Although I’ve come a long way and I’ve recovered and I’m strong and no one’s going to hurt me again — or I would hope that no one hurts me again — just the feeling, just the nostalgia, just the memories are all very vivid and the same.”

Her next episode, debuting Saturday and called “Doubt,” will include Demi Lovato, the 23-year-old singer-actress who entered rehab in 2010 to deal with an eating disorder, self-mutilation and other issues.

“It’s really deep, it’s really heavy, but it’s really uplifting and inspiring. She speaks to a whole other generation that needs help, that’s committing suicide every single day,” Blige said. “Hopefully it helps someone.”

Jimmy Iovine, who encouraged Blige to do the show, said when he worked with the singer at Interscope Records he thought she would be a great TV talk-show host.

“She’s that girl. She’s very powerful at articulating her truth and making people feel very comfortable when they’re around her,” Iovine said in an interview. “I feel that she’s a natural for this and we love giving her the platform.”

On her show, Blige also tried to recreate her Beats 1 Radio commercial with Taraji P. Henson and Kerry Washington, which went viral after it debuted during the Emmy Awards in September. Blige said Washington was unavailable, but an episode with Henson will debut Dec. 6 (the show airs biweekly at 2 p.m. EST).

“We’re reminiscing and we’re going back to her life in D.C.,” Blige said of Henson, who stars on “Empire” on Fox. “We’re friends so it’s hilarious. We’re having a ball, and we got deep, too.”

Blige said more guests on her show will be announced at a later date. She said she’s hoping to score an interview with first lady Michelle Obama.

“I definitely want to do it with Michelle Obama — if she will have me,” Blige said. “That would be a dream come true.”

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