1980s pop goddess Olivia Newton-John has died at age 73

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Olivia Newton-John, one of the biggest pop stars in the 1970s and early 1980s, has died at the age of 73.

She died on Monday at her ranch in southern California, according to her husband, John Easterling, in a post on her official Facebook page. “Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer,” it reads in part.

AFP via Getty Images Olivia Newton-John arrives for G’Day USA’s Los Angeles Black Tie Gala January 27, 2018. (Photo credit: AFP via Getty Images)

In the 1978 movie musical Grease, Newton-John starred as the good girl Sandy Olson, who falls for a bad boy played by John Travolta, who had also played the role on Broadway. He lobbied hard for Newton-John to make her film debut as his costar.

“I wanted this girl bad,” Travolta told Merv Griffin on TV in 1981. “The perfect Sandy, the ultimate Sandy, would be Olivia Newton-John.”

But the 28-year old Australian singer was skeptical about playing a high school student.

“I couldn’t do an American accent, and I was too old,” she told the Today show in 2019. “And I had all these reasons why I couldn’t do it. We did a screen test. The chemistry was there. It worked and when John came to see me at my house — how could you say no to John Travolta?”

No one, it seemed, could say no to Grease. The soundtrack was wildly successful. A duet with Travolta ended up as a best-selling single.

Newton-John was born in England in 1948. She grew up in Australia, and started her performing career as a teenager. A regular on local radio and TV shows, she won a talent contest and ended up recording country-pop songs in the U.S.

For “Let me Be There,” she won her first Grammy award in 1973. The following year, she earned two Grammys for “I Honestly Love You.” Mellow pop songs became Newton-John’s stock in trade, but she won her fourth Grammy in 1982 for the suggestive single “Let’s Get Physical.”

The song made her uncomfortable, Newton-John told NPR in 2012. “I thought it was a great song, but then had a panic attack and called my manager and said, ‘You can’t put this out, it’s too over the top and it’s too risque,’ ” she said, only to learn it had already gone to the radio.

It was Newton-John’s idea to make the video for the song about exercise, she said, and she wore a sweatband, leotards and legwarmers.

After her other hits – such as “Magic” — and other movies, such as Xanadu, Newton-John dropped out of the spotlight to raise her daughter, and promote causes such as environmentalism and breast cancer awareness, after she was diagnosed with the disease. She treated it, she said, with alternative therapies, medical marijuana, humor and optimism.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
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Widespread Panic are back at the Riverside this October

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One of the things you can absolutely count on from Widespread Panic: They do not rush. That goes for their music and their tour stops, which are jubilant, multi-day affairs. Their upcoming visit to Milwaukee is no different, as the legendary jam band will play three nights at the Riverside Theater from Oct. 21-23.

Formed not far from the University of Georgia campus in 1986, Widespread Panic has crafted a special relationship with a city almost 900 miles from home, returning to Milwaukee time and time again for some of their fans’ favorite live performances. That explains why the Riverside Theater shows are the only Midwest dates currently on their calendar.

You can get tickets starting at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 19, at the Pabst and Riverside box offices.

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Will Sheff wades into solo waters for upcoming show at the Back Room

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As frontman of Okkervil River, Will Sheff made a name for himself over the past couple decades. But after nine well-received albums under that moniker, he decided “Will Sheff” should get a turn at top billing.

That’s the name you’ll find on the Nov. 6 show scheduled for the Back Room @ Colectivo, which follows a month on from the first Will Sheff-attributed album, “Nothing Special,” set for release Oct. 7. As he revealed in a statement announcing the album and tour, Sheff’s solo effort pulls inspiration from a painful place: the death of former Okkervil River drummer Travis Nelson and the bandmates’ falling out.

“I think a big part of ‘Nothing Special’ centers around grieving for him,” Sheff said, “grieving for everything my friends have lost, grieving for the rock and roll myth, and trying to open my eyes to a more transcendent reality.”

Tickets for the show go on sale at 9 a.m. this Friday, Aug. 5, online and at the Pabst/Riverside box offices.

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Lilliput Records officially takes over for The Exclusive Company

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After much anticipation — and some public anxiety — Lilliput Records will officially replace The Exclusive Company this Saturday at the store’s longstanding lower East Side location at 1669 N. Farwell Ave.

Founded in 1956, The Exclusive Company made the sudden announcement in April that it would close all its stores, which encompassed locations in Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh, Greenfield and Milwaukee. The announcement on Facebook garnered thousands of comments and reactions.

But plans were already in motion for Lilliput, spearheaded by former Exclusive Company employees Brian Kirk and Tanner Musgrove. They launched a GoFundMe in March to help launch the new endeavor, raising more than $22,000.

“There is no way we would be at this point in Lilliput’s journey without everyone’s support, donations, words of encouragement and excitement for the new store,” Kirk and Musgrove shared in a social media post Friday. “Our goal is to continually grow and help support our community and we feel so grateful to be given the opportunity to do so!”

The Exclusive Company on Record Store Day this past April. (Photo courtesy: Sarah Lahr)

Lilliput will open for business Saturday, July 30, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. as a soft opening, with a grand opening planned for mid-August.

The Greenfield location found similar salvation from a longtime customer, who bought the former Exclusive Company space and reopened as Volta Records on July 2.

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Radio Milwaukee names Kenny Perez assistant program director, afternoon drive host

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88Nine Radio Milwaukee has named Kenny Perez as its new 88Nine assistant program director and afternoon drive host.

In his new position, Perez will be on-air weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. on 88.9FM and will continue to host specialty program “In the Mix” on Saturday evenings from 9 p.m. to midnight. “In the Mix” broadcasts on 88.9FM and Radio Milwaukee’s new Urban Alternative channel, HYFIN (WYMS-88.9FM HD2).

As 88Nine assistant program director, Perez will be responsible for managing promotional relationships with local venues, curating the station’s Milwaukee music library and programs, and assisting with the administrative duties of the 88Nine programming department.  

“Throughout his five years at Radio Milwaukee, Kenny has grown into a leader on and off the airwaves,” 88Nine Program Director Dori Zori said. “His infectious enthusiasm for music and our mission makes him the perfect candidate for this position, and I can’t wait to work alongside him in programming 88Nine.” 

(Photo courtesy: Oscar Delgado)

Perez most recently held the position of audio production manager for Radio Milwaukee, producing the station’s podcasts, imaging and on-air promos. Prior to his role at Radio Milwaukee, Perez spent 13 years working in education as a dean of students and teacher.

“Becoming the 88Nine assistant program director and afternoon drive host means the world to me; I am more than ready to deepen my connection with all of Milwaukee’s communities,” Perez said. “I love this city, care about our local artists and make time to listen to what they need from 88Nine.”

“In the Mix” is celebrating its fifth anniversary in August with a “Five Year Celebration Tour” at venues across the city. The lineup includes: 

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Almost 20 years later, Elliott Smith’s music takes the stage in Milwaukee

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Every music fan has a list of artists they wish they could’ve seen live. But for reasons beyond our control — band breakups, industry politics, plain old time — it’s impossible.

Sahan Jayasuriya is no different, except he doesn’t just bemoan his bad luck or birthdate or missed opportunity. He starts making calls. 

He did it eight years ago, when his love for Big Star pushed him to put together a tribute concert featuring the band’s music at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn. This Friday at Cactus Club, he’ll do it again for another artist who was a much nearer miss: Elliott Smith.

As Jayasuriya recalled, Smith had announced tour dates in 2003 that included a stop in Milwaukee. His death in October of that year prevented Jayasuriya — and countless more music fans — from seeing one of the era’s most influential artists.

“It’s something I’ve thought about a lot over the years,” Jayasuriya said. “Then, I don’t know why, one day I thought about the Big Star show and what if I did that with Elliott Smith, and maybe this time I could do a benefit to make it be a little bit more substantial.

“I also recognized the fact that a lot of musicians, both while he was alive and since his passing, have taken a lot of influence from him and his songwriting. So I figured it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to find people to do it because he’s definitely someone who is very much beloved.”

He was right. Among the artists scheduled to appear at this Friday’s show are:

  • Apollo Vermouth
  • Crawlspace
  • Chris DeMay
  • Members of Disq
  • Graham Hunt and Arielle Smith
  • Julia Blair
  • Long Mama
  • Mark Waldoch
  • Brady Murphy
  • Charlee & Duck from Scam Likely
  • So Zuppy
  • (Start Depart)
  • Stephen Strupp

It sounds like a lot to squeeze into a show with an 8 p.m. start time. Think of it like a tribute album come to life — each act playing just a couple songs that left an indelible mark on them as fans and musicians. But that wasn’t all that pulled them in. 

Proceeds from the show will benefit Prevent Suicide Greater Milwaukee, a decision that Jayasuriya noted isn’t a commentary on the circumstances surrounding Smith’s death. He simply wanted to do what he could for an organization that encourages not just more conversation around mental health, but also a broader one.

“There’s far more to the picture of mental health than what is shown, be it on social media or otherwise,” Jayasuriya said. “For something like this, I just wanted to support an organization that I felt was helping expand the conversation on mental health to include things that perhaps are not discussed as much as others.”

“I don’t think something like this is going to completely transform the perception of something like suicide in the public consciousness,” he added. “But maybe it could be a microstep of a microstep of a microstep in the right direction.”

Beyond that, what does he hope people walk out the door saying?

“I’ll never get to see Elliott Smith, but that was pretty cool.”

Pictures of Me: An Evening in Tribute to the Music of Elliott Smith

  • 8 p.m. Friday, July 29 @ Cactus Club
  • Tickets: $15 online and at the door
  • Proof of vaccination required

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Sylvan Esso announce mold-breaking album, ‘No Rules Sandy’

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Grammy nominees Sylvan Esso have been on a monthly cadence with their music drops as of late, delivering singles “Sunburn” and “Your Reality” in May and June, respectively. July’s entry came with a bit of bonus news, as the band released the track “Didn’t Care” along with an Aug. 12 date for their new album, “No Rules Sandy.”

A release from the band called the upcoming fourth studio album their “most fearless and frenetic, intimate and enigmatic” to date. The sonic shift jibes with a reveal that accompanied “Your Reality” back in June: that Sylvan Esso’s first three albums are a completed trilogy.

With the release of “Didn’t Care,” we’re starting to see the shape of the band’s next iteration. That view will get even clearer when the new album drops in a couple weeks.

‘No Rules Sandy’ track listing

  1. Moving
  2. Look at Me
  3. (Bad Fills)
  4. Echo Party
  5. How Did You Know
  6. (Betty’s, May 4, 2022)
  7. Didn’t Care
  8. (Vegas // Dad)
  9. Your Reality 
  10. (#1vm)
  11. Cloud Walker
  12. Sunburn
  13. (?)
  14. Alarm
  15. (No Rules Sandy)
  16. Coming Back to You

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Mumford and … just Mumford brings solo effort to the Pabst Theater

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Like Zeus and Rabbi Hyman Krustofski before him, Marcus Mumford has decided to leave behind his sons and continue his journey through this wild world of ours — a journey that will take him to the Pabst Theater on Thursday, Oct. 20.

With the status of his group effort up in the air, Mumford has made quite clear his intention to continue creating music by rapid-fire releasing details over the past week or so about his solo pursuits:

  • July 12 – Reveals upcoming album, “(self-titled),” and a list of contributors that includes Phoebe Bridgers and Brandi Carlile
  • July 14 – Reveals first single, “Cannibal”
  • July 18 – Reveals Steven Spielberg shot video for first single
  • July 22 – Reveals upcoming tour

Mumford, clearly a media maestro as well, will have quite the opener for his Milwaukee date: The A’s, a new collaboration between Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath and Daughter of Swords’ Alexandra Sauser-Monnig. Their own debut album, “Fruit,” just came out last Friday.

Tickets for the show go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, July 29, online and at the Pabst/Riverside box offices.

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Anna Tivel, Christopher Porterfield booked for the Back Room

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Two artists known for creating a distinct sense of atmosphere — both in their music and their live sets — will team up for a Nov. 8 show at the Back Room @ Colectivo.

The first act on the night’s bill won’t have a problem finding his way around the neighborhood. Christopher Porterfield of Milwaukee’s Field Report will get things rolling with a solo set in advance of the headliner, Anna Tivel.

The Portland, Oregon-based artist shares her opener’s storytelling ability, as well as the sense of intimacy that shines through her songs. Tivel has released a pair of singles in advance of her upcoming album, “Outsiders,” due for release Aug. 19.

Tickets for the November show will be available online and at the Pabst/Riverside box offices at 10 a.m. this Friday, July 22.

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Country, comedy and a music collective on tap for Pabst, Riverside shows

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The Pabst Theater Group added three acts to its upcoming calendar that include rock-tinged country, Blue Collar star power and four-time Grammy winners:

(Photos courtesy: the artists’ social media)

Kip Moore | Oct. 13, Riverside Theater

The country artist doubled up a few weeks back, announcing new single “Fire On Wheels” and a tour of the same name that will swing through Milwaukee for a Thursday night show. Moore broke out in 2012 with his track “Somethin’ ’Bout a Truck” and showed steady growth as an artist, earning co-writing and co-producing credits for his fourth and latest album, “Wild World.”

Tickets available July 22 online and at the Pabst/Riverside box offices.

Ron White | Nov. 17, Riverside Theater

The man who gained the moniker “Tater Salad” as part of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour is a road warrior with several Milwaukee dates under his belt already. He’s back in November for one of a handful of Midwest shows currently on the calendar.

Tickets available July 22 online and at the Pabst/Riverside box offices.

Snarky Puppy | March 30, Pabst Theater

This amalgamation of musicians nearly defies definition. As many as 20 members regularly rotate through the group, pulling in musical accents from Japan, Argentina, Canada and the United Kingdom, among other places. They won their fourth Grammy last year and will stop in Milwaukee in support of their 14th album, “Empire Central,” out Sept. 30.

Tickets available July 22 online and at the Pabst/Riverside box offices.

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