Warner Bros. Pictures announced on Aug. 19 that it has acquired the release rights to the Bruce Springsteen documentary Western Stars. The studio will release Western Stars, which is also the musician's directoral debut, in U.S. theaters this fall, following its world premiere at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival. The documentary, which was co-directed by Thom Zimny, features archival footage and personal narration, as well as the New Jersey rocker performing all 13 songs on Western Stars, his first studio album in five years and on which he is backed by a band and a full orchestra in his historic nearly 100-year-old barn. The first official trailer for the film was released on Aug. 19. The Western Stars doc is slated for an October 2019 release, though an exact date has yet to be announced. It comes on the heels of another Springsteen-centric Warner Bros. film, Blinded by the Light, which hit theaters Aug. 16. - The Hollywood Reporter, 8/19/19...... After Tony-nominated producer Matthew Weaver, who made his mark on Broadway with the "Rock of Ages" musical, acquired the stage rights to adapt Soul Train into a musical back in 2014, the production is eyeing an official 2021 debut in celebration of the iconic '70s TV dance show's 50th anniversary. The "Soul Train" musical will tell the personal story of late host Don Cornelius through more than 20 classic dance songs from the era as he crafts the famed show. Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson of The Roots, who is a four-time Grammy winner and author of Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of a Generation, has signed on as an executive producer. Cornelius' son Tony Cornelius, CSI creator Anthony E. Zuiker and Live Nation Urban president Shawn Gee will also executive produce the musical. Since its debut in 1971, Soul Train featured performances by R&B, pop, soul and hip-hop artists, in addition to occasional funk, jazz, disco and gospel performers, introducing new dance moves and styles on a weekly basis. The final episode was broadcast in 2006. In 2016, BET Networks acquired the Soul Train brand and is home to the annual Soul Train Awards, which honor the best in urban music and entertainment. BET also airs the period drama American Soul, based on the rise of Soul Train. The scripted original has been picked up for a second season by the network. - The Hollywood Reporter, 8/20/19...... The U.S. Department of Justice has sided with Led Zeppelin in a long-running copyright feud surrounding their iconic hit "Stairway To Heaven." The DOJ filed an amicus brief on Aug. 15 which supports the classic rock icons' claim that they didn't steal the "guitar line and melody" from an instrumental track called "Taurus" originally penned by late Spirit guitarist Randy California and which appeared on Spirit's 1968 debut album. The case was reopened when a San Francisco court subsequently ruled that an earlier trial should have heard the two songs, instead of having a jury making their ruling based on the musical score or sheet music which showed chords and scale. In its brief, the DOJ says that the initial trial judge was correct when he ruled that only the song's sheet music was subject to copyright protection, as the song itself was written before a 1972 law which protected sound recordings. They added that the contentious sections of the song are only worthy of protection if they sound identical. Earlier in August, Led Zeppelin's position was supported by such acts as Korn, Tool, Judas Priest, Linkin Park when they signed a brief in support of Led Zep. The case is scheduled to be re-heard in late September in San Francisco. - New Musical Express, 8/17/19...... David Bowie's son Duncan Jones has posted to Twitter the first photo of actor Johnny Flynn transformed into David Bowie for the upcoming Bowie biopic Stardust. In the first photo from production, Flynn is seen evoking a young Bowie as he sits in a diner while smoking a cigarette. As well as sporting shoulder-length blonde locks, Flynn wears a purple turtleneck jumper and black fedora. Stardust, announced earlier in 2019, sees Flynn portray Bowie as he heads to America in 1971 with struggling publicist Ron Oberman (Marc Maron), "only to be met with a world not yet ready for him." The trip reportedly inspired the creation of his famous Ziggy Stardust persona. Although Stardust is due in 2021, Jones and the rest of Bowie's family have distanced themselves entirely from the production. "Pretty certain nobody has been granted music rights for ANY biopic I would know," Jones previously posted on Twitter. "I'm not saying this movie is not happening. I honestly wouldn't know. I'm saying that as it stands, this movie won't have any of dad's music in it, & I can't imagine that changing. If you want to see a biopic without his music or the family's blessing, that's up to the audience," he added. An official release date for Stardust has not yet been announced. - New Musical Express, 8/20/19...... Paul Simon is supporting the efforts of environmentalists trying to reinvigorate a forest on the Hawaiian island of Maui by planting a tree during a ceremony on Aug. 16. According to a local paper, Simon visited Auwahi Forest Restoration Project with volunteers who are trying to revive plant life in the area and helped plant a lama tree, participating in chants with the group after a helicopter tour that he called "awe-inspiring" and "life-changing." Simon inserted the plant and a scroll into a hole before refilling the soil and speaking with group members. "To even sit with you guys and be in the same community is such a privilege," said Simon, a part-time resident of Maui. Simon also performed two environmental benefit concerts at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center earlier in the week that drew more than 8,000 attendees. He announced he plans to donate the proceeds to the Auwahi project and the Hawaii environmental group Kuaaina Ulu Auamo. - AP, 8/19/19...... Carlos Santana is among eight music acts just named to the inaugural Ambassadors Council for the House of Blues Music Forward Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the live entertainment/restaurant chain. The MFF offers free vocational training in the music industry to young people living in diverse and underserved communities. Each of the Ambassadors, which also includes Khalid, Benny Blanco, Martina McBride and the rock band Umphrey's McGee, will contribute to the cause by mentoring aspiring artists, speaking at educational workshops, donating funds from ticket sales and providing exclusive memorabilia for auction, among other things. - Billboard, 8/20/19...... Fans of Elvis Presley made their annual pilgrimage to the late King of Rock & Roll's grave at his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tenn., during the third week of August to participate in a vigil commemorating his death 42 years ago. The vigil was the cornerstone of Elvis Week, as silent mourners filed slowly past his resting place and the graves of his parents and grandmother in the Meditation Garden a Graceland. The vigil started on the evening of Aug. 15 and runs throughout the night into Aug. 16. Presley died on Aug. 16, 1977, and his Graceland attraction draws about 500,000 visitors annually. On Aug. 9, RCA/Legacy released Live 1969, an 11-disc set featuring 11 full shows from his sold-out run at Las Vegas's International Hotel that year. - AP, 8/16/19...... In other Elvis news, the streaming platform Netflix has added Presley to its roster of animated series. On Aug. 16, it announced it has ordered an adult animated show called Agent King, which imagines Elvis trading his white jumpsuit for a jet pack as he's inducted into a secret government spy program to help battle dark forces that threaten the country he loves -- all while holding down his day job as the most famous rock 'n' roll star on the planet. Agent King comes from Sony Pictures Animation, Sony Pictures TV and Authentic Brands Group. Presley's ex-wife Priscilla Presley and John Eddie will serve as co-creators and executive producers, and Archer veteran Mike Arnold will write and produce. "From the time Elvis was a young boy he always dreamed of being the superhero fighting crime and saving the world!" said Priscilla Presley, who was married to Elvis from 1967-73. "Agent King lets him do just that. My co-creator John Eddie and I are so excited to be working with Netflix and Sony Animation on this amazing project and getting the chance to show the world an Elvis they haven't seen before." - Billboard, 8/16/19...... Neil Young announced on his Archives website on Aug. 17 that "Rainbow of Colors," the first single from his upcoming album with Crazy Horse, will be released later in August. "Rainbow of Colors" will be featured on Colorado, Young's first new record with Crazy Horse since 2012's Psychedelic Pill. In the post, Young revealed that Colorado will arrive in October and feature "10 new songs ranging from around 3 minutes to over 13 minutes." Besides CD and digital versions of the record, there will also be a double vinyl release comprising three sides of music and a 7" exclusive single not on the album. Earlier in August, Young announced he was postponing all tour plans for the rest of the year to focus on a whopping 15 film projects including a documentary on the making of Colorado. - New Musical Express, 8/19/19...... Original Woodstock veteran Arlo Guthrie delivered a rendition of the iconic Bob Dylan anthem "The Times They Are a-Changin'" at the original site of the 1969 Woodstock festival on Aug. 15 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. Guthrie played an evening set atop the famous hill near the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, but said he also wanted to play at least one song near where the 1969 stage was located. Picking up a guitar, he sang the Dylan classic for a group of reporters gathered on the grass under the wilting afternoon sun. The Bethel Woods Center hosted a series of Woodstock events from Aug. 15 through Aug. 18, with concerts also by festival veterans like Carlos Santana and John Fogerty. "[Woodstock] was a great time," Guthrie told reporters, his long white hair flowing from a straw hat. "For me, the Woodstock festival was a celebratory end of an era. It was not the beginning of anything. It was the end of something, and it was an end of a very turbulent time that was also very wonderful." - AP, 8/16/19...... Elton John is defending Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle over their use of private jets, confirming on Aug. 20 that he personally shelled out for a private flight so the Duke and Duchess of Sussex could "maintain a high level of much-needed protection." Elton defended the pair against what he called "relentless and untrue assassinations on their character," after the couple faced intense criticism in the British tabloids for reportedly travelling on four private jets in 11 days, despite being outspoken advocates on environmental issues. Posting on Twitter, John said he ensured the flight was carbon neutral by making an "appropriate contribution" to a carbon footprint fund. "I am deeply distressed by today's distorted and malicious account in the press surrounding the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's private stay at my home in Nice last week," he wrote. "Prince Harry's mother, Diana Princess Of Wales was one of my dearest friends. I feel a profound sense of obligation to protect Harry and his family from the unnecessary press intrusion that contributed to Diana's untimely death," he added. Prince Harry has been vocal about the effects of environmental damage, writing on Instagram in July: "Only now are we starting to notice and understand the damage that we've been causing. With nearly 7.7 billion people inhabiting this Earth, every choice, every footprint, every action makes a difference." - New Musical Express, 8/20/19...... Motown legend Smokey Robinson participated in a "Soul Music Riff-Off" with Late Late Show host James Corden on the Aug. 14 episode of the CBS late night talk show. The segment opened with Corden sitting alone at his desk. He told the audience that he had recently watched Showtime's upcoming documentary Hitsville: The Making of Motown, which he praised. Corden then shared his controversial opinion that new soul music is better than the original stuff. "I'm talking Usher, Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill," Corden said. "I feel like new soul has a better sound." Smokey Robinson then walked onstage to challenge Corden's view. "I heard you've been telling people that modern soul music is better than classic soul music," said Robinson. "Classic soul music is my thing, man." Robinson soon challenged Corden to a classic soul vs. modern soul riff-off, with Corden performing Bruno Mars' "Finesse." Following the host's number, Robinson sang The Temptations' "Get Ready." The riff-off concluded with the two singing "My Girl" with the audience joining the singer, host and an a capella group. - The Hollywood Reporter, 8/15/19...... The Grateful Dead spinoff band Dead and Company have added a new string of fall tour dates on the East Coast, which will bring the legendary jam band to New York and Virginia in late October and November. The trek will kick off on Halloween (Oct. 31) with the first of two nights at Madison Square Garden in New York, followed by a Nov. 1 Madison Square Garden gig and then two nights at Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Va., on Nov. 8 and 9. Dead and Company is made up of Grateful Dead veterans guitarist/singer Bob Weir, drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, along with guitarist Oteil Burbridge, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and singer/guitarist John Mayer. - Billboard, 8/15/19...... Def Leppard debuted its new 12-show residency at Planet Hollywood's Zappos Theater in Las Vegas on Aug. 14. Frontman Joe Elliott, who was performing his first gig since turning 60, said that "legacy artists and great music doesn't have an age on it anymore, it's like fine wine, it doesn't matter." "And these songs are now appealing to young kids," he added, noting that he consistently gets commentary on his Planet Rock radio show from teenage fans who have discovered Def Leppard by raiding their parents' record collections. Indeed, the Aug. 14 show was attended by a multi-gen audience, which ranged from teens to seniors, who rocked through the band's almost two-hour long set. It was filled with big moments, including two songs that the band has never played before in concert: "Let Me Be the One" from 2002's X album and "We Belong" from 2015's Def Leppard; as well as "Have You Ever Been," which they hadn't played in 25 years. "We dug deep into our catalog and we're going back [as recent as] the latest album," Elliott says. "And songs from High 'n' Dry that we don't play on a regular basis, songs from Pyromania that we haven't played in decades, and a couple of songs we've never played at all," he added. In addition to Elliott, Def Leppard's current lineup includes one-handed drummer Rick Allen and guitarists Phil Collen, Rick Savage and Vivian Campbell. - Billboard, 8/15/19...... Judas Priest's Glenn Tipton has thanked fans and his bandmates for helping to raise $150,000 for his Parkinson's disease foundation. Fans have purchased special T-shirts to support the cause, which Tipton launched in 2018 after announcing he had been battling the condition for a decade. "I'd like to say a massive THANK YOU to everyone who bought The Glenn Tipton Parkinson's Foundation charity t-shirts throughout the various tour legs," Tipton wrote on Twitter. "I'd also like to thank [Judas Priest members] Rob, Ian, Richie, Scott and Andy -- the donations are building up nicely and that wouldn't have been possible without all the hard work from the guys in the band and the crew who went onstage every night and helped raise money for a great cause." Tipton says all proceeds from the foundation will benefit a pioneering new treatment called MR-guided focused ultrasound thalamotomy, which helps Parkinson's sufferers control their tremors. - WENN/Canoe.com, 8/16/19...... During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Aug. 16, Happy Days star Henry Winkler recalled how he once saved a suicidal teenager with a phone call. Winkler says he was shooting an episode of Happy Days when an Illinois state trooper asked him to help talk an aspiring actor down from a high-rise ledge he was planning to jump from. "The phone rings and they say, 'Henry, it's a call for you,'" Winkler recalled. "I walked over to the phone and the man said 'I'm sorry to bother you. I have a 17-year-old kid on the ledge. And he is threatening to jump off and he will only talk to you.' I don't know where I got the nerve to take the phone and start talking to this kid. I said, 'OK, what is your name. OK, John, how old are you? You're 17, you're on the ledge, why do you want to jump?' 'I wanna be an actor.'" Thinking quickly, Winkler asked the desperate teen to will him his record collection, prompting the 17 year old to step off the ledge. "(I said), 'If you get off the ledge, let's talk about acting I was 27 when I got the Fonz, John. I think you've got 10 good years to keep trying. How 'bout that? Will you do that? OK. Can I get back to rehearsing? Thank you.'" Winkler said he knows the teen survived -- because he never got his record collection. - WENN/Canoe.com, 8/16/19...... In tribute to the one year anniversary of the death of Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin on Aug. 16, 2018, the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation has created The Aretha Franklin Fund for Neuroendocrine Cancer Research, with the blessing of the family. "We wanted to create this fund so that those who wanted to honor Aretha's memory have a way to support the research," foundation CEO Gellerman said. Franklin, who was 76 years old, had pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer, which starts in the pancreas but is far different and much slower developing than the more common, aggressive type of pancreatic cancer known as adenocarcinoma. Franklin's kind is exceedingly rare: Neuroendocrine cancers comprise about 7% of cancers originating in the pancreas, according to the NTRF. Two of her doctors said the singing legend handled the diagnosis and treatment with grace -- and the grit to keep performing for years with a rare type of cancer. "As a person, she was extremely kind, she was respectful, she was funny -- she treated people like me and my team members as her friends," said Dr. Manisha Shah of Ohio State University. "There is no phone call that would end without her asking about us. Most of the time she would ask about us first. ... It's because who she was: She was really down-to-earth." Dr. Philip Agop Philip, a professor at Karmanos and Wayne State University, recalled how Aretha wanted to continue her life as normally -- and positively -- as possible. "She was full speed -- she wasn't even complaining," said Philip, who first saw Franklin in early 2011 and was her doctor of record at the time of her death. "That was different than what I expected... She never showed signs that she was close to thinking that she may give up... until the end, close to the end." - AP, 8/15/19...... Richard Gillis, a singer, songwriter and composer who worked for director Sam Peckinpah on the Western The Ballad of Cable Hogue, died on July 31 in Thousand Oaks, Calif., as a result of complications from a fall at his home in Toluca Lake. He was 80. For The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970), which featured an original score by Jerry Goldsmith, Mr. Gillis wrote music and/or lyrics for such songs as "Butterfly Mornings," "Tomorrow Is the Song I Sing" and "Wait for Me, Sunrise," performed by actors Stella Stevens and Jason Robards (both lip-synced in the Arizona-set, turn-of-the-century movie) and Mr. Gillis himself. Mr. Gillis also composed music, sang or acted in other films including Schlock (1973), directed by John Landis; A Boy and His Dog (1975); The Bees (1978); Demonoid (1980); and Pretty Woman (1990) and Frankie and Johnny (1991), both helmed by Garry Marshall. He also worked as an art director, set designer, prop master, etc. - The Hollywood Reporter, 8/15/19.
Actor/producer/director and counterculture icon Peter Fonda, best known for his role in the seminal 1969 road movie Easy Rider, died on Aug. 16 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 79, and his official cause of death was listed as respiratory failure due to lung cancer. Born on Feb. 23, 1939, in New York City, Fonda was the son of acting legend Henry Fonda and the younger brother of Jane Fonda. He was drawn to acting while still a boy, and was only 10 years old when his mother died of suicide in a mental hospital. He scored his first success playing the lead in a school production of "Harvey" as a student at the University of Omaha and made his Broadway debut in 1961 in "Blood Sweat and Stanley Poole." At first he played nondescript "squares" in such films as Tammy and the Doctor and The Victors (both 1963) and Lilith and The Young Lovers (both 1964). In 1966, he began cultivating a motorbike-riding "hippie" rebel image in The Wild Angels, followed the next year by the psychedelic The Trip, which was directed by Roger Corman and written by Jack Nicholson. This culminated in the phenomenally successful Easy Rider, in which he also produced and co-wrote with Dennis Hopper and author Terry Southern, in 1969. The movie, directed by Hopper, shook up the Hollywood establishment, reaped more than $41 million at the box office with a budget of less than $400,000, and earned Fonda and his co-writers a best screenplay Oscar nomination. In his 1998 autobiography, Don't Tell Dad: A Memoir, Fonda said that he got the idea for Easy Rider while staring at a poster for The Wild Angels: "It would be about the Duke and Jeffrey Hunter looking for Natalie Wood. I would be the Duke and (Dennis) Hopper would be my Ward Bond; America would be our Natalie Wood." In 1971, Fonda directed his first film, The Hired Hand, a lyrical western in which he also starred. But the astonishing career that some predicted for Fonda in the wake of Easy Rider never came to pass, and he developed a reputation for being "difficult and drug-addled" on-set. Later films include The Last Movie also in 1971, which was directed by his Easy Rider co-star Dennis Hopper, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974), Race With the Devil (1975), the Westworld sequel Futureworld (1976), Outlaw Blues (1977), and 1979's Wanda Nevada which he also directed and co-starred Henry Fonda and a young Brooke Shields. In 1994, his career was rejuvenated when he was cast in John Carpenter's $50 million Escape From L.A. and given the third screen credit (before Cliff Robertson as the president). Total redemption came in 1997 when he played the lead in Victor Nunez's critically acclaimed indie Ulee's Gold, playing a Florida beekeeper who must tangle with some criminals to protect his family. Fonda received an Oscar nomination for best actor, and a classy profile in the New York Times. But the Oscar eluded him (it went to Jack Nicholson for a much showier performance in As Good as It Gets). More recently, Fonda played Mephistopheles in the Nicolas Cage vehicle Ghost Rider and a biker once again in the John Travolta-Tim Allen comedy Wild Hogs. He also had a supporting role as a bounty hunter in the 2007 remake 3:10 to Yuma, and reunited with Cage in the 2015 Louisiana political drama The Runner, in which Fonda played the younger actor's father. Fonda's family confirmed his passing in a statement that stated the actor passed away peacefully surrounded by his family. "While we mourn the loss of this sweet and gracious man, we also wish for all to celebrate his indomitable spirit and love of life. In honor of Peter, please raise a glass to freedom," the Fonda family said. Jane Fonda also released a separate statement, calling Peter "my sweet-hearted baby brother" and "the talker of the family." "I have had beautiful alone time with him these last days. He went out laughing," she wrote. In addition to his actress daughter Bridget Fonda and her husband, film composer Danny Elfman, survivors include Fonda's third wife Margaret (Parky) DeVogelaere, whom he married in 2011; and son Justin, a cameraman, from his marriage to first wife Susan Brewer (as is Bridget). - Variety/CBS.com, 8/16/19.