Until recently, it seemed like this week's column would be filled with usual fodder--a couple of trials, a couple arrests, an awards show or two, some Guns N' Roses rumors, a bit of Madonna gossip, etc. But then, on Friday, tragedy struck.
At 2:44pm Friday afternoon, Jennifer Hudson's brother, Jason Hudson, and her mother, Darnell Donerson, were found dead by shotgun blast in Jennifer's mother's Chicago home. The bodies were discovered by Jennifer's cousin, who lived nearby. Additionally, Darnell's 7-year-old grandson, Julian King, was reportedly abducted from the scene--possibly by the suspect in this tragic double murder.
This news comes at a time when Jennifer should be enjoying the happiest time of her life--she just released her debut album, she's about to hit the silver screen again in the highly anticipated The Secret Life Of Bees, and she just got engaged to her lawyer/reality-star boyfriend, David "Punk" Otunga. But now, just as the dreamgirl is about to have all her dreams come true, she is instead facing this ultimate nightmare. Our deepest condolences to Jennifer and the entire Hudson family at this extremely tragic time.
Moving on to less horrific news of the week, although no one experienced the same kind of major highs and lows that Jennifer Hudson is sadly dealing with right now, Lil' Wayne was certainly on a rollercoaster ride himself this week. He experienced yet another major professional high at the BET Awards, where he was the top nominee and the top winner (he took home four trophies, including ones for MVP, People's Champ, and Lyricist Of The Year). And in his personal life, the "Stuntin' Like My Daddy" rapper happily became a daddy again (a still-anonymous babymama gave birth to his second child--and his first son--christened Dwayne Carter III). We send our congratulations to this People's Champ.
But it wasn't all babies and BETs in Wayne's world, as the People's Champ unfortunately found himself in the People's Court this week. His Manhattan trial on gun charges (stemming from a July incident when NYC police searched his suspiciously cannabis-scented tour bus outside New York's Beacon Theatre) continued--and Wayne's assistant Terry Bourgeois testified that he "occasionally" saw a .40-caliber pistol on the bus and witnessed various members of Wayne's posse passing the dutchie.
However, another eyewitness, security guard Derrick Parker, testified that he didn't smell or see any pot-puffing on or around Wayne's bus. Wayne has pleaded "not guilty" to criminal possession of a weapon (if convicted, he could face up to three and a half years in prison) and his attorney, Stacey Richman, is seeking to have the charges dropped on the grounds that cops falsified the marijuana claim in order to conduct a search of the bus.
So for now, Lil' Wayne remains free on $70,000 bond. Speaking of, um, Guns (how's that for a totally tenuous segueway?), Guns N' Roses announced this week that their Chinese Democracy album is actually slated for a November 23 release date. No, readers, that's not a typo. And no, we don't mean November 23, 2021. We mean this November, people! Yes, Axl Rose and his many interchangeable hired Guns have been working on various versions of the long-shelved, long-presumed-nonexistent Chinese Democracy for 17 ridiculously long years now...but next month the mythical album (GNR's first original studio release since 1991!) will finally be available for sale exclusively at Best Buy. Who'd a thunk?
Apparently, the manufacturers of Dr Pepper soda were among the many doubters who never thought this record would ever, ever come out, because back in March they pledged to give every single American citizen a free soft drink if Chinese Democracy was released any time in 2008. So now the good Dr must make good on its bubbly promise. "We never thought this day would come," Tony Jacobs, vice president of marketing for Dr Pepper, understandably announced in a statement this week.
"But now that it's here all we can say is: The Dr Pepper's on us." So, in what might be the best instance of soda/pop synergy since "I'd Like To Buy The World A Coke"--or at least since Suicidal Tendencies begged for "just a Pepsi" in the punk classic "Institutionalized"--fans of GNR and/or free soft drinks need only log onto http://us.lrd.yahoo.com/_ylt=Agpd_OVd850HKZVoZHB_KTnOwSUv/SIG=10p68uii8/**http://drpepper.com/, starting at 12:01am Eastern Time this November 23, to obtain their free 20-ounce soda coupons. This is, of course, assuming that Chinese Democracy really DOES come out that day...we still don't quite believe it. Aside from Lil' Wayne and Kevin Cogill, a few other music-biz types found themselves dealing with legal issue this week. Former Soul Train host Don Cornelius was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence and released on $50,000 bail; a new jury was selected for the murder retrial of legendary music producer Phil Spector; and, according to various gossip rags, Madonna and Guy Ritchie's split started to get very nasty, indicating that their upcoming divorce-court showdown (spearheaded on the Madonna side by Paul McCartney's superstar attorney, Fiona Shackleton) will be an ugly, bitter battle indeed. Yes, this week the (fingerless black lace) gloves were definitely off between Madonna and her newly estranged hubby, at least according to several incendiary tabloid articles. Us Weekly reported that Guy used to call Madonna "old, fat, ugly, and wrinkled" and "said that she was stupid and couldn't sing"; Us also alleged that Madonna conversely used to taunt, slap, and poke her beleaguered future-ex-husband. OK! magazine reported that Madonna has "instructed her team to start a hate campaign" against Guy. British tabloid News Of The World claimed that Guy once described martial relations with Madge as being like "cuddling up to a piece of gristle." And several other gossip outlets reported that while Madonna is now getting cozy with her new Kabbalah buddy Alex Rodriguez, Guy has already started dating presumably un-gristle-like actress Kelly Reilly, star of his upcoming Sherlock Holmes film. Yikes. Guess Madge knew what she was talking about when she once sang "Love Don't Live Here Anymore." And finally, while it may seem weird that Guns N' Roses are releasing new music again and Madonna's being cruelly compared to a chewy piece of beef, we'll wrap up this week's column with two truly weird stories... Aforementioned Fiona Shackleton star client Paul McCartney, who's certainly dealt with his unfair share of emotional problems lately, literally lost his head this week, when a wax replica of his famous cranium was accidentally left on a London train. The paraffin skull-sculpture, which was molded in the 1960s, was expected to sell for between $10,000 and $20,000 at Carters Entertainment auctioneers before it went missing; its embarrassed owner, Joby Carter, therefore offered a cash reward for the Macca head's safe return. Happily, homeless man Anthony Silva found the head in a trashcan at train station innearby Reading, and after initially mistaking it fora Halloween mask, he returned the head and claimed the $4,000 reward from Joby. "It's just what I need, and I hope my luck has changed for the better," Anthony told the press. And finally, Beyonce may have lost her head in the more figurative sense, when--after years of building up "Beyonce" as an internationally recognized and celebrated brand name--she announced this week that she would now like to be formally known as "Sasha Fierce" instead. "I have someone else that takes over when it's time for me to work and when I'm onstage, this alter-ego that I've created that kind of protects me and who I really am," the Artist Formerly Known As Beyonce explained in a cryptic statement. We just hope this kooky name change doesn't wreak havoc on her new union with Jay-Z...doesn't Sasha realize that Madonna and Guy Ritchie's marriage started to suffer after Madonna announced to the world that she wanted to be addressed by her Kabbalah name, "Esther"? Well, that concludes another weird, wild, and woeful week. We once again send our thoughts and prayers to Jennifer Hudson (feel free to do the same on the message board below), and invite you to come back next Friday for more, hopefully cheerier, music news. (Lyndsey Parker/ Music Blog/ AFP File Photo via Yahoo)