The Last Word: Mariah Breaks Records, PETA Offers to Pay Aretha’s Debt, and John Legend Pays a Visit to Capital Hill

What’s up everyone? Welcome to the weekend. Five days gone by as the nation commemorates the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.Hillary Clinton continues on the campaign trail in spite of pressure to bow out gracefully, and a group of third graders get caught trying to conspire to kill their teacher.Get well wishes go out to jazz singer Nancy Wilson, who was hospitalized Monday (March 31) for treatment for a collapsed lung. Shout outs to the Davidson Wildcats for going further than anyone expected with an impressive showing in the NCAA basketball tournament, Nature Boy Ric Flair, who retired after losing to Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania and the sounding boards for never ceasing to make the night a classic one (drunken text messages and all). Here it comes …the Last Word for the week ending April 4, 2008 1. Sean Levert Death Prompts FBI Assistance As details continue to roll in regarding the death of Levert group member Sean Levert, the singer’s family is looking to the FBI to step in to investigate. The request comes after Levert died Sunday (March 30) at Lutheran Hospital after he was taken from the Cuyahoga County jail for a medical emergency. The crooner was serving a one year and ten month sentence for failure to pay $89,025 in child support.TMZ.com reports that Levert was “out of control” and “hallucinating” prior to being put in a restraining chair because he was a danger to himself. The jail’s warden, Kevin McDonough, told the Associated Press that Levert was strapped in to the chair by guards after they discovered him pounding on his cell door. The 39-year-old singer was soon taken to the hospital when his breathing became shallow. He died less than an hour later. Despite McDonough’s account of what happened, Levert’s cousin Michael Gibson said that his famous relative never had any outburst like the one described by McDonough. As it stands now, a cause of death was not determined after an autopsy on Levert’s body was done. The results of toxicology tests won’t be available for weeks, according to the AP, which reported that FBI agents would meet with Levert’s family. And in another twist, it seems that no one has claimed Sean’s body. The Cuyahoga County Coroner told TMZ that the singer’s the body remains a “guest” at the Coroner’s office while his wife tries to decide whether to hold a private or public service. Two years after Sean’s brother Gerald died and the Levert family is still mired in tragedy. Definitely a sad situation as thoughts and prayers go out to the family. 2. Ashanti Makes a Summer Declaration Five years after the release of her last album, Concrete Rose, Ashanti reemerges on the scene with her forthcoming project The Declaration. Featuring production from Robin Thicke, Jermaine Dupri, LT Hutton, Babyface and Pharrell Williams, the new album features the single “The Way That I Love You.” For Ashanti, The Declaration is a work that explores womanhood and empowerment as it “touches on those low points in life that determine whether you’re strong enough to go on.” “It reminds women that they can’t let things get the best of them.” The songbird told Billboard.com. Other songs to look for include “Mother,” a track inspired by Ashanti’s close bond with her mother and “Click,” a song the singer labeled as “a relationship record done from a female point of view.””It’s about when you’re trying to get in contact with someone you’re seeing but he’s not answering, and by the time he calls you feel like, ‘I don’t want to talk to you now,'” she said about “Click.” Ashanti’s The Declaration is slated to hit stores on June 3rd. 3. Zeola Gaye Reminisces Over Brother Marvin In New Tell-All Book This week marks the 24th anniversary of the death of legendary soul singer Marvin Gaye. To coincide with the tragedy, the singer’s sister Zeola offers an up close and personal look at her famous sibling in her upcoming book My Brother Marvin.In an interview with EURWeb.com, Zeola revealed that the book is a tell-all “that will basically reveal everything that anybody has ever wondered as far as my family.” “I’m speaking of my mother, father, my sister and my brother, and my life with [Marvin],” she said, adding that the book will answer questions fans have about why Marvin’s father fatally shot vocalist during an argument on April 1, 1984. “Questions to me always are ‘Why?’ People want to know, ‘Why would a father shoot his son?’ My book will reveal all of those things.” Sounds like it may be an interesting read. Makes me wonder what music would be like if Marvin were alive today. What do you think? Would Marvin be on some other level or would he conform to what the music industry is about today? 4. Mariah Carey and Madonna Knock Elvis Off Most No. 1 and Top 10s Lists Congratulations are in order for Mariah Carey, who took a step above Elvis Pressley in the race for the most No. 1 singles in the rock era, thanks to her latest song “Touch My Body.” The track, which rose from number 15 to 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, became the songstress’ 18th No. 1 song. The surge was the result of the 286,000 downloads for “Touch My Body” that capped off a record-setting first week on Billboard’s digital download chart. Prior to “Touch My Body” topping the charts, Carey and Pressley were tied with 17 No. 1s. Now, the singer is second only to the Beatles, who have 20 No. 1s to their credit. The achievement holds a deeper meaning as Carey looks beyond herself in assessing what it all means. “For me, in my mind the accomplishment is just that much sweeter,” she told the Associated Press. “In terms of my ethnicity, always feeling like an outsider, always feeling different … for me it’s about saying, ‘Thank you Lord, for giving me the faith to believe in myself when other people had written me off.'” Good thing Elvis is six feet under. The King took another L this week as Madonna officially became the artist with the most top 10 singles with her new song “4 Minutes.” The Justin Timberlake featured track is Madge’s 37th top 10 hit. So what do you think? Can Mariah top the Beatles with more than 20 No. 1s? With her album E=MC2 not hitting stores yet, it could happen. But the real question is whether it will make MC better than the Beatles or is she just relegated to holding it down in the current music universe. What’s the verdict? 5. Mr. Legend Joins Mr. Redford and Miss Washington on Capital Hill He may not be Jimmy Stewart, but John Legend did make his presence known as he went to Washington on Tuesday (April 1) to convince members of Congress to increase funding for the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA). According to the Dayton Daily News, the Springfield, Ohio crooner, who was joined on Capital Hill by movie stars Robert Redford and Kerry Washington, urged lawmakers to contribute $176 million in NEA funding. The effort was part of Arts Advocacy Day, an annual grassroots gathering hosted by Americans for the Arts and cosponsored by 86 national organizations representing dance, theater, music, literature, visual and media arts. In making his case for funding Legend expressed how being exposed to music, theater and the fine arts at an early age played an important role in molding him into the star he is today. Not to mention keeping him away from negative influences. “All these people were like my second family,” the singer said about the teachers who inspired him to develop as an artist. “They helped keep me out of trouble when there was a lot of trouble to be had. These are the people we’re talking about funding.” Legend’s appearance is the latest in a continuing struggle to provide proper funding for the NEA, which was in danger of dissolving completely after Congress slashed the agency’s budget in the mid-1990’s. Although Pres. Bush has proposed $128.4 million for the NEA this year, supporters would like to see the agency’s funding return to its all-time budget high of $176 million. And if going to Congress to crusade for the arts wasn’t enough, you can still find Legend voicing his support of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Musically speaking, look for the singer’s stripped down version of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)” to be featured in a History Channel special about Martin Luther King Jr. titled King. The program, which features appearances from U2’s Bono, Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Harry Belafonte, will air at 8 p.m. on Sunday (April 6). 6. PETA Comes to Aretha Franklin’s Rescue When we last checked in on the PETA/Aretha beef, PETA blasted the Queen of Soul for wearing fur at this year’s Grammy Awards. Now, according to reports, the animal rights organization is offering to help Franklin by paying her $19,000 bill for back taxes owed on her $700,000 Detroit mansion.The request stems from reports of pending foreclosure proceedings for the home because of unpaid taxes that date back to 2005.The catch is Aretha has to promise that she will never wear fur again and follow in the footsteps of former fur wearers Mariah Carey and Kim Cattrall by donating her unwanted furs she has to PETA.  “We are absolutely sincere in making this offer—we believe that you know in your heart that your fans will love you even more if you make a fur-free resolution,” PETA president Ingrid E. Newkirk wrote in a letter to Franklin that also detailed how animals suffer when confronting trappers or held at fur farms. “Our offer is a win-win situation: You get to keep your home, and animals get to keep their lives. We are rooting for you to please give animals the R-E-S-P-E-C-T that they deserve by giving up fur.” Looks like an interesting twist. We know that Aretha loves her fur. But if you have to choose between that and having a place to live, then it may be good to swallow the diva pride and pay what you owe. Then again, this is the Queen, who will not go down without a fight. Stay tuned for further developments.Note to PETA: You’re dealing with a heavyweight so watch your back.

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