Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Elvis Presley’s crypt to be auctioned

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Site where Presley’s body lay until it was transferred to its current home at Graceland will be offered for sale

It may be almost 35 years since his death, but the cult of ‘the King’ lives on, and the sale of all things Elvis continues past the grave – or in this case, in the grave.

Not satisfied with walking through his Graceland mansion and ogling the gold taps in his private jet, the ultimate Elvis fan now has the chance to lie in his original resting place.

At an auction next month, the crypt where Presley’s body lay until it was transferred to Graceland will be offered for sale. Bidding will open at $100,000 (£64,000).

After Presley died in August 1977, a procession brought his body to the private mausoleum. The singer’s mother, Gladys, was disinterred and also laid to rest there, at the behest of Presley’s father, Vernon. Elvis and Gladys lay at Forest Hill for about two months, until the family received a permit to bury them in the meditation garden at Graceland.

Viewed from the outside, Presley’s original grave doesn’t look much different to the other VIP tombs at Forest Hill cemetery, in Memphis, Tennessee, but fans still leave wreaths and remembrances at the cast iron gates.

The site is Lot 796A of an upcoming sale by Julien’s Auctions, which also includes an x-ray of Presley’s hand and a letter from Michael Jackson to Elvis’s daughter, Lisa Marie – Jackson closes the letter, “Love, Turd”. Whoever wins the auction will receive the right to the burial vault, its opening and closing for a funeral, the use of a chapel for a committal service, and a memorial inscription.

“I just consider that if you’re an ultimate fan of Elvis Presley, it’s an opportunity,” Darren Julien, the auction house president, told the New York Times. “It’s definitely a conversation piece. Only one person can say, ‘Hey, I’m going to be buried where Elvis Presley was.’”

The auction will be held in Beverly Hills on 23 and 24 June.

Elvis PresleyTennesseePop and rockUnited StatesSean Michaelsguardian.co.uk 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Donna Summer: stars pay tribute to disco diva – video

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Bono, Quincy Jones, Macy Gray and Roberta Flack pay tribute to disco queen Donna Summer, who has died from cancer aged 63


RIP Donna Summer – the accidental gay icon | Paul Flynn

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Unlike modern stars, Summer never courted a gay audience but her transcendental disco was perfectly in tune with gay culture

Earlier this year rumours began to spread that Donna Summer was in negotiation to take the Sunday headlining spot at the summer music festival, Lovebox. The potential signing was symbolic. Sunday at Lovebox is “gay day”. Donna Summer’s relationship with her fulsome gay fan-base had been fractious ever since there had been rumours of ill-advised comments about the Aids crisis – comments, it should be said, that she denied ever having made.

In 2012, some 30 years later, the time seemed right for any forgiving or forgetting between the two. The possibility of her doing it to a cherry-picked soundtrack of her unimpeachable back catalogue in an east London park, in front of 10,000+ giddy local homosexuals still in thrall to her talent (if not necessarily her PR technique) felt like redemption.

Like her pop stardom, Summer’s early gay iconography was not something she hankered after. It was something she was presented with. She didn’t craft her ripe talent to a specific audience. It found her on account of it. In a post-Madonna pop universe it seems almost unthinkable that such a thing could happen, but Donna Summer was an accidental icon.

Something about the music she fashioned during disco’s supremacy – its poise, gravity and open sex content – touched a mass gay chord at gut level. When Diana Ross sang “I’m Coming Out” or “I Want Muscles” she did it with a sleek wink. She was sensationally market savvy. When Grace Jones recorded an album of growling show tunes to a disco score, its gay intent could not have been more succinct. When Donna Summer breathily intoned her climactic songbook, however, she did it under the tutorship of a hot-blooded heterosexual producer and his faithfully married lyricist in a sterile Munich hit factory. Neither Summer nor Giorgio Moroder nor Pete Belotte were children of the night. They were simply blessed with a divine ability to intuit how 3am under a mirror-ball in a Metropolitan gay nightclub ought to sound, at its most sublime and transcendental. I Feel Love is still it.

Little touches that traced Summer’s career breakout – Beverley’s campy, chiffon singalong to Love to Love You Baby in Abigail’s Party, the crisp guitar run of Hot Stuff that seemed to ridicule traditional rock posturing, the propulsive refrain “Toot, toot, beep, beep” – gave her a strange knowing, all the more poignant for not being designed for the gay market it touched hardest.

In the current pop climate, accessing a gay fanbase is seen as the first notch on the bedpost of future success. Just as junior hairdressers were back in Donna Summer’s imperial heyday, aspiring pop singers are now routinely instructed by their handlers that this isn’t the business for them if they have a problem with gay people. All the finest female solo artists of the last decade have been handed a copy of Grace Jones’ One Man Show and the mesmerising 80s Vogue documentary Paris Is Burning on their first day at diva school, both stone-cold gay classics.

Donna’s most obvious modern emotional successor Beyoncé – a beautiful, shy southern church girl with an uncanny ability to follow the rhythm of music and turn it into an approximation of pure sex – had to work hard to earn her righteous gay audience, including a spell under a drag-ish alter ego Sasha Fierce and a superb tribute to Summer herself, segueing one of her first hits Naughty Girl into Love to Love You Baby.

The great irony of Donna Summer’s career is that when she left Casablanca records, where she had fashioned peerless gay disco music with the assistance of straight men, she was signed by the most ostentatious gay man in showbusiness, David Geffen. Under this most secular of patrons she returned her most spiritual work. It is almost impossible not to look back at Donna’s incredible commercial and creative peaks as a motivational speech in how to do everything the wrong way round. Yet in this last accidental icon and her topsy turvy career something alchemical happened.

Gay men adored her. We continue to. Any potentially received betrayal that had occurred during her aggressive early 80s “god period” was felt only harder because we cared. Perhaps one aspect of her legacy, quite aside from the sensational music she made, will be this. Understanding gay culture, at its trashiest and most moving, is now required cultural reading for any pop performer with a keen eye on longevity. If it takes a fancy to you, the gay circuit will reward you again and again. None of these pre-fame lessons were at Summer’s disposal. It was the 70s, a time before huge attitudinal shifts in racism, sexism and homophobia. Some little part of the latter probably happened because of her unfortunate fall from the pedestal of gay idolatry. In some peculiarly moving way she actually opened a door. Rest in peace.

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Donna Summer’s death: pop mourns singer who transformed dance music

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Madonna and Elton John among those to pay tribute to artist who enjoyed string of hits including disco anthem I Feel Love

Donna Summer, the singer who perhaps more than any other defined the disco era, has died aged 63 of cancer.

Stars of the film and music industry paid tribute to the influential singer, whose tracks included I Feel Love and Hot Stuff.

The actor Liza Minelli said: “When you lose a friend you feel like they are gone forever … that is not true with my dear friend Donna. She was a queen, the Queen of disco, and we will be dancing to her music forever. My thoughts and prayers are with her family always.”

In a message posted on Facebook, Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran praised her legacy and in particular the influence of one track. “For me, there is no doubt that her song I Feel Love had a dramatic effect on modern music. It was certainly a key influence on my work with Duran Duran.” Along with producer Giorgio Moroder, she pioneered the use of electronic sequencers in dance music, Rhodes said. “Today that sound seems so familiar, but in 1977 it was a brave new frontier. It’s extremely rare that you hear one song that completely changes the way you perceive music. I Feel Love achieved that.”

Sir Elton John released a statement calling for broader recognition for the singer. “Her records sound as good today as they ever did,” he said. “That she has never been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame is a total disgrace, especially when I see the second-rate talent that has been inducted. She is a great friend to me and to the Elton John Aids Foundation and I will miss her greatly.” Kylie Minogue described her as “one of my earliest musical inspirations”.

Born LaDonna Adrian Gaines, Summer broke into the music business in her early 20s as a backing singer for Three Dog Night. Her first hit, Love to Love You Baby, reached the No 2 spot on the Billboard charts in 1976. The string of hit singles that followed – Could It Be Magic, Last Dance, Hot Stuff and, most notably, I Feel Love – revolutionised 1970s disco.

In an era of disco superstars that included Gloria Gaynor, the Bee Gees and the Village People, Summer stood out for a soulful delivery that expanded her appeal beyond the dancefloor. She scored her greatest successes with anthems of self-reliance and personal strength, her voice equally capable of fragility and defiant power. In the early 1980s, experiments with synthesizers and electronic drums carried Summer to new success. Her 1983 hit She Works Hard for the Money demonstrated that the queen of disco did not need a mirrorball to work her magic.

Summer’s acting career included a role in Thank God It’s Friday (1978), for which she performed her hit Last Dance. That song won Summer her first Grammy.

The singer Dionne Warwick expressed her sadness at losing a great performer and “dear friend”. Warwick said in a statement: “My heart goes out to her husband and her children. Prayers will be said to keep them strong.”

Madonna tweeted “rest in peace”, and linked to a video of herself performing a song inspired by Summer’s I Feel Love.

Summer had been living in Englewood, Florida. She had three daughters and four grandchildren. Her family released a statement saying they were “at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy”.

While Summer’s songs became gay anthems, her relationship with the gay community became strained when she became a born-again Christian. There was controversy when she was accused of making anti-gay comments in relation to the Aids epidemic; Summer allegedly said the disease was divine punishment for immoral behaviour. Summer denied making the comments, but was the target of a boycott. She later called the incident a “terrible misunderstanding” and asked for forgiveness.

Even as disco went out of vogue, her tracks remained a fixture in dance clubs. The depth of Summer’s stamp on the zeitgeist was illustrated in a Republican presidential debate earlier this year, when candidate Herman Cain quoted her in his closing statement. “A poet once said, ‘Life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it’s never easy when there’s so much on the line’.” The words are from The Power of One, which Summer recorded as the theme song for Pokémon: The Movie 2000.

I Feel Love changed everything

This record is unquestionably one of the most important records in the history of music as we know it today.

It was released in 1977, which is a year that’s supposed to be so important for punk, but along with Kraftwerk, it was this record that really changed everything.

The idea that dance music is about funk and about the groove was stripped away, and instead came something very robotic, this machine-like sound.

For a whole generation – for bands like the Human League – it was so important, and its influence on house music and techno and everything else that followed is immense.

I was asked to produce a record by a young pop star recently and the brief I was given was: “Make it sound like I Feel Love.”

The record was produced by Georgio Moroder, and really it was his vision. But Summer had a background in musicals – she took a role in Hair – and she had that amazing ability to lose herself on her records.

She played the part incredibly, so there’s no sense in which her contribution can be discounted. With that voice, you could never say she was just a vessel.

There are several other classic Donna Summer tunes: listen to the album Bad Girls, for instance. That still gets played, and tracks from it sampled and re-edited in clubs. Sure, she also made some bad records, and there were moments of controversy in her life – but after everything else, what does that matter? Joe Goddard

Joe Goddard is a member of Hot Chip

Donna SummerDance musicPop and rockUnited StatesFloridaTom McCarthyguardian.co.uk 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Donna Summer dies of cancer at 63

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Winner of five Grammy awards, disco queen had a string of hits in the 1970s, including Love to Love You Baby

Donna Summer, a singular vocal stylist whose string of disco hits spawned five Grammy awards and a following that has long outlived the genre, has died at age 63 of cancer.

Summer, a native of Dorchester, Massachusetts, died Thursday in Florida, according to the showbiz website TMZ, which first reported the news. A family statement later confirmed the death.

Born LaDonna Adrian Gaines, Summer broke into the music business in her early 20s as a backing singer for Three Dog Night. Her first hit, Love to Love You Baby, reached the No 2 spot on the Billboard charts in 1976. The string of hit singles that followed – Could It Be Magic, Last Dance, Hot Stuff and, most notably, I Feel Love – revolutionised 1970s disco.

In an era of disco superstars that included Gloria Gaynor, the BeeGees, and the Village People, Summer stood out for a soulful delivery that expanded her appeal beyond the dance floor. She scored her greatest successes with anthems of self-reliance and personal strength, her voice equally capable of fragility and defiant power.

In the early 80s, experiments with synthesizers and electronic drums carried Summer to new success. Her 1983 hit She Works Hard for the Money demonstrated that the queen of disco didn’t need a mirrored ball to work her magic.

Summer’s acting career included an appearance in Thank God It’s Friday (1978), for which she performed her hit Last Dance. That song won Summer her first Grammy.

In a message posted on Facebook, Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, paid tribute to her legacy and in particular the influence of one track. “For me, there is no doubt that her song I Feel Love had a dramatic effect on modern music. it was certainly a key influence on my work with Duran Duran.

“Together with producer Giorgio Moroder, Donna pioneered the use of electronic sequencers in dance music. Today that sound that seems so familiar, but in 1977, it was a brave new frontier. It’s extremely rare that you hear one song that completely changes the way you perceive music, I Feel Love, achieved that.”

Elton John released a statement calling for broader recognition for the singer.

“Her records sound as good today as they ever did,” he said. “That she has never been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame is a total disgrace especially when I see the second-rate talent that has been inducted. She is a great friend to me and to the Elton John Aids Foundation and I will miss her greatly.”

The singer Dionne Warwick expressed her sadness at losing a great performer and “dear friend.” Warwick said in a statement: “My heart goes out to her husband and her children. Prayers will be said to keep them strong.”

Madonna tweeted “rest in peace,” and linked to a video of herself performing a song inspired by Summer’s I Feel Love.

Summer had been living in Englewood, Florida. She had three daughters and four grandchildren. Her family released a statement Thursday saying they were “at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy”.

While Summer’s songs became gay anthems, her relationship with the gay community was strained when she became a born-again Christian. There was controversy when she was accused of making anti-gay comments in relation to the Aids epidemic; Summer allegedly said that the disease was divine punishment for immoral behavior. Summer denied making the comments, but was the target of a boycott. She later called the incident a “terrible misunderstanding” and asked for forgiveness.

Even as disco went out of vogue, her tracks remained a fixture in dance clubs, sampled and remixed into contemporary hits.

The depth of Summer’s stamp on the zeitgeist was illustrated in a US Republican presidential debate earlier this year, when candidate Herman Cain quoted her in his closing statement. “A poet once said, ‘life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it’s never easy when there’s so much on the line’.”

The words are from The Power of One, which Summer recorded as the theme song for Pokémon: The Movie 2000.

Donna SummerPop and rockUnited StatesFloridaTom McCarthyguardian.co.uk 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds