BILL WITHERS, “LEAN ON ME” SINGER, DIES AT 81

UNDATED (AP) — Singer Bill Withers is dead. His family reports the singer died Monday of heart complications in Los Angeles. He was 81 years old. Withers didn’t have a very long career; he left the music business in the mid-1980s. But it was an impactful one. His biggest hit, “Lean On Me,” became an anthem to friendship and loyalty — and in recent weeks the song has had a revival as health care workers, first responders, doctors, celebrities — and just plain folks — have posted renditions of it online as the world tries to stem the tide of COVID-19.

Withers’ stirring voice and songs about life almost didn’t become part of our lives. He was a stutterer as a child — and overcame that and his own doubts about whether he could sing to unearth a powerful but sincere voice that told of life, loss and love. He earned three Grammys — and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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TEKASHI 6IX9NINE FREED FROM PRISON

NEW YORK (AP) — Tekashi 6ix9ine (six-nine) is a free man — after a judge in New York sprung him from federal lockup four months early. The rapper’s release yesterday was done as a protection against coronavirus. A judge ruled that because Tekashi has asthma, he might face a greater danger from the virus behind bars than he might outside. Prosecutors didn’t oppose the release. They got extensive cooperation from the rapper, who gave up details on members of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods gang. The cooperation earned Tekashi a break from charges that could have netted a mandatory minimum 37 years in prison.

SUMMER MOVIE SEASON IN SHAMBLES OVER CORONAVIRUS

NEW YORK (AP) — People looking forward to summer outings to the movies to check out the latest blockbusters — will have to look elsewhere. The traditional rollout of sequels, action flicks and superhero films has been wrecked by COVID-19. The latest widely-anticipated release: “Top Gun Maverick.” It’s been shot down by Paramount Pictures. It is now slated for a Christmas Eve release. Theaters are closed now — and even if they reopen soon — it’s expected people might be leery about flocking to the multiplex. The lack of summer blockbusters will be a budget-buster. Last summer, studios reaped a $4.3 billion haul in the U.S. and Canada.

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CANCELED SXSW SHIFTS TO ONLINE

NEW YORK (AP) — It got knocked off by the coronavirus pandemic. Now, organizers of South by Southwest are going online to try to salvage at least part of the annual movie festival. Organizers will stream selections from the event on Amazon Prime Video during a 10-day period later this month. If you’re interested but aren’t an Amazon Prime member, don’t sweat it. You don’t have to have one to see the South by Southwest films.

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DR. FAUCI, CUOMO BROTHERS CAPTURE ATTENTION

UNDATED (AP) — In times of crisis, there are always people who step up and become national heroes. It happened after 9/11 with people like New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and President George W. Bush. And with the nation’s attention gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, some of those who have been in the spotlight have been put in the role of heroes in a time of angst. One is Dr. Anthony Fauci (FOW’-chee), the nation’s top infectious disease expert. His straight-talk briefings and cool demeanor have caused people to seek his advice, especially since he often corrects or walks back statements by the Trump administration about the crisis. That has led to his face being plastered on socks, doughnuts — and most recently, a bobblehead.

Then, there are New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (KWOH’-moh) and his younger sib, CNN host Chris Cuomo. In their appearances together and separately, their blend of straight talk and brotherly affection has put a human face on the crisis, especially since Chris Cuomo tested for COVID-19.

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DISNEY THEME PARKS TO FURLOUGH WORKERS

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Walt Disney officials have announced they'll start furloughing some workers in two weeks at its theme parks resorts in Florida and California. The company says the first wave of furloughs will start April 19. Anyone who's furloughed will remain a Disney employee. Officials didn’t say how many of Walt Disney World’s 75,000 employees or Disneyland’s 31,000 workers would be furloughed. The company has been paying workers and providing health care benefits at its theme park resorts since the parks closed in mid-March due to coronavirus concerns. It’s unclear how long they will remain closed.

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TAYLOR SWIFT AIDS NASHVILLE RECORD STORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The co-owner of a Nashville record store closed by COVID-19 says help given by Taylor Swift came “completely out of the blue.” The pop star had a rep call Grimey’s to ask how to help — and she gave money to help cover paychecks and health care for the store’s 10 fulltime employees, idled by a stay-at-home order. Co-owner Doyle Davis says he doesn’t remember Swift ever visiting the store — but her rep says she has bought records there.

BROADWAY LEGEND MITCHELL SICK WITH COVID-19

UNDATED (AP) — One striking thing about the coronavirus pandemic is that people from every walk of life have been affected. The Broadway community is no exception. One of the big names who has tested positive for COVID-19 is Tony Award-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell. He, like most coronavirus victims, is recovering from his symptoms. Not as fortunate was Terrence McNally; the Tony-winning playwright succumbed to the illness.

ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER PUTS PRODUCTIONS ON YOUTUBE

UNDATED (AP) — Broadway’s lights have been dimmed by coronavirus. But those fiending to check out a big show, it’s the internet and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber to the rescue. He’s making filmed versions of some of his musicals available — for free. The first, “Joseph and the Amazing Technical Dreamcoat,” began streaming today. Next week, it will be the rock classic “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Others will come later.

JAZZ GUITARIST PIZZARELLI DIES, FAMILY BLAMES COVID 19

SADDLE RIVER, N.J. (AP) — A jazz guitarist who played for two U.S. presidents and performed with Frank Sinatra during an eight-decade career is dead. And the family of John “Bucky” Pizzarelli says his demise was from coronavirus. He died Wednesday at age 94. The Bergen Record newspaper of New Jersey reports Pizzarelli tested positive for the virus Sunday. His son says there will be “some kind of tribute as soon as we can all get within 6 feet of each other.”

by Oscar Wells Gabriel II

Follow Oscar Wells Gabriel II on Twitter at https://twitter.com/OWGabriel2