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Bill Withers, Lean On Me hitmaker, dead at 81

Lean On Me singer dies

Bill Withers, who wrote and sang a string of soulful songs in the 1970s that have stood the test of time, including “Lean On Me,” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” has died from heart complications, his family said in a statement to The Associated Press. He was 81.

The three-time Grammy Award winner, who withdrew from making music in the mid-1980s, died on Monday in Los Angeles, the statement said. His death comes as the public has drawn inspiration from his music during the coronavirus pandemic, with health care workers, choirs, artists and more posting their own renditions on “Lean on Me” to help get through the difficult times.

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father. A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other,” the family statement read. “As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.”

Withers’ songs during his brief career have become the soundtracks of countless engagements, weddings and backyard parties. They have powerful melodies and perfect grooves melded with a smooth voice that conveys honesty and complex emotions without vocal acrobatics.

“Lean On Me,” a paean to friendship, was performed at the inaugurations of both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean on Me” are among Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

“He’s the last African-American Everyman,” musician and band leader Questlove told Rolling Stone in 2015. “Bill Withers is the closest thing black people have to a Bruce Springsteen.”

Withers, who overcame a childhood stutter, was born the last of six children in the coal mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia. After his parents divorced when he was 3, Withers was raised by his mother’s family in nearby Beckley.

He joined the Navy at 17 and spent nine years in the service as an aircraft mechanic installing toilets. After his discharge, he moved to Los Angeles, worked at an aircraft parts factory, bought a guitar at a pawn shop and recorded demos of his tunes in hopes of landing a recording contract.

In 1971, signed to Sussex Records, he put out his first album, “Just As I Am,” with the legendary Booker T. Jones at the helm. It had the hits “Grandma’s Hands” and “Ain’t No Sunshine."

Withers went on to generate more hits a year later with the inspirational “Lean On Me,” the menacing “Who Is He (and What Is He to You)” and the slinky “Use Me” on his second album, “Still Bill.”

Later would come the striking “ Lovely Day,” co-written with Skip Scarborough and featuring Withers holding the word “day” for almost 19 seconds, and “Just The Two Of Us,” co-written with Ralph MacDonald and William Salter. His “Live at Carnegie Hall” in 1973 made Rolling Stone’s 50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time.

“The hardest thing in songwriting is to be simple and yet profound. And Bill seemed to understand, intrinsically and instinctively, how to do that,” Sting said in “Still Bill,” a 2010 documentary of Withers.

He was awarded Grammys as a songwriter for “Ain’t No Sunshine” in 1971 and for “Just The Two Of Us” in 1981. In 1987, Bill received his ninth Grammy nomination and third Grammy as a songwriter for the re-recording of the 1972 hit “ Lean On Me” by Club Nouveau.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 by Stevie Wonder.



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Jen surprises hospital staff

Jennifer Aniston teamed up with U.S. late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel to gift a Utah nurse and each member of her team a $10,000 Postmates giftcard.

Kimmel is currently filming his late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! from his home during the ongoing lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, and on Thursday he helped Friends star Aniston spread some joy to one superfan.

Appearing on the show via video link, the actress confessed being stuck at home had been a challenge, after spending the past three weeks in isolation.

In the final segment of her appearance, the star helped surprise a fan named Kimball Fairbanks, a cardiovascular nurse in Utah who contracted Covid-19 last week.

Fairbanks had to stop working so she could self-isolate, and is currently in quarantine without her two daughters. To help her along the way, however, the two stars surprised her with a $10,000 gift card to food delivery service Postmates, as well as additional gift cards for every nurse on her floor at the hospital.

Visibly stunned by the gesture, she simply responded, "Wow," shaking her head in disbelief.



Disappointed in Family end

Sarah Hyland was disappointed with the way Modern Family ended for her character Haley Dunphy.

The 29-year-old actress starred as Haley in the hit U.S. TV show from its start in 2009 to its final episode, which will air on April 8. But while fans are desperately waiting to see how the program draws to a close, Sarah told Cosmopolitan magazine that she was left somewhat deflated when she saw how it finished for her on-screen alter ego.

Telling the publication that she wished she could have seen Haley "own her badassery" in the fashion world – becoming a badass stylist or brand mogul or anything like that, Sarah then reflected that it would have been equally exciting to see her become a working mother after welcoming twins.

"There are so many amazing mothers who are also hard workers and excel at their jobs and kill it every day in both aspects," she said. "That would have been a really cool thing to see, especially from someone like Haley."



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O.J. rants on Tiger King

O.J. Simpson is convinced Tiger King star Carole Baskin's ex-husband Don Lewis ended up as "Tiger Sashimi."

Released last month on Netflix, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness follows the exploits of Joe Exotic, a prolific tiger breeder, who ran a popular illegal zoo in Oklahoma.

While he's currently serving 22 years in jail for plotting to kill animal rights activist Carole, fans of the show are convinced she's also guilty of wrongdoing - and the disgraced former American football player is totally on board with the theory.

After watching the seven-part show, the star took to Twitter to launch into an epic rant where he voiced his suspicions about Carole, telling fans: "Well, yesterday I watched this show...and oh my god is America in this bad of shape. I watched about six episodes of this show and I couldn't believe what I was looking at. White people! What's with you and wild animals... leave those animals alone.

"One thing I will say, there's not a shred of doubt in my mind... that... that ladies husband is um... Tiger Sashimi right now... I'm just sayin,'" he added, before urging fans, "Take care, and I hope you find something better to watch."

Addressing the speculation in a post on the website of her cat sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue, Carole denied the allegations against her, and called the documentary series "unsavoury lies."

"(Tiger King) has a segment devoted to suggesting, with lies and innuendos from people who are not credible, that I had a role in the disappearance of my husband Don in 1997...I never threatened him and I certainly had nothing to do with his disappearance," she insisted.

O.J. was previously acquitted in one of the biggest murder trials of the 1990s, after the former sportsman was accused of murdering wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.

Although he was acquitted of the murders in criminal court, he was later found "responsible" for their deaths in a civil trial in 1996.



Leo and Oprah team up

Leonardo DiCaprio has teamed up with Oprah Winfrey to raise $15 million to keep poor Americans fed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Millions of U.S. citizens are facing hardship due to the economic shock caused by the virus and lockdown measures brought in to stop its spread.

On Thursday, DiCaprio announced that he and Steve Jobs' widow Laurene Powell Jobs have launched America's Food Fund to raise money to provide meals for low-income families, unemployed people, and the elderly - with their first charitable partners the World Central Kitchen and Feeding America organizations.

In a statement to the Associated Press, The Revenant star said: "In the face of this crisis, organizations like World Central Kitchen and Feeding America have inspired us all with their unwavering commitment to feed the most vulnerable people in need. I thank them for their tireless work on the frontlines, they deserve all of our support."

According to the organization's GoFundMe page, DiCaprio and Powell Jobs have donated $5 million combined, one-third of the fund's $15 million goal, with Oprah chipping in $1 million, the Apple corporation contributing an additional $5 million and the Ford Foundation giving $1 million. At the time of the announcement, the fund had raised just under $12.3 million .

In addition to chipping in $1 million, Oprah helped announce plans for the fund by talking to chef Jose Andres and Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot on her Apple + series Oprah Talks Covid-19.

On Twitter, she also revealed that overall she will be donating $10 million to charitable organizations trying to help Americans hit hard by the pandemic.



Gwyneth's isolation blues

Gwyneth Paltrow and her family are "feeling really pent in" as they continue to self-isolate amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In a new video, titled How Do You Find Intimacy In Uncertain Times?, Gwyneth, 47, and her husband Brad Falchuk, reflect on how the couple, and the Contagion star's two children Apple, 15, and Moses, 13, are coping under lockdown.

"We're lucky that we have a really solid relationship but we're also in the house with the kids and it's pretty close quarters," she said. "I think we all feel, especially my teenagers right now, are feeling really pent in – especially Apple who is a really social creature.

"We're really following the strict guidelines so she's not able to see people she usually sees, so it gets fractious in moments."

Gwyneth, who shares her two kids with ex-husband, Coldplay star Chris Martin, continued: "So there's definitely tensions in the house, and we have the added dynamic of step-parent, and I think there is quite a lot of stress that comes from trying to recalibrate to this new normal and new level of proximity."

Brad also has two kids with his first wife, Suzanne, although it remains unclear whether they are also staying with him and Gwyneth during the lockdown.

Gwyneth went on to lament her and 49-year-old Brad's lack of privacy in their mansion, pointing out: "As a couple it's sort of like, 'Where do you go as a couple when you're all in the house and you've got dogs, and work, and work from home'. It's like, 'What are you supposed to do?'"

The Avengers: Endgame star wed Glee producer Brad in September, 2018, but they spent the majority of their first year as husband and wife living in separate homes to give their children from previous relationships time to adjust to the new family dynamic.

The couple finally moved in together last summer.



F1 boss to be dad at 89

Formula 1 mogul Bernie Eccleston is set to become a father for the fourth time at the age of 89.

The businessman's wife, Fabiana Flosi, is pregnant with Bernie's first son.

He is already father to three daughters - Deborah, Tamara, and Petra, whose ages range from 65 to 31.

Bernie confirmed the news to Swiss newspaper Blick from self-isolation in Sao Paulo, Brazil, revealing the baby is due in July, a few weeks before the businessman's 90th birthday.

The couple wed in 2012.



Dolly donates $1 million

Dolly Parton is continuing her efforts to aid in the coronavirus crisis by donating $1 million to help researchers find a cure for COVID-19.

The country music icon pledged the sum to medics at Nashville, Tennessee's private research school Vanderbilt University on Wednesday as she urged others who are financially secure to consider doing the same.

In a post on Instagram, she wrote, "My longtime friend Dr. Naji Abumrad, who's been involved in research at Vanderbilt for many years, informed me that they were making some exciting advancements towards research of the coronavirus for a cure.

"I am making a donation of $1 million to Vanderbilt towards that research and to encourage people that can afford it to make donations."

The Jolene hitmaker signed off the note, "Keep the faith, Dolly."

Parton's act of kindness won her high praise from her famous fans, with Reese Witherspoon commenting, "Dolly, you never cease to amaze me with your generosity and your incredible spirit!!

"earth angel," remarked singer Kacey Musgraves, as Goldie Hawn gushed, "Angel that you are."

Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Angelina Jolie are among the stars who have also made $1 million donations to coronavirus-related causes.

In addition to the research funding, Parton is doing her bit to help comfort kids via a daily Goodnight with Dolly video, during which she reads from a series of children's books.

The 74 year old also took a moment on Tuesday to share a message of gratitude for first responders "around the world", thanking them for sacrificing their time and putting their own health at risk to help "the folks in need at this time."

She added, "I know it's easy for us to sit home and watch you on television and feel sorry for you because (of) what you're going through, but we are at war and you're on the frontlines.

"We just want you to know we're praying for you and we appreciate you more than you can imagine."



Judge lets rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine go home, citing COVID-19

Rapper out of jail early

Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine was ordered immediately freed from a Manhattan federal lockup four months early Thursday by a judge who cited his asthma and the greater danger he would face behind bars during the coronavirus outbreak.

U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer made the ruling a day after telling lawyers on both sides that he intended to do so. He cited “a raging and virulent pandemic that has entered federal prisons in New York City.” Prosecutors did not oppose the action.

“In light of the heightened medical risk presented to Mr. Hernandez by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are extraordinary and compelling reasons to reduce Mr. Hernandez’s sentence,” he said.

Last week, the judge said he would have sentenced the 23-year-old performer, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez, to home confinement rather than prison when he announced the sentence in December had he known then of the coronavirus.

Engelmayer ordered the release the same day that he asked lawyers to advise what should be done after a former associate of Tekashi 6ix9ine who was released from jail because of the coronavirus threat might have put himself in danger outside bars.

The judge said a video of Kintea McKenzie, who pleaded guilty in the case and was awaiting sentencing, "appears to reflect Mr. McKenzie partying in very close proximity to numerous others.”

Engelmayer said he was concerned because the activity might reflect a violation of McKenzie's terms of pre-sentence release and because “the conduct depicted on the video suggests a complete lack of concern by Mr. McKenzie for avoidance of contagion of himself and others.”

For Tekashi 6ix9ine, testimony against members of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods gang earned him leniency from charges that could have subjected him to a mandatory minimum 37 years in prison for crimes that included orchestrating a shooting in which an innocent bystander was wounded.

The rapper is serving his sentence in a private jail because he co-operated with prosecutors and because the government has control of him as a co-operator.

He was expected to be released July 31. He will be subject to electronic monitoring until he is released from home confinement. Until then, he can visit only his lawyer or a doctor. His lawyer said he was diagnosed in October with bronchitis and sinusitis.

In 2018, Tekashi 6ix9ine had a multiplatinum hit song, “Fefe,” with Nicki Minaj, which peaked at No. 3 on the pop charts, and “Stoopid,” featuring imprisoned rapper Bobby Shmurda.



Cardi B in hospital

Cardi B has admitted herself to hospital after suffering "real bad stomach problems for four days."

The Bodak Yellow rapper took to Twitter on Wednesday night, where she shared a picture of her hospital bracelet and wrote that she had admitted herself after suffering bad stomach pains.

"Honestly, cause I been having some real bad stomach problems for four days, I went to the ER last night," she penned, alongside a crying face emoji.

By the following morning, however, it did indeed seem as though the Kream star was feeling a little better, as she took to Instagram to share a meme of Disney character Donald Duck which read: "When you're hungry but all the food in the house needs to be cooked."

"Mood right f***ing now," she wrote alongside the post.

The health scare comes amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, for which Cardi slammed the U.S. government over its response to the public health crisis.

"Are y'all spraying s**t in the street, are y'all gonna one by one take our temperature to see if we got it?" she said during an Instagram Live stream. "How am I supposed to know that I have the coronavirus?"

She previously confessed she was "losing my f***ing mind" as she begged for answers from the government about the pandemic.



Cody declares his love

Cody Simpson has marked his six-month anniversary with Miley Cyrus, by expressing his love for her in a heartfelt dedication.

The singer made the public declaration on his Instagram Story on Wednesday, insisting their brief romance feels like it has lasted "a lifetime."

"Six months with you is worth a lifetime with anyone else. I love you," he captioned a shot of the couple together.

The two stars sparked rumours they were dating after they were spotted out and about together in Los Angeles last October.

The Wrecking Ball hitmaker and Simpson, who will join Miley on her daily Instagram Live show Bright Minded on Thursday, recently adopted a German Shepherd puppy, named Bo, together.



Bieber scraps 2020 tour

Justin Bieber has postponed his Changes Tour due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Sorry hitmaker was due to kick off in Seattle in May, and end in East Rutherford, New Jersey, in September, but all the dates have now been pulled due to the global health crisis.

In an announcement on his website Justin and his team told fans that as a result of the pandemic and lockdown measures designed to halt the spread of the virus, he will no longer tour in 2020.

"In light of the current public health crisis, and with the deepest concern for all those being affected, Justin Bieber will be postponing all currently scheduled 2020 dates for The Changes Tour," the post reads. "While Justin - along with his band, dancers and crew - has been hard at work preparing an amazing show, he has always put the health and well-being of his fans first and foremost."

The statement went on to say that the pop star is, "anxiously awaiting the opportunity to get back out on the road and perform in a space that is safe for everyone."

He also told fans to hold on to their tickets, as he will announce rescheduled dates soon.



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