Meridian Star

June 2, 2013

Iconic musicians ...

MSU Riley Center's season continues with performances by major music icons

By Ida Brown /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Some of music's most revered icons will be featured in the final months of MSU Riley Center's Spring/Summer concert series.

    Ten-time Grammy Award-winning R&B musician, singer-songwriter and record producer Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds ... Don McLean, one of America's most enduring singer-songwriters .... a group of talented musicians – Kim Carnes, John Ford Coley, Gene Cotton and Lenny LeBlanc, as well as special guest Greg Barnhill – singing their own songs and sharing the stories behind them .... and the former stars of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons.

    "We've got some terrific performances for the rest of the season, and they're really special in their own right," said Dennis Sankovich, executive director of the MSU Riley Center.

    "We encourage everyone to check out our website at, where we have links to all the artists and video of their performances," Sankovich said.

    Although ticket packages are no longer available, individual tickets may be purchased by phone; at the MSU Riley Center box office, Monday-Friday, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; and one hour before showtime on the day of the show.

    Performances begin at 7:30 p.m., with select shows featuring pre-show parties in the Grand Lobby, allowing patrons to socialize and enjoy refreshments before the evening's entertainment.

Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds

June 7, 7:30 p.m.; Pre-Show, 6 p.m.

Tickets: $63, $69

    If you don't recognize "The Face," you most definitely will the songs: "Every Time I Close My Eyes," one of his own chart-toppers; "I'm Your Baby Tonight," Whitney Houston; "End of the Road," Boyz II Men; "Change the World," Eric Clapton; "Take a Bow," Madonna; "Vision of Love," Mariah Carey; "Breathe Again," Toni Braxton ... the list goes on and on.

    It’s not unusual for a singer to attempt producing, or a songwriter to take an occasional stab at recording. It is unusual, however, when an individual takes on singing, songwriting, producing, and even founding a label, and is extraordinarily successful at all of them. Such is the case with Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds.

    Edmonds has also written or produced for Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Carole King, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan, Beyonce', Brandy, Paula Abdul, Bobby Brown, Mary J. Blige, Diana Ross, TLC, Phil Collins, Michael Bolton and Kenny G and many, many more. In addition to the 100-plus Top 10 R&B hits, he has written and produced, Edmonds has also produced several movies ("Soul Food," "Josie and the Pussycats") and worked with music, record producer, composer, singer, songwriter and arranger David Foster to compose "The Power of the Dream," the official song of the 1996 Summer Olympics, performed by Celine Dion.

Don McLean

June 22, 7:30 p.m.; Pre-Show, 6 p.m.

Tickets: $39, $45

    The song has carried its creator all over the world, from New York, to England, and all the way to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. We hear its tune and immediately, some part of the chorus comes to our lips “The day the music died” resonates with so many music lovers that folk singer/songwriter Don McLean’s entire body of work is sometimes overshadowed by his hit, “American Pie.”

    With student riots going on outside the studio door there in Berkeley, Calif., McLean recorded his first album, “Tapestry,” in 1969. He’d been singing and touring for several years at that point. But his career trajectory changed drastically just two years later, with the 1971 release of his album “American Pie.” In 2003, the single of the same name was placed in the Grammy Hall of Fame, and McLean followed suit the next year, with his 2004 induction into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. Since “American Pie,” he has recorded more than 20 studio albums, with the most recent one releasing in 2009.

The Heart Behind

the Music

Featuring Kim Carnes, John Ford Coley, Gene Cotton, Lenny LeBlanc, with special guest Greg Barnhill

July 16, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $29, $35


    Showcasing some of the world’s best singers and songwriters, “The Heart Behind the Music” tour offers a chance to hear talented musicians talk about the meaning behind their hit songs while also treating ticket holders to outstanding performances.     The tour’s Meridian stop includes Kim Carnes, who won a Grammy in the 1980s for singing “Bette Davis Eyes.” She has also written numerous hits for Barbra Streisand, Kenny Rogers and many other well-known singers.

    Joining Carnes is John Ford Coley, half the Grammy-nominated duo England Dan & John Ford Coley and best known for the hit “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight.”

    The concert also highlights Gene Cotton, who has 15 albums to his credit and counts “Before My Heart Finds Out” and “Like a Sunday in Salem” among his top-rated singles.

    Versatile pop and country songwriter Lenny LeBlanc joins the group as well, known for his 1970s hit ballad, “Falling.” Since a dramatic religious conversion, LeBlanc has become a popular Christian artist, his credits including “Above All” and “There Is None Like You.”

    Special guest Greg Barnhill is also featured during the Meridian show. A distant relative of Mississippi’s “Singing Brakeman” Jimmie Rodgers, Barnhill has penned such hits as “House of Love” for Amy Grant and Vince Gill as well as “Walkaway Joe,” a duet by Trisha Yearwood and Don Henley. The Emmy nominee can also be heard on the recordings of Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Lee Ann Womack.

The Hit Men:

The Former Stars of Franki Valli

& The Four Seasons

Aug. 2, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $22, $28

    Ever heard of Lee Shapiro or Gerry Polci? How about Jimmy Ryan, Larry Gates, or Russ Velazquez? Perhaps, but you certainly know the groups and artists they’ve sung with: Carly Simon, Jim Croce, Tommy James & The Shondells, Barry Manilow and Elton John, to name a few.

    After being part of the mega-hit acts of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, they combined their talents in 2010, and now they tour the country, singing many of the hits that launched their careers. If you liked the hit play "Jersey Boys", then this concert is a must-see for you.