Monday, March 21, 2011

Women's History Month: VH-1's Divas Live Concerts

VH-1’s Divas Live Concerts

Along with Lilith Fair (see March 4 post), VH-1’s Divas Live concert series has paid tribute to women in popular music since the late 1990s. Originally founded as a benefit concert for The VH-1 Save the Music Foundation, the concert series has maintained its commitment to helping music education programs in local schools. Additionally, the concerts have been used to honor some of the great female artists of popular music.

The first Divas Live concert on April 14, 1998 featured superstars such as Aretha Franklin, Gloria Estefan, Celine Dion, Shania Twain and Mariah Carey. The next year the concert expanded to include several special guest performers such as Elton John (called an “Honorary Diva”), Mary J. Blige, Chaka Khan, Faith Hill, and LeAnn Rimes along with the headliners, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Cher and Brandy.

The Divas 2000 concert was the first to pay tribute to a female pop music legend: Diana Ross. In addition to Ross, performers included Mariah Carey, Donna Summer, Faith Hill, Destiny’s Child, RuPaul and of course, The Supremes. The 2001 concert was another all-star tribute to “The One and Only Aretha Franklin.” Franklin was joined on stage by a host of artists including Mary J. Blige, The Backstreet Boys, Marc Anthony, Celia Cruz, Jill Scott, Nelly Furtado, Kid Rock, Bishop Paul Morton Choir, Herbie Hancock, Clark Terry, Ron Carter, Roy Haynes, James Carter, Russell Malone and Stevie Wonder.

From 2002 through 2004, the Divas Live concerts moved from New York to the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Of course, the shows played up the Vegas connection by including such Vegas legends as Wayne Newton and Tom Jones. Headliners from this era included Celine Dion, Cher, Dixie Chicks, Shakira, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce, Lisa Marie Presley, Chaka Khan, Jewel, Ashanti, Whitney Houston, Patti LaBelle, Jessica Simpson, Joss Stone, Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Harry, Gladys Knight, and Eve.

In 2009, VH-1 not only restarted but reinvented the Divas concerts. Instead of paying tribute to long-established greats of the music industry, the new Divas concerts look to celebrate the up-and-coming artists who may one day be the next generation of Divas. The artists in 2009 included American Idol winners Kelly Clarkson and Jordin Sparks, Leona Lewis, Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson (for her role in Dreamgirls), Adele, and Miley Cyrus and in 2010 Nicki Minaj, Sugarland, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Keri Hilson, Paramore, and Katy Perry. The 2010 show was dedicated to the US troops serving overseas and was performed at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, CA and Army Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.

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