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Springsteen signs Philadelphia fifth-grader's absence note

A Philadelphia fifth-grader ditched school for the chance to meet rock legend Bruce Springsteen and "The Boss" gladly played along by signing the boy's absence excuse note.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports ( ) that Michael Fenerty attended a meet-and-greet with the New Jersey native Thursday at the Free Library of Philadelphia with his dad.

Springsteen was in town for a book signing to promote his new autobiography, "Born to Run."

Wanting to follow school procedure, the boy's father brought along a pre-typed note that Springsteen signed to excuse his son's absence.

Springsteen told the boy that he would have to read the note first because that's how he got in trouble with his first contract.

The school's principal only received a photocopy of the note.


Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer,

US rapper Gibbs cleared of sexual abuse charges in Austria

An Austrian court on Friday found U.S. rapper Freddie Gibbs not guilty on charges of sexual abuse, ruling there was not enough evidence in the case involving a fan.

Gibbs had been indicted for allegedly exploiting the dazed state of a then 17-year-old woman whose drinks were possibly spiked to sexually abuse her after a nightclub appearance starring the rapper last year.

Gibbs, whose real name is Fredrick Tipton, had denied the accusations.

Absent from the court in Vienna was a bodyguard sought for alleged sexual abuse of a 16-year-old woman who had accompanied the 17-year-old to Gibbs' hotel. He is believed to be somewhere in the United States.

The woman had accused Gibbs after saying that she had a flashback to the incident sparked by a song, nearly a year after it occurred. Defense lawyers for Gibbs cited initial testimony from the two women that only the bodyguard had sex with the younger woman.

Doctor: Concert promoter in $200 million fraud is bipolar

A former concert promoter who staged tours worldwide by acts such as the Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Fleetwood Mac suffers from long-term bipolar disorder that likely affected his judgment in orchestrating a $200 million fraud scheme, a doctor testified Friday in the promoter's sentencing hearing.

Psychiatrist Michael Hughes said Jack Utsick, 73, had many classic hallmarks of bipolar disorder such as visions of grandiosity, inflated self-esteem and excessive activities that can have painful consequences. Utsick also likely truly believed he was not ripping off thousands of investors in his Worldwide Entertainment Inc. company, the doctor added.

"He always felt he was the smartest guy in the room and that he could beat the system," Hughes said. "If he had a disappointment, he couldn't tolerate that. He had to find a way to overcome it."

Later, Hughes said his recent examinations show Utsick hasn't changed much. "He still thinks that way. I wouldn't invest with him," he testified.

Utsick pleaded guilty to mail fraud in June after his extradition from Brazil in 2014. Prosecutors say Utsick fleeced nearly 3,000 investors by hiding a decade of Worldwide Entertainment Inc.'s losses and promising double-digit returns.

Prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga to sentence Utsick to more than 17 years behind bars, while his attorney wants about six years. Much of Friday's all-day hearing featured defense witnesses testifying about Utsick's illness and character as a businessman.

Altonaga postponed Utsick's sentencing until Tuesday.

Worldwide did promote thousands of shows by major artists from 1995 to 2006 and owned several concert venues, but court documents show it was losing money every year. Defense attorney Eric Lisann said Utsick never intended to defraud investors and hoped to turn the company's fortunes around before it was effectively shut down by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2006.

Before his company's implosion, Utsick was considered one of the top independent concert promoters in the business, according to friends and associates.

"I think Jack was doing fine, he just spread himself a little too thin," testified Bruce Glatman, a promoter who began as part of the team that staged the Woodstock festival in 1969. "I trusted him. I went into business with him."

But attorney Michael Goldberg, a court-appointed receiver who took over the company after the SEC action, said it became clear quickly that Utsick was operating a Ponzi scheme; older investors were being paid with money from new ones and no actual profits being earned.

"This is the definition of a Ponzi scheme," he testified.

Many of the wronged investors were former airline pilots, as Utsick had been before he went into the concert promotion business. A court-appointed receiver has been able to return only about $34 million of the $207 million in estimated losses to the investors, court documents show.


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Family band Flatt Lonesome wins 3 at Bluegrass Awards

Family band Flatt Lonesome won three awards at the International Bluegrass Music Awards while the Earls of Leicester were named entertainer of the year for the second consecutive year.

The awards were given out Thursday in Raleigh, North Carolina. Flatt Lonesome, which includes siblings Kelsi, Charli and Buddy Robertson, won album of the year for "Runaway Train," song of the year for "You're the One" and vocal group of the year.

Becky Buller took home female vocalist and fiddle player of the year and Danny Paisley was awarded male vocalist. Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen were named instrumental group of the year.

New inductees to the Bluegrass Hall of Fame include Clarence White and the founders of bluegrass label Rounder Records, Ken Irwin, Marian Leighton Levy and Bill Nowlin.

Pink Floyd alum Roger Waters slams Trump, Mexican president

Former Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters lashed out at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the first of three concerts in Mexico City.

A message projected on the stage behind Waters called Trump an offensive name in Spanish.

Trump has proposed building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Waters told the crowd at a concert Wednesday night that "we don't want a wall that separates us from our sister, our mother earth, or from each other."

Waters also criticized Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, blaming his administration for many of the thousands of people who have gone missing since Mexico's drug war began in 2006.

Waters said: "Mr. President ... Where are they? What happened to them?"

In Prince estate case, blood relation may be unnecessary

A legal wrinkle in Prince's estate case shows you might not have to be a blood relative to inherit some of the late rock superstar's sizable fortune.

No will has surfaced since Prince accidentally overdosed on painkillers in April, so his sister, Tyka Nelson, and five half-siblings are likely to be declared rightful heirs within the next few months.

But the judge also has to decide whether a purported niece and grandniece — plus a purported nephew who came forward this week — should count as heirs even though they may not be blood relatives. That's because in Minnesota, there are circumstances in which someone can be considered a parent based on having a familial relationship with a child, such as informally raising a non-biological child as their own.

"The statutes don't give clear guidance — they really don't," said Susan Link, a Minnesota estate law expert who's following the case closely but isn't involved in it.

The judge will have to sort out a complex interplay between probate and parentage laws that appears to be unique to Minnesota, as well as the complicated family history of Prince and his relatives.

Brianna Nelson, her daughter Victoria Nelson and Corey Simmons all claim descent from the late Duane Nelson Sr., who they say was Prince's half-brother. The case filings suggest that Prince's late father, John L. Nelson, might not have been Duane's biological father, but the three allege that John considered Duane to be his son, and that Prince considered Duane to be his half-brother.

Duane's birth certificate lists John Nelson as his father, and John's obituary listed Duane as his son. Duane, who died in 2011, also served as Prince's security chief for several years before they had a falling out.

Should the court count Duane as a half-sibling, Brianna and Victoria Nelson hope to divide what would have been his share (one-seventh) of the estate, which has been estimated at between $100 million and $300 million altogether.

Already, Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide has said Brianna and Victoria have presented a plausible enough case to proceed and don't need to undergo genetic testing.

"One-seventh of the estate after taxes is still a lot of money," Los Angeles probate attorney Robert Straus said.

If Simmons' claim survives, it would be a three-way split. He says Duane Nelson and his mother, Carolyn Simmons, who isn't Brianna Nelson's mother, met at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Duane left Carolyn when she was five months pregnant and returned to Minnesota, Simmons said. He said his parents' last contact was in 1989, and that he met Brianna and two of Prince's half-sisters for the first time at Duane's funeral.

"His relationship with Brianna Nelson is a happy and affectionate one, in which Brianna Nelson acknowledges him as her brother," Simmons' motion claimed. It also said he attended Prince's family funeral and spent "quality time" there with Brianna and two of Prince's half-sisters he considers his aunts, likely heirs Norrine Nelson and Sharon Nelson.

Little else is known about Simmons. His attorney, Eric Dammeyer, declined to give details, citing privacy concerns.

Lawyers for Brianna and Victoria Nelson argue an extensive revision to the state's probate code 2010 left confusing gaps but that a 2003 Minnesota Supreme Court decision — issued before that revision — supports their claims. Lawyers for Bremer Trust, the special administrator overseeing the estate, have countered that it isn't clear whether that's true.

Eide has asked for more written arguments and set dates for two potential hearings in November.

AP Exclusive: Fonseca sings with Ringo for Colombia's peace

Colombian singer-songwriter Fonseca wrote and recorded a verse in Spanish for a new version of Ringo Starr's peace anthem "Now The Time Has Come," at the request of the ex-Beatle.

He had a single day to do it.

The four-time Latin Grammy winner was contacted Wednesday by Starr's team and put himself to work immediately: The song will be released Friday in honor or the recently reached Colombian peace treaty.

"This has been very exciting. First, getting an invitation from Ringo Starr's people was a surprise," Fonseca said Thursday in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press. "And to see that he also wants to join the peace process in Colombia with a song about hope, as a Colombian and as a musician, this is a privilege."

Fonseca said that on Wednesday, Starr's team sent him the song and asked him to write a verse, preferably in Spanish.

"I sat down, I wrote it, I recorded it in my home's studio and by the afternoon I was sending it to Bruce Sugar, Ringo Starr's long-time producer (and co-author of the song.) I spoke to Bruce over the phone and he told me he loved what he received."

The song was originally created for the United Nation's International Peace Day (Sept. 21.) In his contribution, Fonseca expresses his feelings about the recently signed peace treaty between the government of Colombia and the FARC.

"I talk about so many years dreaming of peace, about the millions that left without a reason, I say that what we are doing is not easy but we do it for those yet to come, for the next generations," the artist said.

The peace treaty puts an end to five decades of conflict. A referendum on the deal is expected to pass Sunday.

Other still-undisclosed artists also contributed to the new release.

Fonseca was recently nominated to the Latin Grammys in the album of the year ("Conexión",) best cumbia/vallenato album ("Homenaje (a la música de Diomedes Díaz)") and best tropical song ("Vine a buscarte") categories. The Latin Grammys will be held on Nov. 17 in Las Vegas.




Follow Sigal Ratner-Arias on Twitter at

Grammy winner Mario Winans pleads guilty in income tax case

Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and producer Mario Winans has admitted he intentionally failed to file federal income tax returns for several years.

Winans, a member of the Winans family, best known for its gospel music artists, faces two years in prison and a $200,000 fine after pleading guilty Thursday to charges he willfully failed to file tax returns from 2008-2012, federal prosecutors said. He's scheduled for sentencing in January.

Winans, who is 42 years old and is from Fort Lee, is the singer of "I Don't Wanna Know." He has worked with artists including R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez, Brian McKnight and the Notorious B.I.G.

He was nominated for his first Grammy Award in 2005 for Best Contemporary R&B Album with "Hurt No More." He won his first Grammy a year later in the Best Gospel Performance category as writer/producer of "Pray," performed by his aunt CeCe Winans.

Prosecutors say he earned more than $2.8 million during the years he didn't file his tax returns. He must pay the IRS more than $400,000.

Winans said he had received royalty payments from checks to two companies he controlled. He has produced songs and albums for R&B, hip-hop and dance music artists, including several on the Bad Boy record label.

An attorney for Winans said he understands he made a mistake and wants to make things right.

Music Review: A legendary singer, into the music once again

When Van Morrison's fiercest critic likes his work it's easy to tell. There's an audible murmur of approval, and it comes from the man himself.

It's the sound Morrison makes when he's into the music. He does it a few bars into "Let It Rhyme," the opener to "Keep Me Singing" — an early hint that this might be his best album since "The Healing Game" nearly two decades ago.

With playful references to past lyrics, nods to heroes like Sam Cooke and Chet Baker, and heartfelt singing throughout, Morrison harkens back to the gentle, wistful spirit that made him Hollywood's go-to guy for movie soundtracks. He's in a better mood than on other recent albums, and it's easy to imagine songs like "Every Time I See a River," written with lyricist Don Black, or "In Tiburon," a name-dropping homage to the San Francisco Bay, playing as credits roll.

Morrison, who just turned 71, has penned good songs in recent years, but no album has approached the bursts of sustained brilliance that established him as one of the world's great songwriters. And this one doesn't soar to the heights of "Moondance," ''Astral Weeks" or "Into the Music."

But an older, less audacious Morrison can still soothe the soul when he is into the music — and he won't be the only one murmuring his approval this time.

Review: Sober mood dominates new Drive-By Truckers album

The Drive-By Truckers are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year in a grave mood. The cover art of an American flag at half-staff is a tip-off.

The liberal-leaning Southern rockers who have long struggled to both celebrate their roots and recognize its bitter past have delivered a sober new album with a withering view of today's South.

The often-gloomy but vitally important "American Band" sees the Truckers weigh in strongly on such issues as police shootings, the National Rifle Association, depression, school massacres, lying CEOs and even progress.

"Are you now or have you ever been in cahoots with the notion that people can change?" co-singer and co-guitarist Mike Cooley asks in the nihilistic "Once They Banned Imagine." His songwriting and singing partner, Patterson Hood, is similarly glum on another song: "Clouds are forming in this state of mind."

Previous Truckers albums have addressed economic struggles and race, but mostly using narrative devices. This time, the gloves are off.

The searing "What It Means" was influenced by the killing of Trayvon Martin — and Hood is in a scolding mood: "If you say it wasn't racial when they shot him in his tracks, well I guess it means that you ain't black," he sings.

There's precious little honky-tonk fun here. The band, known for its finely etched portraits celebrating Southern rascals and eccentrics, seems to have simply run out of patience.

"Despite our best intentions, it pains me to report/ we keep swinging for the fences, coming up a little short," Hood sings on "Ever South."


Mark Kennedy is at

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