Thanks, Eliot Tiegel, From Your Former Cub Reporter

I was sad to see the news item that Eliot Tiegel, former Billboard managing editor, died on Tuesday (April 7) at age 84.

Eliot hired me in my first go-round at Billboard in the ’70s. He changed the course of my life one day in 1977 when he came by my desk — back when Billboard was based in the landmark 9000 Building on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood — with a question about The Doobie Brothers.

I had written “The Doobie Bros.” in a story. Eliot wanted to know if that was how the group’s name was properly rendered, or if it was supposed to be “The Doobie Brothers.”

I’m sure I thought, “Who cares? Everyone will know who I’m talking about.” But I didn’t want to get fired in my first few months on the job, so I placed the call to Warner Bros., the group’s record label, to check.

Eliot’s sense that something was amiss was right. The group’s name is properly rendered as “The Doobie Brothers.”

I didn’t want Eliot to have to come back to my desk again, so I redoubled my efforts to always be accurate. Is it “Captain & Tennille” or “Captain and Tennille” or “The Captain and Tennille” — or, God forbid, “Captain and Tenille?” (It is “Captain & Tennille.”)

I have taken this perfectionist, OK, persnickety, trait with me throughout my career. It has served me well. I think I have a reputation for accuracy — and probably for being a bit of a pain in the neck. That’s OK. Details matter. That was drilled into my by my first boss.

I stayed in touch with Eliot over the years. I sent him a card when his wife, Bonnie Tiegel, died in 2017. She was a talented photographer who did a lot of photo shoots for Billboard — and went on to an impressive career in television. She won four Emmys in her long stint as an Entertainment Tonight producer.

One day a few years ago, I recalled my Doobie Brothers story in an email exchange with Eliot. I thanked him for setting me on my course. I don’t think he remembered the moment — it changed my life, not his — but he was gracious in accepting my thanks.

Because of Eliot, I will always double-check if I’m not 100% certain that I have my facts straight. I have even coined an expression, “Whatever you don’t look up will bite you in the a–.” I never had a chance to share that expression with Eliot. He would have gotten a kick out of that. Thanks, boss.

Demi Lovato, Chris Martin & More Turn Out for Emmanuel Kelly’s ‘Never Alone’ Video

Pop singer Emmanuel Kelly, who was found in a box in a park in Iraq when he was an infant but eventually went on to compete on Australia’s X Factor with a now-viral version of “Imagine,” is releasing the video for his timely Paul Oakenfold & Varun remix of “Never Alone” on Thursday (April 9).

The video features Demi Lovato, Chris Martin, Terrence Howard, J.K. Simmons, Elisabeth Moss, Jean-Claude Van Damme and his son Kris, Pia Toscano, Royce da 5’9″, Jonathan Ross, Vanness Wu, Brian Grazer and his wife Veronica and nephew Jack Grazer, Kelly’s two-time Paralympian brother Ahmed Kelly and many more. They share encouraging and inspirational 30-second cameos of raw, unfiltered and heartfelt words telling the camera what they do to gain strength when they feel alone. They join Emmanuel on his #NeverAlone and #NeverAloneChallenge to advocate for global mental health and encourage people to virtually embrace and authentically connect with each other while going through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emmanuel tells us why he chose to shoot the video in front of a bathroom mirror. “When people are feeling isolated, depressed, alone and are trying to regain their strength and force themselves to embrace and love themselves and lift their spirits up, the one thing they always do is they go to the bathroom, look at themselves in the mirror and they cry; sometimes they punch the mirror and talk to themselves. So I felt that by doing in front of the mirror it would create the most realistic approach to feeling frustrated, depressed, isolated. Where we are with COVID-19, the one place that people probably are spending a lot of their time every night or morning is in that bathroom in front of that mirror trying to lift themselves saying, ‘You got this.’ I’ve struggled with and felt anxiety and depression and I have been in places that I have no money or on the street, and people tell me that I would never make it in the music industry or that I would never achieve my dreams. There’s countless times I have stayed in front of the mirror and said to myself, ‘you can do this Emmanuel.'”

The #NeverAloneChallenge invites viewers and fans to creatively express themselves through photos and videos on what they do when they feel alone as well. Those that feel comfortable are encouraged to share with the world their #NeverAloneChallenge on social media.

Kelly wrote the song “Never Alone” when he was just 11 years old after he saw his mother go through the loss of a two-year-old child she had brought from Bosnia to Australia for surgery. She was about to give up her humanitarian way of life when she felt something telling her she’s not alone, to keep fighting and not give up. Kelly states, “After experiencing and watching her go through this, I realized that we are not alone. And if she had given up, my brother and I wouldn’t be where we are today, so for that, I am very thankful for her courage, her strength and her commitment for not giving up.”

“Never Alone” was brought to life for the first time right after Kelly’s appearance on Australia’s X Factor, but the song didn’t entirely make the impact he wanted. At the time, the song was more of an acoustic pop ballad, with slow beats and a melancholy sadness.

Kelly wanted to do something different with the song, took a step back and realized that the timing wasn’t right. He also wanted the song to make people feel happy. That’s when he came together with legendary DJ/producer Paul Oakenfold in 2019 and remixed it with a higher energy sound, with Chris Martin serving as executive producer. “Never Alone” will feature on Kelly’s upcoming fall EP.

Doug Clifford on Lost 35-Year-Old Solo Album, Putting Creedence Clearwater Revisited to Rest

A little house cleaning last year has resulted in a new — albeit 35-year-old — solo album from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Doug Clifford.

Clifford recorded Magic Window, whose “Just Another Girl” is premiering exclusively below, with friends while living in Lake Tahoe. He got busy with other endeavors, including the Neighbors For Defensible Space initiative to deal with a drought about the same time, and the tapes were put away and moved to his current residence in Reno — where he unearthed them last year in his garage.

“I found all these two-track masters, about 10 of them, probably 100 songs with different artists,” Clifford, who’s also worked as a producer, tells Billboard. “I’m using myself as the first guy out of the shoot ’cause (Magic Window) was my best performance as a singer and a songwriter. It was a complete project for me; I wasn’t just the drummer in the band. I was the artist and producer and all those other things.”

Magic Window, due out April 24, isn’t Clifford’s first solo effort outside of Creedence, however. He recorded Cosmo (his nickname) in 1972, but he considered it “an album for the sake of art. It was an experiment. I knew I had a budget from Fantasy (Records) so it wasn’t going to cost me anything. We just set up to see what we could do, and it worked. But it wasn’t a terrific singing even or anything. On (Magic Window) I was really confident I could lay down some good vocals.”

The 10-track Magic Window also stands up as contemporary to its time. While a track such as “Born on the South Side” evokes some “Born on the Bayou” grit, the other tracks have a polished mid-80s kind of feel, including synthesizers and other production techniques popular at the time — “Don’t Let Go,” for instance, would have fit on any Rick Springfield album — but without sounding dated. “I think it still has kind of a freshness,” Clifford says about the album, which he recorded with guitarist and co-producer Russell DaShiell, bassist-keyboardist Chris Solberg and guitarist Rob Polomsky. “I don’t think it really sounds like, ‘Oh, that’s ’80s!’ The biggest giveaway would be the Simmons tom-toms that were the rage at the time, but they worked pretty well — and I hear some of that coming back now. But the key is I knew myself and the guys were really talented. It was a labor of love; I had time and did it right.

“I’m really proud of it, and I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people.”

Clifford — who recently put his Creedence Clearwater Revisited band with bassist Stu Cook to pasture — has no plans to play live in support of Magic Window. “I can’t sing anymore to do a concert,” says Clifford, whose voice has been impacted by cancer treatments. He does plan to dip into the other recordings he found for eventual release, including some with Bobby Whitlock from Derek and the Dominos on vocals.

Other than that, Clifford adds, “My producer’s hat will be what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my career. I really like making records for other people. It’s very rewarding.”

Watch Jack Black Crush a Passover Standard, Plus How Other Celebs Celebrated The Holiday

It’s an understatement to say that this year’s Passover celebration is way, way different than any other. The annual commemoration of the liberation of Jews from bondage in Egypt is traditionally celebrated by families and congregations gathering around a table to recite the story of the holiday, sing songs and eat a meal together.

Obviously the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in those plans, as Jews around the world have were forced to stay in lockdown on the first night on Wednesday (April 8). But that didn’t stop a number of celebs from sharing their favorite songs, dishes and memories of the holiday.

One of the most uplifting, and funniest came from Jack Black, who put his expected zany spin on one of the holiday’s most beloved songs, “Chad Gadya,” a playful round sung at the end of the Seder that tells the story of one little goat’s epic adventure.

Check out Black’s breathless version below, as well as Passover posts from Josh Gad, Ben Platt, Adam Sandler and Mindy Kaling.

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✂ @taylorstephens Link to song in bio!

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T.I. Will Team Up With YouTube for New Episodes of ‘ExpediTIously’ Podcast: Exclusive

When T.I. was first approached about hosting a podcast, he couldn’t envision himself behind a mic and not recording music. Yet since launching expediTIously with PodcastOne in September, Tip has become one of the prominent voices in hip-hop media, adding an unfiltered perspective to the growing podcast ecosystem.

Billboard confirmed on Thursday (Apr. 9) that expediTIously will be expanding to include a video component, as YouTube will host new episodes uploaded every Tuesday and Thursday at noon ET on the podcast’s YT channel. This week’s installment features Tip’s conversation with Tyler Perry, which can be viewed below. New episodes will still be released every Thursday via PodcastOne on Apple and Spotify.

The 39-year-old rapper is currently making the most out of his time in quarantine. T.I. says he’s still recording music daily at home while catering to daddy duties and dipping into other endeavors, which includes rolling out a new season of T.I. & Tiny: Friends & Family Hustle. “It’s the same thing. Life, love, family, friends and the hustle,” he succinctly adds of the show, which returns to VH1 on Monday (April 13) at 9 p.m. ET

We also learned that T.I. is in the early stages of turning his inspirational childhood story into a television series. “I’ve also been developing a show called Once Upon a Time in the ’90s, which details my teenage years from the time I was 15, getting sent out of school [and] on my way to who we now know as T.I.,” the “Top Back” rapper explains. “It goes into the people I met, the lessons I learned, and I’ve been focused on that.”

Give the rest of our chat with the ATL legend a read below, as Tip dishes on the 14th anniversary of King, Travis Scott’s label situation with Grand Hustle coming to a close, reconnecting with Kanye West following “Ye vs the People” and possibly penning a memoir in the future.

Billboard: How are you and the family holding up during quarantine?

T.I.: Times are unfortunate, but these are still the days the Lord has made. Just embrace the light in the dark of it. Everything you do during this time to improve yourself is the light. Become more connected with yourself, learning, and growing. Treat it like a bid.

What have you learned about yourself since starting the ExpediTIously podcast last year?

I learned how much interest I had in areas outside my assumed culture. Seeing how much passion I have for learning and diversifying myself while having conversations that can push the culture and community forward.

When did you originally come up with the idea for a podcast?

I can’t really say I came up with it, because it was introduced to me. I think people saw how boisterous and opinionated I was on social media, and we were approached by a podcast who suggested it to us. At first, I was like, “Man, why would I do a podcast?” They continued to explain the purpose of the platform. I took a look at my interests and thought it was a no-brainer.

What’s one episode from the past few months that new or unfamiliar fans should go back and check out?

The Killer Mike episode, which is the first one we released with video. It was incredibly insightful. He’s one of the smartest cats I know. I’m proud to call him a brother and business partner. He’s always very eloquent, factual, knowledgeable and passionate when he speaks. Alex Jones is also a dope episode to me, because it’s two people from completely opposite sides challenging one another’s thoughts and beliefs.

What do you think about all the producer and artist battles we’ve seen on IG Live keeping us entertained during the quarantine?

I think it’s phenomenal. We’re looking to the content providers to giving us an alternative to driving ourselves crazy. Whatever way you can occupy your thoughts and get out of your own head can be beneficial, from Boosie to D-Nice and Tory Lanez. It’s an opportunity to speak to the community as a whole. I think The-Dream and Sean Garrett [battle] was dope. Lil Jon and T-Pain was dope too. The Ne-Yo and Johnta Austin was the fanciest duel ever. It’s all been great for the culture.

We just passed the 14-year anniversary of King. What do you remember most about making that album?

The thing I remember most about that record is Philant [Johnson]. That was the last album that my partner Philant was around. We were pushing a movie and an album at the same time, because ATL is also 14 years old.

Coming off of Dime Trap last year, how many more albums do you have left in you? Will we see an 11th LP from you?

I record every day. I got music in abundance from years and years that I could put out whenever, but I’m just focusing on other things. The more people who hear what I have, the more they convince me and motivate me to release it. We can’t be definite about anything right now, but we know the opportunity is there and there’s great potential.

What is Travis Scott’s label situation with Grand Hustle right now? Could you clear that up for us?

As of everything post-ASTROWORLD, it’s Cactus Jack, as I understand it. Everything ASTROWORLD and before is a joint venture between Grand Hustle, Epic, and our distributor.

What do you think of his growth from when you met him to now? Did you always see superstardom for him?

We all knew that he had immense potential. We all knew he was special. His suggestions never came in the form of a “should I…” — it was always a definite. He had that level of certainty and awareness of himself and how he wanted to present his art. That leads you in the direction of knowing this kid is going to be great. It was a collective effort between our team, his team, and Epic that championed Travis immediately. We did all we could to push that s–t forward and he took the ball and shot it through the motherf—-n hoop.

Where are we at with production for season two of Rhythm + Flow?

[It’s] pending COVID-19. Season two has been green-lit and we’re definitely accepting auditions by the way of video and emails. We’ll be starting the first round of auditions that way, and erring on the side of progress with what’s going on. I think the next level of auditions will be how we originally started.

What can we expect with another season of Friends & Family Hustle premiering next week on VH1?

These are unique moments in all of our lives, personally and professionally. Our stories are groundbreaking and unique. The conversations are awesome and I just think everyone’s going to be excited to see what we’ve been up to.

When are we getting a memoir on the life of T.I.?

You know what, that may be a product of the quarantine. I’ve been working on a memoir for quite some time and it’s just about deciding the direction I want to take my journey. I’ve also been developing a show called Once Upon a Time in the 90’s, which details my teenage years from the time I was 15, getting sent out of school, [and] on my way to who we now know as T.I.. It goes into the people I met, the lessons I learned, and I’ve been focused on that, but I think the memoir is definitely is in order.

It’s been two years since you went back-and-forth with Kanye West on “Ye vs The People.” Have you had any conversations with him since?

I saw Ye when he brought Sunday Service to Atlanta. We did speak and have a positive conversation, but we didn’t speak anything about politics. I think he seems to be in a happy and peaceful place, but before he seemed a little all over the place. However, I do know that he’s now in a place where he’s following his truth. Wherever that leads him, that’s his journey and not for me to judge.

Rihanna Just Nabbed Another Big Award For Fenty

Rihanna’s FENTY line continues to expand with a newly-revealed faux leather capsule collection, and the star’s conscious efforts are now being recognized by PETA.

The animal rights organization announced it is crowning Rihanna with the Compassion in Fashion Award for her choice not to use real leather. “Rihanna should take a bow for this stunning cruelty-free collection,” PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange said in a press release.

“With her new vegan collection, Rihanna shows how easy it is to create a killer look that no animal had to die for.”

The award comes after years of backlash from PETA, as Rihanna was previously targeted for wearing fur coats and feather-adorned clothing. But the new FENTY collection features high-quality faux-leather items, including a corset dress and skirt and button-down shirts. It is available to shop here.

On the music end, the artist has made a long-awaited return to the Billboard Hot 100 after two years. “Believe It,” her collaboration with PartyNextDoor, currently sits at No. 23.

Inspirations: How Isaac Dunbar Celebrates Self-Love With His Major Label Debut, ‘Isaac’s Insects’

Inspirations is a Billboard interview franchise that examines the process behind new standout releases.

“I just feel like I’m in a prison.” For a fleeting moment, Isaac Dunbar sounds like any other teenager. Quarantined in his Cape Cod home, the 17-year-old is currently staring out the window as a storm encroaches on the coastal shores of his town.

In some ways, he is like any other teenager. Even over the phone, Dunbar is refreshingly unabashed in conversation, disarmingly confident while also thoughtful and well spoken. He’s as candid about trivial opinions as he is regarding his deepest convictions: He has a love-hate relationship with the beach (“I hate sand, but just sitting in the car, listening to music with your friends, it’s actually really peaceful”) but also daydreams about the future (“I wanna be married and have, like, kids and stuff right now. At, like, 17. But I can’t” [laughs]).

And yet, Dunbar is also far from a typical 17-year-old. A self-taught singer-songwriter, the rising teen pop star was signed by RCA Records in late 2019 after dropping independent EP Balloons Don’t Float Here. A string of sharply rendered singles (“Body,” “Onion Boy”) followed and after a whirlwind of a year, Dunbar is finally readying the release of his major label debut, Isaac’s Insects (out Thursday, April 9).

“It feels like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders,” he says of sending his new EP out into the world. “I have been hoarding these songs for the past, like, two years, some of these songs. And I’m just glad that people are gonna finally hear it.”

Preceded by its titular lead single, Isaac’s Insects feels like a coming out party — both literally and figuratively — for the newly christened pop star. Across seven tracks (all of which he wrote, and all but one of which he produced), Dunbar revels in the fantasy of domestic bliss with his dream boyfriend (the aptly titled “Boy”), bucks restrictive gender conventions (“Comme Des Garçons [Like the Boys]”) and wistfully looks back on his first relationship with another boy (“Scorton’s Creek”).

That type of vulnerable bravery and artistic honesty hasn’t come without a cost, however. Privately, Dunbar has waged an internal battle for self-acceptance over the last few years — officially coming out to the world as gay, pushing back against the anti-queer sentiment surrounding him at seemingly every turn and dismantling a lifetime’s worth of negative messaging about his identity as an LGBT artist and human being.

“For the past year, it was kind of terrible,” he shares of his coming out journey. “When I was in school and also with, like, family … ’cause you start to believe those things that people say to you when you don’t have the right support. You let that stuff go to your head and that’s what happened to me.”

Now, the teen credits practicing radical self-love, as well as channeling his experiences into music, with helping him remain optimistic, authentic and honest. “Music is the only way I feel I can say what I have to say and be safe,” he says. “It’s the best outlet for me.”

Below, Dunbar walks Billboard through the music, cultural touchstones, places and other experiences that inspired all seven tracks on Isaac’s Insects.

An elevated electronic sound: Dunbar cites French producer Madeon and Porter Robinson as influences for the “elevated sound” of his new EP compared to his earlier, independently-released work.

“I was so inspired by them, and they’d just stack layers and layers of synths and make beautiful walls of sound, but electronic, and I thought it was so cool,” he says. “So I recently did another deep dive into that sort of whole genre of music and applied it to now, ’cause I fell in love with it again.”

The confines of Cape Cod: Much like fellow teen pop stars Billie Eilish and Conan Gray before him, Dunbar pens the majority of his music from the comfort of his childhood bedroom. Having grown up on Cape Cod, the tony peninsula best known as a preppy summer resort destination and home base to a certain American political dynasty, Dunbar’s feelings are, shall we say, complicated about his exclusive hometown.

“I would describe it as the Florida of the East Coast,” he says with a bite. “So it’s, like, all old people and crazy people. But there’s also a rich population and a Brazilian population and a Jamaican population. So it’s low-key kind of diverse in certain ways, but it’s very, very preppy.”

Like many a 17-year-old before him, the rising pop star admits that he’s felt increasingly cloistered by his hometown, particularly when it comes to the close-minded attitudes regarding the LGBT community he’s bumped up against over the past few years. Naturally, his experiences with marginalization and, at times, outright prejudice found their way into Dunbar’s music as he began to grapple with and shape his identity as an artist.

“I would say that it made the lyrics more true to the moment because I was living in that space,” he says. “I experienced the internal conflicts in my house, so it was very easy for me to translate that into song.”

An anti-pop soundtrack: While writing the songs that make up the left-of-center pop running through the EP, Dunbar’s musical taste consisted of anything but current mainstream trends. “I listened to alternative, like, indie rock,” he says. “I listened to a lot of Radiohead and Thom Yorke’s solo stuff and Fleetwood Mac.”

Other artists prevalent on the teen’s playlists during his writing process? James Blake (“he is so creative”), King Krule and “a lot of underground, random stuff I saw on SoundCloud.”

Gen Z gay culture: “Honestly, I would say just like all the gay stuff that I’ve seen in my life inspired that,” Dunbar says of the glittering, high-fashion visual that accompanies “Makeup Drawer,” the EP’s stigma-shattering opening track. “So like Kim Petras and SOPHIE and Troye Sivan and [Lady] Gaga, they definitely all had their own individual roles in inspiring me with that video.”

The teen readily admits that, despite the openly queer themes in his latest body of work, he’s just beginning to find his place within the broader LGBT community. “It’s a really cool thing,” he says, “but for a long time, since I was told that I’m not a part of this community, like, ‘you’re not gay,’ I didn’t feel that. … It literally was not until recently that I’ve kind of even grasped that concept.”

To tap into the larger gay culture available online, Dunbar says he’s searched out content creators on YouTube and other social media platforms. “Gay Twitter … they’re ruthless!” he says. “But also amazing.”

Rejecting (and redrawing) gender constructs: On the synth-driven, ‘80s-inspired “Comme Des Garçons (Like the Boys),” Dunbar turns the French phrase (and sly reference to the luxury Japanese fashion label by designer Rei Kawakubo of the same name) into a personal rallying cry against societal pressure to fit himself into the prescribed box of traditional masculinity.

“I was acting as if I was talking to somebody that didn’t like me, that didn’t like my femininity or how I express myself,” he says of the song’s double-edged message. “It was me kind of defending what I believed in — even though I shouldn’t have to in the year 2020, but … I would say it’s a gentle middle finger done with class to this person that wants me to conform to whatever social roles that they want me to be.”

The vulnerability of first love: Kicking off the back half of the EP’s seven tracks, dreamy ballad “Scorton’s Creek” finds Dunbar’s emotions at their most exposed. “That song for me …,” he says before trailing off in thought, “I wrote it about the first time I was in a relationship with a boy, and Scorton’s Creek was a place where I lived. … It’s like a little creek, and it was a place where we could hold hands without being judged or ridiculed by people. And it’s a very special song to me because I’m very honest, and I feel like it shows how I loved that boy in a very raw form. I hope it can connect to people that feel like they can’t be safe being gay. Because that’s how I felt. I wasn’t safe being myself.”