Are You Ready Boots?

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Fifty-one years ago, country singer Lee Hazlewood set out to record "a party song" he had written, but a 25-year-old female friend talked him out of it, convinced she should sing it instead.

That woman was Nancy Sinatra and the song, of course, was "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," which pranced all the way to No. 1 this week in 1966.

"When a guy sings it, the song sounds harsh and abusive," Sinatra told Hazlewood, who produced her signature hit. "But it's perfect for a little girl."

Later that year, Sinatra would follow up her first No. 1 single with another Hazlewood composition, "Sugar Town," which peaked at No. 5.

Sinatra's sweet stroll continued throughout 1967, when she sang the title theme of the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice" and collaborated with Hazlewood on two more noteworthy hits.

Their country duet, "Jackson," cracked the Top 20 pop chart and Hazlewood produced an even bigger duet for Sinatra and her famous father. "Somethin' Stupid" sat atop the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks in the spring of '67—the last No. 1 single for either Frank, who died at 82 in 1998, or Nancy, now 76.

By Kevin Haynes |

Pump It Up

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Elvis Costello is offering a grand tour of his refurbished "Imperial Bedroom" this summer.

The 62-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and his longtime band, the Imposters, will kick off a 20-stop nationwide swing June 4 in Berkeley, California. They'll turn out the lights July 25 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Costello will showcase "Imperial Bedroom," the 1982 album that featured songs like "Man Out of Time" and "Almost Blue" and was hailed as a "masterpiece" by Rolling Stone. But he stressed that he has freshened up the joint for its 25th anniversary celebration.

"Listen to our new arrangement of 'Tears Before Bedtime,'" advises Costello, who is currently playing his way through Europe. "It gets straight to the real meaning of that song, the way we hear and feel it today."

The rest of the show will explore the second half of the tour's title, "Imperial Bedroom & Other Chambers." Expect to hear "Alison," "Watching the Detectives" and a surprise or two from the vast catalog Costello has compiled in the 40 years since his debut album, 1977's "My Aim is True."

"You never know who or what you are going to encounter down the corridor to those 'Other Chambers,'" he says.

Click here to see the complete tour schedule and get pre-sale ticket information on Costello's website.

Photo by Steve Jennings/WireImage/Getty Images

By Kevin Haynes |

Getting 'The Final Word'

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In a new twist on Tom Sawyer attending his own funeral, Shirley MacLaine is laser-focused on getting a sneak peek at her obituary in "The Last Word," a cute comedy coming to theaters March 3.

The 82-year-old Oscar winner ("Terms of Endearment") and spiritualist plays Harriet Lauler, a wealthy control freak who convinces the local newspaper's obit writer (Amanda Seyfried) to get to work on the final summation of her life. "The thought of leaving my obituary to chance is completely unreasonable to me," she scoffs, providing a list of "a few hundred" people to contact for comment.

There's just one hitch: No one has anything nice to say, not even a priest. "I hated her," he says. "So much."

Or, as Seyfried's befuddled character points out, "She puts the bitch in obituary."

When the movie debuted last month at the Sundance Film Festival, Variety described it as a "crowd pleaser" that didn't measure up to some earlier Shirley MacLaine pictures like "Terms of Endearment" and "In Her Shoes." Still, the review added, watching Harriet "embrace her life, after spending too much time rejecting it, leads 'The Last Word' to a touching finish."

Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema

By Kevin Haynes |

Throwback: Roberta Flack

Roberta Flack

The success of Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song," which began its month-long run at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 exactly 44 years ago today, is almost as fascinating as the story behind it.

Composer Charles Fox and lyricist Norman Gimbel, whose best-known work includes the themes for "Happy Days" and "Laverne & Shirley," wrote the song.

Or did they?

In late 1971, the two were collaborating with a budding, 20-year-old singer-songwriter, Lori Lieberman. She claims "Killing Me Softly" sprang from a poem she wrote after seeing Don McLean perform at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. She was especially chilled by "Empty Chairs," a pensive ballad from the "American Pie" album.

But Gimbel says he got the idea for the song in the mid-'60s from a bar scene in Argentinean novelist Julio Cortazar's "Hopscotch." The protagonist listens quietly as the pianist tries to "kill us softly with some blues." Gimbel says that when he and Fox presented "Killing Me Softly" to then-girlfriend Lieberman for her 1972 debut album, she told them it reminded her of the night she saw McLean.

None of that really mattered to Flack. She heard Lieberman's version on an in-flight audio program and called Quincy Jones when she landed to see if he could arrange a meeting with the songwriters.

"Killing Me Softly," eventually bumped from No. 1 by the O'Jays "Love Train," recaptured the top spot for one more week on March 31, 1973.

It would go on to win the 1974 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, and Record of the Year, making Flack the first artist to win in that category two years in a row. (She won for "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" in 1973.)

"Killing Me Softly" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

By Kevin Haynes |

Ring-a-Ding-Ding!

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Frank Sinatra's infamous cold may be catching at HBO. The cable giant is reportedly interested in producing a movie based on one of the most acclaimed profiles in magazine history, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold," by Gay Talese. It appeared in Esquire in April 1966.

Hollywood insider David Bart says daughters Tina and Nancy Sinatra have also optioned film rights to the story and offered the screenplay assignment to Talese, 85, and Nick Pileggi, 84, who transformed his 1985 bestseller "Wiseguy" into Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas."

The lengthy magazine piece chronicled Talese's attempt to interview Sinatra on the cusp of his 50th birthday. The crooner backed out, however, complaining he wasn't feeling well. So Talese talked to a number of people in Sinatra's entourage and followed his every step around Los Angeles, shortly before the release of "Von Ryan's Express."

The portrait that emerged is now considered "a pioneering example of what came to be called New Journalism," says Esquire, "a work of rigorously faithful fact enlivened with the kind of vivid storytelling that had previously been reserved for fiction."

The profile is included in Talese's latest book, "High Notes," a collection of nonfiction stories spanning nearly 60 years.

Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

By Kevin Haynes |

'I'm Running Late'

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Three months after Leonard Cohen's death, a poignant new video for one of his final songs, "Traveling Light," serves as a fitting memorial to the singer-songwriter whose cagey wisdom enlightened audiences for 50 years.

The black-and-white video was co-created by Adam Cohen, the 44-year-old son of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, who was 82 when he died November 7.

Adam Cohen, who co-wrote "Traveling Light," splices together vintage clips of his father as a young man with family photos and home video to create a moving montage of poetry in motion. The song itself, a reflection on impending mortality, is preceded by a brief scene of Cohen lounging on a balcony as he discusses his failing health. "I feel a lot stronger," he says, "but I'm actually a lot weaker."

The self-assessment segues into the four-minute ballad from Cohen's last album, "You Want It Darker," which was released less than three weeks before he died.

"I'm traveling light/It's au revoir," he talk/sings in that familiar craggy voice as the lyrics fade in and out on screen. "My once so bright, my fallen star/I'm running late, they'll close the bar/I used to play one mean guitar."

By Kevin Haynes |

King of Comedy

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Netflix continues to cement its reputation as a stand-up service. Louis CK will headline two comedy specials for the streaming behemoth, starting with "2017," which will debut on April 4.

The second stand-up special is in the works, but no details have been announced.

"2017" was filmed during Louis CK's four-night stand last month in Washington, D.C.

The 49-year-old comic joins the growing roster of big-name comedians who've signed lucrative deals with Netflix. Jerry Seinfeld recently agreed to move his online series "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" to Netflix from Crackle later this year. He'll also produce two stand-up specials and develop "scripted and non-scripted" series down the road.

Last fall, Chris Rock scored a record $20 million—each—for two stand-up programs that will stream sometime this year.

Other comedians on Netflix's payroll include "Saturday Night Live" alumni Dana Carvey and Colin Quinn as well as Aziz Ansari, Cedric the Entertainer, David Cross, Chelsea Handler, Patton Oswalt and Chris Tucker.

By Kevin Haynes |

I'm Sorry

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Remember when Sinead O'Connor said on Facebook that Arsenio Hall was Prince's personal drug dealer?

She takes it back.

"I apologize for my Facebook posts," the 50-year-old Irish singer says now, clearing the air for "anyone who thought I was accusing him of acting as Prince's drug dealer and supplying him with illegal hard drugs, or insinuating that Arsenio had something to do with Prince's death."

"I sincerely apologize because those statements would be false," O'Connor added, "and I retract them unequivocally."

Shortly after Prince died last spring, O'Connor wrote two lengthy posts on her Facebook page calling Prince a "long time hard drug user" and characterizing Hall as "Prince's and Eddie Murphy's bitch." She also claimed the former talk show host once "spiked" a joint that he gave her to smoke at a party, causing her body to "melt into a dead weight." Those posts have since been deleted.

The apology comes 10 months after Hall sued O'Connor for defamation, requesting $5 million.

Now that she has apologized, the comedian's lawyers reported, the suit has been dropped.

By Kevin Haynes |

Who'll Love Aladdin Sane?

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If David Bowie fans in his native England get their wish, lightning will soon strike London in a big way.

A crowdfunding campaign hopes to raise $1.2 million to erect a three-story red and blue lightning bolt reminiscent of the one painted on Bowie's face on his iconic 1973 album, "Aladdin Sane."

The stainless steel memorial—"at once completely out there and utterly down to earth"—would be located blocks away from Bowie's birthplace in the Brixton district of London, "smack-bang-opposite Brixton tube," a busy subway station.

"In the morning, the rising sun will shine directly on the structure, welcome respite for all us commuters," says the campaign's mission statement. "Standing across the road from the equally famous Electric Avenue, the memorial will be a defining part of this most iconic neighbourhood."

Anyone who contributes $25 or more will have their name listed on a "supporter roll of fame" on the David Bowie Memorial website. Other incentives range from an enamel badge to a polo shirt, all emblazoned with the lightning bolt logo.

By Kevin Haynes |

Author! Author!

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Tom Hanks' creative energy has found yet another impressive outlet: The 60-year-old star is making his debut as a short-story writer.

In the wake of winning two Best Actor Oscars, picking up seven Emmy Awards for directing and producing TV miniseries and getting a Tony Award nomination for his only Broadway role, Hanks has written his first book,"Uncommon Type: Some Stories," due out October 24.

The collection features 17 fictional tales, each involving a different typewriter, the old-school apparatus that Hanks has been collecting for years. Ironically, he wrote most of the stories on a computer.

"I wrote notes and a few pages on an actual typewriter," he tells Entertainment Weekly in an email Q&A. "But come on, for the heavy duty work, it was laptop all the way."

The stories were inspired, Hanks says, by the "smallest, most distant of memories as well as those haunting questions about why things come about."

No word yet on whether he has a secret ambition to sing.

By Kevin Haynes |

David Cassidy's Sad News

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After forgetting lyrics to his best-known songs during a weekend concert in California, former teen idol David Cassidy has made a startling admission: He's been diagnosed with dementia.

The 66-year-old "I Think I Love You" singer, who catapulted to fame on "The Partridge Family" in 1970, says he will retire from touring immediately. "I want to focus on what I am, who I am and how I've been without any distraction," Cassidy tells People magazine. "I want to love. I want to enjoy life."

The debilitating disease has stalked Cassidy's family. His grandfather and mother both suffered with memory loss in the final years of their lives. "A part of me always knew this was coming," Cassidy admits.

The diagnosis compounds Cassidy's personal woes over the past few years. He has been arrested for driving under the influence three times since 2010 and charged with a hit-and-run accident in October 2015, eight months after filing for bankruptcy. He and his third wife, Sue Shifrin, began divorce proceedings in 2014. They had been married 23 years.

By Kevin Haynes |

Back to 'Future Passed'

Portrait of The Moody Blues

"Days of Future Passed" are coming around again.

The Moody Blues will hit the road this summer to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1967 concept album that spawned progressive rock and the band's signature single, "Nights in White Satin."

The two-month tour launches June 3 in Rancho Mirage, California, and will make 28 stops nationwide, wrapping up July 23 in Atlanta.

The band will be fronted by guitarist Justin Hayward, bassist John Lodge and drummer Graeme Edge. They were three of the five creative forces behind "Days of Future Passed," which fused classical music, psychedelic rock, romantic ballads and even a dramatic poetry reading into a heady mix of high art, audio wizardry and soothing pop.

The Moody Blues will kick off each night with a set list of hits, from 1964's "Go Now" to 1973's "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)" and 1986's "Your Wildest Dreams." The second half will showcase "Days of Future Passed" in its entirety.

Photo by King Collection/Photoshot/Getty Images

By Kevin Haynes |

Let It Loose

Candid Portrait

Mick Jagger has always been the ultimate tease. The guy who famously sang, "You can't always get what you want" has apparently written a memoir—but he doesn't want anyone to read it.

London publisher John Blake claims to have the only known copy of a 75,000-word manuscript that details the Rolling Stones' singer's reflections on the band's roots and its escapades through 1980. The "little masterpiece," Blake says in an essay published online by The Spectator, is a "perfectly preserved time capsule written when the Stones had produced all their greatest music but still burned with the passion and fire of youth and idealism."

Revelations range from Jagger's carefree approach to life—he purchased a British mansion while tripping on acid—to his stricter, pre-concert regimen, when he loads up on carbs for lunch and drinks eight pints of water before going on stage, knowing he'll sweat it all out under the lights (and head for the bathroom as soon as Keith Richards starts singing.).

"It is delicious, heady stuff," says Blake.

Unfortunately, Jagger won't allow the memoir to be published, despite Blake's continued pleas. "The answer is always the same," says Joyce Smyth, the Stones' manager and spoilsport. "He cannot."

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

By Kevin Haynes |

'Bonnie and Clyde' at 50

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Bonnie and Clyde are coming back to take a final bow.

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway have reportedly agreed to present the Oscar for Best Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards on February 26.

Their appearance is intended to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their title roles in "Bonnie and Clyde," the 1967 gangster flick that ended with the outlaw couple getting machine-gunned to death in a gruesome, slow-motion shootout. Directed by Arthur Penn, the groundbreaking film was one of that year's stellar crop of Best Picture nominees, which also included "Doctor Doolittle," "The Graduate," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" and winner "In the Heat of the Night."

Beatty, 79, recently starred in "Rules Don't Apply," his first movie in 15 years. Dunaway, 76, was seen earlier this year in "The Bye Bye Man," her first film since the 2010 TV movie "A Family Thanksgiving." She has roles in three other films that are now in post-production.

Photo courtesy of Warner Home Video

By Kevin Haynes |

Nowhere Man

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John, Paul, George … and Jimmie?!?

A new movie will soon invite you to meet "The Beatle Who Vanished," drummer Jimmie Nicol, who sat in for Ringo Starr for 13 days at the dawning of Beatlemania in 1964.

Based on the 2103 book by Jim Berkenstadt, the film will be produced by Roy Orbison's son Alex and the daughter of George Hamilton and Alana Stewart, Ashley Hamilton.

Nicol was propelled into the spotlight in June 1964, two months shy of his 25th birthday, when the London-based drummer was hired to replace Starr, who was recuperating from tonsillitis. Nicol got a moptop haircut, wore Starr's suits and joined the Beatles on stage for 10 concerts in Europe and Australia. He also participated in the usual press conferences.

Two weeks later, Starr returned—and Nicol faded into obscurity. He performed with Peter & Gordon, briefly replaced ailing drummer Dave Clark in the Dave Clark Five and declared bankruptcy in 1965.

Nicol, now 77 and living in London, also unwittingly inspired a song that would appear on "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." During his short stint with the band, Paul McCartney and John Lennon would often ask Nicol how he felt about the jolt of fame.

His standard reply: "It's getting better."

By Kevin Haynes |

Throwback: Linda Ronstadt

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A pioneer of alternative country music in the early 1970s, Linda Ronstadt changed her tune and became one of rock's first divas by uttering three little words that sent chills down the spines: "You're No Good."

The taut takedown—"Feeling better now that we're through/Feeling better 'cause I'm over you"— topped the Billboard Hot 100 exactly 42 years ago today on February 15, 1975.

It was the then-28-year-old singer's first hit as a solo artist and would prove to be the only No. 1 single in a career that came to an end in 2011 when the 11-time Grammy Award winner was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. But the breakthrough smash established the template that would net Ronstadt another sweet 16 Top 40 singles over the next 15 years, all of them cover songs.

"You're No Good," written by Clint Ballard Jr., was originally recorded in 1963 by two different soul singers, Dee Dee Warwick and Betty Everett, whose version peaked at No. 51. (She fared even better with her next single, "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)," which soared to No. 6 in the spring of 1964.)

Despite its success, Ronstadt made no secret of the fact that she didn't particularly like her rendition of "You're No Good," which kicked off her 1974 album "Heart Like a Wheel," the first of five consecutive platinum albums in the '70s.

"I didn't sing it very well," she told the Los Angeles Times in 1983. "As a song it was just an afterthought. It's not the kind of song I got a lot of satisfaction out of singing."

Hard to believe that when the perfectionist with a four-octave range was saying "You're No Good," she may have actually been talking to herself.

By Kevin Haynes |

Bombs Away!

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Death be not proud, unless you're a comedian. Bombing onstage gets treated like a badge of honor in "Dying Laughing," a documentary that explores the downside to stand-up comedy, from swatting aside hecklers to confronting the ultimate enemy, a canyon of silence.

"Comedy," says Jerry Seinfeld, "is purely a result of your ability to withstand self-torture."

Premiering February 24, the film chronicles life on the club circuit with insights from A-list comics like Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx, Sarah Silverman and Amy Schumer as well as the legendary Jerry Lewis and the late Garry Shandling.

Despite the inevitable career lows—Silverman emits a long whistle that sounds like a plummeting bomb—the comedians insist the momentary pain of failure is the price you pay for the ultimate reward.

"That laugh is better than any trophy," says Seinfeld. "That's what I live for."

Photo: Wikipedia

By Kevin Haynes |

On the Road Again

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Willie Nelson is "feeling great" and back on the road, celebrating his latest Grammy Award and promoting his new album, "God's Problem Child," which will be available April 28, the eve of his 84th birthday.

Other than that, the living legend has nothing new to report.

Nelson will return to the stage Thursday night in San Antonio for the first time since cancelling five shows earlier this month due to what his son, Lukas, now describes as "a lingering cold."

His first album of original material in three years features 13 songs. Seven were written by Nelson, including a tribute to his late, longtime compatriot Merle Haggard ("He Won't Ever Be Gone") and a ditty dismissing rumors of his own demise, "Still Not Dead."

For a first taste of the upcoming album check out the new video for the Spanish-style ballad "A Woman's Love." (The acoustic intro is eerily reminiscent of the Eagles' "Hotel California," no?)

On Sunday, Nelson won his 12th Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for "Summertime," last year's tribute to the music of George and Ira Gershwin.

Photo by Riccardo S. Savi/WireImage via Getty Images

By Kevin Haynes |

Throwback: Bon Jovi

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So what if you can't live on love? Bon Jovi fans have been "Livin' on a Prayer" for 30 years.

Like Cupid's arrow, the New Jersey hair band's signature hit shot to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 on Valentine's Day 1987 and held on tight for four weeks.

The catchy sing-along about Tommy and Gina, a working-class couple struggling to make ends meet, was Bon Jovi's second consecutive No. 1 single from the 1986 album, "Slippery When Wet." It came right on the heels of their first-ever chart-topper, "You Give Love a Bad Name," and would be followed by "Wanted: Dead or Alive," which peaked at No. 7.

Awarded the top spot in VH1's "Greatest Songs of the '80s" in 2006, "Livin' on a Prayer" is now synonymous with its soon-to-be 55-year-old singer. Last summer, a wedding band corralled Jon Bon Jovi into joining their cover, much to his obvious discomfort.

Then again, Bon Jovi has long insisted he's never grown tired of his greatest hit. "Not when I see the jet with my name on it," he told the London Times in 2010.

By Kevin Haynes |

Remembering Lady Diana

Diana, Princess of Wales arriving in Buenos Aires, Argentina

The fairy-tale life of Princess Diana will be back in the spotlight this summer.

ABC and People magazine are producing a four-hour documentary that will air over the course of two nights, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of Diana's death in a horrific car crash on August 31, 1997. The mother of two young boys was 36 years old.

"Even 20 years after her untimely death, Princess Diana's legacy continues to impact our world," says an ABC exec. "Our special will honor her memory and all the good that she did in her tragically brief life."

The untitled documentary will feature interviews with friends and royalty experts as well as archival footage from her 1981 wedding to Prince Charles and her tragic demise in a Paris tunnel, pursued at high speed by paparazzi. The crash also killed her boyfriend, billionaire Dodi Fayed, and their chauffeur, who was allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs.

Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images

By Kevin Haynes |