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Nine Artists To Watch For At AmericanaFest 2016

Clockwise from upper left: Front Country, John Paul White, CW Stoneking, Yola Carter Courtesy of the artists hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artists

The Americana Music in Nashville is never quite what I think it will be. This week’s All Songs starts with Yola Carter, a British singer of mixed race. Next is the white Australian C.W. Stoneking, sounding like blues legend Willie Dixon. The third song on the show is by Marlon Willams, a soulful young New Zealand singer. The common thread as we explore the newest and most promising voices at AmericanaFest is a love of folk, country, roots music, but how that gets interpreted varies, and that’s where the fun is. I’m joined this week by NPR Music’s Ann Powers and contributor Jewly Hight — both Nashville residents — to talk about some of the artists they’re most excited to see as AmericanaFest comes to town, from Becca Mancari and Pony Bradshaw to Front Country and John Paul White.

Tune into our variety of webcasts all week, featuring performances by:

Wednesday, Sept. 21

12:30 p.m. ET – Margo Price & Friends (watch it here)

4:00 p.m. ET – Wesley Schultz (of The Lumineers)

5:00 p.m. ET – Shovels & Rope

7:30 p.m. ET – Americana Music Association awards show (including performances by Bob Weir, Shawn Colvin, Alison Krauss, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, George Strait, Jason Isbell, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and The Lumineers.

Thursday, Sept. 22

12:00 p.m ET – Billy Bragg and Joe Henry

1:30 p.m. ET – Taylor Goldsmith (of Dawes) and Lydia Loveless

Friday, Sept. 23

11:00 a.m ET – Bobby Rush

12:00 p.m. ET – Lori McKenna

TBD – Bob Weir

Songs Featured On This Episode

Cover for Orphan Offering

01Fly Away

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Yola Carter

  • Song: Fly Away
  • from Orphan Offering

Yola Carter is a British artist who began her career as a singer and songwriter in the U.K. electronic music scene, working with groups like Massive Attack. Prior to going solo, she was a member of country soul group Phantom Limb. “Her solo career is a much newer thing, but I really like what she’s done on this self-produced EP, Orphan Country,” says Jewly Hight. “She’s stepped into the foreground with this, after playing the backing role a lot.”

Cover for Gon' Boogaloo

08Jungle Swing

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C.W. Stoneking

  • Song: Jungle Swing
  • from Gon’ Boogaloo

Bob’s choice is an Australian artist who sounds like he was born next door to the great bluesman Willie Dixon. “I was hesitant when I first heard the music,” says Bob. “It felt a bit like a shtick. But seeing him and his fierce all-woman band at Pickathon recently changed all that. He grew up on this music, he loves this music, he’s deep inside this music — this is what he is and knows, and it really feels like it comes from the right place.”

Cover for Marlon Williams

02Dark Child

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Marlon Williams

  • Song: Dark Child

“[He’s] 25 years old, but I think when you hear him,” says Ann Powers. “He definitely fulfills that cliché of having an old soul. He’s really a student of American roots music, and also of country pop. He has a bit of that classic Marty Robbins sound to him, sometimes with a bit of Nick Cave thrown in.”

Cover for Sake of the Sound

04Sake of the Sound

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Front Country

  • Song: Sake of the Sound
  • from Sake of the Sound

San Francisco’s Front Country has forged its own path in the bluegrass scene, coming from musical backgrounds of all genres and going on to win band competitions at festivals such as Telluride. They’re a “progressive bluegrass quintet,” says Jewly Hight. “Their singer has this great, round, sultry, more rock-leaning tone and vocal attack that you don’t typically hear in bluegrass.”

Cover for Chillin' At The Beach With My Best Friend Jesus Christ

01Chillin’ At The Beach With My Best Friend Jesus Christ

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Susto

  • Song: Chillin’ At The Beach With My Best Friend Jesus Christ
  • from Chillin’ At The Beach With My Best Friend Jesus Christ

Charleston S.C.’s Susto brings a touch of laughter to the Americana scene, using comedy in the band’s song titles and lyrics. Frontman Justin Osborne spent part of his life living in Cuba, which inspired the band’s name. “Osborn was raised Christian,” says Ann Powers. “And that’s a huge part of his songwriting. But he doesn’t fuss around it, he makes it fun — he deals with doubt as well as faith.”

Cover for Bad Teeth

01Josephine

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Pony Bradshaw

  • Song: Josephine
  • from Bad Teeth

“Pony Bradshaw is the performing name of a guy who covers sports for a small-town paper in Georgia,” says Jewly Hight. “In recent years, he took up guitar playing and songwriting and performing. Sonically, he’s in that tradition of a really visceral approach to combining blues and country and rock.”

Cover for Beulah

01Black Leaf

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/494105565/494604578" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

John Paul White

  • Song: Black Leaf
  • from Beulah

Beulah, the first solo album in eight years from John Paul White, the former singer and guitarist from The Civil Wars, has a blues-like sound. “John Paul White is definitely majorly influenced by rock as much as he is by country or blues,” says Ann Powers. “He made [this] record in his hometown of Florence, Alabama.”

Cover for Summertime Mama

01Summertime Mama

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/494105565/494604678" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Becca Mancari

  • Song: Summertime Mama
  • from Summertime Mama

Nashville’s Becca Mancari is a newcomer to the scene, but she carries the influence of her past in her music, drawing from the many parts of the U.S. she’s lived in. With notes of Appalachian folk, bluegrass, and everything in between, this is her debut single. “She’s lyrical and a little bit raw,” says Ann Powers. She “connects to rock and roll and roots music, and has a great personality in her songs.”

Cover for Wynonna & The Big Noise

04You Make My Heart Beat Too Fast (feat. Cactus Moser)

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Wynonna & The Big Noise

  • Song: You Make My Heart Beat Too Fast (feat. Cactus Moser)

Jewly Hight calls Wynonna Judd a “legend of legends.” This week’s show closes with a track that leaves Hight hardly able to contain herself. “This year, she and her drummer husband, Cactus Moser, debuted a new project: The Big Noise. They steered into an R&B-inflected roots rock thing, with that really guttural guitar attack that is reminiscent of what Buddy Miller does on guitar.”

Music : NPR

Alexis Arquette battled HIV for 29 years before deadly heart attack

Fearless actress Alexis Arquette died after suffering a cardiac arrest, according to her death certificate.

The document has been obtained by TMZ and shows that the transgender star had been living with HIV for 29 years.

The 47-year-old died on September 11 after suffering a heart attack as well as battling bacterial endocarditis, cardiomyopathy and HIV, according to the document from L.A.’s Department of Public Health.

The actress had prepared herself for death years before she tragically passed away, new videos have revealed.

Rex

Alexis Arquette pictured in 2008

The transgender star – who appeared in The Wedding Singer – died on Sunday at the age of 47.

In moving videos filmed in 2008 and released by pal Sham Ibrahim, Alexis is seen describing death as like a “tear in the ocean”.

Alexis arquette in The Wedding Singer Alexis Arquette in The Wedding Singer

Alexis says in the video: “Why try to figure out something that you are never gonna know? It’s futile. Anybody who spends their time on this… even those who write books, and philosophers and religious people are wasting my time and yours.

“What if it’s that? What if it’s this. Great. You don’t know until you are dead.”

When asked if she thinks there is life after death, Alexis replied: “I think if there is life beyond life it is whatever you expected it to be.

Sham Ibrahim Alexis Arquette

Alexis Arquette on the set of Robbie’ Williams music video for ‘She’s Madonna’

Sham Ibrahim Selfies Sham took with Alexis Arquette

Alexis Arquette and Sham

“If I was a gamble lady and I wanted to make a bet on what life would be like after death, it is sort of like a tear in the ocean. They say that energy never goes away. I’ve had things happen after people die.

“You know, weird things happen. Would I like to think that there is some other realm where we can come back and have an effect on the living? That sounds really arduous. I don’t see myself being a ghost in the limbo trying to get the limbo to try and get the living to see us or hear us.”

Sham Ibrahim Selfies Sham took with Alexis Arquette

Alexis Arquette and Sham Ibrahim pose together

Rex Alexis Arquette

Alexis Arquette at the ‘Bride of Chucky’ Premiere, 1998

Alexis’s friend Sham opened up to Mirror Celeb about the “trailblazer” transgender rights activist, saying: “Alexis was actually a very private person. Her wish was that her health remain private and as her friend I will always respect her wish.

“She was a loyal friend, but because of her family name she was surrounded by people who just wanted to use her to get to her family.

“After we knew each other for about six or seven years she started taking me to the occasional family function and I had the pleasure of witnessing just how supportive they were.

Sham Ibrahim Alexis Arquette in a pink wig by Sham Ibrahim

Alexis was well known for championing the transgender community

“I’ll never forget going to meet her sister Patricia for her daughter’s kindergarten graduation party. Alexis had transitioned and was living her life as female.

“She arrived all dolled up and her niece, Harlow, greeted her with a big hug as Patricia said ‘Harlow loves her auntie.’ This was way before Chaz Bono or Caitlyn Jenner.

“I remember thinking how incredible it was to see a family embrace their transgender family member with total love and acceptance. Sadly, the world was not as accepting of Alexis.”

WireImage Alexis Arquette

Actors David Arquette, Rosanna Arquette, Alexis Arquette, Richmond Arquette and Patricia Arquette at the 2014 Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

Artist and TV personality Sham – who is having a parting celebrating her life in Hollywood this weekend – revealed how the star had been heckled and labelled a ‘tranny’ through the years.

“It wasn’t the open society we live in today,” Sham said. “She was incredibly brave running around town in mini skirts and high heels.

“On more than one occasion I witnessed people actually get physical with her and attack her. Fortunately, Alexis knew how to fight back and didn’t take s*** from anyone.”

Following her death, Alexis’s brother David paid tribute, saying: “Thank you all for your love and kind words about Alexis. My hero for eternity.”

His ex wife Courteney Cox added: “My heart goes out to anyone who was lucky enough to know Alexis. We will love and miss you forever.”

mirror – 3am

New ‘Surviving Compton’ Trailer Shows Violence Michel’le Endured from Dr. Dre (WATCH)

*Even though “Straight Outta Compton” got rave reviews and went on to achieve a box office bonanza, it was panned by some, women in particular, for glossing over NWA member and prolific producer, Dr. Dre‘s abusive treatment of women. In a surprise move to some, Dre made a very public apology via a statement published by the NY Times:

“I apologize to the women I’ve hurt. I deeply regret what I did and know that it has forever impacted all of our lives…Twenty-five years ago I was a young man drinking too much and in over my head with no real structure in my life. However, none of this is an excuse for what I did. I’ve been married for 19 years and every day I’m working to be a better man for my family, seeking guidance along the way. I’m doing everything I can so I never resemble that man again.”

READ RELATED STORY: MICHEL’LE TELLS OF BROKEN NOSE, BLACK EYES, CRACKED RIBS & MORE AT HANDS OF DR. DRE (WATCH)

One of the women who accused Dre of being physical with her was singer Michel’le (Toussaint) who dated the hip hop/R&B producer 7 years and even had a son together. Michel’le has spoken on many occasions that he regularly beat her while they were together. During an appearance on “The Breakfast Club” radio program, she detailed the first time Dre allegedly hit her and also how Death Row Records CEO, Suge Knight, sometimes intervened on her behalf.

michelle & ryhon nicole brown

Michel’le and Rhyon Nicole Brown

Not surprisingly, the singer with the squeaky talking voice would then date Knight for several years, in a relationship that she describes as like a “marriage, ” but ultimately the relationship was the source of complications in the lives of all three. In the end, however, she would be forever associated with the two men who built Death Row. And that leads us to the new biopic from Lifetime called “Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel’le.”

Now, the film’s trailer has now been released, and man, it’s a doozie, showing a physically abusive Dr. Dre and what went down between the two.

The bottom line is that “Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel’le” tells the tale of Michel’le Toussaint, who rose to fame in the early days of rap as the so-called “First Lady of Ruthless Records.” Surrounded by industry ballers like Eazy-Z , Tupac Shakur, and of course Suge Knight and Dr. Dre, she achieved major chart success – only to have it tarnished by betrayal and corrupt business dealings.

michel'le surviving compton (parental-advidory-sticker-covering-mouth)

“Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel’le” – starring Rhyon Nicole Brown – is set to premiere on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 8pm E/P on Lifetime.

Do yourself a favor and check out explosive sneak peek above.

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‘Sing For Your Life’ Recounts A Journey From Juvenile Detention To The Opera House

Ryan Speedo Green grew up in a trailer park and did time in juvenile detention before discovering he had a unique singing voice. He now performs at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. A juvenile detention facility is not typically a stop along the way to an opera career, but nothing in my guest Ryan Speedo Green’s early life would have suggested he would sing at the Metropolitan Opera. He grew up in a trailer park and in a home with bullet holes. Because of his violent temper, he was placed in a special class for problem kids and did time in juvie.

But then he discovered he could sing. And although he knew nothing about opera, he was placed in an opera program in a performing arts high school, devoting himself to it in spite of friends who couldn’t comprehend why a black person would be interested in opera. In 2011, he won the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions. Now he’s in the ensemble of the Vienna State Opera, and he’s about to sing the role of Colline in the Met’s production of “La Boheme.” Although he’s only 30, there’s a new biography of Green called “Sing For Your Life.”

Let’s start with his aria from “La Boheme,” which he recorded for us at a rehearsal yesterday. This comes toward the end of the opera when Mimi is dying and Green’s character, Colline, prepares to pawn his coat to get money for her medicine. He sings goodbye to the coat that has kept him warm and represents many memories.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RYAN SPEEDO GREEN: (Singing in foreign language).

GROSS: That’s my guest Ryan Speedo Green, singing the code aria in “La Boheme.” And that’s a rehearsal recording, but he’s about to open in the opera at the Met.

Ryan Speedo Green, welcome to FRESH AIR. When was the first time you realized that you had this, like, deep, rich singing voice that you could get these, like, beautiful, rich, deep tones? I mean, my impression is that you not only weren’t exposed to opera as a child, you had no idea that you could sing.

GREEN: Well, yes. You mentioned the sound of my voice, the tone of my voice. But it wasn’t always this way. When I first started singing, I was singing as a tenor…

GROSS: No, wow.

GREEN: …In high school, yeah.

GROSS: OK.

GREEN: So it was – it wasn’t until puberty kicked in that I realized that I probably wasn’t a tenor. You know, opera was not something that was put in front of me. It was something just I happened to stumble upon by chance. And since I stumbled upon it, it has been my passion and my focus.

GROSS: So you’re a bass-baritone. What does that mean?

GREEN: It means that I am sort of a hybrid voice type in between baritone, which is the middle voice of the male, and bass, which is the lowest voice of the male and kind of gives me the opportunity to sing both if need be because I have a higher range, but I also have a low note that’s close to a bass.

GROSS: Is the bass-baritone typically like the villain or the king or the despot?

GREEN: You have it correct. You know, it’s not very often that a low voice in general gets the girl, if you know what I mean. And as a bass baritone or a bass, you tend to be characters that are older or characters of high stature or priestly characters or bad guys.

And there are very few occasions in opera where you are the good guy. For instance, “Le Nozze Di Figaro.” This is one of the few opportunities that the low voice has the – becomes the hero and is the hero. But a majority of the time, you’re playing a supporting cast to the tenor or the baritone.

GROSS: When you started to make your way through opera, did you feel like you’re background was something you should cover up because people might think that you were not emotionally prepared for it or that, you know, you weren’t educated enough for it?

GREEN: Well, it was even before I got into opera that I decided to push my past deep inside me because I wanted – I wanted to only think about my future and moving forward and leaving my past mistakes in the past and worrying about how I was going to better my future. And this happened before I even started singing opera.

GROSS: So I hope you don’t mind talking about your past (laughter)…

GREEN: Of course not.

GROSS: …In this interview. When you think back to your childhood and try to understand why you were so angry and often violent, what do you think about – what do you think were, like, the causes of that kind of upheaval in your life?

GREEN: You know, it’s hard to imagine that the person was me. And honestly, it’s sometimes scary to know that person is inside of me. But, you know, I try to use those experiences to add to the depth of my characters in the performances I have. You know, my past is my past. And it doesn’t define me. It only gives me fuel for my future.

GROSS: When you were in juvie, describe what your day-to-day life was like. And how old were you?

GREEN: I was – I think I was around 11, 12. I remember going there, and I was, you know, driven in a police car all the way across the state of Virginia in cuffs and shackles.

And I can remember being in, you know, my cell with – it was a small window with – that was barred up and a medical mattress. And I remember being put in solitary from, you know, when I would lash out against the staff and other kids and they put me in this solitary confinement room. And I remember the cold cement walls and not wanting to touch them and, you know, screaming so loud that I lost my – had no voice afterwards and feeling so alone.

You’re put in a small unit and away from – most of your days spent alone in your cell. Yeah, and it’s – and, I mean, it was a very difficult time then and it’s even more difficult, you know, reading about – you know, they kept logs, 15-minute logs of – during my period there. And it was tough reading, you know, the 15-minute logs of me and the things I did and said. And…

GROSS: You went back and read that for the book?

GREEN: I read a lot of it. But I left a lot of the reading to Daniel. It was a very large, large file. I was there for a while.

GROSS: This is Daniel Bergner who actually…

GREEN: Daniel Bergner, yes, the writer.

GROSS: …Wrote the book because it’s a biography of you. So when you were in juvie, what did you think your future was going to be?

GREEN: Pretty much in the beginning when I was there, I thought my future was very bleak. And I didn’t really think I had a future. But eventually the longer I was there, the more that I wanted to have a future.

I remember, you know, maybe one of the first moments of me being involved with music, you know, when I had good behavior there, they would give me a radio, a small radio to listen to. And I would sit in my room, and I would listen to the top 40 hits of 1998 and sing along to it in my room. And that was my getting away from where I was moment, you know, escaping in the music that I was listening to. And maybe that was also the beginning of my love for music.

GROSS: What were the hits that you were singing along to?

GREEN: Oh, gosh (laughter) I remember Backstreet Boys and Usher were on the radio then. And obviously my voice is not one of Usher or the Backstreet Boys. But at the time, I loved singing to it.

GROSS: I think one of the great things about your book is that it’s a beautiful tribute to the power of good teachers who recognized the goodness in troubled kids and find the talent within them and nurture it because your book has several of those people in it. And you are very grateful. You express a lot of gratitude toward them. So let’s start with Mrs. Hughes, who helped you in the class that you were in for kids who acted up all the time, for kids who were trouble. First, talk about the class and what it felt like to be singled out and put in a special class like that.

GREEN: Well, you know, I was in a class of six or seven of the most uncontrollable elementary schoolers in the entire district. And, you know, again, I was – at that point, I was a very angry kid. And I remember the first day I was in Mrs. Hughes’ class – you know, this tiny woman with blond curls. And the first day I was in her class I threw my desk at her.

GROSS: Oh, my gosh (laughter).

GREEN: And instead of sending me away to the office to go home like most teachers would have done, she took my chair and said, you can learn from the floor because that’s where your desk is. And when you’re ready to learn from your desk, you can have your chair and your desk back. And she was one of the first people in my life to not give up on me and not just see an angry kid and send him – and not want to deal with him. She made sure to try and give me lessons – life lessons.

You know, she’s – one of the first things she did was teach me the “I Have A Dream” speech by Martin Luther King and tried to, you know, at a young age, instill this mantra in me that I shouldn’t just be a stereotype or I’m not just a color that, you know – that I can just be judged by the content of my character. And this was something that, you know – it was instilled in me at a young age. Unfortunately, I didn’t use it immediately. The change took a long time. But it – she stayed in my life, and that mantra stayed in my life. And she’ll be there for opening night of “La Boheme.”

GROSS: Oh, great. So did you have a dream at that time?

GREEN: I didn’t. I – there’s many things that were going on in my personal life and family life that I hadn’t yet overcome. And – so, yes, I was – I wasn’t thinking about my future at all at that point.

GROSS: Why did you throw your desk at her? What were you trying to say?

GREEN: I think, you know, honestly, the Ryan Speedo Green of fourth grade and the Ryan Speedo Green of now (laughter) are so far apart that I can’t really go into my mental idea – my mentality back then of why I did it. But I’m sure it was something lashing out of at the – any person who showed any compassion for me.

GROSS: It’s hard to understand…

GREEN: Maybe trying to push her away, maybe.

GROSS: You know, it’s hard to understand when somebody’s being nice to you that that’s what you would do.

GREEN: Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, a lot of children with anger problems – you know, it’s usually something that’s going on in their personal life that’s affecting them. And it’s hard to – it’s hard to accept compassion from someone when you hate yourself.

GROSS: So let me reintroduce you. If you’re just joining us, my guest is opera singer Ryan Speedo Green. Now there’s a new book about him called “Sing For Your Life: A Story Of Race, Music, And Family.” He opens at the Met at the end of the month in a production of “La Boheme.” Let’s take a short break here. Then we’ll talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GROSS: If you’re just joining us, my guest is Ryan Speedo Green. And there’s a new book about him called “Sing For Your Life.” And he’s an opera singer who’s about to open at the Met in “La Boheme.”

So you’re in this class for troubled kids. The teacher takes a special interest in you, but still you end up in juvenile detention center for – how long?

GREEN: For about two months.

GROSS: OK. And then you end up going to a high school for the arts. How…

GREEN: Indeed.

GROSS: …Did you get in? I mean, you – had you shown any previous interest in the arts?

GREEN: I had joined a choir and – as sort of, like, an easy elective because I was interested in playing football. And I – you know, I thought I had to audition for the – go to the school for the arts to get a passing grade in the class. And so this is a magnet school for the arts in Virginia, sort of like the school Fame. And it had – you know, had a opera program, a dance program, musical theater, theater, instrumental. And so I auditioned and, honestly, didn’t expect to get in.

But with – I guess the – how worlds connect – my – as we mentioned before, my elementary school teacher, Mrs. Hughes, her husband was the principal of this magnet school for the arts. And so when I auditioned, I believe I could carry a tune (laughter), not a very good tune, but I could carry a tune. And I believe they were trying to maybe get some kids from my district because I was in, like, a district where there weren’t many Governor School kids going there. It was one of the poor districts in the area. And Mr. Hughes was also the principal. So I think he maybe strongly suggested that they should give me a chance, and they did.

GROSS: So for the – correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this is the one where for the audition you sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” because you (laughter) couldn’t think of what to sing.

GREEN: (Laughter) Well, my teacher had – my course teacher at the time had prepared me with “The Star-Spangled Banner” because it was something that a majority of children knew. And it was an easy tune to remember because you hear it all the time.

GROSS: But it’s a hard one to sing. It’s got that kind of…

GREEN: It is a hard one to sing. And I’m not going to say that I sang it beautifully back then. But (laughter) – and then another – I had another piece prepared that I had memorized from a CD of Italian art songs called “Caro Mio Ben (ph).” And I had memorized it and was ready to sing it acapella. But when I came into my audition, they told me that I had to sing it with piano. And I had never practiced it with singing with a piano before. So I had no idea how to do it (laughter).

And they were – and they looked at me very confused and were like, OK, well, Mr. Brown, who was the – playing the piano at the time, and Mr. Fischer, who was doing the taping of the audition, had me go to the piano. And he was like, OK, do you know where to start? And I was like, I have no idea.

(LAUGHTER)

GREEN: And he was like, OK, well, when I say go, you start singing. So he started playing, and he said go. And then I just kind of sang in hope that I was with him (laughter). And that was my audition. And I kind of left there thinking, oh, God, there’s no way that they’re going to take me in this program. And they took me. So…

GROSS: So this was an opera program, and they needed more boys for it, too, right?

GREEN: For sure, yes.

GROSS: So did you think like, oh, I hate this music when you got into it?

GREEN: Well, I had never really listened to it before. This is another thing – I auditioned for the program…

GROSS: You didn’t even have any preconceptions.

GREEN: No. (laughter)

GROSS: OK.

GREEN: Well, I mean, I had preconceptions in the sense that I thought opera was something, you know, what I saw in “Looney Tunes.” I thought it was, like, some, you know, a big, fat Viking lady…

GROSS: Yes. Yes. (laughter).

GREEN: …You know, with Norse helmet, breaking windows and glasses. And this is what I thought opera was. And, obviously, my preconception changed once I saw my first opera.

GROSS: So once you saw – what was your first opera?

GREEN: Well, my first opera was – and I happened to be very, very lucky and blessed that my first opera was at the Metropolitan Opera. My school, Governor’s School for the Arts in Norfolk, Va., they took a trip to New York every other year. And my – when I was about 15, they went to New York City to see an opera at the Met. And my fourth grade elementary school teacher, Mrs. Hughes, who I mentioned earlier, actually paid for my trip because I couldn’t pay for it myself. And my first opera at the Met was “Carmen.” And, you know, the Met itself is, you know, a magical place.

And the night that I saw “Carmen” at the Met was so pivotal in my life because not only did it break my preconception of what opera was, but it broke my preconception of who could sing opera. And the lead singer in “Carmen,” Carmen herself, was an African-American mezzo-soprano by the name of Denyce Graves. And it changed my life.

You know, when I was watching her, you know, I felt every emotion on the spectrum – you know, anger, sadness, joy. You know, she had comic moments. She was also incredibly seductive on stage. And afterwards, I got to meet her because of Mr. Brown who became my voice teacher. I got to meet her backstage, and she treated me like I was, you know, her best friend’s son or her nephew and, you know, hugged me and called me her beau and took pictures with me, and it made opera something tangible. It made it something real, not something that was a fantasy that I couldn’t approach.

And so when I left the Met that night, I told Mr. Brown outside of the Met, you know, I’m going to sing at the Metropolitan Opera. I told him this, and he looked at me and he said, OK, OK, OK, Speedo, maybe one day when you can learn to read music, when you can get onstage and remember your lines, when you can sing in a foreign language, when you can go to college, when you could, you know, sing in a young artist program and actually sing some professional roles, maybe someday you’ll be able to audition for the Met. And then kind of in my mind, I think, I took it all down and made a list. And nine years later, I sang at the Met.

GROSS: OK. Mr. Brown – you mentioned Mr. Brown…

GREEN: Yes.

GROSS: …He’s another one of the teachers who really changed your life and helped make you the artist that you’ve become. What are some of the things he saw in you that he helped you find in yourself?

GREEN: Well, you know, when I think of Mr. Brown, you know, he’s this African-American male, very tall. And, you know, he had this sonorous voice, even more sonorous than mine, I think. And, you know, he would come in and, hello, my name is Robert Brown. And he would say things like, the quarter note is not the center of the universe. And he was just – he was so inspiring. Like, he – when we’d have classes he would, you know, dance and sing and do imitations of some of his favorite divas in opera. And he inspired us, but he also was sort of like a boot camp drill sergeant, and he always put all of the boys and girls in shape and made sure that they were learning their music correctly.

And he was more than that to me. He was a father figure to me at the time and, you know, he was an intermediary between me and my mother when we had problems. And he also – you know, when we’d have rehearsals late at night, I had to stay after and, you know, I couldn’t afford dinner, so he would buy me food. And he even taught me how to drive. And I remember one moment, you know, I needed a winter coat, and so he bought me a winter coat, but not just any winter coat, he bought it from Nordstrom. And he said, you know, I want you to have a coat that I would wear, you know? And he was that kind of man. And he always pushed me to, you know, pursue my dream in opera.

GROSS: My guest is Ryan Speedo Green. The new book about him is called “Sing for Your Life.” We’ll talk more after a break, and we’ll listen back to an interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, who died Friday. He’s best known for his play, “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf”, which was adapted into a film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. I’m Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross, back with Ryan Speedo Green. The new biography “Sing for Your Life” tells the story of how he went from being a troubled, violent kid who did time in a juvenile detention center to singing at the Metropolitan Opera. Next week, he co-stars in “La Boheme” at the Met. He knew nothing about opera when he was placed in an opera program at a performing arts high school. His personal history and his lack of music knowledge put him at a disadvantage when he started out.

As you progressed and started to get, you know, auditions and be able to, like, sing with professional companies, you had trouble with some of your pronunciations. You hadn’t learned foreign languages, and you hadn’t heard a lot of opera sung when you were young. So what are some of the examples of things that you had to learn in order to sing opera just in terms of pronunciation?

GREEN: You know, I – when I was pursuing opera, I had a lot of artistic challenges I had to face. And I can remember, you know, even when I got into – when I was chosen to be in the Met young artist program, I still had trouble with languages. And they wanted me to fine tune some of the pronunciation things. You know, I’m thinking specifically maybe something, you know, in Italian, they worked with me on my legato, which is, you know, singing with flowing line in the Italian language. And one of my teachers in the Metropolitan Opera Young Artists Program, Italian coach by the name of Hemdi Kfir, I worked with her a piece, you know, I think maybe a couple of measures for a very long time. And she told me, you know, that Italian should feel as smooth as a bicycle going up and down gentle hills that – you know, that Italian is a language of lovers. And, you know, session after session I couldn’t get it right. And I remember I – you know, I got kind of maybe a little bit stressed out, and I told her, you know, maybe my mouth is more of a fighter than a lover.

(LAUGHTER)

GREEN: But – you know, but now I’m much better. And, you know, I sing in almost every major operatic language, including Russian.

GROSS: Can you understand those languages, or is it just phonetic?

GREEN: Now that I live in Europe – I’ve been living in Europe for the past couple of years…

GROSS: Oh, I didn’t realize that, OK.

GREEN: Yeah, it’s becoming more spoken than just phonetic. But I understand the language to the idea that I can translate word for word myself and get my interpretation from my translations.

GROSS: Are you living in Europe because you’re an ensemble member of the – here’s my pronunciation, it’s going to be really bad – of the Wiener Staatsoper – you say it…

GREEN: Yeah, so…

GROSS: You say it. I don’t even know it.

GREEN: It’s the Wiener Staatsoper and Vienna State Opera in English. And, yes, I’ve been an ensemble member there for the last two years and while coming back to the Met. And I live there with my wife, who is German. And, yeah, it’s great.

GROSS: That sounds great. So when you started singing opera and becoming passionate about it, you had friends, you even had an aunt who criticized you for pursuing a white thing. It’s like opera, that’s a white thing, isn’t it? You were called an Oreo. So how did you – how did you deal with that?

GREEN: You know, I think about the African-American opera singers who came before me, from Marian Anderson, who, you know, was one of the – the first African-American to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, to Leontyne Price, who redefined what it means to be a diva and one of the greatest sopranos in the history of opera, and even now to one of my mentors and people I look up to, Eric Owens, who is not only a phenomenal opera singer but a great instrumentalist and speaker. And, you know, I think about what they had to go through to pursue their dream of being an opera singer and it pales in comparison to what I went through. And so in my mind, I think if they could do it, what excuse do I have?

GROSS: Are you ever at a disadvantage in casting because you’re African-American, or do you feel that casting has become colorblind?

GREEN: You know, even though opera tends to be a politically liberal world, some people may not realize that they have preconceptions and, you know, they may judge African-American singers with critical assumptions. Like, you know, when they see a large, you know, African-American male walk into an audition, they immediately think, OK, his languages are probably going to be bad or he’s probably going to have a gospel sound. It’s subtle, but it may have a profound effect on casting.

GROSS: So when you describe yourself as a large man, what’s large about you?

GREEN: I mean, I’d like to think it’s my smile that’s large.

(LAUGHTER)

GREEN: But, you know, I’m about 6’5, 300 pounds. And whenever I walk into a room I tend to be noticed, sometimes when I don’t want to be noticed. But it’s a fact of the matter. But, you know, I use it to my advantage when I’m on stage and when I’m performing.

And it helps when you’re portraying certain characters, like a king or a bad guy or, you know, a father or you know – or even a hero because having a – filling up the stage not only with your voice but with your body – and not in a negative way – it’s a good feeling.

GROSS: So you’ve mentioned how when you walk into an audition, sometimes people assume that you would have a gospel sound. And in other places, an assumption was, oh, he should sing “Ol’ Man River” and they would insist that you sing “Ol’ Man River.” And this isn’t at auditions so much as, like, parties where you were performing. And “Ol’ Man River’s,” you know, one of the showpiece songs from the, you know, current Hammerstein musical “Show Boat.” And, you know, Paul Robeson is famous for it, William Warfield, Sinatra recorded it. You really have a bad relationship with this song. Why do you find being asked to sing it so troubling?

GREEN: You know, I remember one of the first times I sang at the Governor’s School for the Arts, after I hit puberty of course, and I sang a piece, a classical music piece. I think it was maybe an Italian art song or something like this. And I walked off stage and an older white person came up to me and asked me if I knew who Paul Robeson was. And at the time, I was – I said no. And they described “Ol’ Man River” and you should sing this piece from the musical “Show Boat.” And I was like OK, and that was the first of what would be every performance I’ve done since then pretty much. There was always an older person – white, of course – who would come up to me and ask me if I knew who William Warfield was or knew who Paul Robeson and I should sing “Ol’ Man River.” And it didn’t matter that I was singing an opera piece or I was singing a leader piece or an Italian art song piece. This would be the first thing that would come out of their mouth. And, you know, it’s a wonderful piece of music from an era of musical theater, classic movie theater. But that’s not what I’m training for. And, you know, the racial preconceptions, they get in the way of what people hear when they hear a black singer. And, you know, “Ol’ Man River” is sung by a black character who’s basically a servant in the Jim Crow South, who’s resigned to his fate, who longed for death, the freedom of death. And I can guarantee you that black people don’t want to hear a black singer perform this again and again. And actually I wondered a lot why, you know, white people want to hear this song so much which talks about the hardships of being black during that period, and it bothers me.

GROSS: My guest is opera singer Ryan Speedo Green. The new biography of him is called “Sing For Your Life.” We’ll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Let’s get back to our interview with opera singer Ryan Speedo Green. The new biography “Sing For Your Life” is about how he went from being a troubled, violent kid who did time in juvie to singing at the Metropolitan Opera.

So when you started singing dramatic roles in opera – roles that required the expression of jealousy, revenge, rage – did you draw on the anger that you had when you were a child, or if you felt like you put that behind you, did you have to find a safe way of tapping into really powerful emotions for your art?

GREEN: I’m not a fan of using anger on stage. And I feel like that’s not a proper emotion to use when you’re on stage performing. I think – you know, you mentioned jealousy – like that. Like, anger can stem from jealousy. But maybe jealousy can – the jealousy can stem from love, like loving someone so much that if they don’t love you back or if they love someone else that you get jealous. And I think a lot of – the root of my emotions that I use are from those sort of feelings. And I try not to just get into – once you get into anger, it becomes a bit uncontrollable. And the anger that I had as a child is not the kind of emotions that I, you know, express today in my life. And so, no, I don’t have to pull from anger to perform on stage. I pull from other experiences and emotions in my past.

GROSS: I’m going to read the opening line of the new biography of you. So the opening line is, Ryan Speedo Green did not belong here. (Laughter) This is the chapter about the Met audition, about you being at a really nice hotel and how out of place you felt at that time in this world. So when you were in the Met National Council auditions, which you ended up winning, did you feel really out of place, that you didn’t belong there? Like, what made you feel that way?

GREEN: Well, it was a bit daunting to me, you know, being around the best singers in the United States, young singers who were coming from some of the best schools and conservatories in the United States – Juilliard, AVA, Curtis, Bachus Conservatory, Indiana Conservatory, all of these great schools. And, you know, I’m coming from a, you know, university that’s not necessarily known for its opera program. And they’re talking about, oh, what professional gigs they had later and what summer programs they were going to and, you know, what young artist programs they were a part of. And I just felt overwhelmed, like, I mean, I’m nobody. Why am I here? And I was so in disbelief that I was there that I didn’t even bring a tuxedo with me because I didn’t think that I would even make it to the finals. But as I went through the week, working with the coaches, I became more confident. And when I made it to the finals, it was even more exciting for me because then I was – I knew that I’d be able to see my father because my father had promised that if I made it to the finals, he would fly to New York and see me sing because he had never heard me sing opera.

GROSS: So you mentioned your father. You had seen your father, I think, like, four times before he’d come to see you perform in the opera because he and your mother separated when you were very young. And he moved to another state, so you didn’t have much of a relationship. What was it like to hook up with him when he actually did come see you and you got to know each other better?

GREEN: You know, I barely saw my father growing up. But he promised to come to the Met finals if I made it there. And I remember after my first aria in the Met finals, I could hear my dad in the audience going hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo.

(LAUGHTER)

GREEN: And I think that was probably the first time people at the Met had heard appreciation calls like this. And that’s the kind of guy he was. And, you know, he was funny and charismatic. And I remember later on I got to see him in Colorado for Father’s Day. And I was picking him up at the airport, and he walked out in these, like, tamale pants – tamale, MC Hammer pants.

(LAUGHTER)

GREEN: And we went to a dinner – went straight to dinner from the airport. And he started talking to all the waitresses and the bartenders and bragging about me, you know, about his son who was an opera singer singing at the Met. And, you know, his charisma – he was the kind of person – you know, he was about 5-foot-7. He was a very short man compared to me. But when he’d walk into a room, everybody knew – would gravitate towards him and his charisma. And I try and use his charisma and, you know, sometimes his comic talent on stage when I’m performing.

GROSS: So your middle name Speedo, Ryan Speedo Green, comes from your father. It was his middle name. He gave you the middle name of Speedo. How did he get the name?

GREEN: My father was apparently a very fast birth. And he gave me the name for not only that it was his middle name, but for – my father was a semi-professional body builder. And I was born on April Fool’s Day so, you know, as a joke for April Fool’s Day, he gave me that name Speedo as well. So that’s why he got the name passed on to me.

GROSS: Does it have anything to do with speedos, with…

GREEN: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: …With the brief, yeah?

(LAUGHTER)

GREEN: Because that was my dad’s favorite underwear that he liked to wear when he was lifting, so, yes.

GROSS: So you’re probably the only person in opera who has a middle name like Speedo.

GREEN: You know, there are…

GROSS: A lot of nicknames, yeah.

GREEN: They’re lucky. Luckily, there are a lot of very interesting names in opera. Mine happens to be one of them. But I think it’s an easy name to remember. And, you know, if Maestro Levine calls me Speedo, then I guess I can be OK with being called Speedo.

GROSS: Does he?

GREEN: He does, yes. I remember my audition with him, and he read my name out loud. And he’s like, Speedo, I like that name.

GROSS: (Laughter) That’s great.

GREEN: And so since then, I was like, OK, if anybody says they can’t call me Speedo, I’ll just have to call Maestro James Levine and have them put them in their place.

GROSS: So you’re 30 now. Is your voice still changing?

GREEN: Yeah. I want to – actually, there’s something, you know, I want to talk about is that it’s so thrilling to be singing a role like Colline at the Met. But it’s – you know, in a lot of ways, I’m just starting to develop my voice. You know, even five years from now, when I’m 35, I’ll be young for my voice type. You know, singers like me don’t know our true potential till we’re in our 40s. And right now, I’ve only sung a small fraction of the repertoire that I’ll perform in the future. So, you know, I have so much to look forward to.

GROSS: Why is it that deep voices like yours take longer to fully develop?

GREEN: That’s a question that maybe I am not the best to answer because ask me in, like, 35 years and I’ll tell you. But, you know, if you notice, you see a lot of basses singing into their late 60s, even sometimes 70s. And it’s extremely rare for high voices to make it that long. But it’s also extremely rare to see a 30-year-old bass singing, you know, lead roles all over the world while it’s more common to see a 30-year-old soprano or tenor to sing lead roles. So, you know, there’s – in one end, you know, I have to – you know, I marinate a little bit longer. But on the other end, my career goes later into my life if I sing correctly and do the right roles and have a steady path.

GROSS: Well, I want to thank you so much for talking with us. And I’m not sure what the superstitions are in the opera world. I’m probably not supposed to say good luck. So instead I’ll say whatever it is I’m supposed to say to send you my best wishes in “La Boheme” – consider me having said that (laughter).

GREEN: I wanted to mention, you know, I went back to visit a facility that I had stayed in…

GROSS: The juvie facility?

GREEN: Yeah.

GROSS: Yeah?

GREEN: And I had – I spoke and I sang with the kids who were there. And I will be returning to the detention facility in December to sing and speak to the kids who are there now. And I think, you know, it’s something that’s incredibly important to me to give back and to, you know, hopefully connect with the kids and show them that there’s a future after you get out of here, that they don’t have to think that you’re just going to end up in jail after this, that you can pursue a dream.

GROSS: I think it’s great that you’re doing that. And you describe some of that in the book. You describe the first time you went there.

GREEN: Yeah.

GROSS: And you also describe how some of the kids seemed kind of indifferent to opera (laughter).

GREEN: Yes.

GROSS: So it was a kind of tough sell.

GREEN: It was a very, very tough sell. But, you know, I sing to them and I – you know, I talk with some of them one on one. You know, some of the kids, you know, acted super tough and didn’t want to, you know, spend any time with me. And they were hard to reach emotionally. Even – some of them even walked out on me. There was, you know, a girl from an Arab country who taught me how to say hello in Arabic and she sang to me, actually, in her native tongue. And I’ll never forget that. I came there not expecting to maybe have a deep conversation with someone. But to have someone sing to me, I mean, it brought me to tears, and that was such a special moment.

GROSS: It’s been wonderful to talk with you. Thank you so much.

GREEN: Thank you, Ms. Gross. It’s been a pleasure and an honor to be on here.

GROSS: Oh, thanks. Please call me Terry.

(LAUGHTER)

GREEN: OK, Terry.

GROSS: Ryan Speedo Green will sing the role of Colline in “La Boheme” next week at the Metropolitan Opera. The new book about him is called “Sing For Your Life.” After a break, we’ll listen back to an interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, who died last week. His most famous play is “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?” This is FRESH AIR.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

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Music : NPR

George Clooney reacts to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce: “I feel very sorry”

George Clooney had no idea that his friend Brad Pitt had split up with Angelina Jolie .

The actor was told of the two star’s divorce on Tuesday, and was stunned to hear the news during a chat with CNN.

“I didn’t know that. Wow,” George said to Richard Roth.

“I feel very sorry then. That’s a sad story and unfortunate for a family. It’s an unfortunate story about a family. I feel very sorry to hear that.”

“That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” he added.

Reuters Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and George Clooney

Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and George Clooney

Angelina and Brad were constantly at each other’s throats as their lives headed into “completely different” directions, it has been claimed.

The Changeling actress filed for divorce from her husband of 12 years on Monday sending shockwaves across Hollywood.

Now a source has claimed that Angelina is going through what could be deemed a “midlife crisis” after the couple’s marriage descended into constant battles.

“Angelina has been very unhappy for some time — there was a constant string of arguments about their future,” a source told The Sun.

Splash Angelina Jolie files for divorce from Brad Pitt

Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from Brad Pitt

Splash News Brad Ptt, Angelina Jolie and their whole family go for a Sunday stroll

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and their whole family

“She tried to make the marriage work time and time again for the sake of the children, but they were in turmoil and it became too hard to see a way out. Their lives are heading in completely different directions.”

They added: “Angelina wants to be seen as a humanitarian while Brad continues to live the Hollywood lifestyle and is in the midst of some sort of midlife crisis. She ended up telling him earlier this month, ‘I can’t do this any more’.”

Brad was said to be “devastated” by her decision to end their marriage after 12 years together.

VIEW GALLERY Angelina Jolie has cited "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for wanting to divorce Brad Pitt and court documents list their separation date as September 15, 2016

Meanwhile it has been claimed that Angelina still loves Brad.

The Maleficent star’s decision to file for divorce from the Fury actor is “weighing heavy on her heart” but she feels it is the right thing to do for the sake of their six children, Maddox, 15, Pax, 12, Zahara, 11, Shiloh, 10, and twins Knox and Vivienne, eight.

An insider said: “She still says Brad is the love of her life, and the decision has weighed heavy on her heart. Her priority now is the children.

REX Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

‘Brangelina’ were together for 12 years and had six children

Universal BRAD PITT & ANGELINA JOLIE IN THE FILM BY THE SEA

They starred in By The Sea together

“Whilst the pair’s split has been on the cards for sometime, the 41-year-old actress made the final decision to submit the papers to court only a week ago.

A source told Us Weekly magazine: “The final divorce decision was only made one week ago. An incident took place and prompted Angelina to act and file.

Meanwhile, Brad Pitt broke his silence since the news of their divorce was revealed to say he is “very saddened” by what had happened.

In a statement, he said: “I am very saddened by this, but what matters most now is the wellbeing of our kids.

Rex Features Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie with children Shiloh, Vivienne, Maddox, Knox and Zahara

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie with children Shiloh, Vivienne, Maddox, Knox and Zahara

Rex Features Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt EE British Academy Film Awards, Arrivals, Royal Opera House, London, Britain

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt weathered multiple rumours about break-ups for years

“I kindly ask the press to give them the space they deserve during this challenging time.

Angelina’s manager also insisted her decision was made in the “best interest” of the couple’s children.

Rex Features Zahara Jolie-Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Shiloh Jolie-Pitt Nickelodeon's 28th Annual Kids Choice Awards, Show, Los Angeles, America

Zahara Jolie-Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Shiloh Jolie-Pitt Nickelodeon’s 28th Annual Kids Choice Awards

Geyer Kosinki said: “Angelina is doing what’s best in the interest of taking care of her children. She appreciates everyone’s understanding of their need for privacy at this time.”

And entertainment attorney Robert Offer added: “Angelina has filed for dissolution of the marriage. This decision was made for the health of the family. She will not be commenting, and asks that the family be given its privacy at this time.”

mirror – 3am

Teyana Taylor Reveals She and Iman Shumpert Are Now Married (WATCH)

*Well damn, how about this. When nobody was looking Teyana Taylor and Iman Shumpert went and got hitched. The singer, whose body stole the show in the risqué video for Kanye West’s “Fade,” broke the news today (09-20-16) on the “Wendy Williams Show.”

It seems Wendy apparently knew something had gone down between the two and when she tried to get it out of Taylor, she hedged, saying “Maybe. Maybe not.”

Obviously you already know she came around and admitted that she and the Cleveland Cavaliers baller had secretly wed. Interestingly, it came out while talking about recovering from the revelation that a one-time best friend of hers had slept with her man.

teyana taylor & iman shumpert

“Remaining a good person, and allowing myself to love again is why I am where I am. I have a beautiful baby,” Taylor, 25, said before confirming that she was indeed married:

“I have a wonderful husband.”

At that point she displayed her so-called “untreated” ruby wedding ring that she said is, “worth more than a diamond.”

READ RELATED STORY: Teyana Taylor & Iman Shumpert Deal with His Cheating Rumors (Photos/Music)

“He’s so supportive,” she told the host. “Not only is he a basketball player he’s really just everything. He’s like, ‘No babe, let’s do it, it’s time, let’s roll, get in the studio.’ He’s in the studio with me, he’s writing with me. His credits are all over my album. He’s my biggest supporter.”

iman & teyana (a lotta skin )

Taylor made it clear she feels her Shumpert, 26, who delivered their daughter, Iman Tayla, last December, is dedicated to both her and her career in spite of the recent cheating scandal he got caught up in and admitted to. Here’s what Shumpert had to say about his indiscretions.

“I was young. I was selfish. I’ve broken hearts and been insensitive to them. I never really cared what the Internet said of me until now and it’s not because they’re antagonizing me…they are now directing hate toward a woman that gives off nothing but positive energy and deserves nothing more than the world that I vow to give her.”

He added:

“I normally wouldn’t acknowledge this type of thing but you guys win. If you’re going to send the hate, direct it at me. Don’t make her pay for my mistakes. I’m older now, I’m different now. It’s Peace and love. Don’t make her pay for the mistakes of my past.”

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In ‘Latin American Songbook,’ Edward Simon Rethinks The American Jazz Standard

In his new album, Latin American Songbook, jazz pianist Edward Simon offers a new take on some of his favorite Latin standards. Scott Chernis/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Scott Chernis/Courtesy of the artist

Many jazz pianists play tunes from the Great American Songbook, that beloved canon of standards from the early 20th century. But pianist Edward Simon has chosen to focus on another great collection of American standards for his newest album, Latin American Songbook.

Growing up in Venezuela, near the northern edge of South America, was an advantage for Simon. His early listening encompassed music from the north — Cuba and Puerto Rico — and also extended southward to the music of Chile, Brazil and Argentina.

When Simon set out to record Latin American Songbook, he realized that the collection couldn’t possibly represent every country in the region — that was too vast a scope. Instead, he settled on Latin American songs that he simply loves to play.

Besides growing up in the geographic center of Latin America, Simon came up in a musical household. The song “Volver” is a famous tango that his father sang as a bolero — so it’s something of a family tradition for Simon to bring his own character to the song. His use of mixed meter gives “Volver” the mood of memory — the unreliability only adds to its loveliness.

Simon wisely chooses standards that lend themselves to fresh harmonies and inventive arrangements. Even more essentially, without a singer on hand, he knows when to bring an extravagant lyricism to his piano lines, as in “Alfonsina Y El Mar.”

YouTube

The combination of Latin standards and a jazz sensibility is always rich, but this recording really works because an expert musician applies himself so sincerely to songs that were formative for him. Simon puts his head and heart into Latin American Songbook, and the album gives Latin standards a rightful and joyful place at the center of instrumental jazz.

Music : NPR

Khloe Kardashian Flaunts Huge Diamond Ring — Already Engaged To Tristan Thompson?

Khloe Kardashian Engaged

SplashNews/REX/Shutterstock

Hollywood Life

Brad Pitt — Angelina’s Anger Claims are BS … He’s NOT a Dangerous Dad

0920-angelina-jolie-brad-pitt-TMZ-GETTY-01Angelina Jolie is lying by spreading the word … Brad Pitt has anger issues that become dangerous when mixed with weed and alcohol … so say sources directly connected with Brad.

TMZ broke the story, Angelina filed for divorce because she believes Brad poses a danger to the kids by fueling his “anger problem” with pot and alcohol.

Our Brad sources say it’s “a malicious lie” and that “he’s a loving and devoted father who has never and would never put his children in any dangerous situation.”

The sources did not address the weed and alcohol issues.

As we reported, Angelina wants sole physical custody, with Brad getting only visitation. Our Brad sources say he wants to “share” physical custody with Angelina to make sure he remains a “present father” to the children. As for whether he asks for joint custody in his legal response … stay tuned.

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Behind-the-scenes look at a new drama about Queen Elizabeth’s life by BAZ BAMIGBOYE

There’s high drama everywhere I look. Over there, the Queen is boarding a BOAC flight. Here’s Winston Churchill presiding over a cabinet meeting. And look: the Duke of Edinburgh is wandering around in his pyjamas.

In a muddy field, I see perfect replicas of the frontages of Buckingham Palace and No. 10 Downing Street — although on closer inspection, they do look a little frayed.

Then the Queen swings her handbag at a courtier, and lets out a belly laugh.

It’s as if I’ve been sent back in a time machine to view — first hand — the early years of Her Majesty’s reign. But, in reality, the scenes unfolding before my eyes are part of the filming of the first series of The Crown — the most ambitious television programme ever made about Elizabeth II, and this autumn’s must-see drama.

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It's as if I've been sent back in a time machine to view — first hand — the early years of Her Majesty's reign

It’s as if I’ve been sent back in a time machine to view — first hand — the early years of Her Majesty’s reign

‘It’s the story of this extraordinary family under extraordinary pressure trying to survive,’ said Stephen Daldry, one of The Crown’s executive producers and directors.

All ten hour-long episodes will be streamed, in all Netflix territories, from November 4 this year.

Viewers will be able to observe actress Claire Foy’s portrait of Elizabeth from her wedding to dashing naval officer Philip Mountbatten (played by Matt Smith) in 1947, to the debacle that was Suez in 1956.

People forget that in the early years of her reign, the Queen looked like a movie star.

   

More from Baz Bamigboye for the Daily Mail…

‘She was glamorous and she was beautiful — but she had this extraordinary sense of duty as well,’ Daldry added.

His ambition, and that of his collaborators — writer Peter Morgan (who worked on the play The Audience with Daldry and also wrote the film The Queen, both starring Helen Mirren), Philip Martin (who directs four episodes) and producers Andy Harries, Suzanne Mackie, Matthew Byam-Shaw, Andrew Eaton, Faye Ward and Robert Fox — is to shoot ten episodes for each decade of Her Majesty’s 63-year reign.

The second series, covering the Sixties, starts filming next month.

Each show deals with a crisis: whether it’s political (Suez) or domestic, such as Princess Margaret’s desire to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend, her father’s equerry.

One concerns the placement of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at the funeral of King George VI.

Another explores the different experiences Philip and Charles had at Gordonstoun school. ‘Why was it so powerful for Philip? And so horrid for Charles?’ Daldry wondered.

Another episode examines the explosive debate around the cabinet table — and in the Commons — over whether the Queen’s Coronation should be televised.

Philip Martin directed the Coronation episode. He said the argument about the perils of ‘letting daylight in on the magic’ (as 19th-century essayist Walter Bagehot put it), and of ‘whether it was wrong for people to be able to sit at home and have a cup of tea and watch the Queen being crowned’ — in his words — was fierce.

A highlight is the sequence concerning the Act of Consecration.

In 1953, the anointing of the Queen was blacked out, so viewers never saw it. But Daldry was adamant The Crown should show Elizabeth being daubed on the palms of her hands, her breast and forehead with special consecrated oils — and the scene with Foy (who played Anne Boleyn, in Wolf Hall) is solemn but spectacular.

‘It explains so much about her, and how she sees her duties,’ Daldry said, as we walked to one of several sound-stages being used at Elstree, in Hertfordshire, for the show.

Philip Martin directed the Coronation episode. He said the argument about the perils of 'letting daylight in on the magic', and of 'whether it was wrong for people to be able to sit at home and have a cup of tea and watch the Queen being crowned' was fierce

Philip Martin directed the Coronation episode. He said the argument about the perils of ‘letting daylight in on the magic’, and of ‘whether it was wrong for people to be able to sit at home and have a cup of tea and watch the Queen being crowned’ was fierce

I mentioned that when I was being shown around, a senior member of the crew explained one set was Prince Philip's private rooms

I mentioned that when I was being shown around, a senior member of the crew explained one set was Prince Philip’s private rooms

He stressed that The Crown is not a historical documentary (although he said an incredible amount of research had been done).

‘We’re not making up a lot. But obviously it’s not a docu-drama.

‘The Queen has maintained a mystique: the most visible, invisible woman in the world.

‘The dramas of her family affect our lives, as when Margaret wanted to marry ‘the staff’ — and a divorced member of the staff, at that. A lot of what’s in The Crown is in the public domain, but it has never been put together like this before.

The Queen has maintained a mystique: the most visible, invisible woman in the world.
Stephen Daldry, one of The Crown’s executive producers and directors

‘We’re checking ourselves to make sure we’re not stepping over the line.’

And what, exactly, would be ‘stepping over the line’?

‘Getting into areas that aren’t warranted, or in bad taste,’ Daldry said. ‘I wouldn’t be interested in seeing them in intimate circumstances.’

I mentioned that when I was being shown around, a senior member of the crew explained one set was Prince Philip’s private rooms.

There was a corridor leading to another bedroom.

‘That’s the tunnel of love,’ the person said, adding that it lead to the Queen’s private chambers.

Daldry confirmed ‘the tunnel of love’, but insisted: ‘We’re not portraying anything that hasn’t been said in biographies.

Smith said he would not describe himself as a royalist ('I like how bizarre and interesting they are') but admitted that since working on The Crown he has found himself feeling 'more affectionate towards them'

Smith said he would not describe himself as a royalist (‘I like how bizarre and interesting they are’) but admitted that since working on The Crown he has found himself feeling ‘more affectionate towards them’

‘You do see Philip in pyjamas, and there is a bare royal bottom. They were a very passionate couple. One doesn’t want to be lurid or indiscreet in any way, but you also want to get a sense of how much in love with each other they were.’

Matt Smith was even more circumspect, and said he wasn’t sure if the royal bottom would survive editing.

‘I think what will come through is that they are real soul mates,’ said Smith, who will also portray the Duke of Edinburgh in season two.

But, Smith told me, his Philip is not the prince of gaffes, as we sometimes see him today.

She stood under the archway in Horse Guards with her handbag, and I got this sense from her of: “This is our country. Don’t f*** with me”.
Executive producer Andrew Eaton, on the Queen after the 7/7 bombings

‘There’s more to him than that,’ he said. ‘I think he’s quite a complex man really. His mother was estranged, his sister died in a plane crash and his father was busy in Monaco. Then his career in the Navy was taken away when Elizabeth’s father died and she became Queen.

‘It’s very odd when you start walking two steps behind your wife.’

Smith said he would not describe himself as a royalist (‘I like how bizarre and interesting they are’) but admitted that since working on The Crown he has found himself feeling ‘more affectionate towards them’.

Several members of the cast and creative team had similar stories of discovering new levels of admiration for the Queen and Philip since embarking on the dramas, which were shot here and in South Africa.

Executive producer Andrew Eaton said he found himself crying when watching Foy in the Coronation scenes. ‘I thought: ‘What do I find that’s so emotional?’ And I think it’s mostly about this country, and what’s great about it.’

He remembered watching the Queen the week after the July 7 bombings in London. ‘She stood under the archway in Horse Guards with her handbag, and I got this sense from her of: “This is our country. Don’t f*** with me.”

‘That’s our Queen. She’s always had our back.’

Usshowbiz | Mail Online