Thursday, October 26, 2006

Lauryn Hill makes rare appearance in New York

For days, there was internet buzz about an intimate Lauryn Hill performance. Few people knew the time or place, but the tightly guarded show was advertised as a special reward for American Express' Starwood Preferred Guest cardholders. Attendees weren't sure what to expect with Hill's recent performance track record tarnished by late starts and rumored diva antics, but besides an hour delay (which is becoming the norm) the show at the W Hotel in New York went on without a hitch.

Lauryn Hill and her band covered Bob Marley's "Zimbabwe" and Martha and the Vandellas' "Heatwave" then went on to play Hill staples including "Doo Wop: That thing" reportedly delighting audiences for over an hour past stage time.

Hill hasn't released a studio album since 2001's MTV Unplugged, though the internet continues to be a source of live material for fans of the guarded star. Her recent appearances have brought speculation about drugs and mental illness, but the rumors haven't seemed to slow her down; her performances continue to draw favorable reviews from critics.

One of those rare artists in the R&B/Hip Hop world, Hill is equal parts talent, creativity and defiance that keep fans and naysayers alike wondering (or worrying about) what her next move will be.

(Left: a past Hill performance)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Speaking of Stephanie Mills...

We mentioned singer Stephanie Mills in our previous "Divas Simply Singing" post. Here she is at only 16 years old (!) singing the song that became her signature, "Home."

We're glad to see Stephanie back 'Home' on the stage these days. They just aren't producing talent like this these days (but we'll reserve that for another post...).

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Cocoa Lounge Review: Divas Simply Singing

Divas Simply Singing: Benefitting the American Aids Foundation

This past weekend a number of notable divas got together and used their incredible diva powers for good: They simply sang--for a fabulous cause...of course.

Divas Simply Singing, held at the Wilshire E Bell Theater in Los Angeles, marked the 16th year that great women of song, stage and screen donated their time and voices to raise money to benefit Aids healthcare. The event was established by actress Sheryl Lee Ralph (star of the original Broadway hit Dreamgirls. Younger audiences may remember her as Moesha's mother). Ralph initially began the Divas show sixteen years ago to honor those friends who lost their lives in the early 80's to a then mysterious disease.

The sixteenth annual event saw divas like Stephanie Mills, Regina Bell, Loretta Devine, Jennifer Lewis, Karen Clark Sheard, Tremaine Hawkins, Shanice, American Idol Alums:Jennifer Hudson, Frenchie Davis, Paris Bennett, and Rahsaan Patterson (an "honorary diva" who's soul stirring rendition of Sade's Love is Stronger than Pride transcended the realm of performance--it was an experience). Even divas that didn't sing found a way to shine: Karen Briggs--a Diva "Simply Stringing"--played a compelling violin solo of Amazing Grace that brought the audience to it's feet, while hilarious comedian Niecy Nash was a Diva "Simply Speaking."

Divas Simply Singing: Dreamgirls
Original Dreamgirls cast members Sheryl Lee Ralph (l) and Loretta Devine (r) with actress Jenifer Lewis (center).

The night was one full of laughter, beautiful music and the antics of Sheryl Lee Ralph, 'oh diva divine' who during many fabulous wardrobe changes sang, laughed, joked and cried.

Frenchie (American Idol, Rent) who received a standing ovation for her rendition of "I am Telling You," blogged about the show:

"I have such a tremendous amount of respect for every woman who was on that stage....and to be considered amongst them was! I am so thankful."

Divas Simply Singing was Simply Amazing! For more information about Divas Simply Singing visit:

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Cocoa Lounge Remembers Tamara Dobson

We recently featured an article that a rumor was circulating that actress Tamara Dobson may be returning to the screen. Unfortunately, the buzz was unfounded. Tamara Dobson, former model and star of the Cleopatra Jones films of the 1970s died recently in her hometown of Baltimore after a battle with mutiple sclerosis. She was only 59.

If you are unfamililar with Ms. Dobson's accomplishments, here's a biography that we featured on the Cocoa Lounge in our early days:

Tamara Dobson earned a degree in Fashion Illustration at the Maryland Institute of Art. It was no suprise that the striking 6' 2" Baltimore native would later decide to head to New York to become a model. Before heading to Hollywood, Tamara Dobson plugged products for 25 television commercials. In the early 1970s it was almost impossible to see adverstisements geared to black audiences that didn't include Tamara Dobson or then-model, Richard Roundtree (who also became a huge action star in the Shaft films).

She later won the role of Cleopatra Jones beating out over 100 other young ladies who auditioned. Cleopatra Jones (1973) and Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975) were two of Dobson's most popular films, providing young black women with a classy, sassy film icon that they could identify with. After the Cleopatra Jones films, however, Dobson would appear in only a few televsion movies and series and would disappear from the Hollywood scene forever, leaving two films to stand as testament to the box-office clout that black women can have--when given the opportunity.

Related Posts: Tamara Dobson Returns?