TIME Music

Former Cream Bassist Jack Bruce Dies of Liver Disease

North Sea Jazz Festival 2012 - Day 1
Jack Bruce performs on stage during North Sea Jazz Festival at Ahoy on July 6, 2012 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Rob Verhorst—Redferns via Getty Images

The 71-year-old former bassist for Cream co-wrote unforgettable hits including "Sunshine of Your Love" and "White Room"

Jack Bruce, Cream’s former bassist, songwriter and singer, has died of liver disease at the age of 71.

“It is with great sadness that we, Jack’s family, announce the passing of our beloved Jack: husband, father, granddad, and all round legend,” his family said in a statement, according to The Guardian. “The world of music will be a poorer place without him but he lives on in his music and forever in our hearts.”

Bruce was the principal singer and songwriter in Cream, co-writing hits including “White Room” and “Sunshine of Your Love” with lyricist Pete Brown. He had an ongoing rivalry with drummer Ginger Baker that guitarist Eric Clapton was often helpless to stop.

Bruce struggled with drug addiction and financial troubles in the 1970s after Cream’s breakup, but continued to play as a session musician and as part of small groups. In 2003 he underwent a liver transplant after being diagnosed with cancer, and played with a reunited Cream for a series of shows in 2005.

[The Guardian]

TIME celebrities

See How Katy Perry Has Changed Over the Years

The pop star turns 30

Katy Hudson, better known by her stage name Katy Perry, started off as a Christian rock singer before rising to fame in 2008 with her single I Kissed A Girl. Take a look back at how Katy Perry and her many shades of hair color have changed over the years.

TIME Music

Nicki Minaj Rules the World in Promo for MTV European Music Awards

All hail the queen (from Queens)

In a GQ profile this week, Nicki Minaj deftly skirts her interviewer’s questions about everything derriere-related. But as much as she says she’s ready to change the topic, it’s hard to get away from what is — at the very least — the heavily implied subject of her latest single, “Anaconda.”

In a promo for MTV’s European Music Awards, references to the backside abound: in a jiggling Jell-o mold, side-by-side hamburger buns, and an emoji — renamed, in her honor, an E-Minaji — inspired by the song’s salacious album art. The brief video imagines that after hosting the award ceremony, Minaj’s star is elevated from queen of rap to queen of the world, complete with gilded throne.

But the booty allusions, thankfully, steal less screen-time than images of the rapper asserting her influence in other ways. She’s depicted inspiring hair trends, bridging the rap-opera divide with an operatic adaptation of “Anaconda,” hosting her own late-night show, and ruling a commercial empire. It’s not far from the truth, either. While her face may never grace U.S. currency as it does in the video, she boasts a long and growing list of product endorsements and was the first woman to appear on Forbes’ Hip Hop Cash Kings List. (They’d better find a more gender-neutral name.)

The European Music Awards will be filmed live in Glasgow on Nov. 9. In addition to Minaj’s first major turn as a host, the show will feature performances by Charli XCX, Calvin Harris, and Ed Sheeran.

TIME Music

Watch One Direction’s Music Video for ‘Steal My Girl’

Starring Danny DeVito...?

Just in time to interrupt the Taylor Swift media blitz, One Direction has released a new music video for their song “Steal My Girl.”

In the (sort of bizarre) video, Danny DeVito plays a director who tags each of the One Direction boys with a symbol — Power, Mystery, etc. Hilariously (considering, again, that T-Swift has been spending the last couple of weeks dropping songs about him) her ex Harry Styles is dubbed “Love.”

It gets stranger: there are sumo wrestlers, leopard jackets, a monkey and tribesmen with balloons. Just go with it.

TIME Music

Watch Taylor Swift Perform ‘Out of the Woods’ on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Swift says releasing the album is like sending it off to college

Taylor Swift visited Jimmy Kimmel Live! last night to promote her fifth album, 1989, which releases on Oct. 27. She shut down Hollywood Boulevard and took the stage to perform “Out of the Woods” (for the first time!) and “Shake It Off” in front of 15,000 screaming fans.

“I’m more confident about this album than I’ve been about any of the other ones, which is a really nice feeling,” Swift told Kimmel. “But it’s almost like you’re releasing this thing into the world that you spent two years with, and it’s just been mine for two years and now it’s everybody else’s. You know, sending it off to college.”

Swift has no need to worry: she’s gotten a pretty warm reception so far. Kimmel embarrassed the pop star by reading TIME’s review of the new album, as well as those from other publications, on air.

TIME Music

Review: On Jessie Ware’s Tough Love, Sadness Sounds Sweeter

Interscope Records

The singer weaves lush melodies out of frustration and taps further still into her soulful side on an impressive follow-up

Jessie Ware can breathe easy: she crooned her way right past the dreaded sophomore slump. The soulful UK songstress quickly and quietly struck gold with her 2012 debut Devotion, a genre-blurring set of delicate electronica (“110%”), soul (“Wildest Moments”) and quiet storm (“Night Light”) best served in the evening hours with a bottle of red. The album landed near-universal critical acclaim, including a prestigious Mercury Award nomination, as well as frequent comparisons to everyone from Adele to Sade.

After two years of touring, collaborations and a marriage, the singer returns this month with her follow-up Tough Love, a collection that is, surprisingly, born largely from broken hearts and hurt feelings. “I’m in a really happy stage of my life, but it doesn’t mean I can’t write about things that affect me or that I relate to from the past,” she said of the unexpected juxtaposition in a profile for The Guardian.

It’s not a bad tack: time and time again, Ware turns sadness into healing sound, from the album’s lush title track “Tough Love” to the Dev Hynes-assisted “Want Your Feeling.” While the lyrics of the latter track might leave Jessie aching all alone, the disco-inflected chorus — which might as well come from the Earth, Wind & Fire catalogue — suggests otherwise.

Tough Love also comprises even more talented hands than her debut — familiar ones, at that: While Jessie’s first outing was produced entirely by Dave Okumu (The Invisible), Kid Harpoon and Julio Bashmore, Jessie’s second serving is helmed by BenZel, the partnership of one of the pop industry’s most reliable beat-crafters, Benny Blanco (Britney Spears, Ke$ha), and rising London producer Two Inch Punch (Sam Smith). As a result, the record finds its footing somewhere in between the left-leaning British electronica scene and a more polished Top 40 pop sound.

Of all the new songwriting collaborators, “Adorn” crooner Miguel is perhaps the most seamless fit; his own R&B fusion is a natural complement to Ware’s own. He assists on “Kind Of…Sometimes…Maybe,” an electronic daydream that sways back and forth as Jessie grapples with the idea of getting back together with a former flame: “Do I want you at all? / OK, just a bit, I hate to admit,” she sings. She lays herself barer on “Say You Love Me,” a soulful, guitar-led slow jam written alongside Ed Sheeran. On “Pieces,” recorded alongside Lana Del Rey producer, Emile Haynie, the track plays like a thunderous Bond theme, high-drama and colored by swells of cinematic strings.

But the meatier production isn’t even the biggest change on the album: It’s the singer herself, whose increased confidence comes through in her more assured vocal delivery. There’s even a hint of a more mainstream pop superstar in waiting, as with the single-ready “You & I (Forever),” armed with a M83-like ’80’s electronic pulse that begs for radio. Strong, too, are the fluttery falsetto chorus of “Champagne Kisses” and “Cruel,” a slick, string-filled anthem equipped with one of her strongest hooks to date.

Tough Love is rich, romantic, and thoughtfully crafted, both more ambitious and more intimate than its predecessor. And, in a year of powerhouse pop divas loudly wailing, bang-banging and breaking free on top of the charts, the subdued LP is a much-needed reminder that a little restraint can sound just as sweet.

TIME Music

Martin Scorsese Signs On as Executive Producer of Grateful Dead Documentary

"The 50 Year Argument" Photo Call - 52nd New York Film Festival
Director Martin Scorsese attends the "The 50 Year Argument" premiere during the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 28, 2014 in New York City. Ilya S. Savenok—Getty Images

The documentary is set to be released next year, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of band's founding

Hollywood director Martin Scorsese will be the executive producer of an upcoming documentary on legendary ’60s rock group the Grateful Dead.

The documentary, which will use a mix of vintage interviews, live concerts and new interviews with surviving members, is slated to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the iconic band’s founding, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Amir Bar-Lev, known for 2010 film The Tillman Story, will direct the yet-to-be-titled Grateful Dead flick.

The band, made up of Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and the late Jerry Garcia, said in a statement that they are honored to have Scorsese on board. “From The Last Waltz to George Harrison: Living in the Material World, from Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones, he has made some of the greatest music documentaries ever with some of our favorite artists,” they said.

Scorsese also released a statement, saying he was happy that the film was being made and honored at being a part of it. “The Grateful Dead were more than just a band,” he said. “They were their own planet, populated by millions of devoted fans.”

[THR]

TIME

It’s a Long Way to the Top (if You Wanna Be a Uighur Pop Star)

Heartthrob Ablajan embodies the tension between pop and politics in China's Xinjiang region

Sangzhu is not the sort of place you’d expect to find a pop star. An oasis town of some 30,000 people off the old Silk Road in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, Sangzhu is home to ethnic Uighur farmers, mosques and a bazaar. Women move quietly through courtyards, pulling their kerchiefs tight against the wind from the Taklamakan Desert. Bearded men lead donkeys down the road.

Then a bus rattles around the corner, shaking sleepy Sangzhu to life. From the backseats of the rusty clunker comes the kind of feral scream that can only be produced by wild packs of teenage girls. They pound the windows and wave their hands with celebrity-stricken abandon, jostling for a better view. “Ablajan!” they yell as they roll by. “Ab-laaa-jaaan!”

Standing street-side in a studded leather jacket and shades, glancing down at his iPhone, is the object of their frenzy: Uighur pop star, and hometown hero, Ablajan Awut Ayup. He looks up at them, smiles a little sheepishly, and touches his hand to his heart. Then he turns to me and pops his collar with all the mock swagger he can muster. “The ladies,” he says in English, “they like my style.”

Ablajan, 30, is one of the hottest singers in China’s vast northwest. His catchy songs fuse the rhythms of Central Asia with the stylings of global pop—a sort of Sufi poetry-meets-Justin-Bieber vibe. On stage, he channels the theatricality of his childhood idol, Michael Jackson, and the tight choreography of K-pop. His first album, Shall We Start?, sold more than 100,000 copies, no small achievement in a limited market. Local businesses vie to endorse Ablajan, and his face graces billboards in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi.

For Uighur youth growing up amid marginalization and strife, Ablajan’s story is the stuff of legend. Born and raised in a mud-brick courtyard in one of China’s poorest and most isolated counties, unable to speak Chinese or English until his teens, and lacking training and connections in the music industry, Ablajan somehow made it. To his fans, he symbolizes the possibility of a life that is at once modern, successful and Uighur. He often gives free shows and, during performances, tells kids to study hard and get a good job. “The message is that this is the 21st century,” says Ablajan. “We cannot make a living buying and selling sheep.”

Now Ablajan wants to take his music east to the Chinese heartland. He sees his story as proof that there is more to Xinjiang than what you read in the news. He is right, of course, but Xinjiang is a region on edge, and conflict has a way of creeping in. When my Chinese colleague Gu Yongqiang and I returned to our hotel after visiting Ablajan’s childhood stomping grounds, the police were at the door. They thanked us for coming and asked us to be on our way. Said one cop: “It’s a sensitive time.”

China’s Outsiders

Unlike the country’s majority Han Chinese, Uighurs are of Turkic origin and mostly Muslim. As with Tibet, Xinjiang is historically a contested space, held by a series of Turkic, Mongol and Han empires, including the 18th century Qing Dynasty, which gave the region its current name, meaning “New Frontier.” In the 1930s, Uighur leaders in the ancient Silk Road entrepôt of Kashgar declared the first of two short-lived East Turkestan Republics.

When the People’s Republic of China (PRC) came into being, its troops marched into Xinjiang, followed by waves of military personnel and migrants to settle a territory three times the size of France. In 1949, the year the PRC was founded, Han Chinese accounted for roughly 6% of Xinjiang’s population; today the figure is about 45%. Uighurs say they are outsiders in their own land. While Beijing has brought development to Xinjiang, most of the new wealth is concentrated in Han hands. Many Uighurs want greater autonomy, some call for independence.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party views those demands as an existential threat. In recent years, any unrest has been met with ever escalating force by Beijing. In 2009, protests in Urumqi degenerated into clashes that claimed nearly 200 lives, both Han and Uighur. The authorities responded by detaining Uighurs and cutting off the Internet for nine months. They have since further curbed the teaching of the Uighur language in schools, banned under-18s from praying in mosques, and stopped civil servants and students from fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. On Sept. 23, Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti, a moderate activist, was sentenced to life imprisonment for “separatism,” a charge many say was trumped up and a verdict many condemn as excessively harsh.

Such government action has radicalized some Uighurs. In October last year, a vehicle carrying three members of a Uighur family crashed through crowds of sightseers in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing five, including the passengers. Some months later, eight knife-wielding assailants—whom the authorities called “Xinjiang separatists”—slaughtered 29 civilians at a railway station in Kunming, capital of southwestern Yunnan province. Two subsequent attacks by extremists in Urumqi killed dozens more and sparked what Beijing calls an anti-terror campaign that has resulted in mass trials, convictions and executions. On Sept. 22, state media said that blasts in Luntai County, which is about a day’s drive from Urumqi, killed at least two people and injured several others.

Security personnel in riot gear now blanket Xinjiang’s major cities, and towns like Sangzhu are increasingly sealed off by police checkpoints. Chinese security posters feature racist caricatures of Uighurs: scowling, bearded men with big hooked noses—reinforcing the perception many Han have of Uighurs as backward, dissolute and violent. It’s against this backdrop of suspicion and prejudice that Ablajan—and other young Uighurs—try to climb the economic ladder.

Rhythm and Blues

When we landed in Urumqi, two members of Ablajan’s crew, the improbably named Frank and Caesar, met us at the airport and led us to a black SUV. As Frank steered the beast through rush hour traffic, Caesar talked, in rapid-fire Uighur, English and Chinese, about competing as breakdancer in southern China, and lamented that the central government blocks sites like YouTube where you can listen to rap artists like his personal favorite, Notorious B.I.G., “may he rest in peace.”

Most of Ablajan’s dancers and aides are, like him, Uighur kids from the countryside who dreamed of making it big. They live between worlds, learning Chinese to survive, and English as a cultural lubricant, while still clinging to a language and tradition of their own.

Ablajan attended Uighur-language school and spent his evenings toiling beside his father in the fields, singing folk songs to pass the time. He looks back fondly on his youth. “Xinjiang used to be peaceful,” he says. “Then we lost the peace.”

At 14, Ablajan caught a glimpse of Michael Jackson on TV and, for the first time, imagined a life outside Sangzhu. “When I saw him, I was like, Oh my God,” he says. He started practicing the moonwalk and writing songs, and at 19 made the 32-hour bus journey to Urumqi to study dance.

The next six years were a struggle to make it as a musician, and a struggle with the reality of being poor and Uighur in an increasingly expensive, segregated city. He worked as a wedding singer and practiced English and Chinese. Eventually, he was befriended by another young Uighur musician who gave him a computer, his first, and a workspace in his studio. He spent his days writing music and his nights working Urumqi’s restaurant and wedding circuit.

One of his breakthrough hits, “Is There Space to Play?,” turns rural-urban migration into a metaphor for coming of age, according to Darren Byler, an anthropologist at the University of Washington who studies and translates Uighur music. The song opens with the sights and sounds of Xinjiang childhood: the call to prayer, distant mountains, a bleating goat. By midway, we’re in China’s pressure-cooker schools, where the bags of books are heavy. It ends in the city—skyscrapers and cars are everywhere. Where are the stars at night? Is there space to play?

Hot Ticket

Ablajan is a big star in a small place. When he walks down the street, there’s an endless stream of people waiting to shake hands. At a Chinese Muslim restaurant in Urumqi, two cooks rush out of the kitchen, aprons and, gloves still on, to wish him well: “Peace be upon you,” they say, using the pan-Islamic greeting. In the town of Hotan, a teenage taxi driver refuses to let him pay. “Just write some more love songs,” he says.

With success and celebrity comes perks that young Ablajan might not have imagined. He has enough to live on his own and to send money and gifts to his family. When he visits his hometown he takes a flight, not the grueling overnight bus. And Uighur girls from as far away as Europe and the U.S. send him messages on Instagram, his social network of choice. “So many beautiful ladies,” he says.

But Ablajan also faces obstacles. Many of his fans do not have the money to buy tickets for his shows, and organizing a concert requires multiple layers of state approval. There are technical issues too. For a late spring performance at a college in Urumqi, his team set up a stage on a basketball court and students carried in wooden chairs to form an ad-hoc auditorium. Police lined the perimeter to watch the crowd. When the music started — two hours late because of technical problems — Ablajan was electric. But the guy manning the spotlight from a Toyota pickup mid-court could not quite keep him illuminated.

After the show, the performers gathered in the school stairwell that served as their dressing room. The dancers greeted friends and basked in the post-show glow, but Ablajan held back, despondent about the delays and glitches. He worries about letting people down, he says, and feels the pressure of being a role model to an entire generation of Uighur kids. “I’m only a bad boy on stage,” he said.

When we met the next morning to catch a flight south, he looked beat. I had bought tickets for 8:00 a.m. not realizing that half the region ignores government-mandated “Beijing time” in favor of “Xinjiang time,” which is two hours earlier. It was actually 5:00 o’clock in the morning and Ablajan had been up all night, replaying the performance in his head. But by time we got to the airport, he was himself again, greeting fans and cracking jokes.

As we boarded the plane, Ablajan was humming the tune to a 2013 hit by Toronto-born rapper Drake: Started from the bottom and now we here / Started from the bottom now the whole team here.

The Politics of Music

Ablajan rarely talks politics, wary, no doubt, of jeopardizing his career. But on July 31, violent clashes erupted in a village outside Kashgar, leaving at least 100 dead, according to state media reports. (The cause of the violence and the death toll are still disputed.) When the authorities then canceled a long-planned concert in Urumqi, Ablajan could no longer hold back. His team spent nearly a month, and a whole lot of money, preparing for what was to be a display of ethnic unity performed in front of officials and broadcast to audiences. Police shut it down less than an hour from showtime. Ablajan posted a picture of himself on Instagram, with a caption that read like a cri de coeur: “My name is Ablajan! I am not a terrorist.”

Late last year, Ablajan released his first Chinese-language music video, “Today,” an MJ-inspired epic featuring a car chase and shots of his entourage dancing on rooftops and roads in Urumqi and Kashgar. The goal was to generate some excitement online for the Mandarin single, his first, giving him a foothold in the bigger, more lucrative Chinese-language market. His manager, Rui Wenbin—a Han Chinese born and raised in Urumqi and formerly of Xinjiang’s culture ministry—believes Ablajan’s music can help bridge the divide between the Uighur and Han worlds. Says Rui: “He can be a messenger of peace.”

It won’t be easy. On my last night in Xinjiang, Ablajan and I walk to a public square near the local government office. It’s a warm evening and many people are out, walking arm-in-arm or pushing strollers. On one side, a group of elderly Han women practices a synchronized dance. Nearby, clusters of young Uighurs listen to music. Before the clock strikes nine, however, the cops come out in golf-cart-size squad cars, sirens blaring. Everyone has to go home.

As we walk back, Ablajan talks about going to Kazakhstan in the fall. If he can scrape up the money, he’d love to see Beijing someday too. “I need proper equipment, a choreographer, costumes, but …” He pauses and searches for the right expression. “Mei banfa,” he says in Mandarin: No solution. “I mean, this is Xinjiang, man.”

— With reporting by Gu Yongqiang / Sangzhu

TIME Music

This Is Bette Midler Covering TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’

Yes, seriously.

On Nov. 4, Bette Midler will release her first album in six years. It’s called It’s The Girls and features covers of songs by famous girl groups, ranging from The Boswell Sisters to TLC. Yes, that TLC. Listen here as she offers her take on their 1995 classic, “Waterfalls.”

Yeah, we don’t really what to say either.

TIME Gadgets

Watch Steve Jobs Unveil the iPod 13 Years Ago

Gather ’round, kids. Gather ’round. Old Uncle Doug is going to regale you with a tale of an excellent rectangle that was introduced to the world on October 23, 2001.

Back in 2001, MP3 players weren’t scarce, by any means, but they each had a fundamental problem: They were either pocketable and could only hold a few dozen songs or they were comically big and could hold several hundred songs.

I didn’t own the original iPod. It was too expensive (I didn’t have $400 to my name) and initially Mac-only (I didn’t have a Mac — a side-effect of not having money). I was, however, enamored with portable MP3 players. In fact, instead of buying several CD-, flash- and hard drive-based MP3 players at upwards of $200 a pop, as I did, I probably could have owned an iPod and maybe even a Mac.

Here’s a photo of two real gems I still own: the Pocket mStation (left) and the NeoPlayer (right), with an old iPhone 4 thrown into the mix to give you a sense of size. I’ll frame these someday:

iPod Size
Doug Aamoth / TIME

These two ridiculous beasts each used a 2.5-inch hard drive commonly used in laptops. So I could stuff a ton of songs on them, but I couldn’t stuff either of them into anything but the Hammer-est of Hammer pants.

iPod
Apple / Getty Images

The world needed an MP3 player that was small enough to fit in a pocket, yet had enough storage to hold hundreds of songs. The problem was that flash-based storage maxed out at mere megabytes and tiny, high-capacity hard drives didn’t exist in sufficient quantities…yet.

This was a conundrum for Apple engineers in late 2000, as Steve Jobs had expressed interest in building a sleek, pocketable MP3 player that could hold a ton of music. In true Steve Jobs fashion, Jobs tasked Jon Rubinstein with building such a device even though the necessary components didn’t exist.

Rubinstein lucked out, though. In February of 2001, while he was meeting with Toshiba, a boatload of tiny, high-capacity hard drives nearly fell in his lap. The following is a passage in Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs book (page 384):

At the end of a routine meeting with Toshiba, the engineers mentioned a new product they had in the lab that would be ready by that June. It was a tiny, 1.8-inch drive (the size of a silver dollar) that would hold five gigabytes of storage (about a thousand songs), and they were not sure what to do with it. When the Toshiba engineers showed it to Rubinstein, he knew immediately what it could be used for. A thousand songs in his pocket! Perfect. But he kept a poker face. Jobs was also in Japan, giving the keynote speech at the Tokyo Macworld conference. They met that night at the Hotel Okura, where Jobs was staying. “I know how to do it now,” Rubinstein told him. “All I need is a $10 million check.” Jobs immediately authorized it. So Rubinstein started negotiating with Toshiba to have exclusive rights to every one of the disks it could make, and he began to look around for someone who could lead the development team.

The “exclusive rights to every one of the disks it could make” quip is important. Apple rolled out the iPod in late 2001; it would take a while for competing MP3 players to shrink down and catch up.

Further Reading:

Read next: Aaron Sorkin Confirms Christian Bale Will Play Steve Jobs

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