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‘Oh Happy Day’ singer Edwin Hawkins dead at 74

Edwin Hawkins, the gospel singer best-known for the song “Oh Happy Day,” has died at age 74. 

The New York Times reported that Hawkins’ publicist, Bill Carpenter, said the musician died of pancreatic cancer in Pleasanton, California.

Hawkins brought gospel music to the mainstream when “Oh Happy Day” reached No. 4 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 2 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1969. 

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The 18th-century hymn was given an infectious new arrangement and released on “Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord,” an album by Northern California State Youth Choir, a group put together by Hawkins and friend Betty Watson, to raise money to travel to Southern California for a gospel competition.

The Modesto Bee reported in a 2008 profile of Hawkins that the song took a life of its own when an underground radio DJ in San Francisco played it.

“It was recorded on a friend’s little two-track machine,” Hawkins told The Modesto Bee. “It was never intended for commercial purposes at all.”

Related: Photos: Notable deaths 2018

The song earned the youth choir -- renamed the Edwin Hawkins Singers -- their first Grammy. It got the award for Best Soul Gospel Performance in 1970.

“Oh Happy Day” went on to be recorded by artists across multiple genres, including Elvis Presley, Johnny Mathis and Glen Campbell, The Associated Press reported.

The song saw a resurgence decades later when used in the 1993 Whoopi Goldberg comedy “Sister Act 2.”

Hawkins continued to make music after the success of “Oh Happy Day,” winning three more Grammys and getting voted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2007.

Earnhardt Jr. to help NBC Sports at Super Bowl and Olympics

Nearly every day brings a new experience for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who spent the first 43 years of his life living in a bubble that consisted of NASCAR and not much else.

Now that he has retired from full-time racing, he's got time to experience new adventures. Just last weekend, he went to brunch — his first brunch ever — with his wife and friends, then was convinced to get his first pedicure .

The best is yet to come.

NBC Sports announced Tuesday it will use Earnhardt in its pregame show before the Super Bowl, then send him to South Korea for the network's coverage of next month's Olympics. Earnhardt retired from driving in November and signed on to be an analyst for NBC Sports, a gig that begins in July.

"It's not going to be putting me anywhere outside of my comfort zone, obviously I've never been to a Super Bowl or South Korea," Earnhardt told The Associated Press. "What they are asking me to do is just go out there and be myself and hopefully get people interested in tuning into NASCAR."

NBC plans to use Earnhardt at the Super Bowl in outdoor events and activities taking place in Minneapolis in the days before the game. At the Olympics, he'll visit the speed skating venue and accept a recent social media invite from American bobsled team pilot Nick Cunningham to ride in a bobsled.

"We can't wait to get Dale's take on what is one of the most compelling aspects of the Winter Games — sports that offer a mix of speed with the prospect of danger, an equation that he knows very well," said Jim Bell, president of NBC Olympics Production and Programming.

"Instead of the turns at Daytona, it's the downhill, the luge, and the short track oval. And I think he will have something unique to offer about the need for speed on snow and ice."

Earnhardt, a third-generation NASCAR driver, is the son of Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Sr. He grew up around racing and its grueling 11-month schedule that has drivers on the road and away from home at least three days a week. Although the Super Bowl is typically held before NASCAR's season-opening Daytona 500, rabid Washington Redskins fan Earnhardt said he never had a desire to go to the game.

"Not everybody goes to the Super Bowl," he said. "I was too young when the Redskins were going, I was still in school, and they haven't been since 1991. I definitely would have gone if they had played in one. But as a fan of a particular team, it sort of feels wrong to go to another game. I'd have a hard time even going to see the Redskins play in an opponent's stadium. If I had no purpose to be at the Super Bowl, besides to just see a game, it was hard to make that kind of time commitment."

And the Olympics? Well, that's a dream trip that Earnhardt never had the time to even dream of making. Asked Tuesday where he's been outside the United States, he listed Germany and France — trips he took with his now-wife — as well as Mexico, Canada, Japan and Australia. He also once spent 24 hours in Monaco.

"When I was driving, I didn't want to do anything else," Earnhardt said. "Someone would say, 'Wow, I've got some time, let's go have some fun,' but I wouldn't want to do anything. If I had a day to myself, I wouldn't want to go anywhere or do anything."

Then he was sidelined for the second half of the NASCAR season with concussion symptoms, and Earnhardt was forced to expand his lifestyle.

"When I started peeling away the layers, I started losing some of that habit and getting more comfortable doing things," he said. "When we weren't in the car, you weren't supposed to be focused on anything else. When you went and did something, go to a concert, visit another city, you almost felt guilty for doing it. Like, we already have a pretty good lifestyle as race car drivers and can afford just about anything. So I just felt bad enjoying yourself.

"But when I was out of the car for so long, my doctor encouraged me to put myself in a lot of complex situations. That meant going to concerts and places I've never been and situations where I could push my anxiety. I'll tell you, I was like: 'Wow, this is what retirement is going to be like.'"

He's not nervous about transitioning into his new television career, or that his first real appearances as an NBC Sports analyst will be on two worldwide stages. Earnhardt, who recently learned to ski while in Aspen with Jimmie Johnson, is planning on bringing boots and a helmet to South Korea to try out the slopes. He's also eager to try the cuisine.

The only drawback is that pregnant wife Amy can't make the trip, and Earnhardt said he doesn't sleep well when they are apart. He figures worrying about her as she awaits their first child will make for long nights in South Korea.

He's confident, though, the network won't let him look like a fool and he's leaned heavily on former crew chief Steve Letarte, and former driver Jeff Burton, both members of NBC Sport's current NASCAR booth, for advice.

After his time at the Olympics, he'll head to Daytona Beach, Florida, for the season-opening Daytona 500. Earnhardt is the grand marshal for the race.

"I definitely wouldn't miss the first race of the year," he said. "I feel like I should be there."

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This story has been corrected to show that Earnhardt is 43, not 42.

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More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org

Fleetwood Mac Star Lindsey Buckingham's $22.5 Million Home for Sale

Fleetwood Mac star Lindsey Buckingham has just put a house on the market for $22,500,000.

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Nanny-to-the-stars Connie Simpson has a book deal

Nanny-to-the-stars Connie Simpson wants to share some everyday advice.

The caretaker known as Nanny Connie has a book coming out in April, Gallery Books told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "The Nanny Connie" draws on Simpson's upbringing in Mobile, Alabama, and her time with clients such as Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Justin Timberlake. The book also will include videos, available through a "Nanny Connie Way" app.

The announcement comes with a rave from George and Amal Clooney. In a statement issued through Gallery, the Clooneys said they loved having her as a nanny and would have wanted her as a caretaker if they were babies again.

A growing number of actors are renouncing Woody Allen

A growing number of actors are distancing themselves from Woody Allen and his next film, heightening questions about the future of the prolific 82-year-old filmmaker in a Hollywood newly sensitive to allegations of sexual misconduct.

Timothee Chalamet on Tuesday said he will donate his salary for an upcoming Woody Allen film to three charities fighting sexual harassment and abuse: Time's Up, the LGBT Center in New York and RAINN. The breakout star of "Call Me By Your Name" announced on Instagram that he didn't want to profit from his work on Allen's "A Rainy Day in New York," which wrapped shooting in the fall.

"I want to be worthy of standing shoulder to shoulder with the brave artists who are fighting for all people to be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve," said Chalamet.

Chalamet is just the latest cast member of an Allen production to express regret or guilt about being professionally associated with the director. In recent weeks, Rebecca Hall ("A Rainy Day in New York," ''Vicky Cristina Barcelona"), Mira Sorvino ("Mighty Aphrodite"), Ellen Page ("To Rome With Love"), David Krumholtz ("Wonder Wheel") and Griffith Newman ("A Rainy Day in New York") have all in some way distanced themselves from Allen or vowed that they wouldn't work with him again.

The rising chorus suggests the road ahead for Allen may be particularly challenging, even for a director whose personal controversies have for decades made him an alternatively beloved and reviled figure in movies. Financial support for Allen has not previously waned in part because of the eagerness many stars have for working with a cinematic legend. But fielding a starry cast may prove increasingly difficult for Allen in a movie industry in the midst of a "Me Too" reckoning.

"If I had known then what I know now, I would not have acted in the film," Greta Gerwig, who co-starred in Allen's 2012 comedy "To Rome With Love," told The New York Times last week . "I have not worked for him again, and I will not work for him again. Dylan Farrow's two different pieces made me realize that I increased another woman's pain, and I was heartbroken by that realization."

Dylan Farrow, Allen's adopted daughter, has said Allen molested her in an attic in 1992 when she was seven. Allen, who has long denied the allegations, was investigated for the incident but not charged.

Farrow has previously questioned why the "Me Too" movement hasn't ensnarled Allen. In an op-ed published last month in The Los Angeles Times, she wrote: "Why is it that Harvey Weinstein and other accused celebrities have been cast out by Hollywood, while Allen recently secured a multimillion-dollar distribution deal with Amazon, greenlit by former Amazon Studios executive Roy Price before he was suspended over sexual misconduct allegations?"

Price, the former head of Amazon Studios, resigned in October following an allegation that he had sexually harassed television producer Isa Hackett while she was working on the Amazon series "The Man in the High Castle."

"A Rainy Day in New York" is the fourth project for Allen with Amazon, which bet heavily on the filmmaker to help establish its film production arm as a home to auteur filmmakers. It reportedly spent $80 million to lure Allen into television to make the 2016 series "Crisis in Six Scenes."

Amazon, which didn't respond to queries Tuesday, also distributed Allen's "Cafe Society" in 2016 and "Wonder Wheel," which opened December 1. It has grossed a mere $1.4 million domestically on an estimated budget of $25 million but had more success overseas, grossing $7.8 million.

"A Rainy Day in New York," a romantic comedy due out sometime this year, also stars Selena Gomez, Jude Law, Liev Schreiber and Elle Fanning. In his statement, Chalamet tellingly noted that due to "contractual obligations" he couldn't comment on the long-standing allegations against Allen.

The announcement by Chalamet, a favorite Oscar contender for best actor this year, followed a similar one Friday by his co-star Hall. She said she was donating her salary from the film to Time's Up, the recently formed initiative to combat gender inequality in the entertainment industry. "It's a small gesture and not one intended as close to compensation," Hall wrote on Instagram.

Some have continued to publicly support Allen, though, including Alec Baldwin.

"Woody Allen was investigated forensically by two states (NY and CT) and no charges were filed," Baldwin said Tuesday on Twitter. "The renunciation of him and his work, no doubt, has some purpose. But it's unfair and sad to me. I worked with Woody Allen three times and it was one of the privileges of my career."

Listen to Jimi Hendrix's Previously Unreleased 'Mannish Boy' Cover

The latest posthumous release by Jimi Hendrix will be available in March, but you can hear the first track from 'Both Sides of the Sky' now.

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Prize winner Matt de la Pena has new book coming in October

Prize-winning children's author Matt de la Pena has a new picture book planned for the fall that his publisher is calling "poignant and timely."

G.P. Putnam's Books for Young Readers told The Associated Press on Tuesday that de la Pena's "Carmela Full of Wishes," a collaboration with illustrator Christian Robinson, tells the story of a young "Dreamer" who lives in a migrant community "steeped" in Mexican culture. The book is scheduled for Oct. 9.

"In a time when we openly speak of building walls," de la Pena said in a statement, "I was moved to tell the story of one young Dreamer, Carmela, who is filled with hope and heart and just a little dash of sass — like any other girl her age."

De la Pena and Robinson also worked together on "Last Stop on Market Street," winner in 2016 of the John Newbery Medal for the year's best children's story.

"When I first read Matt's manuscript for 'Carmela Full of Wishes,' I was reminded of my favorite Ezra Jack Keats quote: 'If we all could really see each other, exactly as the other is, this would be a different world,'" Robinson said in a statement. "I believe Matt is the kind of storyteller that brings us closer to that world."

Lebanon bans 'The Post' over Spielberg's support for Israel

Lebanon's censorship authorities are recommending a ban on Steven Spielberg's newspaper drama "The Post" ahead of its planned opening this week in movie theaters in Beirut.

The recommendation still needs to be signed by Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk to enter into effect but that is considered a formality that's unlikely to stop the ban.

It remains unclear why "The Post" is being banned __ recent Spielberg movies have been shown in Lebanon — but a leaked U.S. State Department memo from 2007 revealed that Spielberg was blacklisted by the Arab League for supporting Israel.

Lebanon and Israel are technically at war, and Lebanon sometimes follows the League's blacklist.

Cinemas around Beirut have taken down posters promoting the film, which was set to premiere on Thursday.

UK police say death of Dolores O'Riordan is not suspicious

The death of Cranberries lead singer Dolores O'Riordan is not being treated as suspicious, British police said Tuesday. A friend said the singer sounded excited and "full of life" just hours before her death.

O'Riordan was found dead Monday morning at a London hotel. Police initially said the death was "unexplained," but on Tuesday ruled it non-suspicious, meaning that they found no evidence of foul play. The case will be passed to a coroner to determine the cause of death.

O'Riordan had suffered physical and mental health problems over the years. The Cranberries cut short a world tour in 2017 because of the singer's back problems.

The 46-year-old Irish singer was in London to record vocals for a cover of The Cranberries' hit "Zombie" by the Los Angeles rock band Bad Wolves.

Dan Waite of music label Eleven Seven, a friend of the singer, said O'Riordan left him a voice message early Monday saying she was looking forward to the recording. He said "she sounded full of life, was joking and excited to see me and my wife this week."

"The news of her passing is devastating and my thoughts are with Don, her ex-husband, her children, and her mother," Waite said.

The Cranberries formed in the Irish city of Limerick at the end of the 1980s and had international hits in the '90s with songs including "Dream," ''Linger" and "Zombie."

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said that "for anyone who grew up in Ireland in the 1990s, Dolores O'Riordan was the voice of a generation."

In her hometown of Limerick, residents signed a book of condolence at the city council offices. Mayor Stephen Keary said O'Riordan "put Limerick on the music map and on a world stage."

"She achieved so much in her short years. Her memory will live on," he said.

45 Years Ago: Jeff Lynne Becomes the Maestro on 'ELO 2'

In the 13 months that separated Electric Light Orchestra’s 1971 debut LP and the band’s 1973 follow-up 'ELO 2,' the partnership between founders Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne fell apart.

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