Beloved TV and stage actress Florence Henderson, best known as the ever cheerful matriarch of the iconic '70s series The Brady Bunch, died unexpectedly of heart failure on Nov. 24 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was 82. Born on Feb. 14, 1934 in Dale, Indiana, Ms. Henderson got her first big break on Broadway when she was just 18 after being cast in a lead role in the seminal musical "Oklahoma!" before moving on to productions of "The Sound of Music," "The King and I" and "South Pacific." But it was her role as Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch, the innocent sitcom about a blended family, that made her a household name. The series, which aired from 1969 to 1974, returned to television in various forms again and again, including The Brady Bunch Hour in 1977, The Brady Girls Get Married in 1981 (a pilot to the short-lived Brady Brides series) and The Bradys in 1990. It was also seen endlessly in reruns. Ms. Henderson also joined the cast of the 1995 spoof The Brady Bunch Movie, playing Grandma Brady opposite Cheers star Shelley Long as Carol. Her 50+ year career in show business also included a stint as the first female guest host on The Tonight Show, and the release of a cookbook based on the cooking series Country Kitchen. Throughout her career, Ms. Henderson was also known for her philanthropy work, supporting causes including City of Hope and the House Ear Institute (she experienced sudden hearing loss in 1965, and underwent corrective surgery in both ears). In 2010, she competed on Dancing with Stars and was the fifth competitor to be voted off that season. She made a surprise appearance on the show this September, dressed up in character as Mrs. Brady, and was reportedly backstage when her fellow Brady Bunch actress Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia Brady in the series, competed on Dancing With the Stars on Nov. 21. Ms. Henderson, who is survived by two daughters, two sons and five grandchildren, died surrounded by family and friends, her manager, Kayla Pressman, said in a statement on Nov. 24. "Florence Henderson was a dear friend for so very many years & in my heart forever. Love & hugs to her family. I'll miss u dearly #RIPFlorence," Maureen McCormick tweeted on Nov. 25. - USA Today/AP/Huffington Post, 11/25/16.
Pres. Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor, to 21 groundbreaking musicians, actors, athletes, technological professionals, and others including '70s artists Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on Nov. 22. Prior to the ceremony, the White House appraised Bruce Springsteen's contribution to the nation by describing him as "a singer, songwriter, and bandleader (who) more than five decades ago... bought a guitar and learned how to make it talk." "Since then," the statement continued, "the stories he has told, in lyrics and epic live concert performances, have helped shape American music and have challenged us to realize the American dream." Other honorees include actors Robert De Niro, Robert Redford, Tom Hanks and Cicily Tyson, basketball greats Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and Michael Jordon, philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, comedian Ellen DeGeneres, Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels, broadcaster Vin Scully, and various scientists, educators and architects. Obama said the people receiving the medal all influenced him and his presidency in some way and "helped push America forward and inspired millions around the world." The Presidential Medal of Freedom recognizes especially meritorious contributions to the national interests of the United States, to its culture, or to other significant endeavors. - AP, 11/22/16...... "Hallelujah," perhaps the most well known song by late Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Leonard Cohen, has debuted on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart for the first time, at No. 59, following Cohen's death on Nov. 7. "Hallelujah" also entered Billboard's Digital Song Sales chart at No. 12 with 33,000 downloads sold in the week ending Nov. 17, according to Nielsen Music. It also drew 3.8 million U.S. streams in that period, a 279 percent increase. Cohen originally released the enduring anthem "Hallelujah" on his 1984 album Various Positions, and Jeff Buckley's 1994 cover of the song (itself inspired by a piano-led version by John Cale three years prior) and now considered by many to be the definitive take on the song, although it, too, wasn't a chart hit at the time and has yet to hit the Hot 100, although it has now appeared on the Digital Song Sales chart at No. 29. Cohen's most recent studio album, You Want It Darker, has also jumped from No. 48 to No. 7 on the Hot 200 albums chart, and his greatest hits album The Essential Leonard Cohen, has also debuted on the chart at No. 13 with 20,000 units and 11,000 albums sold. - Billboard, 11/21/16...... Released on Nov. 11, Pink Floyd's new massive 27-disc box set The Early Years 1965-1972 features unreleased outtakes and demos, TV appearances, seven hours of concert recordings, performances, interviews, over 20 unreleased songs, an updated version of their Zabriskie Point soundtrack and more. Fans have also discovered hidden tracks in the form of alternate mixes of the band's 1972 LP Meddle, inside the set's Blu-ray discs, although specialized software is needed in able to pull both the new stereo and 5.1 mixes of the album from the disc. The set charts the band's first seven years before their The Dark Side of the Moon commercial breakthrough, and also includes the song "Green Is The Colour," which was originally on their 1969 album Soundtrack From The Film More and recorded just after founding member Syd Barrett left the group. - NME, 11/19/16...... Sting was honored with an acheivement award during the American Music Awards in Los Angeles on Nov. 20. The former Police frontman also performed a medley of his hits during the show, starting with his recent single "Can't Stop Thinking About You" from his new album 57th and 9th and running through his Police-era classics "Message in a Bottle" and "Every Breath You Take." "American music lit the musical spark in my young mind," the 65-year-old Sting said while accepting his award. "This uniquely American experiment -- perhaps America's greatest and most influential export -- rock and roll." Sting has also notched his 11th solo Top 10 entry in the Billboard Hot 200 LP chart with 57th & 9th, at No. 9 with 28,000 units sold. Sting last hit the Hot 200 Top 10 with his 2010 album, Symphonicities. Meanwhile, Sting and Bruce Springsteen are slated to perform at the 2016 Rainforest Fund gala on Dec. 14 at New York's Carnegie Hall. - Billboard, 11/20/16...... Speaking of Bruce Springsteen, the Boss has announced he'll be hitting the road for another round of book signings for his just released memoir, Born to Run. The New Jersey rocker will launch a one-week tour beginning Nov. 28 at Books-A-Million in Chicago for a book tour that will stretch through Ohio (Cincinatti, 11/29), continue to Denver (11/30) and Austin, Tex. (12/1), and wind down at 2nd & Charles in Kennesaw, Georgia, on Dec. 2. All books will be pre-signed, and fans will be able to snap a photo with the 67-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member. Tickets for all shows went on sale on Nov. 22 on the artist's Facebook Events page. Meanwhile, Springsteen has weighed in on the "Hamilton" Broadway show controversy in which the cast of show took to the stage after their Nov. 18 curtain call to address Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who attended the show. "We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us," cast member Brandon Victor Dixon. Springsteen and his wife Pattie Scialfa posed for a selfie on Nov. 20 in front of the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City where "Hamilton" is being presented, with Scialfa writing "looking for VP elect Pence #freedomofspeech." E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt -- while not disagreeing with the statement -- took to Twitter the next day to say the cast chose an "inappropriate" time to make their stand, and instead was "bullying" the politician. "You don't single out an audience member and embarrass him from the stage. A terrible precedent to set," Van Zandt posted. - Billboard, 11/20/16...... A terse letter written by John Lennon to Paul and Linda McCartney shortly after the breakup of the Beatles sold at auction for nearly $30,000 during a sale on Nov. 17 conducted by Boston-based RR Auction. RR says the letter is believed to have been written in 1971 in response to criticism Lennon received from Linda McCartney about his decision to not publicly announce his departure from the band. Filled with profanity and sometimes rambling, the letter reads "Do you really think most of today's art came about because of the Beatles? I don't believe you're that insane -- Paul -- do you believe that? When you stop believing it you might wake up!" - AP, 11/21/16...... Bob Dylan, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature on Oct. 13 but won't be attending the prize ceremony, will likely travel to Stockholm next year and might give his Nobel Lecture then, the Nobel Prize's Swedish Academy announced on Nov. 18. Dylan likely will give a concert in the Swedish capital, offering "a perfect opportunity to deliver his lecture," according to the academy. Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the academy, told a Swedish radio station that the Nobel Foundation's rules for laureate lectures are "flexible." Dylan can deliver his as "a written speech, a spontaneous discourse, a film" or another format of his choosing, said Danius. Dylan, 75, has said he cannot attend the Dec. 10 prize ceremony due to pre-existing commitments that, according to his Facebook page, are of a personal nature. Details about who will accept the award on Dylan's behalf are still unclear. - AP, 11/18/16...... Queen guitarist Brian May announced on his Facebook page that the mother of late Queen frontman, Jer Bulsara, passed away peacefully in her sleep on Nov. 13 at age 94. May called Mrs. Bulsera, who he says he had known for 50 years, "a warm and devoted mum to Freddie and, like Freddie, always had a strong twinkle in the eye." Bulsara and Mercury had a close relationship until his untimely death aged 45 from complications arising from AIDS. Speaking of her relationship with her "dear boy," she once told the UK paper The Telegraph: "I often told him I didn't like his clothes and dresses, and tried to get him to cut his hair, but he would explain it was something you have to do when you are in the pop world and gradually I learnt to accept it." Meanwhile, a new Freddie Mercury documentary, Who Wants to Live Forever, debuted on UK TV on the fourth weekend of November on Channel 5. The in-depth film explores Mercury's life from the summer of 1985 at the Live AID concert to the spring of 1987, when he was diagnosed with HIV. 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Mercury, who passed on Nov. 24, 1991. - New Musical Express, 11/19/16...... As the Rolling Stones prepare to release a new album of blues classics and deep cuts covers, Blue & Lonesone, on Dec. 2, frontman Mick Jagger says an album of new, original material that the band was originally working on when they veered off toward a blues album is still on the docket, but it could take a while. "I was working on it quite recently," Jagger told Billboard/ "We've got a long way to go, but I think it sounds really great and I'm looking forward to carrying on with that." Jagger says he hopes they might return to the new songs in 2017, and guitarist Ronnie Wood has also predicted they'll be back in the studio "next year." Keith Richards, however, was less definitive: "Well, man, you know, I'm not Nostradamus," he quipped. Blue & Lonesone will be the British rockers' first studio LP since 2005's A Bigger Bang. Meanwhile, Jagger reportedly left a huge tip for the staff at the upscale New York Chinese restaurant Philippe Chow when he and his entourage recently visited the eatery. According to TMZ.com, Jagger reportedly left a $500 tip for a $478 bill, as he and his friends ordered a hardy meal -- including lettuce wraps, tuna tartare, chicken satays and green prawns -- for starters. The party then moved onto an order of Mr. Cheng's Noodles and Peking duck, before finishing with Baked Alaska for dessert. Eyewitnesses say Jagger ate his meal quickly and was very polite to staff. - Billboard/WENN.com 11/17/16...... The Ford Motor Company and UAW-Ford have announced a $6 million investment towards a planned expansion of the Motown Museum in Detroit. "We are thrilled to play a role in the next chapter of a global music icon," said Joe Hinrichs, president, The Americas, Ford Motor Company. "The enhanced museum will not only upgrade the visitor experience, it also fits with our commitment to investing in the cultural heritage of Detroit and southeast Michigan." The Motown Museum is located in the Hitsville U.S.A. house where record company founder Berry Gordy launched his music empire in 1959. Scores of classic hits were created there before the label moved to California in 1972. Ford's donation is part of a $50 million upgrade that will create a new Ford-branded theater, space for interactive exhibits and a recording studio at the tourist attraction. - Billboard/AP, 11/18/16...... In related news, Motown icon Smokey Robinson was honored with the prestigious Library of Congress' Gershwin Prize for Popular Song during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 16. "Gershwin music was always on in our house. So for me to be even mentioned in the same breath as the Gershwins is just unbelievable," Robinson said. Robinson also performed a soul-stirring concert at the DAR Constitution Hall, which was packed with some of the U.S.'s most powerful politicians. The event was taped and will air on PBS stations across the US on Feb. 10. - Billboard, 11/17/16...... Country songwriter Mentor Williams, best known for penning Dobie Gray's 1973 No. 5 smash "Drift Away," passed away from undisclosed causes on Nov. 16. He was 70. The brother of singer/songwriter/actor and ASCAP President Paul Williams, Mentor was also known for co-writing such tunes as Randy Travis and George Jones' "A Few Ole Country Boys" in 1990, and Alabama's 1984 hit "When We Make Love." His best-known song by far, however, was Gray's "Drift Away," which has been covered by everyone from Waylon Jennings to Rod Stewart, Michael Bolton, Ray Charles and Roy Orbison -- as well as Uncle Kracker, who returned the song to the Billboard Top 10 in 2003 with his No. 9-peaking, Gray-assisted cover. Williams, a longtime resident of Taos, NM, also worked with, recorded and produced a number of other artists, including Paul McCartney, Kim Carnes and his brother Paul, and served as a staff writer at Almo-Irving in the 1960s. He was also a producer for the A&M, MCA and Columbia Records labels, and had a romantic relationship with country singer Lynn Anderson from the 1980s until her death in 2015. "Mentor was a proud and grateful member (of ASCAP). He will be so missed," Paul Williams tweeted on Nov. 16. - Billboard, 11/17/16...... Canadian guitarist/songwriter Doug Edwards, a former guitarist with the bands Skylark and Chilliwak who penned Skylark's mega-hit "Wildflower," has died at his home in Vancouver after a long illness. He was 71. Born in Edmonton in 1946, Edwards moved to Victoria at age 15 and took up guitar and electric bass. He then moved to Vancouver and, within 18 months or so, was touring with the Fifth Dimension as their guitarist, appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show and opening for Frank Sinatra. In 1970, Edwards teamed with Dave Richardson, a Saanich police officer, to write "Wildflower," which became a gold record in Canada, went to No. 9 on the U.S. Billboard chart, and was covered by more than 75 artists from crooner Johnny Mathis to rapper Drake. "'Wildflower' is one of the most performed songs in the history of Canadian popular music," notes the website of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. "Wildflower" has also been used to treat female military personnel suffering from PTSD and sexual assault, and has been used to help suicidal addicts recover. Edwards, a session musician for six decades who underwent triple bypass heart surgery on Feb. 1 and then went into cancer treatment, also recorded or performed with Ann Mortifee and Olivia Newton-John, and on TV shows with Tom Jones, Paul Anka and Wolfman Jack.