US news

Olivia Newton-John posts video: ‘Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated’

Olivia Newton-John has denied recent reports in US media that she had just “weeks” to live.

Appearing in a short video posted on social media, the Australian music and screen icon wished fans a happy new year, and said reports of her imminent death were off the mark.

“I just want to say that the rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated, to quote a very famous quote,” she said.

“I’m doing great and I want to wish all of you the happiest, healthiest 2019 that’s possible and thank you all for your wonderful support for me and for my Olivia Newton-John cancer wellness centre in Melbourne, Australia.”

Olivia Newton-John (@olivianj)

Happy New Year! Here’s to a wonderful 2019! Love & light, Olivia pic.twitter.com/1Nd2jIcRb1

January 3, 2019

It came after US tabloid site Radar Online had claimed the 70-year-old was “clinging on to life” amid her battle with cancer.

The site said Newton-John had been hoping she’d live long enough to see daughter Chloe Lattanzi wed fiance James Driskill in 2019.

Quoting unnamed sources, the report said Newton-John’s “bodily functions appear to be shutting down”, and quoted a “longevity expert” who said she was “almost certainly is going to die!”.

The reports in the US were picked up by a number of Australian media outlets, sparking an outpouring of grief among local fans.

It forced members of Newton-John’s family and friends to insist the rumours weren’t true.

Her niece Tottie Goldsmith, herself a singer and actor, denied the claims in a post on Instagram overnight.

“Just giving you the heads up that Livvy is in good health, so let’s leave that distressing rumour where it belongs,” she wrote.

Newton-John postponed tour dates in May 2017 after revealing a second diagnosis of breast cancer.

In September she revealed she had received a third diagnosis for cancer, saying her stage-four breast cancer had metastasised to her spine.

In an interview on Channel Seven’s Sunday Night, she said: “I’m one of millions in this fight. I shouldn’t say fight … in this journey.”

Newton-John was catapulted to global stardom in 1978 by her co-starring role with John Travolta in the musical film Grease.

She has previously spoken about her experience of surviving breast cancer and become an advocate for the importance of early detection.

Can’t always get what you want: why artists struggle to stop politicians using their songs

Incensed by Donald Trump’s use of his 2013 song Happy at a rally in Indiana on Saturday, Pharrell Williams has threatened legal action against the president. In a cease-and-desist letter sent by Williams’ lawyer, the demand specifically took umbrage at the use of the song for political purposes just hours after a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

“On the day of the mass murder of 11 human beings at the hands of a deranged ‘nationalist’, you played his song Happy to a crowd at a political event in Indiana,” the letter said. “There was nothing ‘happy’ about the tragedy inflicted upon our country on Saturday and no permission was granted for your use of this song for this purpose.”

Williams joins a lengthy list of artists who have asked politicians, most frequently conservatives, to stop using their music. Abba asked John McCain to stop playing Take a Chance on Me during his run for the presidency, while the Dropkick Murphys were more characteristically blunt when Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, took the stage to their Shipping Up to Boston.

Dropkick Murphys (@DropkickMurphys)

@ScottWalker @GovWalker please stop using our music in any way…we literally hate you !!!
Love, Dropkick Murphys

January 25, 2015

Bands protesting against politicians is nothing new, but the lineup of musicians who have asked Trump to stop playing their songs alone is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its own.

Trump ends almost every rally with the Rolling Stones song You Can’t Always Get What You Want. The band has repeatedly ask Trump to stop playing their music, but so far have had no success in getting him to do so.

Neil Young, who also asked the campaign to refrain from playing Rockin’ in the Free World, eventually relented, saying: “Once the music goes out, everybody can use it for anything.”

Katie Rogers (@katierogers)

Barbra Streisand’s music is used to pump up the crowd at MAGA rallies. “I’m just so saddened by this thing happening to our country. It’s making me fat. I hear what he said now, and I have to go eat pancakes now, and pancakes are very fattening.” https://t.co/nBONQBfjpp

October 30, 2018

Michael Stipe of REM voiced his distaste for Trump a bit more directly after the band’s It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) – which critics might think is a fitting choice for the administration – was used in 2015 at a campaign stop.

“Go fuck yourselves, the lot of you – you sad, attention-grabbing, power-hungry little men. Do not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign,” Stipe responded.

Adele likewise made it clear she did not give permission to the campaign to use her music in 2016.

Jim Acosta (@Acosta)

The scene in WV before Trump’s rally. Aerosmith’s “Livin’ on the edge” playing. pic.twitter.com/HW1qr9TBgE

August 21, 2018

This summer, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith sent a cease-and-desist of his own, objecting to the use of Livin’ on the Edge at a campaign rally, following a similar complaint three years earlier that the campaign ignored.

“By using Livin’ On The Edge without our client’s permission, Mr Trump is falsely implying that our client, once again, endorses his campaign and/or his presidency, as evidenced by actual confusion seen from the reactions of our client’s fans all over social media,” the letter said.

“This specifically violates Section 43 of the Lanham Act, as it ‘is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person’.”

The Lanham Act refers to “the confusion or dilution of a trademark (such as a band or artist name) through its unauthorized use”, Ascap, one of the major publishing groups, explains.

The confusion stoked by politicians’ use of music for political purposes carries over into the question of whether artists can actually do anything about it. Often in the case of campaign rallies held in the type of venues where Trump appears, there will be an overarching license through the major publishing companies that allow for the use of songs, said Gandhar Savur, senior vice-president for legal affairs at Rough Trade Publishing.

“If the venue that is holding a political rally has a ‘performance rights organization’ blanket license in place, such as, for example, through Ascap or BMI, then a politician can get away with having a particular song playing in the background.”

However, if the song becomes a regular soundtrack for a particular politician, that might give the artist, label or publisher, more leverage to stop them.

“This is largely unsettled law, and has definitely come to the forefront with the current administration, but the common way to attack repeated use of a song by a politician is to make a right of publicity claim,” Savur said.

Generally speaking, rights of publicity, under state law, protect individuals from having their likenesses, including their voices, used in connection with a commercial purpose, “which can include exploitative and promotional uses”.

“Artists would argue that the politician is creating a ‘false endorsement’, ie giving the public the false impression that the artist endorses that politician or his or her campaign, by the repeated use of their song and voice,” Savur said.

Often a politician will simply comply with the request because the negative attention from a popular band is more trouble than continuing to play a song is worth. But as with everything else, Trump seems to be playing by his own rules. He still finishes almost every rally with You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

Willie Nelson upsets fans with plans to perform at Beto O’Rourke rally

Country music legend Willie Nelson has enraged some of his most conservative fans by announcing plans to play at a huge rally on behalf of Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic insurgent threatening an election upset in Texas.

The 85-year-old star will headline a free outdoor show in Austin, Texas, in support of the Democrat who is pushing to unseat the Republican senator Ted Cruz in November’s midterms.

“My wife Annie and I have met and spoken with Beto and we share his concern for the direction things are headed,” Nelson said in a press release announcing the event, which his publicist suggested was his first-ever rally on behalf of a politician.

“Beto embodies what is special about Texas, an energy and an integrity that is completely genuine.”

The move seems to have surprised and upset some of Nelson’s fans – even though he has a long record as an activist on a range of liberal issues.

One Texan wrote on Twitter: “Someone buy my Willie Nelson ticket for Friday, November 16. I am no longer willing to watch that hippie guitarist who supports that damn socialist running for Senate.”

A woman wrote on Nelson’s Facebook page: “Just cause you can write a song, sing a song, play a guitar and smoke weed – doesn’t mean you know what’s right for this state!!! Entertainers should stay out of politics & stick to entertaining.”

Another disgruntled fan said: “You should stay out of politics. I’m a lifelong fan this is not a smart move.”

That fan was quickly shot down by a Nelson supporter, who replied: “Lifelong fan unaware of Willie’s decades of political activism.”

From campaigning to legalize marijuana to supporting the LGBT movement, Nelson has scarcely hidden his progressive credentials during his long career.

As well as being co-chair of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Nelson was a critic of the Iraq war, an advocate of biofuels and a supporter of animal rights campaigns.

Peter Blackstock (@Blackstock360)

So @BetoORourke not only stuck around to sing with @WillieNelson, he played guitar with him. pic.twitter.com/HZdod0WLqr

July 5, 2018

O’Rourke, who was once a member of a punk rock band, joined Nelson on stage at the singer’s Fourth of July picnic, playing guitar and singing harmony on songs including Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.

O’Rourke has been accused by Cruz of running from the “hard, hard left like Bernie Sanders”. But Cruz, who was the last man standing against Donald Trump in the 2016 race for the Republican presidential nomination, is feeling the heat. A rash of summer headlines have asked whether he is facing an upset defeat. Latest polling suggests his lead is down to 3.2%.

Last week the New York Times reported that Trump’s budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, had told donors Cruz could lose because he is not “likable” enough.

More than 20,000 people have already signed up for Nelson’s outdoor show in support of O’Rourke, which will be staged at Austin’s Auditorium Shores on 29 September.