Marvin Gaye’s Family Approves Jamie Foxx-Produced Series

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cccJamie Foxx will chronicle Marvin Gaye’s triumphant, tragic life story in a planned limited series about the soul icon. The actor is executive producing the project alongside Passe Jones Entertainment’s Suzanne de Passe and Madison Jones, who will shop the series to various linear and digital outlets, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“I’ve been a huge fan my whole life. His brilliance in music is unparalleled,” Foxx said in a statement. “Marvin Gaye’s story has always fascinated me.”

Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr., who signed Gaye to the legendary Detroit label in 1961, offered his official blessing to the series: “Marvin was the truest artist I have ever known,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “I am confident that this is the right team to bring his story to the audience in an authentic and compelling way.”

At Motown, Gaye found success with his romantic musical persona, partnering with duet partners like Mary Wells and Tammi Terrell. But he explored social issues and sexual subject matter on later LPs, including 1971 masterpiece What’s Going On and 1973’s Let’s Get It On, respectively. After a commercial decline later in the decade, he found a resurgence with 1982’s Midnight Love and hit single “Sexual Healing.” But his story ended tragically in 1984, when he was fatally shot at age 44 by his father in Los Angeles.

While numerous actors, musicians and filmmakers have attempted to produce Gaye biopics over the years, Foxx’s is the first authorized by the late singer’s family. “This project will be a powerful and definitive telling of Marvin Gaye’s life story,” said Gaye’s son, Marvin Gaye III, who will also executive produce the project.

de Passe previously executive produced multiple Motown-related TV specials and movies, including 1983’s Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever and 1998’s Motown 40: The Music Is Forever. She and Jones are in discussions with Sony/ATV, which holds the rights to Gaye’s music, to establish which of his songs can be used.

Jones described the upcoming series as a “labor of love for three decades.”

Before dropping out of the project in 2013, Lenny Kravitz was attached to star in Julien Temple’s long-in-the-works film Sexual Healing. He was replaced by actor Jesse L. Martin, who himself was previously attached to play Gaye in an earlier version of the movie produced by James Gandolifini.

In 2008, Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray reportedly planned work on Marvin, his own project about Gaye’s life. “All the things he talked about in his albums and what is going on is relevant now,” he told TMZ in 2015. “He was ahead of his time. His story is somewhat Shakespearean.”

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Elvis “Memphis Mafia” Member Joe Esposito Passes Away At 78

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eeJoe Esposito was Presley’s professional assistant and a member of his inner circle, known as the “Memphis Mafia”.

He was one of two best men at the star’s wedding to Priscilla in 1967 and a pallbearer at his funeral in 1977.

Esposito’s daughter Cindy Bahr said he had died of natural causes in California on 23 November after suffering from dementia.

The pair met while serving in the Army in 1959. When they completed their service, Esposito became Presley’s assistant, a role that saw him acting as road manager when Elvis was on tour.

He was a member of the so-called Memphis Mafia with Red West and Marty Lacker, and appeared in some of Presley’s films, including It Happened at the World’s Fair.

Esposito was one of those who found Presley’s body when he died at Graceland, Memphis, and broke the news of his death to Priscilla and Presley’s manager Tom Parker.

He went on to work as a road manager for artists including Michael Jackson and The Bee Gees.

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Memphis Mafia

Hunter S. Thompson’s Marijuana Available

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images-1The public will finally be able to smoke pot like a goddamn doctor of journalism.

Anita Thompson, the widow of gonzo writer and reporter Hunter S. Thompson, recently announced her plans to produce marijuana from extracted strains of weed he smoked before his death in 2005, she told The Aspen Times.

“Since it became legal [in several states] I get approached probably once a month by cannabis growers, dispensaries,” Anita told The Times. “I’ve had probably 10 meetings in the last three years and I always ended up saying ‘No’ because it’s the same story every time: Somebody wants to slap Hunter’s name on their strain.”

But now, Anita outright owns the gonzo logo and Hunter’s likeness, so she decided to, with help from a unnamed cannabis company, create new brands of marijuana from six strains she saved which Thompson personally smoked, according to the newspaper.

Colorado, where Hunter resided and Anita still lives, was the first state to approve recreational marijuana.

Anita took to Facebook after the local paper’s story came out to offer more information on her plans.

“I have found a legal method to extract the DNA from Hunter’s personal marijuana and hashish that I saved for 12-15 years,” she wrote. “I am in the process of making the strains available to those who would like to enjoy the authentic Gonzo strains in legal states. Although the ‘drug lord’ phrase is silly as it doesn’t match my personality, I am looking forward to making the authentic strains available in legal states to support the Farm and the scholarships.”

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Grant Tinker Passes Away At 90

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fefIn 1969, Tinker and his then-wife, actress Mary Tyler Moore, launched MTM Enterprises. The company became an indie powerhouse, producing such popular series as the ground-breaking The Mary Tyler Moore Show, starring Moore, Rhoda, The Bob Newhart Show, WKRP in Cincinnati, Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere.

In 1981, Tinker left to become chairman and CEO of  then-last-place network NBC. There, with Brandon Tartikoff as his entertainment president, Tinker spearheaded a ratings turnaround, with NBC rising from last to first place on the strength of a series of hit new series, including The Cosby Show, Family Ties, The Golden Girls, Cheers, Night Court, and Hill Street Blues. Tinker left NBC in 1986, following its acquisition by General Electric.

Tinker won a personal Peabody Award in 1994 and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1997. He is survived by his sons, director-producer Mark Tinker and writer-producer John Tinker.

“Grant Tinker was a great man who made an indelible mark on NBC and the history of television that continues to this day,” NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said in a statement. “He loved creative people and protected them, while still expertly managing the business. Very few people have been able to achieve such a balance. We try to live up to the standards he set each and every day. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.”

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Annette Bening: “I Have Fear All The Time”

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bening“The best time is when you just get the job, because you don’t have to do it yet, you can just think about it.”
“We talked endlessly about her, and we’re still talking about her,” Annette Bening told The Hollywood Reporter during the Actress Oscar Roundtable about playing a fictionalized version of writer and director Mike Mills’s mother in 20th Century Women.
“His preoccupation with it and the way that he was trying to investigate his relationship with his mother became fascinating to me,” said the actress of her character, Dorothea Fields. “And also, of course, it was his mom but then it was also this other woman that was in this fictional story. And then it was me. So it’s me interpreting Mike’s interpretation of his mother.
“I think all of us, there’s a certain gulf between us and our parents. No matter how much we love them, that there’s a part of them that’s kind unknowable to us. And then the reverse is also true, I mean I have four kids,” Bening told the roundtable.
More roundtables featuring actors, screenwriters, songwriters, documentarians, directors, composers and producers will continue throughout February in print and online. Tune in to new episodes of Close Up With ‘The Hollywood Reporter’ starting Jan. 15 on Sundance TV, and look for clips at with full episodes on after broadcast.
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Bill Cosby ‘Expects To Resume His Career’

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Bill Cosby still thinks he has a shot at reviving his showbiz career after being branded a perverted predator and serial rapist!

Once America’s most beloved TV dad, Cosby is now considered entertainment industry poison as he faces a Pennsylvania sex assault rap and a Massachusetts lawsuit from seven women who charge he drugged and molested them.

But his lawyer Angela Agrusa revealed to that the 79-year-old creep thinks he’ll win his courtroom battles and “expects to resume his career.” Industry insiders are baffled by the claim, noting Cosby Show reruns have been yanked and concert appearances were cancelled.

“He’s out of his mind!” one source told Radar. “He’s been saying he’s too weak and blind to identify his accusers — but he’ll be healthy enough to work in TV or film? That’s not gonna fly with studio execs!”

As Radar reported, nearly 50 women have accused Cosby of molesting them, but the statute of limitations has expired in most cases.

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Despite His Own Protests, Eric Clapton Will Return To The Road, Briefly

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ecThe semiretired guitarist Eric Clapton, now 71, has settled upon a slate of live shows for 2017: two at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 19 and 20, and two at the Forum in Los Angeles on March 25 and 26. And that’s all, according to an announcement on Monday.

The news came with the acknowledgment that Mr. Clapton had said last year that he would cease touring. “I swear this is it, no more,” the guitarist wrote in the program for shows celebrating his 70th birthday in New York and London. “I know I’ve been threatening retirement for the last 50 years, but I didn’t think I’d ever really want to stop. I love what I do and always have done, but over the last few decades I’ve found what I was always really looking for, a loving family who love me just the way I am.” (Mr. Clapton had hinted at the same conclusion in 2014, telling an interviewer, “It takes so long to get anywhere.”)
The critic Nate Chinen, writing in The New York Times, called a May 2015 show at Madison Square Garden “business as usual for Mr. Clapton, whose mature performance style has always suggested a master clinician more than a showman.”

For next year’s appearances, his usual band — Walt Richmond, Steve Gadd, Nathan East, Chris Stainton, Sharon White and Michelle John — will accompany Mr. Clapton, while the guitarists Gary Clark Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan will appear at the shows as special guests. Tickets go on sale on Saturday at

Mr. Clapton’s most recent album, “I Still Do,” which combined cover songs and original compositions, was released in May, followed in September by a live album, recorded in San Diego in 2007.
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‘Daily Show’ Oral History: Jon Stewart’s Ruthlessness, Steve Carell’s Motorcycle And More

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uiIt is hard to believe that almost sixteen months have passed since Jon Stewart gave up the anchor chair on The Daily Show in July 2015. (Hey, that’s almost one month for each of the 16 1/2 years he was host). Fans missing that epic run of sharp-witted political humor can now relive the glory days in a new history of the show.

The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History (Grand Central, Nov. 22) by Chris Smith, a contributing editor at New York, is a comprehensive telling of the story of the show from when Stewart took over in 1999 to the present in the style of other great TV oral histories like James Andrew Miller’s Live From New York, about Saturday Night Live and Those Guys Have All the Fun, about ESPN.

Everybody talked — from producers to production assistants to the famous ex-correspondents (Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee). Stewart even contributed the introduction. But this isn’t a sanitized history. There’s plenty of warts and all (and some fun hijinks as well).

It’s also a smart look at the business of TV and how 24-hour news channels and the rise of conservative media have changed our political culture. Indeed, The Daily Show (The Book) stands right alongside the other classics as one of the best books about TV to be published in 2016.

It’s also really, really fun. Here’s ten great tidbits from the book.

1. Craig Who?
This is about The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Craig Kilborn’s two-year run from 1996 to when Stewart took over in January 1999 is almost totally absent from the book except as a counterpoint to the greatness of what came later (which is a shame because in its time Kilborn’s version was well-liked by critics and fans) and to introduce writers and producers serve who hated Stewart and serve as the books’s villains (besides the usual suspects like Roger Ailes, Jim Cramer, etc.)

2. Thank you Stone Phillips.
Pre-Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert based his early character on NBC host Stone Phillips. Explains early executive producer Madeleine Smithberg: “Stone Phillips deserves a “created by” credit. We studied his listening-face expressions, we studied the different ways he put his fist to his chin, we studied his self-aggrandizing the way he inserted himself into the story.”

3. Steve Carell’s debut went badly. (Also he rides a motorcycle).
When Steve Carrell’s first piece aired in 1999, the producers and production assistants in the control room were unimpressed. “All of us were saying, “Who is this guy? He’s just like, fat Brian Unger,” recalls then production assistant (and later executive producer) Rory Albanese. As an aside to this story, Carell’s wife Nancy revealed that back in their Second City days in Chicago his transportation of choice was his motorcycle. Steve Carell doesn’t really seem like a Harley kinda of a guy, does he?

4. Jon Stewart can be tough and ruthless.
One of the most surprising things in the book is how tough and ruthless Stewart could be in defense of the show. Nice guy Stewart being tough is a recurring theme. Two examples: When he first took over The Daily Show in 1999, Kilborn’s writers hated him and told him he couldn’t change their jokes anymore.

“After a weekend of pacing and smoking and having tremendous Lincoln-Douglas Debates on the couch by myself,” Stewart recalls how he reacted: “I basically told them to f– off. “You work for me. And if you don’t like the direction, I get it. Don’t work here.”

A second story: Ben Karlin was one of Stewart’s first hires in 1999 (as head writer) and later became executive producer. He was Stewart’s his right hand man and his alter ego. By 2010, though, Karlin had gotten married and after a decade on the show was burned out. Colbert wanted him to come to The Colbert Report. Karlin, personally felt closer to Colbert as a friend. The end didn’t go well. “Given the history of our relationship,” recalls Karlin, I was kind of thinking that it would be something we would plot out over a period of several months. I remember Jon just saying, “No, I think its’ better to just cut it clean.” Cold.

5. Drugs at Saturday Night Live vs. drugs at The Daily Show.
Elliott Kalan, head writer: “Our work ethic and the SNL work ethic were very different. For a long time the SNL philosophy was, “People have to loosen up and get crazy and that’s when the crazy ideas come out.” Our feeling was, “It’s so hard to make this show. Why would you we make it more difficult by staying up late and doing drugs.”

6. The Daily Show vs. Dateline.
Field producer Kahane Corn Cooperman’s husband worked at Dateline from 1996 to 2005. When he left the show he told her, “When I first started at Dateline, we were the news and you guys were the jokes. And then by the time I left, you guys were the news and we were the joke.”

7. Stephen Colbert’s advice to other correspondents: “Check your soul at the door.”
Rob Corddry and Ed Helms call it “invaluable” advice for doing the kind of field pieces the show was famous for. “When you’re in the field you’re in the character of a correspondent. You are going to suck them dry like a lamprey until you get everything you can out of this interview,” explains Colbert. “That behavior has to be cold-blooded. What you’re doing might get on you – the badness of what you are doing — and you don’t want to get it on your soul.”

8. John Oliver wears Men’s Wearhouse.
Oliver thought his first day in July 2006 was going to be slow, so slow he hadn’t even had his suits shipped yet, but at 9 a.m. on the first day he got an assignment (it was the day George Bush was caught on a hot mic saying “Yo Blair” British Prime Minister Ton Blair). He needed a suit. And quick. Rob Corddry told him to go to Men’s Wearhouse. “It was trousers and a jacket that didn’t match,” he recalls.

9. Jon Stewart has no regrets about the infamous gutting of Crossfire or Jim Cramer.
Two of the most famous Daily Show-related segments were when Stewart went on CNN’s Crossfire and ripped the show (“it’s hurting America”) and he took CNBC’s Mad Money host Jim Cramer to task for offering bad stock advice before the 2008 recession. Stewart makes no apologies for either. “I thought there was something true and absolutely crucial about the conversation” with Cramer, he says. Adds writer Jason Ross, “If there’s anything The Daily Show was an antidote to, it was the culture of talking on TV without any accountability.”

10. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert almost left in 2012.
Stewart was negotiating a new contract in 2012. He wanted time to make a movie [Rosewater]. The negotiations were going fine until Viacom chairman Phillippe Dauman got involved. First, he took a hardline over money with Colbert, who was also negotiating a new deal, so Colbert and Stewart decided to negotiate in concert. Dauman didn’t want Stewart to do the movie. Stewart quit. Colbert was ready to go with him. After a tense weekend, Dauman caved (pretending it was other executives who had taken a hardline). But one interesting tidbit: Colbert says he was ready to sign for four years (through the 2016 election) but at the last minute Viacom wanted only two. Colbert called the decision “head scratchy” but he signed. It turned out to be fortuitous. “Thank god they said no to four years,” he recalls, “if they had taken our offer, I would not have been available to over for Dave.”
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Melania Trump Threatens To Sue Over A YouTube Post

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pictureMelania Trump is threatening a lawsuit over a YouTube video that speculates her son Barron has Autism, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

“This law firm represents First Lady-elect Melania Trump and her 10-year-old son, Barron Trump,” attorney Charles Harder tells THR. “A video was posted at YouTube recently speculating that Barron might be autistic. He is not. The video includes the hashtag ‘StopTheBullying’ but yet the video itself is bullying by making false statements and speculation about a 10-year old boy for the purpose of harassing him and his parents. The online bullying of children, including Barron Trump, should end now.”

TMZ first reported the news Monday afternoon, claiming it obtained a copy of a letter written by Harder. According to the site, the letter says, “The video did instigate further bullying by Rosie O’Donnell and others.”

O’Donnell shared the video on her Twitter feed last week. “Barron Trump Autistic? if so – what an amazing opportunity to bring attention to the AUTISM epidemic,” she wrote with a link to the video.

The YouTube video had more than 3.2 million views Monday when news of the potential suit broke. The channel that hosts the seven-minute video contains only one other upload, a 16-second clip of Barron Trump “‘clapping’ erratically at the Republican National Convention.”

Trump isn’t yet threatening to sue O’Donnell, but she wants the person who posted the video to remove it and apologize.

Harder is also representing Trump in her lawsuit against The Daily Mail over an Aug. 19 article that suggests she was an escort.
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Revisiting Beatles’ Rare, Revelatory ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’

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pp“Strawberry Fields Forever” represents one of the most daunting achievements of the Beatles’ career, and a landmark in 20th-century music as a whole, but what if someone was to say there exists a “Strawberry Fields” recording that surpasses the single released in February 1967? A fatuous claim? Or a gateway to the most revealing of all Beatles recordings?

John Lennon, the song’s author, esteemed “Strawberry Fields Forever” in a way he did few of his own compositions.

“It’s real, you know,” he remarked in 1970. “It’s about me, and I don’t know anything else really. The only true songs I ever wrote were ‘Help!’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever.'”

The writing of the latter commenced in September 1966 while Lennon was in Spain for the filming of Richard Lester’s How I Won the War. The Beatles may have sensed they had reached a middle-aged point of their career, hence an impetus to look back to childhood, as Lennon now was, Strawberry Fields itself being the Salvation Army children’s home where he’d play as a boy, despite his Aunt Mimi’s warnings that the grounds were dangerous.

Lennon, ever a collector of found sounds, was now finding himself in song, and elected to document the process, beginning with those early demos he made in Spain on a portable recorder.

The song is skeletal at this point, less of a ballad and more of a breath of gossamer-like minor keys.

There’s an intimacy rarely glimpsed in the Beatles’ world, with Lennon sounding both unsure of himself, and at his ease, like he’s comfortable trusting, in this instance, at least, a compositional process that all will eventually be revealed.

The crucial “No one I think is in my tree” line is not present, with the rather unwieldy “There’s no one on my wavelength” boast standing in for it, but he has that odd, syntactical stutter-step style of speaking already well established with “That is you can’t, you know, tune in but it’s all right/I mean it’s not too bad.”

Lennon tended to write swiftly, even if he wrote just one line a day, as he did with “I Am the Walrus.” Songs wouldn’t gestate over months, but “Strawberry Fields” was different, the work that mirrored Lennon’s own blend of self-doubt and self-assurance.

“I was different all my life,” he said in 1980. “The second verse goes, ‘No one I think is in my tree.’ Well, I was too shy and self-doubting. Nobody seems to be as hip as me is what I’m saying. Therefore, I must be crazy or a genius – I mean it must be high or low.'”

Indeed. The charting of a genius’ inner workings in song form continued back at Lennon’s mansion in Kenwood, where he added to the song through the first several weeks of November.

This is Lennon up late at night, sometimes stoned, the sound of a man giving in to his internal processes, the pull of childhood, the call of Liverpudlian muses.

Again, he’s always relaxed, muttering jokes to himself sotto voce when he hits the wrong chord, singing a given section repeatedly, words turning into humming sounds when he can’t figure out the words that should come next. He likes the idea of starting the song with the “No one I think is in my tree” line but eventually tucks it further back into the piece.

But if you’re a Beatles fan, or just someone with a bent for witnessing epiphanic moments, little tops the joy to be sourced from hearing that moment when Lennon’s latest holding pattern hums cease and give way to the crucial line: “Let me take you down …”

Boom, he has it, and we’re getting a little closer to making a kind of history.

Next up was to bring in the rest of the band and producer George Martin, which occurred at Abbey Road’s Studio Two, 50 years ago on November 24th. Engineer Geoff Emerick remembered Lennon’s new offering as a “great, great song” when Lennon premiered it on acoustic guitar, sitting on a high stool, for those who would help him shepherd it into final form.

The bootleg It’s Not Too Bad, which runs to almost an hour, compiles what we have of the “Strawberry Fields” recording process, from Spain to Kenwood to London, and it’s the package you need to properly hear the first full studio take of the song. For some maddening reason, Paul McCartney and George Harrison’s exquisite backing vocals were scrubbed from the version of the first take released on the second Anthology in 1996.

One can easily love “Strawberry Fields” in the version it ultimately became famous for, and prefer this earlier take. Lennon sings it even better, for starters, with the sense that he’s opening himself up to his mates in a manner maybe one doesn’t think to for the masses. Or maybe doesn’t first think to.

The instrumental underpinning has the quality of a blues from on high, something seraphic crossed with a slowed-down Jimmy Reed beat.

You almost wonder if the Beatles would have had the balls to release this version if Lennon wanted it. Could it have been a hit? It’s so personal, a rumination on the very nature of genius, of delving inside one’s self so that others might discover new bits in themselves, sans a big, meaty hook, the chorus to sing along to.

But we’ll never know, because Lennon wasn’t satisfied. A different arrangement was attempted four days later, which is also heard on the It’s Not Too Bad bootleg. Then a third arrangement followed, which was much heavier, with Ringo Starr starting to figure out the orchestral approach to drumming that would mark the final version, and Harrison stepping up his guitar efforts, finding the tone and filigree that would add so much texture to the classic single.

This was a version approaching proto-metal. Lennon couldn’t decide if he wanted to go the ethereal route, or the stomping one, and famously told George Martin to combine the two versions. This was less than practical.

“Well, there are two things against it,” Martin informed Lennon. “One is that they’re in different keys. The other is that they’re in different tempos.”

But for a man who had started his most personal, honest musical journey, within the parameters of a single song, back in Spain, this was merely part of the process.

“You can fix it, George,” Lennon concluded, and that was that, with Martin now tasked with finding a solution to a problem that seemingly violated the laws of musical physics.

Any Beatles fan knows that this was achieved by slowing down one version and speeding up the other, the keys got within at least shouting distance of each other, meaning that only a musicologist, really, would know that there was that much of a difference.

And so, one of the finest Beatles songs, which so many people associate with Lennon, but which required so much of his bandmates – that would be Paul McCartney on the song’s signature Mellotron, by the way – and his recording team was completed.

But wouldn’t you know: Lennon himself was never fully satisfied with the final product, thinking maybe he’d take another pass at some point in life, though he never did. Probably because the journey back to Strawberry Fields, and the journey to “Strawberry Fields” that began in Spain, was the real sound he was chasing.

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