HOT DISH: Michael Jackson's Death Provides a Cautionary Tale

And Some Much Lighter News About Brooks & Dunn, Brad Paisley and Others

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel's Hot Dish: Cookin' With Country Stars, she also hosts CMT's Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and shares her recipes at

Why do we sometimes weep and not know why? My son, Terry, was on the road with the Grascals when he called and told me Michael Jackson had died. I cannot tell you why I cried, but I did.

I don't own any of Michael's music, but I did enjoy watching him dance. For the life of me, I could not hum a Michael Jackson song, but my mind began rushing, thinking back and seeing Michael interviewed when he talked about his father beating him and forcing him to work constantly -- essentially stealing his childhood.

It was just before our Wednesday night Bible study -- we're Baptists, so we eat first -- when I was asked what I thought might have caused Michael's death. I immediately replied, "My thoughts are that the same thing that killed Elvis, killed Michael -- prescribed drugs." It may be weeks before an official cause of death is determined, but I've seen too many lives destroyed by substance abuse.

I think about all the country talent from seeing them on CMT, reading about them in magazines and hearing their songs on the radio. Knowing that some of our finest have shortened their lives with the same things that took the lives of Elvis and, possibly, Michael, I wish I had the where-with-all to stand on a soapbox and beg and plead with our wonderful poets to take care of themselves. Look at all the musical genres. We really have the finest flock of singers and songwriters in the world right here in Nashville. I say to each of you, even if I don't know you, that I love you. And I want you sober.

I hate that some members of the music community are making some nasty drug lord rich from the sale of their poison while there are hungry children in the U.S.A. who just need some food. Hit songwriters and hit singers, we need you alive onstage -- not as a casualty on some highway.

If you've got a problem, you know it. Don't be afraid to tell someone. And, above all, don't be ashamed to get help. We've got some of the best doctors and hospitals in the world here in our town. Go for a cure, not a habit. It is not cool to get high and die.

Sending sympathy and love to Michael's family, friends and fans.

Brooks & Dunn Follow Golden Rule With New Acts

Brooks & Dunn have had a long run and continue to get nominations and awards. Have you ever wondered why? I know why. This duo always pays their opening act. They treat their opening acts like they'd want to be treated. Other superstars who are making tons of money from their concerts actually get a stipend from newbie baby acts. Yes, the poor opening acts have to pay to play. Or their label pays for the opportunity.

After all these years, Brooks & Dunn are still playing fair. Thanks to Kix and Ronnie for always being good guys. Fans, be aware that Brooks & Dunn have a new greatest hits package in the works -- a 30-song double-disc collection that contains classic hits and two new tracks, including their current hit, "Indian Summer."

Surprise Note From a Friend in Alabama

The return address on the envelope read, "Leroy, Alabama." There's only one person from Leroy that I know -- and that's the great-singing country girl, Ashton Shepherd. I was thrilled to hear from her. Being such a big fan of Leroy's favorite daughter, it was so wonderful to get a note from her. She thanked me for my support and went on to say how much she enjoyed shooting Southern Fried Flicks in my kitchen and how she liked my cooking. Keep on writing and singing those wonderful down-home songs, Ashton.

Brad Paisley Grabs Attention With New Album

Nobody in country music is getting more media attention these days than Brad Paisley, and he's earned it with his five-star American Saturday Night album. Who gave it five stars? Well, I did ... because he deserves it. It's the best CD of his 10-year career. I don't want to embarrass Brad by bragging too much on the songs. But, dad gum, they are great. Brad just doesn't know how to write a bad song.

Of course, when I write things like this, there are those who say, "Brad is your favorite," but others have said that George Strait, Kenny Chesney or Keith Urban is my favorite. The truth is this: Great country music is always my favorite.

The first single from Brad's new album is "Then," a recent No. 1 song he wrote for his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley. Kim stood in the wings at the Opry and wept when Brad performed the song and dedicated it to her. By the way, Kim recently went to the Opry to see Steve Martin, who was performing music from his album of banjo instrumentals. There was more between Steve and Kim than a banjo tune, however. Kim played Steve's daughter in the movie, Father of the Bride.

If you can't make it to see Brad alive and kicking on his American Saturday Night tour, give his new CD a long, hard listen, and you'll recognize that he's a superstar who, in my opinion, is staring at an entertainer of the year trophy at this year's CMA Awards.

Two Babies and a Wedding

Josh Turner and his wife, Jennifer, welcomed the arrival of their second son, Colby Lynch Turner, on June 26. The couple's first son, Hampton, is 2.

Lost Trailers guitarist Stokes Nielson's wife, Maria, gave birth to their second child -- a boy -- on June 26.

SHeDAISY's dark-haired Kassidy Osborn recently married longtime boyfriend Derek Williamson in San Diego, Calif. The couple exchanged vows at the Latter Day Saints Temple in a private ceremony attended by their families.

More News

I see where Alan Jackson has his 18,622-square-foot house up for sale. With a huge garage and lots of acreage on the Harpeth River south of Nashville, the asking price is $38 million.

The Bellamy Brothers have released a new single and video with the Bacon Brothers titled "Guilty of the Crime." They shot the video at a prison in Memphis.

Since Country Weekly readers voted Chris Young as Country's Hottest Bachelor, his single, "Gettin' You Home (The Black Dress Song)," has been heating up the airwaves. Look for his sophomore album, The Man I Want to Be, to be released around the first of September. Wait until you hear him moan the soulful "Rainy Night in Georgia."

Thanks for the Comments

Thanks to everyone who commented on the Hot Dish column I wrote last week about all the blondes who have record deals these days. Don't you agree that it's becoming difficult to tell the blondes apart? And don't you agree that more chart space and radio time is needed to include brunettes, redheads and males -- as well as the 25 blondes? There's just so many in the running, it's difficult to keep up with who's who.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Egg and Sausage Casserole.

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