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Flowers blooms at festival

Most of those listening to Erika Flowers at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival hadn't heard of her. But by the end of her set, they were asking where they could hear more.

Flowers and her band, first-time performers at the festival, opened Sunday at the Congo Square stage where the closing day's headliner, Al Green, would perform.

Flowers' jazzy, R&B sound -- reminiscent of artists like Lizz Wright and Cassandra Wilson -- drew several fans to the open field fronting the stage. Travis Grogan, of Laguna Beach, Calif., says her singing and the band backing her up were the reasons he and his friend Jeri McManus stopped to listen.

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John sued over 'Nikita'

More than a quarter century after Elton John's "Nikita" told the tale of a star-crossed Cold War romance, a South African is alleging in a federal lawsuit filed in Chicago that the singer and his collaborator stole the lyrics.

Guy Hobbs, described in the suit as an award-winning freelance photojournalist, said he wrote the lyrics to "Natasha" while he worked on a Russian cruise ship in 1982 and became romantically involved with a Russian waitress during the height of the Cold War.

According to the lawsuit, Hobbs registered his copyright of "Natasha," sought without success to find a music composer and in 1984 forwarded the lyrics to several music publishers, including Big Pig Music Ltd. Hobbs said he was unaware of Big Pig's ties to Elton John at the time.

Hobbs returned to his career as a photojournalist, spending the ensuing years in Africa before settling in Cape Town. In 2001, he came across the lyrics of "Nikita" in a songbook for the first time and was shocked by the many similarities with "Natasha," according to the suit.

The suit alleged John and Bernie Taupin, a lyricist and longtime John collaborator, copied "substantial, original portions" of "Natasha."

Daniel Voelker, Hobbs' Chicago attorney, said numerous attempts over the last decade to reach a settlement went unanswered, so he decided to sue.

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Crow has a great run

Singer Sheryl Crow joined more than 30,000 runners in her first half marathon, and she has finished with a time of 1 hour, 59 minutes, 14 seconds at the St. Jude Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville, Tenn.

Crow was running to raise money for New Hope Academy, and she says she got plenty of support from people cheering the runners all along the course. She says she can really see how people get hooked on running marathons.

Ryan James, 19, a sophomore from Berry College's cross country team won the first marathon he entered, finishing a time of 2:32:50.

-- From News and wire services