Southern rock legend Gregg Allman, a soulful singer/songwriter and rock/blues pioneer who founded the Allman Brothers Band with his late older brother Duane Allman, died "peacefully in his sleep at his home in Savannah, Georgia" on May 27, according to a statement on his official website. He was 69. Allman had suffered many health problems in the past two decades, being diagnosed with hepatitis C in 1999 and undergoing a liver transplant in 2010. Duane Allman and his brother Gregg were born in Nashville, Tenn. -- Duane on Nov. 20, 1946 and Gegg a year later on Dec. 8, 1947. They had took up guitar in the early '60s, listened to much radio blues music, and formed the Allman Joys, playing gigs in their new home state of Florida as well as Georgia and Alabama. Toward the end of the decade, the brothers went to Los Angeles to try their luck, and became part of the Hourglass studio band, which cut two albums for Liberty Records though neither Gregg nor Duane were satisfied with the tapes. After the demise of Hourglass, Duane and Gregg returned to the south, and joined up with Butch Trucks' band the 31st of February on an occasional basis, and recording demos that were eventually released as the LP Duane and Gregg. It was Duane's personal reputation as a stellar sessionman that ultimately led to the formation of the Allman Brothers Band. He was invited by Rick Hall of Fame studios in Muscle Shoals, to take part in sessions there. His first assignment -- on Wilson Pickett's "Hey Jude" -- was so successful that he quickly became a fixture there, backing artists such as Aretha Franklin and Clarence Carter. It was while unsuccessfully trying to make Duane's own solo album that the 31st of February jammed with a band called The Second Coming (which contained Betts and bassist Berry Oakley) in Jacksonville, and they all created the sound Duane felt he was trying to achieve. Gregg was recalled from the west coast and the band -- Duane, Gregg, Betts, Oakley and Trucks -- was put together. A contract was provided by Phil Walden, Otis Redding's former manager who'd been impressed with the Allmans' session work in Muscle Shoals, who actually formed Capricorn Records for the band. After long rehearsals through the spring of 1969, the band moved to New York to record its debut album, The Allman Brothers Band. The twin guitar attack of Duane and Betts provided an early focal point of the band, which possessed a strong affinity for black music in general and blues in particular, and the debut won acclaim for its biting and inventive approach. The band began to attract serious attention and its second album, Idlewild South (1970), won good reviews, and its third album, which would be the biggest yet, was the live double-LP Live at Fillmore East, recorded in March 1971. It contained the superb blues workouts "Statesboro Blues" and "Stormy Monday," and by the time the album was released in July, the Allmans had played the venue five times, including headlining the bill on the closing weekend in June. On Oct. 29, 1971, not only the band, but the Macon music community and the outside world, were stunned by the death of 24-year-old Duane Allman in a motorcycle accident in the band's hometown of Macon, who during his short career had recorded many of the definitive solos in rock history. At the time, only three tracks for its 1972 double LP Eat a Peach had been recorded, but the others were determined to carry on, and regrouped behind Gregg and Betts. Eat a Peach became a massive U.S. seller. Towards the autumn of 1972 the band added Chuck Leavell on piano, and it was at this time when the new lineup began rehearsals for 1973's Brothers and Sisters when Berry Oakley was killed in similar circumstances to Duane, in the same area of Macon. Although the band's career had became blighted by a double tragedy, the Allman Brothers Band became the nation's No. 1 home-grown live attraction. Again they recovered, adding a former colleague of drummer Jaimoe's, Lamar Williams, to replace Oakley. By now, Bett's role in the band was becoming more prominent, and both Eat a Peach and Brothers and Sisters veered toward a soft-rock approach with strong country overtones -- as was demonstrated by Betts' classic instrumental "Jessica" from Brothers and Sisters. In 1974, Gregg undertook a U.S. tour under his own name with his own band, a year after releasing a formidable solo effort, Laid Back. Gregg released the album The Gregg Allman Tour from that tour, and the subsequent Allman Brothers album, Win, Lose or Draw (1975), sold well. By this time, Gregg was involved with an on-again, off-again marriage to Cher (they divorced in 1979), and they had a son, Elijah Blue, in 1977. Another blow to the group occured in 1976, when Gregg testified against Scooter Herring, his personal road manager, charged with dealing narcotics. Herring was subsequently sentenced to 75 years in prison, and Allman's action, the others said, betrayed the fraternal loyalty that had sustained them. They vowed never to work with him again. After Gregg's disastrous duet LP with Cher, he regrouped the Gregg Allman Band, with no help from any former Brothers, and put out Playin' Up a Storm in 1977. The following year, the Allman Brothers Band regrouped for the first time, and released Enightened Rogues, which went gold within two weeks of its release, in 1979. The group broke up again in 1980, and in 1987, Gregg released I'm No Angel, with its No. 49 title track. The Brothers regrouped yet again in 1989 with core members Allman, Betts, drummer Jai Johnny Johanson and Trucks, and took to the road again. In the 1990s Gregg finally won his struggles with heroin and alcohol, and tried his hand at acting, appearing in the film Rush and the syndicated series Superboy. In 1995, the Allman Brothers Band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and released another studio album, 2nd Set. "Gregg struggled with many health issues over the past several years," the statement on Allman's website said. "During that time, Gregg considered being on the road playing music with his brothers and solo band for his beloved fans, essential medicine for his soul. Playing music lifted him up and kept him going during the toughest of times." His longtime manager and close friend Michael Lehman said, "I have lost a dear friend and the world has lost a brilliant pioneer in music. He was a kind and gentle soul with the best laugh I ever heard. His love for his family and bandmates was passionate as was the love he had for his extraordinary fans. Gregg was an incredible partner and an even better friend. We will all miss him." Allman canceled a round of concert dates in 2016 but got back on the road briefly last fall, performing his last known shows at his own Laid Back Festivals in Denver on Sept. 25 and Atlanta on Oct. 29. He endured yet more heartbreak in January when Butch Trucks committed suicide at age 69. In March, he announced that he was canceling all shows in 2017 and offered refunds to fans. His last song on stage appears to have been "One Way Out." In addition to Elijah Blue, his survivors include his other children Michael, Devon, Delilah and Layla. - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock, Billboard, 5/27/17.
The estate of Michael Jackson issued a statement on May 22 saying two upcoming Jackson projects, Lifetime's Michael Jackson: Searching For Neverland and a Netflix project about Jackson told from the perspective of his pet monkey Bubbles, were not sanctioned by the estate. The statement also implied that litigation could follow what it is claiming is unauthorized use of Jackson's "music, images, video and films" that seek to exploit Jackson's legacy. Searching For Neverland, based on a 2014 book written by Jackson's bodyguards Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard, stars Jackson impersonator Navi as the late pop icon. Netflix is reportedly close to securing a $20 million deal for the Bubbles the chimp project, which will be a stop-animation feature. Jackson's estate also claimed it has "numerous project in development" which, according to them, "respect, honor and celebrate Michael's life and legacy." The executors said they were were not yet ready to announce these projects. - Billboard, 5/22/17...... Cher was honored with the prestigious Billboard Icon Award at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards in Los Angeles on May 21. Before being presented the award by Gwen Stefani who called her "truly the definition of an icon," Cher performed her 1999 chart-topper "Believe," dressed in an outfit that was basically a few strings of shimmery beads. "So, I've wanted to do what I do since I was four years-old," the 71-year-old pop great said as the crowd hooted their approval. "And I've been doing it for 53 years. That is not an applause thing, I'm 71 yesterday. And I can do a five-minute plank, okay? Just saying." Cher also thanked her mom, who she recalled told her when she was really young: "you're not going to be the smartest, you're not going to be the prettiest, you're not going to be the most talented, but you're going to be special." After a video montage of her astonishing, eclectic career, Cher returned to the stage, this time dressed in her vintage black motorcycle jacket, lace bodysuit, knee-high boots and huge curly wig, to perform her late '80s classic "If I Could Turn Back Time." Cher's son, Chaz Bono, was in the audience smiling the whole time. Previous Billboard Icon Award recipients include Celine Dion, Prince, Jennifer Lopez, Stevie Wonder and Neil Diamond. - Billboard, 5/22/17...... Roger Waters invited a cadre of friends, family, music industry execs and even radio contest winners to New Jersey's Meadowlands Arena on May 21 to witness a dress rehearsal for his upcoming Us & Them Tour. Backed by a six-piece band, the former Pink Floyd principal performed songs from such classic Floyd albums as The Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, Wish You Were Here and Animals, along with new material "Deja Vu" and "The Last Refugee" from his forthcoming solo LP, Is This the Life We Really Want?, out June 2. During the rehearsal, Waters riduculed US Pres. Donald Trump by showing doctored images of the 45th president in bright, Warhol-like colors depicting him with lipstick, with breasts, with a Klan hood, without pants (showing a tiny penis), with his head on a pig and with the word "charade" (referencing a lyric in the song) written over his face, during his performance of his former band's "Pigs (Three Different Ones)." A giant, flying, drone-controlled pig also flew around a giant screen with the words "welcome to the machine" written on it juxtaposed by an image of Trump with dollar signs over his eyes and a word bubble saying, "I won!." Waters' full, two-hours-plus tour gets underway on May 26 in Kansas City, Mo. - Billboard/New Musical Express, 5/22/17...... Todd Rundgren has released a new video, "Chance For Us," from his latest album White Knight. Rundgren co-wrote and recorded the soulful "Chance For Us" with Daryl Hall, rekindling a relationship that goes back to the 1974 Hall & Oates album War Babies, which Rundgren produced. "I had a track that sounded kind of old school and I sent it to Daryl and he wrote a song over it," Rundgren says, adding that he "wanted it to be like a lost episode of Live at Daryl's House," Hall's live concert series. Other collaborators on White Knight include Donald Fagen, Joe Walsh, Trent Reznor and Joe Satriani, among others. Rundgren wraps up his latest solo tour on June 10 in Syracuse, NY. He'll be on the road with Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band again this fall, but before that he's taking part in Yes' Yestifal tour, along with Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy. "I haven't been full-on prog for awhile," Rundgren says. "We're not currently set up to go full prog, but we'll probably keep all the guitar songs and maybe lose some of the R&B songs, I guess, to make it a little more proggy." - Billboard, 5/22/17...... A Minnesota judge ruled on May 19 that Prince's siblings will inherit his $200 million estate. Carver County district judge Kevin Eide decided that, since Prince did not make a will before his death in his Paisley Park home on Apr. 21, 2016, his heirs are his sister Tyka Nelson and five half-siblings -- Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson, John Nelson, Omarr Baker and Alfred Jackson. More than 45 people reportedly have filed claims to his estate, claiming to be his wife, children or other relatives. Judge Eide has said he will consider any cases sent to him by the appellate courts, and that Prince's assets won't be distributed in a way that might unfavorably affect any pending appeals. Meanwhile, in a new court filing, Prince estate administrator Comerica Bank recommended that a judge rescind the estate's $31 million deal with Universal Music Group for the licensing rights to the late icon's recorded-music catalog, due to possible overlap with rights that Prince's former label, Warner Bros. Records, might legitimately hold. A hearing to determine the fate of the controversial deal is set for May 31. - New Musical Express/Billboard, 5/19/17...... Ten years after the release of the successful Abba-based musical and film Mamma Mia!, studio execs are taking a chance on the sequel to the smash hit. Super troupers Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth are set to reprise their roles in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, with a fresh soundtrack of Abba songs, some of which did not make it in to the original. Abba members Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus will be executive producers on the new project, which will be written and directed by British filmmaker Ol Parker (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). Despite mixed reviews, the original Mamma Mia, which was based on a Broadway play, made $600 million worldwide, almost 12 times its budget. - BBC.com, 5/21/17...... In a new interview with the London Times, David Bowie's first wife Angie Bowie confirmed that she is still estranged from their son Zowie Bowie, who now prefers to be known as Duncan Jones. When the couple divorced in 1980, David was granted custody of Zowie, who remained in contact with his mother Angie until he reached the age of 13. However, they are not believed to have shared any kind of mother-son relationship since then. Asked if she had been in touch with Duncan since his father passed away in January 2016, Angie said, "My son? No, why should I be? I'm not interested. It stopped when my father changed his will to not include an educational trust for Zowie because David divorced me." "When my father did that I followed precedent. It's over. Nothing. Nothing to do with me," she added. Duncan Jones has established a career as a movie director with such films as Moon, Source Code and Warcraft. - NME, 5/22/17...... Queen guitarist Brian May has revealed to the London Sunday Times that his late bandmate Freddie Mercury had lost almost all of one of his feet to complications from AIDS by the time he died in 1991 at age 45. "The problem was actually his foot and, tragically there was very little left of it," May said. "Once, he showed it to us at dinner. And he said: Oh, Brian, I'm sorry I've upset you by showing you that. And I said, I'm not upset, Freddie, except to realize that you have to put up with so much terrible pain." May added that Mercury didn't live quite long enough to benefit from the "magic cocktail" of antiretroviral drugs that would come just months later and stop AIDS from becoming the life sentence it once was. "He missed by just a few months," May said regretfully. "If it had been a bit later, he would still have been with us, I'm sure." - PageSix.com, 5/22/17...... Sir Roger Moore, the suave English actor who is best known for playing James Bond after Sean Connery and a brief stint by George Lazenby and Simon Templar in The Saint TV series, passed away in Switzerland on May 23 after a "short but brave battle with cancer," his family tweeted. He was 89. "It is with a heavy heart that we must announce our loving father, Sir Roger Moore, has passed away today in Switzerland after a short but brave battle with cancer. The love with which he was surrounded in his final days was so great it cannot be quantified in words alone," the statement read. "We know our own love and admiration will be magnified many times over, across the world, by people who knew him for his films, his television shows and his passionate work for UNICEF which he considered to be his greatest achievement." The handsome Londoner, who portrayed Bond in seven films with a cartoonish, cheeky charm beginning in 1973 with Live and Let Die and probably for a bit too long, first made his reputation as a suave leading man on such television series as Maverick, The Saint and The Persuaders. Moore took on the guise of superspy 007 in Live and Let Die and stayed for The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983) and A View to a Kill (1985), which hit theaters when he was nearly 58. He said it was his choice to leave the franchise. His Bond was more of a charmer than a fighter, and the actor took on the role with a grain of salt, not to mention cigars as part of his contract, he reportedly was given unlimited Montecristos during production. "My personality is entirely different than previous Bonds. I'm not that cold-blooded killer type. Which is why I play it mostly for laughs," he once said. Moore also starred for six seasons as the slick Simon Templar, who makes a living stealing from crooks, in the popular 1962-69 series The Saint, which aired in the U.K. on ITV and in the U.S. on NBC (an international hit, it sold to more than 80 countries). Moore's family said that, in accordance with his wishes, a private funeral will be given in Monaco. - The Hollywood Reporter/WENN.com, 5/23/17...... Dina Merrill, the blonde and elegant actress whose aristocratic poise and willowy good looks earned her many film and TV roles, died of Lewy body dementia on May 22 at her home in East Hampton, N.Y. She was 93. After some TV work, Ms. Merrill's Hollywood breakthrough came in 1957 as a library reference clerk in Desk Set, a comedy that marked the eighth screen pairing of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Ms. Merrill then appeared in several made-for-TV films during the '60s and '70s and long after her acting career peaked, she remained a steadfast presence on the New York social scene, spending decades as a philanthropist and fundraiser for charities and often described as an exemplar of chic fashion and elegance. She was also an heiress of two enormous fortunes, the Hutton brokerage money and Post cereals. - The Washington Post, 5/23/17.