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U2 frontman Bono named in Paradise Papers tax evasion leak

The megastar is known for using his name to fight for social justice, but the Paradise Papers reveal that he also owns shell companies in tax havens. U2 frontman Bono is one of the richest musicians in the world. At the G8 summit in 2007, he sang against poverty in the world, but that same year, he also invested his money in a letterbox company in the tax haven of Malta, as stated in the so-called Paradise Papers. For almost a year, 400 journalists from 67 countries have evaluated the documents that reveal the tax tricks of companies, politicians, athletes and criminals. Read more: Offshore: The legal and the not so legal Bono, whose real name is Paul David Hewson, is one of the many prominent names that appear in the review of the Paradise Papers. His name is associated with a company called "Nude Estates Malta Limited," which invested in a Lithuanian company that used the money to develop a shopping center in the small Lithuanian town of Utena. Although that is not a crime in itself, it was also stated that the profits of the mall have been incorrectly booked. If that is confirmed to be true, it will also mean that Bono has evaded taxes. 'Gross violation of the tax law' "In my view, this is not a mistake, tax planning or tax avoidance, but a gross violation of the tax law," said a Lithuanian tax expert, Ruta Bilkstyte, after reviewing the Paradise Papers. While the Lithuanian authorities are now investigating the case, tax experts estimate tens of thousands of euros could have been misappropriated. In 2012, Bono's company obtained a new, Guernsey-based parent company, "Nude Estates I," which is said to have bought the mall for 100 pounds (€126, $131). The company has been holding Bono's shares since 2007, too. Another one of the musician's companies, "Nude Estates Limited," was also active in Germany, where it acquired a 10-story office building in Duisburg. Bono's management confirmed the singer's involvement in the company network but rejected the allegations of tax violations. Read more: Paradise Papers — what you need to know Although the musician is very rich, he has been using legal tax credits for years to shield his assets from the tax office. For instance, he moved the tax residence of his band U2 to the Netherlands because, in Ireland, his homeland, tax benefits for musicians and artists were abolished.

The megastar is known for using his name to fight for social justice, but the Paradise Papers reveal that he also owns shell companies in tax havens. U2 frontman Bono is one of the richest musicians in the world. At the G8 summit in 2007, he sang against poverty in the world, but that same year, he also invested his ... Read More »

‘Matilda’ hits cinemas as Russia fears more violence

Russia is on edge as the controversial historical drama premieres. DW's Juri Rescheto in Saint Petersburg explains why attacks have dogged Aleksei Utichel's film and why the response has been too little, too late. "Maltida" is good at playing hide and seek. Nothing points to a premiere: no posters, no trailer, no program brochure. Instead, the calendar of events at St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater announces a guest performance of the Estonian National Ballet. Nothing else. Barely known is the fact that on Monday October 23, the famous theater will host an event of national significance, a premiere that has had the whole country holding its breath for months. In the Mariinksy, on a different stage next to one where the contemporary Estonian troupe will perform, an entirely different ballerina will be dancing, one who is historic, classic and controversial. Her name? Matilda — the main character of the eponymous film by Russian director Aleksei Uchitel. Over 100 years ago, Matilda Kschessinskaya, the picture-perfect dancer of Polish origin, turned the head of Nicolas II, Russia's last czar. The affair almost cost him the throne — almost, because he remained steadfast and returned to his less beautiful wife, the German princess Alix von Hessen-Darmstadt. The monarchy was saved, even if not for long… That's as far as the script for this movie goes. Made in the Hollywood manner of an overly pompous costume drama, the film has been a thorn in the eye of the Russian Orthodox Church for nearly a year and has given militant supporters of the state church a reason for hate and violence. The resulting controversy has become so bad that numerous cinemas are refusing to show the film. The main actor in "Matilda," German Lars Eidinger, even canceled his trip to Russia for the film's premiere due to fear of violent attack. He has been defamed in Russia as a "gay German porno actor." Natalia versus Matilda: a politician fights the film Behind the hate campaign is a delicate blond: Natalia Poklonskaya, one of the glitziest figures in Russian politics. The former public prosecutor of the Crimean peninsula is currently a member of the Russian Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament. About one year ago, she made the fight against "Matilda" her life calling. She accuses the film of portraying the czar in an "unworthy" manner. Nicolas II was murdered by the Bolsheviks as a consequence of the October Revolution of 1917 and was recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church as a martyred saint in 1981. Thus, the film is opposed on the grounds of "insult to religious feeling," which in Russia is punishable by law. Poklonskaya has not seen the film. When I asked her how she reached her judgment, the member of parliament answered that one need not eat a whole bucket of crap in order to know how bad it tastes. Just a spoonful suffices. The "spoonful" is the trailer that she has seen. It has a chaste bedroom scene. That seemed to be enough for her. Uncontrolled violence Poklonskaya pulled out all the stops: she gathered signatures, submitted one claim after another to the state's attorney, worked with group after group of experts. All fruitless. "Matilda" may be screened. After a private viewing, the Duma came to the conclusion that the film was permissible. But it was too late. The authorities had remained silent for too long, and the spirit of religiously motivated hate had already been let out of the bottle. Poklonskaya's threats, and those from the ominous group "Christian State — Holy Rus," had been observed passively for too long. When I met supporters of this group in February in the Russian city of Lipetsk, some 438 kilometers (272 miles) southeast of Moscow, they defended their threats to set fire to cinemas that want to show "Matilda." One wants to fight "for the honor of the holy czar," so they said, and for the honor of "Christian State — Holy Rus," as they called their organization at the time. A troop of numerous, well-trained, bearded young men sat across from me and filmed our team as we filmed them. It was an absurd and unsettling situation. Some half a year later the leader is in jail and the unregistered group has been classified as an extremist organization. Too little, too late But even that came too late, as a series of events reveals. On September 4, just days before the sneak preview in Yekaterinburg, a metropolis of over 1 million lying east of the Ural mountains, a minibus rammed into the cinema where the screening was to take place. The cinema went up in flames. The driver and arsonist's attack was motivated by protest against the film. On September 11, heavily armed security troops were called out to Vladivostok to protect viewers and "Matilda" director Uchitel — who had traveled from Moscow some 9,174 kilometers (5,700 miles) to the far eastern city — from potential attacks. Shortly before, coach buses drove through Vladivostok displaying texts calling for a boycott of the film. Read more: Russia gripped by hoax bomb threats, thousands evacuated And in Moscow on the night of September 11 to the 12, the car belonging to Uchitel's lawyer was burned. Three suspects were arrested, one of whom was a "Holy Rus" religious extremist. A search of the house belonging to one of the arrested individuals turned up stickers bearing the slogan, "To burn for Matilda." Not even director Uchitel's personal appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin can stop the violence. Will the extremists be able to prevent "Matilda's" premiere in the Mariinsky Theater? Probably not. But provocations and attacks have not been ruled out — even though event organizers have banished the film about the czar from their public schedule of events.

Russia is on edge as the controversial historical drama premieres. DW’s Juri Rescheto in Saint Petersburg explains why attacks have dogged Aleksei Utichel’s film and why the response has been too little, too late. “Maltida” is good at playing hide and seek. Nothing points to a premiere: no posters, no trailer, no program brochure. Instead, the calendar of events at ... Read More »

Tom Petty is dead but his legacy lives on

His death was unexpected, but the outpouring of reactions shows that Tom Petty embodied a special place in rock 'n' roll history. Petty's intelligent lyrics and simple melodies moved people around the globe. The premature news saying that he had died caused a massive shockwave. But when hisactual death was confirmed, Tom Petty broke hearts across the world - one last time. There was an outpouring of grief on social media and down the ages of rock. Mick Jagger praised Petty's songwriting on Twitter, saying it felt "sad about Tom Petty, he made some great music." The Strokes' guitarist Albert Hammond Jr also paid homage to the man to whom he clearly owed a lot: "I grew up with your music," he tweeted. "I'm going to miss you." Influenced by some of his greatest contemporaries These tributes are not at all surprising. Tom Petty had a knack of spitting out hits as a solo artist as well as with his band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: "Free Fallin'," "Learning to Fly," "I Won't Back Down," "American Girl" and many more. Born in 1950, Petty was part of the teenage scream that woke up America with the opening chords of "She Loves You" when the Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Like millions of others across the US those "yeah yeah yeahs" in the chorus inspired him to pick up a guitar and make his own music. But it wasn't just the fab four who helped him in shaping his rich signature sound. The raw energy of the Rolling Stones and the jangly guitar sound of the Byrds were key strands in the rich melodic tapestry that became his trademark style, as were a number of country music influences. The embodiment of rock 'n' roll Tom Petty's skill was in being able to fashion simple melodic lines, back them up with sharp chords and then infuse the line with lyrics that appealed to both a sense of nostalgia and defiance. "I Won't Back Down" is an anthem written for stubborn youth - or in fact for anyone who might feel a need to rally or rail against the world: "I know what's right/I've got just one life/In a world that keeps on pushing me around/But I stand my ground/I won't back down." This is a true rock 'n' roll sentiment. His songs have a timeless quality too, with a feeling of freshness while appearing as if they have already existed forever all the same. Perhaps that was why they accidentally appeared in other artists' work: "Last Nite" by The Strokes is a dead ringer for "American Girl;" the band did admit that they stole the opening off Petty. Furthermore, the similarity of Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" to "I Won't Back Down" led to Petty getting a share of the royalties and a songwriting credit on Smith's hit. He was pretty sanguine about the theft, if theft it was, saying that he laughed when he heard the Strokes had admitted to borrowing the riff, and also stressed that he cast no blame on Smith for the seeming plagiarism. Perhaps it's because he understood the process of how songs and music come to a musician. A collaborative genius Tom Petty described music as a magical thing that can transform you, whether playing in a band on a stage in front of an audience, or writing a song. He described once how he didn't know how his songs arrived; he would just play his guitar and the shapes would come. He thought it best not to analyze it too deeply. His openness to music and the process of making it also explains why he collaborated with so many people. He opened for Bob Dylan on one of his tour. That connection later brought the two together as songwriters for "Jammin Me," a great example of spat out lyrics punctuated by powerful chords. He also worked with Stevie Nicks, and Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics later produced his music too, co-writing the hit "Don't Come Around Here No More" with Petty. But surely the greatest partnership for him must have been with George Harrison’s troupe, The Traveling Wilburys. The supergroup of Harrison, Petty, ELO's Jeff Lyne and Roy Orbison must have been something of a dream for the boy in the man whose musical talent had once been awoken by the Beatles. Regardless of that, Tom Petty's own unique sound will resonate long after he's gone - and surely inspire many more musicians to come.

His death was unexpected, but the outpouring of reactions shows that Tom Petty embodied a special place in rock ‘n’ roll history. Petty’s intelligent lyrics and simple melodies moved people around the globe. The premature news saying that he had died caused a massive shockwave. But when hisactual death was confirmed, Tom Petty broke hearts across the world – one ... Read More »

Man of few words: Cartoon Illustrator Mordillo turns 85

Argentinian cartoonist Guillermo Mordillo celebrates his 85th birthday on August 4. He's regarded as one of the most recognized cartoonists in the world, famous for his trademark noses. Guillermo Mordillo Menéndez was born in 1932. A child of Spanish immigrants to Argentina, he decided to become an illustrator at a young age. He was first inspired to embark on this career path when he watched Walt Disney's "Snow White" at the cinema. Young Mordillo was particularly taken by the large noses of Snow White's seven dwarves, and integrated the idea into his own works. Inspired by Disney's 'Snow White' After having spent some time living in Lima and New York, Mordillo moved to Paris in the early 1960s, where he had his breakthrough moment. Since he knew no French, his drawings were silent and without any commentary or speech bubbles. His unintentional minimalist style became his signature and the secret to his success, so he kept the figures depicted in his illustrations wordless. The simple everyday scenes portrayed in his drawings became popular around the world. His career took off especially during the 1970s. His sketches have been featured in newspapers, calendars, puzzles or are even available as stuffed animals. Mordillo now lives in Monaco, where he occupies himself with drawing caricatures and illustrating children's books. Happy birthday, Mordillo!

Argentinian cartoonist Guillermo Mordillo celebrates his 85th birthday on August 4. He’s regarded as one of the most recognized cartoonists in the world, famous for his trademark noses. Guillermo Mordillo Menéndez was born in 1932. A child of Spanish immigrants to Argentina, he decided to become an illustrator at a young age. He was first inspired to embark on this ... Read More »

Linkin Park releases first statement after singer’s death

After three days of silence, the remaining members of the band Linkin Park published an emotional tribute to their lead singer, Chester Bennington, following his suicide. The California rock band on Monday released its first statement in the form of a touching letter to the late singer who took his own life. "Dear Chester," Linkin Park wrote in its tribute, "You touched so many lives, maybe even more than you realized. In the past few days, we've seen an outpouring of love and support, both public and private, from around the world," the statement said. The group's remaining members - Mike Shinoda, Brad Delson, Dave "Phoenix" Farrell, Joe Hahnand and Rob Bourdo - mentioned in their statement how his "absence leaves a void that can never be filled - a boisterous, funny, ambitious, creative, kind, generous voice in the room is missing." "We're trying to remind ourselves that the demons who took you away from us were always part of the deal. After all, it was the way you sang about those demons that made everyone fall in love with you in the first place," the statement continued. Read more: Chester Bennington's death puts spotlight on suicide and mental health Chester Bennington, 41, had openly talked about his history of being sexually abused as child and his struggles with alcohol, drug abuse and depression as his band Linkin Park became popular in 2000 with their best-selling debut album, "Hybrid Theory." Linkin Park's latest album, "One More Light," was released in May and the band was due to go on tour this week. The concerts have been canceled. In the aftermath of Bennington's death, many people have been buying Linkin Park's music. "One More Light" re-entered Billboard's Top 200 album charts at No. 17. Various previous albums, including their successful debut record, have also resurged in music charts. Over the weekend, Linkin Park set up a website dedicated to Bennington with tributes by fans and resources to support people in crisis.

After three days of silence, the remaining members of the band Linkin Park published an emotional tribute to their lead singer, Chester Bennington, following his suicide. The California rock band on Monday released its first statement in the form of a touching letter to the late singer who took his own life. “Dear Chester,” Linkin Park wrote in its tribute, ... Read More »

‘Calamity Jane’ star Doris Day turns 95 – two years earlier than planned

Until this weekend, US film star Doris Day thought she would be about to turn 93 - until she discovered she's actually celebrating her 95th anniversary. Here's a look back at her career. US actress Doris Day was born on April 3, 1922, which means she is turning 95 this year, instead of 93, as she thought until recently; a copy of her birth certificate was obtained by the press agency AP. Even her foundation's website, the Doris Day Animal Foundation, reminds fans to send her wishes for her 93rd birthday, posting the Top 93 social media posts with the hashtag #DorisBirthdayWish. To this day, the former film and TV star remains committed to animal rights causes. Throughout her career, Day recorded more than 650 songs and made 39 films between 1948 and 1968, among which "Pillow Talk," "Calamity Jane," and "Move Over Darling." With her most famous hits including "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be)" and "Secret Love," she kept on releasing albums at different stages of her life. The most recent one, "My Heart," came out in 2011, as she was aged 89. She has received several Lifetime Achievement Awards, such as from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the Cecil B. DeMille Awards, as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. Click through the gallery above to revisit Doris Day's career.

Until this weekend, US film star Doris Day thought she would be about to turn 93 – until she discovered she’s actually celebrating her 95th anniversary. Here’s a look back at her career. US actress Doris Day was born on April 3, 1922, which means she is turning 95 this year, instead of 93, as she thought until recently; a ... Read More »

Film director Michael Haneke turns 75

Golden Palms, an Oscar, Golden Globes, European and German film awards - few directors have been honored for their work as widely as Michael Haneke. The Austrian filmmaker, now 75, is a living legend. At the start, nothing pointed to an exceptional career. No one could have predicted that the man who once directed a few TV films for a German broadcaster would be among the very few film directors to win two Golden Palms in Cannes. Followed by an Oscar. And Golden Globes. And almost a dozen European film prizes. Over the past years, Michael Haneke has been overwhelmed by awards. It wasn't until he began to work as a director for the big screen in 1989 that he really found his own style. He has directed 11 movies since then. Unforgotten: his debut "The Seventh Continent," a movie packed with relentless intensity that borders on the unendurable about a family that deliberately commits suicide. It is utterly disturbing. His next films are also characterized by glacial intensity and razor-sharp analysis. He appears to have little pity for the protagonists. Michael Haneke tells stories on the screen like a pathologist dissects bodies. "This is what it's like, take a look," he seems to be telling the viewer. "Life happens to be just the way I'm showing it to you." Distraction and escapism are not his thing, nor is glossy superficiality. Perception of reality In 2007, Haneke went to Hollywood to film the remake of his 1997 film "Funny Games" - but not before he had made sure he would also be granted the final cut. No one meddles with the likes of Haneke - that was a precondition for the Austrian director for his US stint. The remake of the psychological thriller is not among the director's best films. That was perhaps not such a disappointment because in 2013 the German-born Austrian director won an Oscar for "Amour," the captivating romantic drama about an elderly couple. A few years before he wining an Oscar, his film about a family in northern Germany before World War I, "The White Ribbon," made waves at festivals, award ceremonies and at the box offices. Haneke is one of the very few directors who won Golden Palms at the Cannes Film Festival not just once, but twice. He is bound to be proud of the many honors, but it's unlikely the director has an eye out for sparkling awards. The intellectual with the keen analytical mind is likely to find more gratification in the enthusiasm of a sophisticated movie audience than in a stroll over the red carpet. New movie in the works Hanecke's new film, "Happy End" - starring Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Mathieu Kassovitz - is scheduled to be released on October 12 in Germany and October 18 in France. The film tells the story of a couple that faces the European refugee crisis in the northern French town Calais.

Golden Palms, an Oscar, Golden Globes, European and German film awards – few directors have been honored for their work as widely as Michael Haneke. The Austrian filmmaker, now 75, is a living legend. At the start, nothing pointed to an exceptional career. No one could have predicted that the man who once directed a few TV films for a ... Read More »

Conductor Simone Young: ‘Germans adore a good discussion’

One of the first internationally successful female conductors explains how working in Germany can be initially frustrating but very rewarding in the long term - and why so few German women conductors have emerged. The American Marin Alsop, the Mexican Alondra de la Parra, the Lithuanian Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and the Estonian Anu Tali have been stirring up excitement in the world of classical music in the past few years. But one of the first to crack the glass ceiling in this male-dominated profession is the Australian Simone Young. She's been professionally active in Germany for over 30 years, including 10 years as General Music Director and Opera Director in Hamburg. For the past year and a half, she's been a freelance conductor, and is in demand worldwide. Deutsche Welle: DW is soon to start a German-language television program with cultural and arts content. What do you think of that? Simone Young: I'm surprised it doesn't already exist. If I find myself in a train in England or America for example, and people are speaking German nearby, I can never resist the temptation to get involved in the conversation. Invariably, the internationally mobile Germans have a keen interest in culture. As a director of an opera house, you may have noticed, like I, that foreign critics are much kinder to new productions than German critics are. What does that say about Germans and their attitude towards the arts? It has a lot to do with the fact the arts take a very central position in life in Germany, in a way that they don't, for example, in the English speaking world. Here productions are expected to have a political commentary on current situations, or otherwise be socially relevant. A German critic comes to the performance with the expectation of being challenged, and of finding program notes revealing what was on the mind of the director. I applaud the idea that the arts should say something about humanity's current situation, that they remain alive and current and relevant, but dislike the kind of intellectual snobbishness that goes with some of this. Extrapolating on this, and drawing on your experience of working in German speaking lands, what would you say is the essence of being German? I think it's changing, but something I have always found fascinating about the Germans is that they are very politically conversant. I remember that in Australia, where I was born, you didn't talk about religion or politics in polite company! But when I first came to Germany, I was delighted and at the same time shocked by how readily my contemporaries would get into heavy conversations about politics - or about religion for that matter. I eventually realized that the idea of giving voice to your opinion is something that is very actively developed in Germany. Now, not every opinion is worth listening to. And there still is a sense here that everyone says their piece, and the one who says it loudest gets listened to. But I applaud a society that is as politically aware and as self-critical as this one. What are the kinds of messages and values that you think should be projected from Germany to the rest of the world? Or is there even a need for that? I think there is more and more a need for that. Let's put it bluntly: both with Brexit in the UK and Trump in America, I think we're moving into a time when countries are becoming very focused on their own needs and desires in a very selfishly inward-looking way, like: we'll deal with the rest of the world later. Germany carries with it, of course, the legacy and the guilt of the 20th century, and as such continues to engage with the world outside in a way that acknowledges the debts that contemporary Germany has to the rest of the world. Of course, I move in liberal circles, in that in the operatic, the symphonic, the arts world in general, you're dealing with a generally high level of education and social awareness. So I am in a little bit of a bubble. Maybe everybody's in a bubble in this increasingly polarized world. But with your intense connection to this country, do you see yourself in one way or another as a spokesperson or a representative for the German brand or German values? Actually, there are a number of very fine international Australian artists who really now have a sort of double heritage. While never denying our Australianness, our musical beings have been very much developed and enriched by our experiences in Germany. I'm quite honored to be lumped in with and described as a German conductor, for example, when I go to the States. I'm an Australian conductor, but I have very much a German style, and after all the years here, have a real affinity with the repertoire in Germany. So getting lumped in with German conductors is something I quite like, as it describes the kind of conductors whose work I admire too. How is work life in your field in Germany different from that in other countries? The tradition in Germany is highly professional. Everybody is good at what they're hired to do, but they carry no responsibility for the job of anybody else. I always say: when you come to Germany as an English speaker, the first sentence you learn is: "Es geht nicht" (That cannot be done). And the next one you get is: "Es war ja immer so …" (This is how we've always done it…) And the third one is: "Ich bin aber nicht dafür zuständig." (I'm not responsible for that). If you keep asking the questions, invariably you will end up finding and engaging with somebody who is really interesting, exciting and switched on. But it takes a little persistence. During your career, in many places you were the first woman to conduct this or that ensemble or to have this or that professional responsibility. A few more notable female conductors have emerged in the meantime. Do you see a general change in attitude, and have you personally experienced an evolution? As the makeup of symphony orchestras changed to being really fifty-fifty, there was a kind of inevitability that this would one day work through into the echelons of the conductors. Sure: I still see day-to-day ingrained, unthinking, unconscious sexism, but it's the same kind that you come across in any country. It can be as simple as turning up at a theater, asking for the key to the conductor's room and being looked at as though you're an alien. They might ask: "Why do you want the key to the conductor's room?" And you know that the thought in their mind is: "She's a woman." But you have to be pretty small to get too riled up by that sort of thing. The interesting thing is that there are very few German women coming through the system. My theory on this is that being a foreigner in Germany gives you a license to behave differently than a German woman is expected to behave. And having made the effort to come to Germany to pursue your career - now this gets into very controversial grounds, but: you don't take three years off per child to spend at home with your kids. In my case, if I and my babies were healthy, I was back at work eight weeks later. Among women in all areas in Germany - the current 25 to 35-year-olds - there's the expectation that they should be able to take 10 years out of their careers and then pick up where they left off. While that might be possible, and an enrichment in some professions, the world of conducting is still very different. It's late nights, it's weekends, it's traveling. It's not family-friendly. And I think that Australian, American, Russian and British women in this area have very different expectations. I'm not saying that the German women are wrong to expect this. I just don't think society has caught up yet.

One of the first internationally successful female conductors explains how working in Germany can be initially frustrating but very rewarding in the long term – and why so few German women conductors have emerged. The American Marin Alsop, the Mexican Alondra de la Parra, the Lithuanian Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and the Estonian Anu Tali have been stirring up excitement in the ... Read More »

Patti Smith: the poet with a punk heart turns 70

An icon for over half a century, Patti Smith remains an enigma to those who try to pigeonhole her. At 70 years young, Smith continues to find poetry in unlikely places. Happy birthday to the reluctant Godmother of Punk! Some have called her the Godmother of Punk, others the Grande Dame of Alternative Rock. But what Patti Smith really is, deep down in her heart, is a poet. Her music takes second. Born on December, 30, 1946, in Chicago, Smith grew up in New Jersey together with three siblings. While her father was an atheist, her mother was a Jehovah's Witness, raising her kids to be religious. She wanted to become a teacher. During her studies, she got pregnant and had the baby, but gave it up for adoption. Then she quit her studies, and - not even 20 years old - found her way to New York's art scene where she got involved in art, drugs, parties and music. Back then, her idols were the poets Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud, and the musicians Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones and Jim Morrison. Poetry in a punk club In clubs and bars, Smith opened for rock bands by reciting her poems on stage. She had her first big performance in February 1971. As part of a planned poetry series, Smith recited her work for New York stars like Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, Sam Shepherd and others, eventually publishing two volumes of poetry. During that time she also jammed with guitarist Lenny Kaye and keyboarder Richard Sohl. "Our songs consisted of three chords," she told the US radio magazine "Fresh Air" in 2006, "so that I could improvise on them." The three musicians kept playing around with Van Morrison's song "Gloria" for a long time until Smith decided to work in her famous poem "Oath" into that song: "Christ died for somebody's sins, but not mine (...) Christ, I'm giving you the goodbye, firing you tonight. I can make my own light shine." The reference to her mother's suffocating religiosity could not be overlooked. The birth of garage rock In 1975, the Patti Smith Group was complete. The first album, "Horses," was created with the help of producer and Velvet Underground veteran John Cale. On the cover, Smith appeared almost like an androgynous being with a wild dark mane - slim, delicate, clad in a men's shirt and jacket, and wearing a black ribbon looking like a loose tie. The album contained pure poetry, sometimes loud and uncontrolled, sometimes intense and enchanting. Smith made full use of her voice, implementing melody, rap, recitations and improvisations. "Horses" made it into the charts as the very first so-called new underground album. The magazine "Rolling Stone" included the disc in its list of 500 best albums of all time. Godmother of Punk? Reacting to Smith's wild performances, the music world put her squarely in the punk box, and even called her the Godmother of Punk. In an interview with BBC, she later said she regretted having been given all kinds of titles, like "princess of piss," or "wild rock 'n' roll mustang." She also said she and her band were never really punk. And yet, Smith definitely played a key role in punk - at least in the US. Yet the quintessence of Smith's music wasn't anarchism and nihilism, but rather the firm belief that rock 'n' roll could change the world - just as her rock heroes of the 1960s had demonstrated. Even today, "Horses" still stands for music that comes from the streets, transports dirt and feelings, and is ruthless, honest, unsparing and uncomfortable. Smith said she speaks to those who are like her - the disenfranchised, the mavericks - and tells them, "Don't lose heart, don't give up." A break after 'Frederick' The second album of the Patti Smith Group, "Radio Ethiopia" (1976), wasn't quite as successful. According to some observers, Smith was overdoing it a bit with her intensity that at times bordered on "extravagant confusion" ("Rock Rough Guide"). At the same time, though, the album was respected for its rough rock sound. In 1978, the album "Easter" followed with Smith's first big commercial hit. She released "Because the Night," with some support from Bruce Springsteen. It became her international breakthrough, and was followed by even more hits. The album "Wave" (1979) contained two famous songs - "Dancing Barefoot," and "Frederick," both lacking some of Smith's original wildness. After that, Smith's musical life came to an end - for a while, at least. With her husband Fred Smith and their children, she withdrew into family life. Once again, she wrote poems, and in 1988 she produced a record with her husband that nobody wanted to listen to. The mid 1990s were a dark period for her, as, within a few months only, she lost her husband, her best friend, and her brother. She also went broke - but was not forgotten. After all, she always continued to fascinate musicians, among them Kurt Cobain and Michael Stipe of R.E.M. So she started to perform again, here and there, as old friends started calling on her once again. And then came Bob Dylan Finally, Bob Dylan brought her back into the limelight. Smith reactivated her old band, and before they knew it they were opening for Dylan's show. The audience was thrilled. Twenty years after the release of "Horses," the band returned into the studio to produce the album "Gone Again" - a collection of somber and touching songs in memory of her deceased husband. Smith still continues to produce music today. Her wild mane has turned grey but the power of her songs hasn't diminished a bit. Whether she sings her old hits attempts to cover rock classics like "Smells like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana, she remains a poet who transports her verses via music.

An icon for over half a century, Patti Smith remains an enigma to those who try to pigeonhole her. At 70 years young, Smith continues to find poetry in unlikely places. Happy birthday to the reluctant Godmother of Punk! Some have called her the Godmother of Punk, others the Grande Dame of Alternative Rock. But what Patti Smith really is, ... Read More »

Pop icon George Michael dies, aged 53

The British pop star and former singer of Wham!, George Michael, has died at the age of 53, according to his publicist. The global superstar reportedly "passed away peacefully at home" in England. In a statement released late on Christmas Day, George Michael's publicist said: "It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period." Emergency services reportedly attended a property in Goring, west of London, at 13:42 local time (1442 UTC) on Sunday. According to authorities, there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.Thames Valley police said a "post-mortem will be undertaken in due course." The 53-year-old shot to fame in the 1980s as a member of pop duo Wham!, which he formed with school friend Andrew Ridgeley. The group - which became the first western pop act to play a concert in China - was best known for the songs "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," "Club Tropicana" and the Christmas hit "Last Christmas." Global success Michael - born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou - went on to enjoy a hugely successful solo career, spanning almost four decades and selling more than 100 million albums worldwide. His 1987 debut solo album "Faith" alone sold more than 20 million copies across the globe. The singer-songwriter won numerous music accolades, including four Ivor Novello Awards, three American Music Awards, three Brit Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, and two Grammy Awards from eight nominations. Following years of speculation over his sexuality, Michael disclosed in 1998 that he was gay after being arrested for "engaging in a lewd act" in a public toilet in California. Negative headlines As his music career waned, Michael continued to hit the headlines, but often for the wrong reasons. In October 2006, Michael was banned from driving after pleading guilty to driving under the influence of drugs. Two years later, the singer was cautioned for possessing class A drugs, including crack cocaine. Within a year, Michael crashed his car into a shop in north London. He was later handed an eight-week prison sentence. In 2014, Michael released his sixth and final album "Symphonica." The record was his only live album and marked his first album of new recordings since "Patience" in 2004. Michael had remained out of the public limelight in recent years. In 2011, he postponed a number of concerts after being hospitalized with pneumonia where he remained unconscious for some time. After recovering from the respiratory infection, Michael said it had been "touch and go" whether he would live. Fellow musicians pay tribute Prior to his death on Sunday, Michael's 1990 album "Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1" had been due to be reissued. A new film featuring Stevie Wonder, Elton John and the supermodels who starred in the video to his hit single "Freedom! '90" was set to accompany the album's re-release. In the early hours of Monday morning, fellow musicians and entertainers paid tribute to the late singer, including his former Wham! bandmate. "Heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend Yog," Ridgeley tweeted. "Me, his loved ones, his friends, the world of music, the world at large. 4ever loved. A xx" 1980s pop band Duran Duran also tweeted their sympathy to Michael's family, referring to the so-called "curse of 2016," which has seen the deaths of a host of stars, including David Bowie and Prince. Musician Elton John reacted to the news on Instagram, posting a photo of himself and Michael. "I am in deep shock," the singer-songwriter wrote. "I have lost a beloved friend - the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family and all of his fans." In 1991, John and Michael re-recorded the former's 1974 hit "Don't let the sun go down on me" - reaching number one in both the US and UK charts. Michael was also a patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. In 1984, the singer starred alongside a host of contemporaries to form Band Aid. The supergroup's Christmas charity single "Do they know it's Christmas?" raised £8 million ($9.8 million / 9.4 million euros) for the famine in Ethiopia within twelve months of release.

The British pop star and former singer of Wham!, George Michael, has died at the age of 53, according to his publicist. The global superstar reportedly “passed away peacefully at home” in England. In a statement released late on Christmas Day, George Michael’s publicist said: “It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend ... Read More »

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