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French immigrant drama ‘Dheepan’ wins Palme d’Or

A tale of immigrants struggling to begin anew in Europe has claimed one of the most prestigious trophies in film. Meanwhile, the much talked-about lesbian drama "Carol" nabbed a best actress award for star Rooney Mara. A thriller about about a group of traumatizied Sri Lankan refugees trying to build new lives bagged the top prize at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival on Sunday. "Dheepan" by French director Jacques Audiard (pictured above) was handed the Palme d'Or from a jury led by American filmmaking duo Joel and Ethan Coen. "To receive a prize from the Coen brothers is something pretty exceptional," Audiard said, clutching the trophy, "I'm very touched." Audiard also jokingly thanked Michael Haneke for not having made a film, referencing the fact that the Austrian director has beaten him twice for the prize - in 2009 with "The White Ribbon" and 2012 with "Amour." "Dheepan" centers around an ex-child soldier from Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers rebel army, who along with two strangers - a woman and a girl - pretend to be a family in order to gain asylum in France. The actor who plays the protagonist, Antonythasan Jesuthasan, was himself a member of the Tamil Tigers when he was 16 before fleeing to France on a fake passport. Harrowing Holocaust story comes in second, tie for best actress Holocaust drama "Son of Saul" from Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes took the runner-up Grand Prix. The film was praised for its unflinching portrayal of the Nazi death machine. "This continent is still haunted by this subject," Nemes said as he accepted his award. The third-place Jury Prize went to the quirky black comedy "The Lobster," the first English-language film by Greek director Yorgos Lantimos, and starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz. "The Lobster" takes place in a surreal future where lonely people have 45 days to go to a hotel and find a mate, or else they are transformed into animals. Hou Hsiao-hsien of Taiwan clinched the best director award for his slow-burning period piece "The Assassin," which features a female assassin sent on a mission to kill the governor of her home province, whom she is in love with. The jury gave the best actress trophy to two winners, American star Rooney Mara for the 1950s lesbian love story "Carol" which co-stars Cate Blanchett, and France's Emmanuelle Bercot in the romance "Mon roi" (My King). "I am thrilled to share this with another actress because it's a bit too big for me to carry alone," said Bercot, who also directed "Standing Tall", a social drama which opened the festival. The best actor award also went to a Frenchman, Vincent Landon, who won for his role as a job seeker trying to make ends meet in "The Measure of a Man." Mexican director Michel Franco scooped the best screenplay trophy for "Chronic," the tale of a palliative care nurse played by Tim Roth, who handed the award to Franco.

A tale of immigrants struggling to begin anew in Europe has claimed one of the most prestigious trophies in film. Meanwhile, the much talked-about lesbian drama “Carol” nabbed a best actress award for star Rooney Mara. A thriller about about a group of traumatizied Sri Lankan refugees trying to build new lives bagged the top prize at the 2015 Cannes ... Read More »

Sweden’s ‘Heroes’ wins Eurovision Song Contest 2015

یورپ میں گیتوں کے سب سے بڑے مقابلے یورو وژن میں سویڈن کے گلوکار مانز سیمرلُو نے ایک کانٹے دار مقابلے کے بعد روسی گلوکارہ پولینا گاگارینا اور تین اطالوی گلوگاروں کے گروپ اِل وُولو کو شکست دے کر یہ ٹائٹل اپنے نام کر لیا۔ ہفتہ تئیس مئی کی رات آسٹریا کے دارالحکومت ویانا میں منعقد ہوئے ای ایس سی کے اس سال مقابلے کے فائنل میں سویڈن کے مانز سیمرلُو کے گیت ’ہیروز‘ کو مجموعی طور پر چالیس ملکوں کے شائقین کی طرف سے 365 پوائنٹس ملے، جنہوں نے اس نوجوان گلوکار کو حقیقی معنوں میں ہیرو بنا دیا۔ روسی خاتون سنگر پولینا گاگارینا شائقین کی طرف سے 303 جبکہ اطالوی گروپ اِل وُولو کو 292 پوائنٹس ملے۔ جرمن گلوکارہ اَین سوفی اس سالانہ مقابلے کے فائنل میں ایک بھی پوائنٹ حاصل نہ کر سکیں اور یوں جرمنی اس مقابلے میں 27 ملکوں میں سے 26 ویں نمبر پر رہا۔ میزبان ملک آسٹریا کو بھی اس مقابلے میں کوئی پوائنٹ نہ ملا اور وہ 27 ویں نمبر پر رہا۔ ای ایس سی 2015 میں، جو یورو وژن کا 60 واں ایڈیشن تھا، اپنی کامیابی کے بعد سویڈن کے سیمرلُو نے اپنے مداحوں اور شائقین کا شکریہ ادا کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ انہیں یقین نہیں آ رہا کہ وہ یہ مقابلہ جیت گئے ہیں۔ انہوں نے اپنی ٹیم کا خصوصی طور پر شکریہ ادا کیا اور کہا کہ یہ کامیابی ’ایک ٹیم ورک‘ کا نتیجہ ہے۔ وہ سویڈن کے ایسے چھٹے گلوکار بن گئے ہیں، جنہوں نے یہ یورپی مقابلہ جیتا ہے۔ اس مقابلے کے دوران ایک وقت پر لگتا تھا کہ شاید روسی گلوکارہ پولینا یہ مقابلہ جیت جائیں گی کیونکہ تب تک انہیں پوائنٹس کے حوالے سے سیمرلُو پر کافی سبقت حاصل تھی۔ تاہم جیسے جیسے 40 ملکوں میں عام شائقین کی طرف سے ملنے والے پوائنٹس کی بنیاد پر نتائج کا اعلاج کیا جاتا رہا، سویڈش سنگر کو ملنے والے پوائنٹ بھی مسلسل زیادہ ہوتے گئے اور 40 میں سے 39 ملکوں کے نتائج کے اعلان کے ساتھ ہی یہ واضح ہو گیا تھا کہ امسالہ یورو وژن مقابلہ سویڈن نے جیت لیا ہے۔ اپنی فتح کے بعد ویانا میں ایک پریس کانفرنس میں اٹھائیس سالہ سیمرلُو نے کہا، ’’یہ ایک مکمل طور پر حیرت انگیز کیفیت ہے۔ مجھے یقین ہی نہیں آ رہا۔ مجھے حقیقی طور پر محسوس ہو رہا تھا کہ یہ فائنل اٹلی یا روس جیت جائے گا۔‘‘ انہوں نے مزید کہا، ’’مجھے انتہائی خوشی اور فخر ہے کہ میں کامیاب رہا ہوں۔‘‘ سویڈن کے اس گلوکار کے گیت کا عنوان تھا، ’’اپنے عہد کے ہیرو ہم ہیں۔‘‘ اس سال کے یورو وژن میں ماضی کے مقابلے میں سب سے زیادہ سنگرز نے حصہ لیا۔ 60 ویں ایڈیشن کو یادگار بنانے کے لیے اس رنگا رنگ یورپی میوزک مقابلے میں مہمان ملک کے طور پر آسٹریلیا نے پہلی بار شرکت کی۔ 2015ء کے یورو وژن مقابلے میں کئی ابتدائی مراحل کے بعد کُل 27 ملک فائنل میں پہنچے تھے۔ جرمن گلوکارہ اَین سوفی اگرچہ اس فائنل میں بین الاقوامی شائقین کو متاثر نہ کر سکیں لیکن انہوں نے کہا کہ وہ اپنی کارکردگی پر مطمئن ہیں، ’’میں میوزک کی دنیا میں سرگرم رہوں گی اور موسیقی ترتیب دیتی رہوں گی۔‘‘ سویڈن کی طرف سے اس مقابلے میں کامیاب ہونے کا مطلب ہے کہ سال 2016ء کے یورو وژن مقابلے کی میزبانی سویڈن کرے گا۔ ہر سال یورو وژن کا فائنل مقابلہ دنیا بھر میں قریب دو سو ملین افراد دیکھتے ہیں۔ گیتوں کے اس مقابلے کے منتظمین کے مطابق ہر سال شائقین کی تعداد میں اضافہ ہو رہا ہے۔ رواں برس کا مقابلہ پہلی مرتبہ چینی نشریاتی اداروں نے بھی براہ راست نشر کیا۔ بتایا گیا ہے کہ یورو وژن کے منتظمین اس مقابلے کی مزید تشہیر کرتے ہوئے اسے دنیا کے دیگر علاقوں میں بھی متعارف کرانے کا ارادہ رکھتے ہیں۔

Sweden’s Mans Zemerlow has won the final of the 60th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna, the sixth time the country has won the competition. Facing strong contenders, Germany came away with zero points. Mans Zelmerlow’s song “Heroes” had already proven popular with audiences in advance of the Eurovision Song Contest, being by far the most often-heard song ... Read More »

‘King of Blues’ B.B. King dies at 89

بلیوز طرز کے مغربی میوزک کے لیجنڈری فنکار بی بی کنگ 89 برس کی عمر میں انتقال کر گئے ہیں۔ کئی عشروں تک اپنے میوزک کی وجہ سے کروڑوں انسانوں کے دلوں پر راج کرنے والے کنگ کینسر کے عارضے میں مبتلا تھے۔ ان کی بیٹی پَیٹی کنگ نے بتایا کہ بی بی کنگ کو ڈی ہائیڈریشن کی وجہ سے رواں ماہ لاس ویگاس کے ایک ہسپتال میں داخل کرایا گیا تھا، جہاں وہ کل جمعرات کے روز انتقال کر گئے۔ شو بزنس کی دنیا سے تعلق رکھنے والی معروف شخصیات نے بی بی کنگ کے انتقال پر گہرے افسوس کا اظہار کیا ہے۔

Legendary Blues singer and guitarist B.B. King has died in Las Vegas at the age of 89, his attorney has confirmed. King, who was hospitalized last month for diabetes, had influenced a generation of rock musicians. King was briefly hospitalized in April after he suffered from dehydration related to his protracted illness. The Blues legend was diagnosed with diabetes in ... Read More »

Cannes: Token women, few Germans and a selfie ban

The Cannes Film Festival opens with heavy French fare, but German productions are few and far between. Stars like Cate Blanchett and Charlize Theron better keep their phones in their purses. The Festival de Cannes opens on Wednesday (13.05.2015) with quite a bit of social criticism, directed by a woman. One day later, a grandiose action film is programmed to steal men's hearts. How does that fit together? Not at all. Or maybe it does? The world's most famous film festival aims to unify both strands of world cinema: film art and show business. This year, this attempt may well turn out to be particularly challenging. As the festival opens, not only the presence of bejeweled stars but also police officers will be felt in the coastal French town. Security measures have been tightened following the "Charlie Hebdo" terrorist attacks in Paris and the spectacular robbery of a jewelry store last week. In the opening film "La tête haute," French director Emmanuelle Bercot presents Catherine Deneuve as a juvenile judge who, together with an educator, deals with a young petty crook (Benoît Magimel). Bercot's drama runs at the start of the festival, but is out of competition. Having a female director kick off the most important program section in Cannes may well be a reaction to the fact that women have been underrepresented in recent years. However, only two women are on the 19-film competition list. The discussion panel "Woman in Motion," focusing on the role of women in the film industry, seems like a feeble attempt to make up for it. A day after the official start, the festival goes martial with the US-Australian co-production "Mad Max: Fury Road" by director George Miller, which may well trigger the festival's biggest media hype. Miller's first "Mad Max" film became a commercial world success in 1979 and was followed by two sequels. The mix of action and apocalyptic drama can be expected to appeal to today's cinema-goers as well. British actor Tom Hardy stars in the re-enactment replacing Mel Gibson. The producers make use of the festival as a means of promoting "Mad Max: Fury Road" which is also opening in cinemas worldwide. Jury headed by two US directors There is a strong French and Italian presence in the competition for the Golden Palm, which is ultimately decided on by a jury headed by American directors Joel and Ethan Coen. Five French and three Italian productions are in the running. Among the most outstanding directors are Jacques Audiard from France and Nanni Moretti, Matteo Garrone and Paolo Sorrentino from Italy. Among the actors are Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu in the French movie "Valley of Love" (pictured above). Two of the most interesting US directors, Gus van Sant and Todd Haynes are taking part in the competition, as well as Canadian Gilles Villeneuve. Asia is represented by productions from Japan, China and Taiwan. "Right now, most new movie theaters are being constructed in China," noted the festival's new president, Pierre Lescure. "We should react to that." Also competing for the Palme d'Or are movies from Australia, Norway and Greece, as well as a a Holocaust drama from Hungary. Some observers are already referring to this year's festival as political, since some films touch on tough social issues like the fate of migrants and modern work environments. German cinema largely overlooked German film, it seems, has been ignored once again. Relations between the festival and German cinema seem to be strained. While some German co-productions made it into the competition in the past few years, this time they can only be found in less important sections of the festival. They're not up to snuff, say the heads in Cannes. The festival's website is available in a number of small languages, but not in German, although France is neighbored by two German-speaking countries. In February, several German films, including works by Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog, were featured at the Berlin International Film Festival that certainly would have been suitable for Cannes. By now, most German directors are well aware that they don't stand a chance in the French festival - which is why they usually prefer to submit their works to the festivals in Berlin, Venice or Toronto. As a result, the few German productions in Cannes can only be seen in smaller sections, such as the German Pavillon and a stand shared by "Focus Germany" and "German Films." While German movies are scarce this year, the stars won't be. Strolling down the red carpet is simply a must for anyone who's someone in the film industry. Apart from the official sections, some films also run in special showings to profit from the festival's glamour. No more selfies on the red carpet Woody Allen is showing his new film "Irrational Man," and actress Natalie Portman is presenting her debut as a director with the Israel-saga "A Tale of Love and Darkness," based on the novel by Amos Oz. Another production that's being anticipated is the latest work from Argentinean enfant terrible Gaspar Noé, the sexually explicit film "Love." Animation fans, on the other hand, are likely to attend the premiere of the latest Pixar production, "Inside Out." Once again, French singer and actor Lambert Wilson will lead through the opening gala. This year, one of the most famous stars of film history will embellish the official festival poster: Ingrid Bergman's radiating smile will enchant the guests on the occasion of her upcoming 100th birthday. One thing that people will definitely have to do without this year are selfies. Over the last few years, this particular obsession has led to annoying traffic jams on the red carpet. But Cannes is likely to survive even such drastic measures.

The Cannes Film Festival opens with heavy French fare, but German productions are few and far between. Stars like Cate Blanchett and Charlize Theron better keep their phones in their purses. The Festival de Cannes opens on Wednesday (13.05.2015) with quite a bit of social criticism, directed by a woman. One day later, a grandiose action film is programmed to ... Read More »

Golden Lions for Armenia, Adrian Piper at Venice Biennale

The awards have been handed out at the Venice Biennale contemporary art fair. The Republic of Armenia and American artist Adrian Piper picked up the top honors. At an awards ceremony held to coincide with the Venice Biennale's opening, the judges praised Armenia's entry in the national participation category, declaring it the winner out of a total 89 entries. "In a year that witnesses a significant milestone for the Armenian people, this pavilion marks the resilience of trans-cultural confluence and exchanges," the international jury said, referring to the exhibit which was based around the Armenian diaspora. It comes days after Armenians marked 100 years since mass killings by Ottoman Turkish forces, which modern Turkey has refused to recognize as genocide. The Golden Lion for best artist in the international exhibition went to American-born Adrian Piper. The Berlin-based conceptual artist created an installation of hospitality desks inviting participants to commit to one of three rules, including "I will always be too expensive to buy." "Her presentations invite us to engage in a life-long performance of personal responsibility," the jury said. Special awards A Silver Lion to acknowledge a promising young artist went to South Korean Im Heung-Soon for a video work about working conditions for women across Asia. The board of the Biennale awarded a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement to El Anatsui from Ghana, as well as a special Golden Lion for service to the arts to Suzanne Ghez of the USA. The 56th edition of the contemporary art showcase is under the curatorship of Okwui Enwezor. Its official theme is "All the world's futures." The Venice Art Biennale is due to run until late November, encompassing the Venice International Film Festival in September.

The awards have been handed out at the Venice Biennale contemporary art fair. The Republic of Armenia and American artist Adrian Piper picked up the top honors. At an awards ceremony held to coincide with the Venice Biennale’s opening, the judges praised Armenia’s entry in the national participation category, declaring it the winner out of a total 89 entries. “In ... Read More »

Bollywood actor Salman Kahn found guilty of hit and run

ایک بھارتی عدالت نے اداکار سلمان خان کی سزا منسوخ کرنے کا حکم دیا ہے۔ ممبئی ہائی کورٹ کے مطابق جولائی میں اِس مقدمے کی از سر نو سماعت کی جائے گی اور تب تک یہ سزا معطّل رہے گی۔ سلمان خان کے وکلاء نے عدالت سے سزا کو منسوخ کرنے کی درخواست کی تھی۔ ابھی دو روز قبل ہی سلمان خان کو ایک شخص کے غیر ارادی قتل کا ذمہ دار ٹھہراتے ہوئے پانچ سال قید کی سزا سنائی گئی تھی۔ اُن پر الزام تھا کہ 2002ء میں اُنہوں نے شراب کے نشے میں اپنی گاڑی سڑک پر سوئے ہوئے پانچ افراد پر چڑھا دی تھی، جس کے نتیجے میں ایک شخص ہلاک ہو گیا تھا۔ سلمان خان کا شمار بالی وُڈ کے معروف ترین اداکاروں میں ہوتا ہے۔

An Indian movie star has been found guilty of a fatal hit and run in an incident that dates back to 2002. Salman Khan faces imprisonment. A court in Mumbai found Bollywood actor Salman Khan guilty of culpable homicide in a hit-and-run case on Wednesday. He has been sentenced to five years in prison. In September 2002, Khan ran over ... Read More »

German stars clean up at International Opera Awards

From Best Male and Female Singers to Best Ensemble and Readers' Prize, some of Germany's top singers are among the winners at the International Opera Awards in London. The International Opera Awards ceremony recognized soprano Anja Harteros as Female Singer and baritone Christian Gerhaher as Male Singer. Harteros comes from the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Gerhaher from Bavaria. Munich tenor Jonas Kaufmann - who took the honor for Male Singer two years ago - won this year's Readers' Prize of "Opera," the British opera magazine. Harteros, Gerhaher and Kaufmann were not present for the gala in London's Savoy Theater on Sunday evening (26.04.15). Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak was on hand, however. Sharing the Readers' Prize with Kaufmann, she sang Puccini's aria "O mio babbino caro" at the conclusion of the ceremony. Berlin's Komische Oper continued a string of successes at the awards. Australian Barrie Kosky, the company's chief stage director - named Best Director last year - was back in London to accept top honors for Opera Ensemble. The Lifetime Achievement award went to Speight Jenkins. The 78-year-old American left his position as director of the Seattle Opera last year after a 30-year career focusing in part on the works of Richard Wagner. The International Opera Awards, which carry no cash prizes, were founded two years ago by "Opera" magazine publisher John Allison and British businessman Harry Hyman. Prizes were awarded in 2015 in 21 categories, from Conductor (Soviet-born Semyon Bychkov) and Director (Richard Jones from England); Festival (Bregenz Festival) and New Production (Mussorgsky's "Khovanskygate" at the Birmingham Opera Company) to Young Singer (Justina Gringyte from Lithuania).

From Best Male and Female Singers to Best Ensemble and Readers’ Prize, some of Germany’s top singers are among the winners at the International Opera Awards in London. The International Opera Awards ceremony recognized soprano Anja Harteros as Female Singer and baritone Christian Gerhaher as Male Singer. Harteros comes from the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Gerhaher from Bavaria. Munich ... Read More »

Disco king Giorgio Moroder at 75

Making music history in the 1970s, the electronic dance music wizard's disco sound circled the globe. Moroder's influence on many musicians is as strong as ever - and a new album is due for release. Alone on a big stage, a DJ pushes a couple of faders and speaks into the mike, his voice electronically distorted. "The name on my passport is Giovanni Giorgio, but you can call me Giorgio. And this is my music!" Beats thump forth from the loudspeakers as he peers into the dancing and jumping masses. This somewhat older gentleman, with grey hair and moustache, is celebrated like techno DJs at electro festivals. Now 75, he is one of the most successful music producers ever - and Giorgio Moroder stays on the go. Last year's electro track "74 is the new 24" was a pre-taste of the album "Déjà Vu," due to hit the record counters in June. Joining him are pop veterans Kylie Minogue and Britney Spears, Australian meteor Sia Furler and young artists Charli XCX and Foxes. Nobody will be surprised if the CD clocks up astronomical sales. Hits are the famous producer's specialty. Just the music Born into a family of farmers in the mountains of South Tirol on April 26, 1940, Giovanni Giorgio Moroder began making music as a teenager. Learning the guitar, he discovered an early interest in producing synthetic sounds. Leaving the mountains behind at age 19, he crisscrossed Europe in various bands, developing a taste for music production and starting to compose. Using electronic elements in pop, he scored early success with his partner Pete Bellotte in the late 60s. Moving to Munich, he opened "Musicland," his own studio. After meeting American singer Donna Summer, he worked with her for three years until a number erupted on the disco scene in 1975: "Love to Love You Baby." The thrusting bass, bass drum-enhanced groove, hypnotic guitar and sugar-sweet strings hovering above it all were a perfect foil for Donna's lascivious, even orgasmic moans. Although the BBC refused to play it, it soared into the dizzying heights of the world's charts. The Mount Olympus of Pop With that disco song, the man with the dark moustache and shaded glasses made music history. Nothing else could match up. Grooves and synthesized loops became Moroder's trademark sound. Wanting the Disco King's signature on their songs, star musicians lined up outside Moroder's studio: the Rolling Stones, Elton John, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Blondie and many more. Working nearly round the clock, Moroder churned out Number One hits like on an assembly line, taking a pile of Grammys and Golden Globes home. Moving on to Los Angeles, he composed film music. His first soundtrack - for the movie "Midnight Express" (1979) - won an Oscar. The second, for "What a Feeling" from the dance film "Flashdance," came four years later. In 1986 he created "Take My Breath Away" for "Top Gun" with Tom Cruise, yielding Oscar #3. He also wrote the anthems for the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles (1984) and Seoul (1988) - and for the 1990 World Cup in Italy. A 30-year break After all those triumphs, Moroder had his fill of the music merry-go-round. He occupied himself with other things: Building the Cizeta-Moroder sportscar, golf, artwork and spending time with his wife. Now and then a new song would appear, but the incontestable godfather of the electro scene seemed content being named in a single breath with techno pioneers Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. The picture was complete - till 2013, when he met up with the two sound manipulators of Daft Punk in Paris. Joining them in the studio, Moroder sat before the microphone and told his life's story. Out of that, Daft Punk created "Giorgio by Moroder" - a nine-minute track with typical Moroder sounds. They put it on their album "Random Access Memories" but kept it a secret until the release. "What they did there completely surprised me," said Moroder in an interview with YouTube channel Filtr TV. Hearing his life's story narrated in a song had been an emotionally charged experience. A calm and collected restart Giorgio Moroder's guest appearance with Daft Punk two years ago brought him "back into the business a bit." His serene existence was transformed into the former one overnight. "I used to get up in the morning and wonder which golf course I'd hit today. Now I wonder: What song should I write today?" Moroder loves new technologies and the chance to work across borders with other musicians without climbing into a jet. In the Net Age, tracks can be produced anywhere, which expedited the collaboration with so many different artists on his new album. Giorgio Moroder is relaxed about his current work. "There's no pressure," he says. "I do what I can. If they like it, they like it. If they don't, there's nothing you can do. I won't lose any sleep over it." After all, he's achieved just about everything a musician can achieve. And at 75, he's still around.

Making music history in the 1970s, the electronic dance music wizard’s disco sound circled the globe. Moroder’s influence on many musicians is as strong as ever – and a new album is due for release. Alone on a big stage, a DJ pushes a couple of faders and speaks into the mike, his voice electronically distorted. “The name on my ... Read More »

Soul icon Percy Sledge dies in Louisiana

Renowned singer Percy Sledge, whose claim to fame is his recording of "When a man loves a woman," has died at the age of 74. Sledge died of liver cancer at his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, according to his agent. The news of Sledge's death was confirmed by his longtime agent Steve Green on Tuesday, who described the legendary singer as a "decent person." "We've represented a lot of artists here. Percy was one of our first," said Green, who heads the Artists International Management company. "What a nice person in a miserable business!" he said. Born in Alabama in 1941 during the time when racial segregation was prevalent in southern US, Sledge's music career took off when he was working at a hospital. His debut song "When a man loves a woman" topped the charts in 1966 and turned Sledge into a global star. The song was ranked 53rd by Rolling Stone magazine in its list of 500 greatest songs of all times. The soulful ballad led to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. In April 1994, the iconic singer pleaded guilty in a federal court to tax evasion involving his concert incomes during the late 1980s. He was fined and sentenced to six months in a rehabilitation center by the court. Sledge's other popular songs include "Warm and tender Love," "It tears me up," "Out of left field" and "Take time to know her."

Renowned singer Percy Sledge, whose claim to fame is his recording of “When a man loves a woman,” has died at the age of 74. Sledge died of liver cancer at his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, according to his agent. The news of Sledge’s death was confirmed by his longtime agent Steve Green on Tuesday, who described the legendary ... Read More »

Renowned German author Günter Grass dies, aged 87

Nobel Prize winner and taboo breaker: The German writer was an unruly spirit throughout his life. Grass was an engaged citizen seen by some as a "moral authority," by others as a hypocrite. He passed away on April 13. Günter Grass died of a lung infection on Monday, April 13, in the northern German city of Lübeck, the Steidl publishing house announced. His life, full of ups and downs, moments of triumph and turmoil, began on October 16, 1927. Günter Grass grew up in a rather humble home: His parents ran a grocery store in Gdansk (then known as Danzig), but their customers were so poor that they couldn't always pay the bills. The Catholic family lived in a very small apartment. "A childhood between the Holy Spirit and Hitler," is how biographer Michael Jürgs sums up the environment in which Grass spent his childhood. At the age of just 17, he witnessed the horrors of World War II as a member of the Hitler Youth. He later joined the Waffen-SS, a Nazi special forces unit. It would be decades until he would be able to talk openly about these experiences - which later caused a scandal. During his years as a teenager and a young man, he focused on how to survive the war. Beginnings of a bestselling author 1952: the Federal Republic of Germany was still in its infancy, and so was the intellectual development of Grass. He was interested in art, studied sculpture and graphic design, joined a jazz band, and traveled a lot. In 1956, he settled down in Paris for some time, where he lived a rather modest life together with his first wife. That's where his brilliant career as an author began. Grass produced his first novel "The Tin Drum" in 1959, sparking an uproar in the rather conservative society of the former West Germany before it became a huge international success. The book was translated into numerous languages and adapted into a movie. Exactly four decades later, its writer received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Creative and productive Günter Grass wrote dramas, poems, and especially fiction, the list of his works is very long, among them "Cat and Mouse" and "Dog Years," which, together with "The Tin Drum" were part of his famous "Gdansk Trilogy;" "Local Anesthetic," "The Flounder," "The Rat," "The Call of the Toad," and "Crabwalk." Most of his works dealt with political conditions and social upheaval, like the sinking of a refugee ship in the Baltic Sea in 1945, the role of intellectuals in the uprising in former East Germany in 1953, the student protests of 1968, federal election campaigns and political relations between the East and West. As a native of Danzig, reconciliation between Germany and Poland always remained a particularly important topic to Grass. Despite some critics lamenting that Grass' books were too heavy and political in nature, all of his works became very successful and sparked heated debates among literary circles in Germany. Yet none of them ever managed to match the enthusiasm created by the drumming Oskar Matzerath of Grass' very first novel, "The Tin Drum." Morality and politics Günter Grass was a multi-talented artist, not only a novelist and poet, but also a sculptor and designer who occasionally also designed the covers of his own books. Considered by some as a moral authority and by others as a radical leftist, his political views divided the nation. Since 1961, he committed himself to the Social Democrats (SPD) without being a party member, and he supported Willy Brandt in his election campaign in 1969. Later on, he did join the SPD - only to give up his membership a few years later in a row over alterations of the right to asylum. Grass always remained a very critical observer, an independent leftist who, making use of his reputation, interfered in political issues now and then. He spoke out against the deportation of Kurds, for the compensation of former forced laborers during the Nazi era, for human rights, for persecuted writers and against wars. In 2006, he saw himself forced to admit that, during the Second World War, he himself had not been altogether innocent. His former membership in the notorious Waffen-SS, mentioned in his 2006 autobiography "Peeling the Onion," caused a stir both in Germany and abroad, besmirching his reputation as a moral authority. Suddenly he who had always advocated stringently dealing with Germany's Nazi past was accused of being a hypocrite. A poem as a provocation A rift seemed to grow between the writer and the public, a moral authority holding up a mirror to the Germans was no longer needed. Grass caused yet another international uproar in April 2012 after publishing a text entitled "What must be said." The text, which he labeled a poem, contained thinly veiled criticism of Israeli policy with Grass warning of an Israeli nuclear strike against Iran and calling the state of Israel, its nuclear capabilities and its occupation policy a threat to world peace. The pamphlet sparked outrage. Grass, accused of anti-Semitism, became persona non grata in Israel. Nevertheless, he remained a role model throughout his lifetime - not least for his younger fellow writers. Author and critic Uwe Tellkamp considered him "one of the strongest narrative powers in German literature," while fellow author Moritz Rinke casually referred to him as "perhaps the most interesting and most versatile dinosaur."

Nobel Prize winner and taboo breaker: The German writer was an unruly spirit throughout his life. Grass was an engaged citizen seen by some as a “moral authority,” by others as a hypocrite. He passed away on April 13. Günter Grass died of a lung infection on Monday, April 13, in the northern German city of Lübeck, the Steidl publishing ... Read More »

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