01-23-2022  6:31 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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NORTHWEST NEWS

Report: Oregon Has Too Few Public Defenders

Oregon has only roughly one-third of the public defense attorneys it needs to provide reasonably effective assistance to low-income defendants

Blumenauer Boosts Efforts to Put Three Black History Landmarks on National List

Congressman makes case for Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop, and the Golden West Hotel’s importance to city history and heritage.

Lawsuit Says New Majority Latino District in WA a 'Facade'

A Latino civil rights organization and others filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday that says new political maps in Washington state approved by a bipartisan redistricting panel intentionally dilute Hispanic voters' influence.

Washington Students' Test Scores Drop Significantly

Reports show that between 2019 and 2021, the overall percentage of students who met state standards on the math portion of the exam fell by 20 percentage points.

NEWS BRIEFS

Five Schools Return to In-person Instruction on Jan. 24

Alliance, Faubion, Franklin, Ockley Green, and Roosevelt return to in-person instruction; George, Harriet Tubman and Kellogg...

Portland Winter Light Festival Begins in Two Weeks, Illuminating City for Seventh Time

Free, all-ages, outdoor activity returns with new opportunities for outdoor art experiences all across Portland ...

PassinArt Introduces ‘Play Reading Mondays’

The Spanish Jade and The Learning Curve, both directed by William Earl Ray premiere in February ...

Revamped TriMet Website Makes Planning Trips Easier With Map-Based Tools

Riders can now track real-time locations of buses and trains on their smartphone ...

PHOTOS: Founder of The American History Traveling Museum: The Unspoken Truths Honored

Delbert Richardson's Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha XI Chapter fraternity brothers presented him a plaque that reads “Your commitment to...

Wolves attracted by cow carcasses kill Oregon herding dog

BAKER CITY, Ore. (AP) — Wolves attracted to six unburied cow carcasses at an eastern Oregon ranch killed a herding dog, wildlife officials said. Brian Ratliff of the Oregon Department of Fish and Game said the wolves killed the 40-pound (18-kilogram) herding dog on Friday about 150...

Orchestra fighting stigma of mental illness marks 10 years

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A classical music organization started in Vermont for musicians with mental illnesses and the people who support them is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a free performance in Boston on Sunday. Me2/ is a non-auditioned orchestra of musicians, half of whom...

UNLV promotes interim AD Harper to full-time job

LAS VEGAS (AP) — UNLV has promoted interim athletic director Erick Harper to serve in the job full time. Harper's hiring, announced on Monday, was effective Jan. 1. He had served as interim athletic director since Desiree Reed-Francois left UNLV for Missouri in August. ...

Army stuns Missouri in Armed Forces Bowl on last-second FG

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Cole Talley kicked a 41-yard field goal as time expired and Army rallied to beat Missouri 24-22 in the Armed Forces Bowl on Wednesday night. After the Tigers took a 22-21 lead on a touchdown with 1:11 to play, third-string quarterback Jabari Laws led Army...

OPINION

OP-ED: A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

January 6th, Voting Rights and the Tyranny Threatening America ...

Support Nikole Hannah-Jones and The 1619 Project

This important and ambitious project pulled back the curtain of euphemistic rhetoric composing American historiography that points only to the good in our history and sweeps under the rug the evil deeds perpetrated against people of color ...

In 2021, Organized Labor is Again Flexing its Muscles

We have seen dramatic change in the makeup of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) under President Biden. ...

Study Reveals Racial Pay Gap for Social Media Influencers

The racial pay gap has long presented issues for African Americans in Corporate America and other industries. It’s now filtered to social media. ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Jewish leaders, backers defiant a week after hostage siege

On the eve of her 100th birthday Saturday, Ruth Salton told her daughter she was going one way or another to Friday night Shabbat services at Congregation Beth Israel, just days after a gunman voicing antisemitic conspiracy theories held four worshippers hostage for 10 hours at the Fort Worth-area...

McConnell responds to uproar over comment about Black voters

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed back Friday against the uproar over a comment he made about African American voters, calling the criticism directed his way “outrageous.” McConnell had been accused of racism for saying that “African...

Abuse victims see inequity in payouts at 2 Michigan schools

Two former University of Michigan football stars who stand to receive as much as 0,000 each through the school's sexual abuse settlement with more than 1,000 students say the per-victim payouts should be much higher, pointing to a similar case at rival Michigan State. Dwight Hicks...

ENTERTAINMENT

Weber Grills apologizes for ill-timed meatloaf recipe email

NEW YORK (AP) — Weber picked the wrong day to suggest grilling meatloaf. The outdoor grill maker apologized on Friday for sending a recipe-of-the-week email earlier that day featuring instructions on how to prepare “BBQ Meat Loaf.” The email coincided with news...

Meat Loaf, 'Bat Out of Hell' rock superstar, dies at 74

NEW YORK (AP) — Meat Loaf, the heavyweight rock superstar loved by millions for his “Bat Out of Hell” album and for such theatrical, dark-hearted anthems as “Paradise By the Dashboard Light,” “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” and “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That),”...

Louie Anderson, comic, Emmy winner for 'Baskets,' dies at 68

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Louie Anderson, whose four-decade career as a comedian and actor included his unlikely, Emmy-winning performance as mom to twin adult sons in the TV series “Baskets,” died Friday. He was 68. Anderson died at a hospital in Las Vegas of complications from...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Migrants at Hungary border become part of election campaign

MAJDAN, Serbia (AP) — A group of migrants huddles beside a small, smoky fire inside an abandoned building in...

Authorities: 16 dead in nightclub fire in Cameroon's capital

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — A fire erupted at a popular nightclub in Yaounde, Cameroon's capital, setting off...

Seoul says it paid Iran's delinquent UN dues to restore vote

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Using Iranian bank funds freed from American sanctions, South Korea has paid...

Houthis, aid group: Death toll from prison airstrike hits 82

CAIRO (AP) — The death toll from a Saudi-led coalition airstrike that hit a prison run by Yemen’s Houthi...

UK lawmaker claims she was fired over her Muslim faith

LONDON (AP) — A former minister in Britain’s Conservative government says she was told her Muslim faith was a...

Pope calls for day of prayer for peace for Ukraine

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Sunday expressed his concern over “rising tensions” in Ukraine that...

John Legend and Ryan Gosling
By Kam Williams | The Skanner News

Ohio-born John Legend is an award-winning, platinum-selling singer-songwriter. His work has garnered him ten Grammy Awards, an Oscar and a Golden Globe, among others. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied English and African American literature, John participated in a wide range of musical activities while in college.

During that period, he was introduced to Lauryn Hill, who hired him to play piano on her track "Everything Is Everything." Shortly thereafter, he began to play shows around the Philadelphia area, eventually expanding his audience base to New York, Boston, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

After college, he was introduced to an up-and-coming hip hop artist named Kanye West. Kanye quickly signed John to his G.O.O.D. Music imprint and had him sing vocal hooks on some of his tunes.

John's career started gaining momentum through a series of similar collaborations with established artists. He added vocals to an impressive list of chart-topping hits including Kanye's "All of the Lights," Jay-Z's "Encore" and backup vocals on Alicia Keys' 2003 song, "You Don't Know My Name."

John’s debut album, Get Lifted, was released to critical acclaim in December of 2004 by Columbia Records. The album landed multiple Grammys, including Best R&B Album, Best New Artist and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. And earlier this year, John won his first Academy Award for “Glory,” a song he wrote and performed with Common for the film Selma.

Throughout his career, John has worked to make a difference in the lives of others. In 2007, he launched the Show Me Campaign (ShowMeCampaign.org), an initiative that focuses on education as a key to breaking the cycle of poverty.

He's received the 2010 BET Humanitarian of the Year Award, the 2009 CARE

Humanitarian Award for Global Change, the 2009 Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award from Africare, and the 2011 Harvard Foundation Artist of the Year Award. Furthermore, John sits on the boards of The Education Equality Project, Teach for America, Stand for Children and the Harlem Village Academies.

Here, he shares his thoughts about playing his first, major movie role opposite Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in La La Land, a picture which he also executive produced. And he talks about his philanthropic work and his new album, Darkness and Light, too.

Kam Williams: Hi John. Thanks so much for the time.

John Legend: My pleasure, Kam.

KW: I've tried to land an interview with you for years, so I'm honored to finally have this opportunity to speak with you.

JL: I'm excited, too.

KW: Let me start by asking what made you decide to do this film with Damien [writer/director Damien Chazelle]?

JL: Well, it really started with meeting him as a filmmaker in my capacity as a producer, because my company, Get Lifted Film Company, has done a few movies and a couple of television shows now. We love meeting with up-and-coming directors who are doing great things. And, obviously, upon the success of “Whiplash,” Damien was someone we'd love to collaborate with. My producing partner [Mike Jackson] suggested we connect with him very early on, after we saw a screener of “Whiplash.”

We finally got a chance to sit down and discuss something creative when he was in the process of preparing to shoot “La La Land.” The script was finished, and they were already in talks with Ryan and Emma to star in it. Damien wanted to see if we were interested in getting involved. He was originally thinking in terms of executive producing and in terms of the music for the character, Keith, and his band, The Messengers. But eventually, he asked me if I wanted to play Keith. I said, "Yeah, let's do it!" I hadn't done anything like it before. I hadn't had a major speaking role in a film before. But I guess he felt that I could pull it off, because the character had some similarities to my own background as a musician. Damien thought I could relate to the character, and I felt the same way. So, it made sense for me to do it, since I was already a fan of his work. And then, when I found out that Ryan and Emma had come aboard, it seemed like a no-brainer for us to get involved.

KW: After watching the film, I was surprised to see that you have so few acting credits, because you did a phenomenal job.

JL: Thank you! I'd spent my whole career focused on music. Acting wasn't something I was really pursuing, even though we were doing film and TV behind the camera as producers, because music takes up so much of my creative energy. But I couldn't pass up the opportunity to work with such great people.

KW: After Damien released his first movie, “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench,” I wrote: "Appreciate Damien Chazelle now and avoid the rush!"

JL: Yeah, he's brilliant! You can tell, just by virtue of the fact that he made “Whiplash” and “La La Land” before turning 32. That's not even fair. [Chuckles]

KW: What did you think of Justin Hurwitz's score for “La La Land”? Did he compose the songs you played in the movie?

JL: We wrote those together. He, Marius [de Vries], Angelique [Cinelu] and I. The four of us just sat in a room and played, and figured it out. Justin, obviously, was the composer for the rest of the film, and he's wonderful. But since I always feel comfortable singing, that particular song ["Start a Fire"] worked, and made sense for the character I was playing. Yet, it posed an interesting challenge, because you wanted the song to be good and represent a viable creative path, but you also wanted it to be a song Ryan's character, Sebastian, wouldn't want to play, given the storyline. So, it called for an interesting balance of making it a good, jazz-influenced tune you could hear on the radio while also making it something that represented too much of a departure for Sebastian.

KW: Early in your career, were you a musical purist like Sebastian, who had a reverence for the classics?

JL: No, I never looked at myself as a purist in the sense of simply wanting to recreate old music that I'd grown up listening to. I never struggled with that conundrum. But I think every artist is influenced by certain traditions and the artists they grew up listening to. For Taylor Swift, it was country music. For me, it was gospel and soul. Other artists grew up listening to folk, classic rock or whatever else it was for them. But no matter what your early influences are, you have to decide how much you're just recreating the feelings those artists gave you, recreating their styles, or doing something fresh and new that's influenced by them. I think we all deal with that. There's always the push and pull in our careers of how much we go traditional and how much we try to change it up and do something new.

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: Like many people, I think that you are a great artist and I consider you like the young Stevie Wonder. I saw you in Montreal when you opened for Alicia Keys on one of her tours. Given that your new film is about jazz, please name a few of your favorite jazz musicians.

JL: Honestly, I don't consider myself much of a jazz aficionado. When I was growing up, my dad used to play a lot of vocalists like Billie Holiday, Ella [Fitzgerald], Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson and Nat King Cole. So, I grew up loving some of the great standards singers and jazz vocalists. Also Nina Simone, who cut across a few different genres. Those are a few of my bigger influences, but i wouldn't say I was much of a jazz expert.

KW: Patricia also notes that you consider yourself a feminist. She would like to know why men should feel as concerned as women about female issues and how men can advance women's causes?

JL: First of all, because it’s the right thing to do. It's fair. You have women in your family, women you work with and women who are your friends. Why shouldn't they have the same possibilities and opportunities as you? Why shouldn't they live in a world where they are valued for what they contribute, and valued as much as men are for the same thing? Who wouldn't want to live in that world? It doesn't hurt men for women to do well, because it just makes the planet a better place. There's more innovation, more creativity and more productivity in the world. All of our lives are improved when women have power, influence and opportunity.

KW: I'd like to congratulate you on your new album, “Darkness and Light,” which I've been listening to. It's terrific!

JL: Thank you. I'm really proud of it. It's funny being in “La La Land” mode today, since I've been in Darkness and Light mode for the past month, and I'll be back into it for the next year or so. It's exciting to support this really beautiful film and to have a new album out at the same time.

KW: I've always been impressed by your incredible commitment to charity work. What has inspired you to do that?

JL: I've always thought that if I were successful in this career, I would have a lot of resources and a lot of influence, and that I would would want to use them to make the world a better place. Part of my making the world better involves creating great art, and part involves my being an activist and contributing directly to causes that improve people's lives with my time, my money and my influence. I think that's part of who I am and of who I always will be.

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

JL: What’s in my wallet? [Laughs] Credit cards... insurance cards... membership cards... I got my Academy membership renewed this year.

KW: Congratulations on the Best Song Oscar for "Glory" last year. And it looks like you'll be back in contention, since it looks like “La La Land” is going to be nominated for a lot of Academy Awards.

JL: Well, I don't know whether I'll personally be nominated, but I'm going to be rooting for the whole team. We have some wonderful contenders in a wide range of categories.

KW: Well, thanks again, John, and best of luck with both “La La Land” and “Darkness and Light.”

JL: Thank you very much, Kam.

To see a trailer for La La Land, click here.

To order a copy of John's new CD, Darkness and Light, click here

The Skanner Foundation's Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast

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