Music Biz Headlines, Jan. 25, 2021

Ron Sexsmith (pictured) encounters Robert Plant, Canadian women making waves in Nashville, and Rufus Wainwright bids Trump farewell. Others in the headlines include Michael Fonfara, Brian Blain, Jenius, Dee Lippingwell, Shingoose, Garth Brooks, Glastonbury, Tommy James, Cardi B, Bob Dylan, Yoko Ono, and Nils Lofgren.

Music Biz Headlines, Jan. 25, 2021

By Kerry Doole

That time Ron Sexsmith left Robert Plant dazed and confused

The best stories musicians tell journalists don’t always find their way into the articles written about them. They’re often quirky accounts of meeting musicians more famous than themselves. Sometimes the backstage tales are too scandalous to repeat. Other times there’s just no space or context for these offbeat brushes with greatness to be told. The following three doozies fall into the latter category. – Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail

Canadian women are crushing it in Nashville

Mickey Guyton's anthem Black Like Me made her the first Black female to receive a Grammy nomination for Best Country Solo Performance. She may be from Texas, but don’t be surprised if the country singer and songwriter ends up hanging a Maple Leaf flag outside her house: Canadians have been a big factor in her groundbreaking success. – Nick Krewen, Toronto Star


#EndorseThis: Rufus Wainwright sings 'Bye Bye Bloatus'

Singer, songwriter, and composer Rufus Wainwright went on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to celebrate the end of Trump's tumultuous presidency. Having written everything from alternative rock to classical operas, Wainwright now blesses us with Bye Bye Bloatus. It's not his first Trump composition, but this one really brings the joy now that Trump is gone. So enjoy a "41 pun salute." It's guaranteed to make you laugh. – National Memo

Master keyboardist Michael Fonfara is remembered

The Toronto-based Fonfara, a free spirit blessed with impeccable musicianship and who enjoyed associations with artists such as Lou Reed and an illustrious variety of rock/blues/R&B acts, including Downchild, died of cancer on Jan. 8. He was 74. – Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail

The best winter events and festivals in Toronto

Highlights include a book club with Buffy Sainte-Marie, Patti Smith at Night of Ideas, Wavelength Winter Festival and 21 Black Futures. –  NOW Staff

Artists’ economic survival is always precarious. Ottawa shouldn’t be making it even more difficult

What happened this past week opened a window into a community we often declare essential to our society, but which we can’t really be bothered to support. – Charlie Foran,  The Globe and Mail


Covid-19 has devastated an already beleaguered live music scene in Toronto. Can it recover?

Shaun Bowring is hoping that mass vaccinations will have sent the Covid-19 virus sufficiently into retreat by then so he can open his venue doors. But with live music venues shut down since last March and a chasm ahead of ongoing closure, the industry is already in serious trouble. – Bruce DeMara, Toronto Star

Brian Blain writes about the mother he never knew on his new album

After the Toronto blues stalwart found his birth family, turbulent emotions that stirred within him inspired him to write a song, in just two hours, about the mother he never got to know. Blain was in the final stages of producing his new album, I’m Not Fifty Anymore, when Margaret Stowe, who mixed the recording, helped him find his birth family through the Ancestry website. – Ruth Schweitzer, Roots Music Canada

Meet Jenius, the WondaGurl protégé who's produced for Travis Scott and Pop Smoke

Unlike most teens, Julius-Alexander Brown doesn’t daydream about working with Travis Scott, Pop Smoke, or WondaGurl. All that and more is instead a reality for the Ontario-born producer better known as Jenius. The 19-year-old up-and-comer's ties with well-established Canadian producer and record executive WondaGurl have been a career boost. – Kyle Mullin, Complex Canada

Port Theatre has announced the lineup for its Spotlight Series

The series will feature streamed performances from its location in Nanaimo. Kicking off the series on February 6 is Harry Manx, who has been described as a "Mysticssippi" blues man. –Georgia Straight


Canadian producers set to take over in 2021

Following in the footsteps of Canadian multi-platinum, Grammy-winning producers are a new generation of talented producers who are hungry to reach the heights of those that came before them, and hopefully take things even further. Without further ado, the following is a list of Canadian producers that you want to look out for in 2021. –Side Door

Surrey concert photographer Dee Lippingwell focused on glory days of big B.C. music festival for third book

With no concerts to photograph, Dee Lippingwell keeps busy with the job of sifting through thousands of images for a third book she’s planning to publish,  a 200-page “coffee table” book chronicling the glory days of Merritt Mountain Music Festival, the popular country-music event in B.C.’s Interior. – Tom Zillich, Surrey Now-Leader


‘I want everyone to remember his name’: Indigenous music trailblazer Shingoose has died of Covid-19

Duke Redbird first met Shingoose at the Mariposa Folk Festival in the late 60s or early 70s.  They were performing as part of a showcase of Indigenous performers that Estelle Klein had put together at the urging of Alanis Obomsawin, Duke said. – Heather Kitching, Roots Music Canada 


BMG, Beggars Group, and Hipgnosis Songs Fund have strong opinions on streaming

Three of the world’s biggest music companies outside of the major labels – BMG, Beggars Group, and Hipgnosis Songs Fund – each call for fairly dramatic changes to the streaming landscape in their submissions. And they’re changes with potentially global ramifications. Here are the highlights. – MBW

Live Nation stock (LYV) recovers all of its 2020 losses — and reaches an all-time high

Live Nation stock has recovered the entirety of its 2020 losses – and briefly touched a record high of $78 per share. December brought further gains, and the first month of 2021 has seen the Ticketmaster parent company’s stock surpass its pre-Covid worth. –  Dylan Smith, Digital Music News

Republican Garth Brooks sang at Biden's inauguration. The internet reacted with memes and history lessons.

The inauguration last week featured musical performances from Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Garth Brooks. As they performed, social media was quick to joke about the musical guests, including Brooks. – Moises Mendez II, Yahoo

Glastonbury 2021 festival is canceled due to Covid

“In spite of our efforts to move Heaven & Earth, it has become clear that we simply will not be able to make the festival happen,” organisers stated. – Jazz Monroe, Pitchfork

‘Crime doesn't pay!’ Tommy James, the 100m-selling pop star robbed by the mob

He made hits such as I Think We’re Alone Now and Mony Mony, but a gangster label boss kept up to $40m of his royalties. As his complete Roulette recordings are rereleased, why no hard feelings? – Garth Cartwright, The Guardian

Brian Eno has had a pretty good quarantine

Like you and me, Brian Eno has spent way too much time on Zoom lately. But unlike us, he’s taking steps to create a better solution to group video communication. “I’m working on a project with some Dutch friends to make the next generation of this kind of communication." – Rob Tannenbaum, LA Times


21st Annual Country Music Critics’ Poll: A job for art

Taking stock of what artists like Mickey Guyton can do that politicians and journalists can’t. – Geoffrey Himes, Nashville Scene

Cardi B lands first starring film role in “Assisted Living”

Cardi B has just landed her first starring movie role, and to that we say, "It's about time!" According to Variety, Cardi has been cast in a "raucous comedy" from Paramount called Assisted Living, where she'll play a "small-time crook" named Amber. – Kara Nesvig, Teen Vogue

Jennifer Lopez performs patriotic medley with showbiz flourish at Biden inaugural

Nearly a year after she blazed through a handful of her hits (and a bit of Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A.) during the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show, the singer and actress turned up at Wednesday’s presidential inauguration, where she linked the first two verses of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land with America the Beautiful. – Mikael Wood, LA Times

Lady Gaga sends a Joe Biden inauguration message that's important after four years of Trump toxicity

If Lady Gaga has proven anything over the course of her star-dazzled career, it’s that she understands the importance of rising to the occasion. – Mike Usinger, Georgia Straight 

Lorde's ex-manager Scott Maclachlan sacked from Warner Music after admitting harassment

The music manager who discovered NZ singer Lorde and helped make her an international star has just been sacked from his role at Warner Music New Zealand after admitting years of harassing behaviour. The dismissal of Scott Maclachlan on Sunday came after a Stuff investigation. – Alison Mau, Stuff 


Judd, Idol in benefit to aid out of work musicians

A star-studded streaming event aided music industry professionals who are out of work due to the pandemic. Def Leppard’s Rick Allen and his wife, musician Lauren Monroe, arranged The Big Love. – Waterbury Republican American

Bob Dylan sued by former collaborator’s wife over songwriting catalog sale

The $7.25 million lawsuit is filed on behalf of the late Jacques Levy, who co-wrote songs from Dylan’s 1976 album Desire. – Evan Minsker, Pitchfork

Concert halls safe at 50 per cent capacity, reports German study

The experiments at the Dortmund Konzerthaus suggest a checkerboard-style seating arrangement would be sufficient to keep audience safe from Covid-19. – The Strad

Over 100 British musicians are warning that Brexit threatens future European tours.

Musicians from all genres have come together to comment on the state of affairs. Ed Sheeran, Sting, Roger Waters from Pink Floyd, and others have spoken out about the current state of Brexit in a letter to The Times newspaper. The musicians accused the government of breaking a promise to negotiate for them. – Digital Music News

Wizkid: Covid-19 lockdown impacted my music positively

"When you’re home and you’re really going through everything like a normal human being, you just realise music comes from a real place,” were the words of award-winning music star Wizkid on how he managed during the 2020 lockdown. –  The Nation

Shelved: Yoko Ono

An exploration of  Yoko Ono’s 1974 album “A Story,” and her stepping out from behind the ever-present shadow of John Lennon. – Longreads

Lofgren on missing concerts: ‘The audience is as valuable as any member of the band’

Nils Lofgren knows there is a need for online or drive-in concerts during pandemic. But the veteran singer-songwriter-guitarist and E Street Band member also believes that nothing can replace the magic of the traditional concert experience. – Jay Lustig, NJ Arts

Call for a reggae hall of fame

Reggae historian Roger Steffens is blasting local authorities for the absence of a Reggae Music Hall of Fame. His comments come in wake of the efforts he initiated to have Toots Hibbert placed in the Rock Hall of Fame. –Jamaica Observer.

Lana Del Rey performs on "Christmas in Graceland"
Katherine Bomboy/NBC

Lana Del Rey performs on "Christmas in Graceland"


Yes, Lana Del Rey’s Headlining Coachella Set Was Perplexing — And Profound

The iconic artist's night one headlining set included a guest appearance from Billie Eilish, a hologram of herself and so much more.

Not only did Lana Del Rey start her Coachella headlining set early, but her entry was epic.

On Friday, April 12, at 11:16 p.m. the festival main stage screens showed an aerial view of Del Rey and her entourage rapidly approaching. As she neared, it became clear her crew was not rolling up on the expected golf carts that often shuttle stars around the Indio, Calif. fest, but rather motorcycles. And as a snippet of her never-to-be-officially-released song “Jealous Girl” played – with the lyric “Baby, I’m a gangster too” on loop – Del Rey’s motorcade took a lap through the crowd as she smiled and waved to the thousands of fans gathered for this very moment.

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