LISTEN: Elton John & Jack White Duet on the Bluesy ‘Two Fingers Of Whiskey’

Name a duet you’ve been waiting for longer: Elton John and Jack White appear in a new clip from the PBS documentary American Epic, playing piano and guitar, respectively, and rescuing us from this dreary Thursday.

American Epic, which is executive produced by White, is a three-part historical documentary that will examine how record executives left their label’s offices in the 1920s and scoured the rural parts of the nation in search of new audiences and artists.

“In American Epic we can examine how important the fact is that when phonograph records were invented, for the first time ever, women, minorities, poor rural men and even children were given the opportunity to say whatever they wanted in song, for the whole world to hear, shockingly without much censorship,” said White.  “What they were allowed to say on phonograph recordings, they were not allowed to speak in public or in person. That is an astounding thought.”

The doc series was filmed over the course of a decade, in which director Bernard MacMahon tracked down long-forgotten musicians all over the nation to interview and recreate the equipment they used to record. An album of recordings using this early equipment, titled the American Epic Sessions, has been created in addition to the documentary, and that’s where this clip of Elton John and White comes from. Some of the other artists included on the Sessions are Alabama Shakes, Beck, and The Avett Brothers.

Take a listen to John and White’s “Two Fingers of Whiskey” below. American Epic is out now, and the Sessions will air on PBS June 6.

Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder Duet ‘Happy Birthday’ For Elton John

Photo: @LoreeRodkin on Instagram

Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder united at Elton John’s 70th birthday party to sing Wonder’s 1981 hit “Happy Birthday.” The event raised money for both the Hammer Museum and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Gaga returned to her natural hair color, brunette, in a classic updo for the event, and wore a gorgeous Alberta Ferretti gown. In addition to dueting with Wonder, she found time to sing piano ballads of “Bad Romance” and “Born This Way,” Idolator reports.

Take a look at Gaga and Wonder, as well as some classic Fame Monster piano-ballad Mother Monster, below.

When you’re #close but the #vegetation gets in the way. @ladygaga cejebrated @eltonjohn #ejf70 #sorryimnotsorry #revenge #badromance

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A Documentary About Making George Michael’s ‘Trojan Souls’ Has Surfaced on YouTube

Just days after George Michael’s abrupt death at age 53, an 81-minute documentary following the making of the late artist’s never-released project Trojan Souls. The album was reportedly intended to feature a variety of artists Michael admired performing alongside his own work. According to Idolator, musicians including Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Sade, Seal, and Anita Baker were invited to contribute.

The documentary, filmed in 1992 and/or early ’93, offers an intimate look inside Michael’s creative process: there’s footage of the singer experimenting with chords on the keyboard, playing with his guitar, composing arrangements vocally, and even jamming out with Wendy Melvoin, a member of Prince’s band The Revolution.

Check out the full doc below.

Elton John recorded a draft of vocals for “This Kind of Love,” intended to have been put on the album. You can listen to a rough cut of that below.

John went on to release Duets, an album with a similar concept to that of Trojan Souls, which featured the Elton-George collaboration “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”

Elton John To Auction Off Rare Warhol, Basquiat Collaboration

Photo via Sotheby’s

After a chance meeting in a New York cafe in 1980, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol went on to conspire on several significant works, until the latter’s untimely death in 1987. One such painting, simply Untitled, will go on the block at the Sotheby’s Paris French Evening sale on June 7.

The current owner of the rather poignantly foreboding artwork (Jean-Michel himself died in 1988), a 1984-1985 acrylic, silkscreen and oil on canvas, signed by both artists on the overlap, is Sir Elton John, along with husband David Furnish. Described as a memento mori—meaning, a cultural reminder of mortality and death’s inevitability—it strikingly exhibits the artistic/psychological frisson and tension that existed between Warhol and Basquiat.

It is expected to fetch upwards of $1,000,000, and the proceeds will likely go to one of the singer’s charitable concerns. Indeed, he and Sotheby’s have a collaborative history of selling off pieces to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation.


The 10 Most Surprising Facts About The South Of France

The French Riviera. Cote d’Azur. That Mediterranean Coast With The Croissants. No matter what you call it, there’s one image that comes to mind: wealth, in the form of private, pebble beaches; yachts with their own Wikipedia page that are worth $210 million and owned by Saudi billionaires; and bronzed French men, too. And while that’s all there – oh, is it there – you’ll also find a lot more that you wouldn’t expect. Having just returned from my mother-daughter bonding trip to the French coast, here are the top 10 surprising facts about the south of France.

1.     Between the hours of 2pm and 7pm, no restaurants serve food, which completely explains how the French stay thin. For Americans (me), this is devastating. Bring trail mix.

2.     But French people really do eat a lot. I saw so many fit women devouring –and finishing – dessert samplers filled with profiteroles and crème brûlée at lunch, which means either it’s probably all genetic, they only eat one meal a day, and/or their ingredients are just a lot fresher and less manufactured than ours so they don’t need to be vegan.

3.     While St. Tropez is as glamorous as you think it is with its $12 cappuccinos from Sénéquier Café and white sand-covered floors in L’Escale, the serene cobblestone village Ramatuelle just 20 minutes away provides the calm you may crave amid the wild nights and opulence.

4.     Five days in, and you realize you might as well be on the island of Manhattan, standing in the middle of the Meatpacking District with a bag of very fresh baguettes, because that’s totally what the coast feels like; the wealth, the rosé, the nightclubs, the fashion, and everyone looking like they’re ready to go out – at 2pm.

5.     The cappuccinos really aren’t better than at NYC places like Bee’s Knee’s, and they’re a lot less strong. I missed that spot.

6.     If you’re an American, you will feel both incandescently happy to be there and devastatingly insecure because no matter how many suede black heels, pastel blazers, and satin scarves you wear, you will fall short of looking like “them.” The French folks look both effortless and effortful, since they’re naturally good looking and, on top of it, impeccably put together.

7.     Elton John bought a massive house in Nice that overlooks the entire city, can be seen from the main port, and is next door to a castle.

8.     Nice feels like a mixture of Barcelona cosmopolitan and St. Tropez charm. And the building in Cannes where the film festival takes place – the Palais des Festivals – looks like a convention center in Kansas.

9.     Monaco is its own country, and the language and food of choice: Italian. Want the best? Head to Le Pinocchio, right by the Prince’s Palace.

10.   Leave your sneakers at home. You’re in French country now, suga.

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Ai Weiwei Making a Heavy Metal Album

His powerful sculptures landed him in hot water with authorities in his native China, and now, Ai Weiwei is trying out a different kind of heavy metal. Having worked with sculpture as well as audiovisual art, the artist and activist is planning on recording a heavy metal album called Shen Qu, or “Divine Comedy.” The Dante and Heaven/Hell motifs make for pretty excellent heavy metal concept album fodder, if not a little well-worn, but either way, props to Ai for doing his homework.

The artist told The Guardian his interest in testing the musical waters came from his 81-day stint in jail, where he realized his lack of musical knowledge outside of Chinese revolutionary songs. Consultants on the album will include Chinese rock artist Zuoxiao Zuzhou as well as one of his marquee supporters from the pop music world, Elton John, for whom he made a video. Material will include a song called “The Great Firewall of China,” about the country’s Internet censorship. It will probably not include a cover of “Holy Diver,” as sweet as that has the potential to be.

Ai isn’t a stranger to using popular music as his medium, however. He did do that amazing “Gangnam Style” video, perhaps the only “Gangnam Style” parody the world actually really needed. Let’s revisit that below.

A Selection Of Cultural Works Inspired by Ray Bradbury’s Words

It’s been a sad few weeks in the literary world—following the passings of Maurice Sendak and Carlos Fuentes last month, we begin June by mourning the passing of poet, short story author, screenwriter, novelist and general sci-fi giant/master of the alien and sinister, Ray Bradbury, who passed away yesterday at the age of 91. 

Bradbury left an indelible mark on the literary and entertainment worlds thanks to his vivid imagination, eerie ability to predict the future and long, varied and prolific career. Here are just a few of the myriad examples of how Bradbury’s works have lived on off the page, on the big screen, small screen and in song. 

Fahrenheit 451

Several adaptations and iterations exist of Bradbury’s most important (and frequently challenged in schools) novel, Fahrenheit 451, the author’s spinning of a dystopian future in which dissent is virtually nonexistent and books are burned en masse. The most iconic of these is François Truffaut’s 1966 adaptation, the only film the French New Wave legend ever made in English. It won several awards, and the general approval of the author. 

The novel was later rearticulated as Michael Moore’s firebrand 2004 documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, a much-discussed and provocative look at America during the beginnings of the War on Terror. The tagline, lifted directly from the one for Bradbury’s novel, was "The Temperature at Which Freedom Burns." 

Something Wicked This Way Comes

 Walt Disney adapted the haunted-carnival story and Halloween staple into a 1983 film starring Jonathan Pryce and Jason Robards. It flopped at the box office but was up for many major sci-fi awards, not to mention providing a whole lot of nightmare fuel for a generation of American children. 

In the novel, two teenage boys have a run-in with an alluring but terrifying traveling carnival that turns the town upside down. In the South Park episode "Something Wall-Mart This Way Comes," a certain sinister department store assumes the role. 

The Shakespearean title of the work appears in a number of album titles and songs, ranging from heavy metal to Britrock and acid jazz. It appears as the chorus on this track from 2Pac’s debut album, 2Pacalypse Now

The Martian Chronicles

Bradbury’s alien-encounter epic series was turned into a three-part miniseries in 1980 and sported an all-star cast, including Roddy McDowell, Rock Hudson and Bernadette Peters. The script deviated quite a bit from the novel, but more importantly, we had no idea Mars looked so much like a Hollywood soundstage littered with leftover props from the Stonehenge scene from This Is Spinal Tap

Short Stories

Giant-head wearing master of the turntables Deadmau5 crafted his single, "The Veldt," based on a Bradbury short story of the same name. In the story, two parents who build their children a freakish nursery replicated after the African savannah, complete with robotic lions, end up becoming victims of their own creation. You probably would not have guessed that had you just listened to the deadmau5 track, though. 

If any band would be major fans of Ray Bradbury, it pretty much had to be Rush, now, didn’t it? In 1984, the Canadian prog-rockers released "The Body Electric," which borrows its name from a Bradbury short story, "I Sing The Body Electric" (which in turn, borrows its name from a Walt Whitman poem… how meta) as well as some thematic elements (the plot about humanoid robots). 

One of Elton John’s greatest hits, "Rocket Man (And I Think It’s Going To Be a Long, Long Time)" echoes the plot of Bradbury’s short story, The Rocket Man, in which an astronaut experiences a case of the "grass is always greener" syndrome and misses his wife and family while in space. 

The Man and His Life

For a bonus entry, here is Rachel Bloom’s 90th birthday tribute to the man and his literature: "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury." This hilarious—but NSFW—tribute includes couplets like, "You write about Earthlings going to Mars / I write about blowing you in my car." Whoa. 

F*ck Me, Ray Bradbury – watch more funny videos      

A Brief History of David LaChapelle’s Music Videos

Famed fashion photographer David LaChapelle does more than snap pictures for advertising campaigns and pal around with the world’s most glamorous trans woman. LaChapelle has a very solid resume as a music video director.

The latest example of LaChapelle’s work is the just-released video for Florence and the Machine’s “Spectrum,” a sexy, dramatic, sparkly take on the powerful song.

But it’s been a long road getting there. From early ‘90s videos for artists like Penny Ford (we didn’t know either) through long-lasting collaborations with icons like Elton John and Christina Aguilera, LaChapelle has spent years making music videos—and some of them are pretty great. Here’s a look back at five favorites.

Amy Winehouse – "Tears Dry On Their Own"

Gwen Stefani feat. Eve – "Rich Girl"

Macy Gray – "She Ain’t Right For You"

The Vines – "Outtathaway"

The Dandy Warhols – "Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth"

Super Bowl Ad Music Roundup: The Darkness Returns, NBC Learns ‘How to Succeed’

Kelly Clarkson nailed the national anthem, Madonna got her “Vogue” on with some Greco-Roman gladiator dudes, and M.I.A. flipped the bird on camera, which means someone, somewhere is probably upset and hopefully this won’t become another "wardrobe malfunction" and lead to another near-decade of safe and mostly-mediocre Super Bowl halftime shows. Outside the game and its pageantry, there were plenty of notable musical moments in the commercials, too. Here are just a few of ’em.

NBC paid homage to How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying with an all-network rendition of "Brotherhood of Man." As with any big production number, there were some low notes (Donald Trump) and some high ones (Ken Jeong’s committed shimmying, Tina Fey’s "Does a Clydesdale kick a beer at Betty White’s head?," and Ron Fucking Swanson).

Just as the world was beginning to wonder, "Hey, whatever happened to those guys who sang ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love?,’" lo, Samsung brought them back. In their ad lampooning of the Cult of Apple, The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins, with the same neon unitard but a new and slightly sinister ‘tache, leads a gleeful crowd in their signature hit. Don’t lie – you were singing along too.

Leave it to OK Go to be involved in some complex and probably hazardous obvious viral video bait. Their catchy "Needing/Getting" served as the background for an entertaining spot for the Chevy Sonic, in which the compact car bungee jumps and does kick-flips. It thinks it’s people.

An Audi ad featuring a throng of young, sexy vampires partying in the woods got the perfect soundtrack in Echo & The Bunnymen’s "The Killing Moon."

Speaking of vampires, Vampire Weekend made an appearance last night. The track "Campus," from their self-titled debut, appeared in a trailer for the upcoming CGI retelling of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.

X Factor winner Melanie Amaro faced off against a very regal-looking Elton John in a medieval-themed spot for Pepsi. Her performance of Aretha Franklin’s "Respect" was spirited, but it was Elton who shone in his kingly role.

And finally, LMFAO made a number of appearances throughout last night’s festivities, most notably in this M&Ms ad, where in introducing the new female M&M (she’s "sexy smart," because she wears glasses, get it, you guys?), Red strips off his candy coating to "Sexy And I Know It." Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle. Yeah.