Santana | Sept. 11 | N.Y. Times

Santana 'Branches Out' With Female Lead Singer 

It looks like Santana is about to break new ground yet again. 

On the Grammy-winning, multi-million-selling album Supernatural, Santana teamed up with a host of contemporary superstars to remake them into a hot act. 

Of course, Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas sang lead on "Smooth" since, as everyone knows, Carlos Santana does not sing — he just plays the most memorable guitar licks in the world. Founding member of Santana (since gone on to other things) Gregg Rolie was the lead singer who gave voice to such hits as "Oye Como Va," "Evil Ways" and "Black Magic Woman." 

Now, I'm told that 19-year-old Michelle Branch, who records for Madonna's Maverick label and has a hit with "All You Ever Wanted," has been filming a video with Santana in Chicago. The word is that the video is for a song called "Game of Love," which will be the first single from Santana's new album, itself due in mid October from Arista Records. Paul Fedor, who's up for several MTV Video Music Awards (as is Branch) is the director. 

Branch would not be the first female lead vocalist to sing with Santana and company. Lauryn Hill did a track with the band for Supernatural, but Branch would be the youngest — and she would have the first Santana single that featured a female lead vocal. Born in 1983 (is that possible?), Branch would have been minus-12 years old when Santana's landmark Abraxas album was released. Carlos Santana probably has bandannas older than Branch. 

Santana's new album, by the way, is executive produced by Clive Davis, who brought the group back during his final years at Arista before starting J Records. If "Game of Love" turns out to be as shrewd a call as it sounds, Davis and his team will really be thought of as geniuses. (Personally, I'd like to hear Chrissie Hynde with Santana, but I guess she's too old for the demographics.) Santana, by the way, has recorded "13 or 14" songs for the new record — including one with Wyclef Jean. The final selection has not been made, but Arista insiders say "all the songs will be used in one way or another" — meaning as bonus extras on CD singles, no doubt. 

In other music news, Aerosmith is said to be looking to make magic twice. Columbia Records wants to get a hip-hop group to do another "duet" with Aerosmith on one of their classic tracks, a la "Walk this Way" with Run DMC. My personal pick: "Rag Doll" ... And the most unlikely group of people to hang out at the bar at Nyla, the Britney Spears-endorsed restaurant on East 41st St.: the guys from Snoop Doggy Dogg's posse, who were in town promoting their new album. And here's something I didn't know, thanks to the group's "Mr. Kane": they don't sample. It's all 100 percent original. Now, you have to like that! 

September 11 Oral History Brings Tears 

I just got my copy of Mitchell Fink and Lois Matthias' oral history of September 11, and my eyes won't stop tearing up. That's because Never Forget — published by HarperCollins (which, like this Web site, is owned by News Corp) — is just full of heartbreaking, emotional stories from people who were directly affected by the World Trade Center disaster. 

The interesting thing is that all these stories are told in first person by survivors. These are the people who lost loved ones, narrowly escaped, or helped in the rescue mission. It's just page after page, and believe me, you will not be able to put this thing down. These are of course harrowing stories, but they are also quite human and bring the enormity of what happened into perspective. I think that's what makes them all so much more devastating. 

Mitchell Fink, my old pal from the N.Y. Daily News, did this incredible work with his wife, Lois Matthias. They've done an excellent job. I'm still thinking about the couple who lived south of the Towers who wound up being evacuated to Staten Island, stripped, sprayed down for possible chemical germs, and then more or less abandoned like war refugees. These things actually happened, right here in steel and chrome Manhattan. The memories will never fade now that Mitchell and Lois have committed them to paper. Bravo! 

N.Y. Times Under House Arrest? 

I've gotten a big response from Sunday's New York Times Styles section story about Diana Brooks and her house arrest. Astute readers recall that this column broke the news that the former head of Sotheby's was serving her six-month sentence in her multimillion-dollar Park Avenue digs, but that when she was bored she could walk around her fabulous neighborhood and hang out at Starbucks. 

After we wrote that story, it got picked up by the Rush & Molloy column in the Daily News, which credited this site. But the Times did make it seem — as they recounted basically the same info, only at length — that they'd discovered the whole deal on their own. 

"Miss Brooks ... was horrified to realize that two onlookers in [Starbucks] had spotted her, one of them a gossip columnist for Foxnews.com," writes the Times

Uh huh. We were so horrified that we also then actually reported the story! Oh well, it's August. That seems to be the new rationale for just about everything weird that's happened this month. It's August! Well, not for much longer, kids.

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