The Man Who Composed Princess Diana’s Musical Farewell

One of the most moving moments of Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997 was the performance of a strikingly simple but nonetheless haunting choral piece titled “Song for Athene” as her casket was carried out of Westminster Abbey. “Athene” was the work of British composer John Tavener, who died on Nov. 12 at age 69 in England. Tavener was a giant of modern music, and not just figuratively. At 6 feet 6 inches in height with a balding dome and stringy …

Rita Moreno Adds Life Achievement To Award List

As movie awards season draws a little closer, it’s worth noting that the Screen Actors Guild will give its Life Achievement Award of 2014 to the inimitable Rita Moreno, who turns 82 in December. She’ll add the SAG statue to a shelf of many others, an Emmy, two Grammys, an Oscar and a Tony (she is one of only 11 artists in entertainment history to have won that grand slam), not to mention a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a …

Elton John: Still a Student at 60 Years On

Elton John, whose first solo studio album in seven years comes out today, told University of Southern California students treated to a free concert of his last week, “You have to keep trying and improving. Coasting is dangerous. I can’t just play ‘Bennie and the Jets’ over and over again.” But John did play “Bennie and the Jets” during his concert at the university’s 1,250-seat Bovard Auditorium, along with other hit classics including “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Rocket Man.” …

Ray Dolby: He Made Everything Sound Better

In the 1970s, “Dolby” was that button on your cassette deck that you pressed to magically eliminate static hiss that could easily mar the beauty of, say, Jimmy Page’s guitar solos on Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy. Of course, the noise-reduction technology pioneered by inventor Ray Dolby, who died on Sept. 12 at age 80 in San Francisco, did much more than that. Sound-improving innovations developed by his Dolby Labs have found their way into an estimated 7.4 billion …

At 96, Fred Stobaugh and His Love Song Are a Huge Hit

A 96-year-old widower’s sweet song about his late wife not only has brought him national attention, he’s also achieved a new record: The oldest artist to have a song on Billboard‘s top 100 – beating out 85-year-old Tony Bennett, no less. Fred Stobaugh of Peoria, Ill., made the iTunes top 10 last month, alongside megastars like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. Stobaugh lost his wife, Lorraine, in April. They met in 1938 at an A&W Root Beer stand where she …

A Pianist Who Plays for Charity

What did you do this summer? Hit the beach? Visit the in-laws? Take the grandkids to Disney World? Ask Mark Damisch and the 57-year-old Chicago lawyer will tell you he spent five weeks on tour playing piano concerts in Scandinavia and Russia to raise money for worthy causes. Damisch’s exhausting schedule – 21 concerts in six countries  - isn’t for the faint of heart. But he’s a pro at marathon travel. (He was in Copenhagen, Denmark, when we spoke.) This …