Columns & Articles

First published in “The Mountain Astrologer”

Show me the Money: Prosperity Combos in Indian Astrology

Yearbook 2023

The dynamic duo — prosperity and relationships — top the request lists for most people who seek astrological advice. I can scarcely remember a consultation when this has not been the case. As this is the season of new beginnings and since relationship issues tend to be exacerbated when finances go south, let’s take a fresh look at how Indian astrology approaches the all-important topic of prosperity. Out of the many approaches to assess financial gain and stability, we will explore just a few of the classical combinations for wealth, known as Dhana yogas.

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Volodymyr Zelenskyy: Servant of the People

Libra nox 2022

“Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates life,” Oscar Wilde brilliantly quipped in 1889,1 describing in a nutshell the incredible journey of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that has played out for all the world to see. For an astrologer, it is well-nigh irresistible to trace the otherwise unseen flow of destiny that his remarkable cosmic patterns reveal.

Brought up in a well-educated Jewish family, he was the only child of Professor Oleksandr Zelenskyy, the head of a university cybernetics department, and his wife Rimma, who was educated as an engineer. Zelenskyy senior lost his father and brothers in the Holocaust.

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The Retinue of the Royals

Cancer sol 2022

Kings, queens, government leaders, and rock stars appearing in public typically have a retinue attending and supporting them.

The attendants might include those who check out the security of the venue, advisors keeping the VIP briefed, other high-ranking individuals appropriate to the occasion, and the guards who defend the flank and protect the VIP’s person. The elite in-group gathered around the VIP projects a tableau of unmistakable magnificence and power.

The iconography of India reflects this archetypal display. For example, the well-loved image known as the Ram Darbar shows the revered Lord Rama under his royal umbrella with his family and entourage.

In an analogous way, it is “unseemly” for the royal grahas — the Sun representing the king and the Moon representing the queen — to appear in a chart without attendants. The interpretation of this predicament differs subtly, depending on whether it is the Sun or the Moon that is involved, but the central concept remains the same.

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The X Factor

Aries nox 2022

If the five true planets (tara grahas in Vedic parlance) tried out for The X Factor reality show, Venus would get golden tickets from all four judges, go straight to the live show, blow away the competition, and be crowned the winner. From the vantage point of planet Earth, Venus has “star power” and razzle-dazzle — that X factor.

The only sources of light in the cosmos are the self-luminous stars. All other heavenly bodies catch and reflect the streaming starlight. It is all too easy to think of our Sun as a planet, as it has that moniker, but it is a star, shining on its “own merits.” The planets in our solar system “catch” or “grab” its light and hence the name graha, which means “to seize or grab.” Each reflects the light of our magnificent Sun in its own way. The Sun will always be the brightest, most dominant sky object from our perspective on Earth.

It is the King. It is the organizing power of our solar system.

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The Tricky Twisties: the Gatis of Retrogression

Capricorn sol 2022

At the Olympics, Simone Biles, widely hailed as gymnastics’ GOAT, experienced what gymnasts call “the twisties”— a disconcerting and disconnecting mid-aerial disorientation associated primarily with twisting rotational motion. Having lost their sense of where they are in the air, they become unable to safely land their usual aerial stunts. In time, the twisties abate and the gymnast typically begins to feel more settled and grounded, getting back into the usual swing of things. This is “the twisties.”

The ancient adage, “as above so below,” might well apply to an analogous phenomenon experienced by the tara grahas, the five true planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn). They get the twisties. As if uncertain where they are in their path, their average daily pace slows down, becoming slower and slower until they appear to stop in their tracks. Instead of figuring it all out as they stand still, they proceed to lose it entirely and start to go backward. Then they pick up steam and chug along in reverse gear until some kind of realization — that this is not normal — kicks in. They slow down once more, come to a halt, regroup, and turn back around, moving forward again. In due course, they speed up until they are back to their familiar selves.

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The Ecliptic Olympians

October - December 2021

In modern times, we all tune into our devices to watch extraordinary athletes strut their stuff in their various events, all moving in some way or another. There are some who jump around in both predictable and novel moves; some who sprint at incredible speeds; some who run marathons, pacing themselves for the distance; some who contort themselves into amazing shapes; and some who are experts at stilling themselves in preparation for letting something fly.

Those who enjoy people-watching likewise pick up on the variations in people’s movements. The hit song “Stay,” by Rihanna, has a great lyric about how compelling movement can be: “Not really sure how to feel about it / Something in the way you move / Makes me feel like I can’t live without you / It takes me all the way.”

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The Ecliptic Highway: Hares, Tortoises, and Contrarians

August - September 2021

We are not the only ones that have “moves like Jagger.” If you are a keen (and patient) observer of the skies, you might find that the grahas (planets) also have their dance moves, which can clue us in as to what kind of karmic script they might be indicating in a particular chart.

The Sanskrit word describing how the grahas move is gati. The ancient texts outline eight overarching descrip- tions of planetary movement, ranging from breakneck speed to stuck in one place for a day or more.

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Tiger Woods: Anatomy of an Accident

June - July 2021

On Tuesday evening, February 23, an email landed in my inbox from one of my students,1 with some salient astrological observations regarding Tiger Woods’s horrendous car crash earlier that day. This prompted a deep dive into Tiger’s chart, revealing how this event not only shows up in the natal chart itself, but also reverberates in the current dasha/bhukti,2 one key divisional chart,3 and the gochara4 (transits) of the day.

Let’s begin with a look at the birth chart of Tiger Woods. He has a Virgo lagna (Ascendant), with a swa rashi (own sign) Jupiter aspecting the lagna, as well as a power- ful (retrograde) Saturn.5 Retrogression is a raw strength; hence, a natural ma- lefic retrograde can amp its potential to destabilize matters. His lagna lord (ruler of the 1st), Mercury, is in the 5th bhava (house), aspected only by Saturn. These combinations will prove to be exceed- ingly important when we consider the gochara the morning of his accident.

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Joseph R. Biden: Collaborator-in-Chief

April - May 2021

It’s been a long, long, long time comin’ but my change is gonna come.” It’s a good theme song for the newly elected 46th President of the United States. Third time is the charm for Joe Biden as he takes office with what is probably the biggest pile of problems on the largest number of fronts ever to confront a new adminis- tration. Does he have the right stuff to pull together his team, the opposition, and the country? Whew! That is a big ask. Let’s check it out.

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Passwords for Unlocking Codes of Ancient Texts: (Part 2)

February - March 2021

Are ancient texts just a different kind of fossil? Are those who reference the ancient writings fundamentalists? These are very reasonable questions when approaching wisdom traditions that draw their strength from the lineage of a teacher-to-student transmission based on knowledge literally passed down through the ages.

Among the six “passwords” introduced in my last column, there are two important ones for unlocking the mechanism by which the shastra (authoritative texts) stays relevant even in our modern times. Accommodating a new way of looking at an established principle, while maintaining its core truth, ensures that a wisdom tradition continues to breathe. Indeed, it is said that knowledge is sanatana (eternally true) when it is applicable to any person in any culture at any time.

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Passwords for Unlocking Codes of Ancient Texts

December 2020 - January 2021

The ancient texts of India are not easily accessible for those seeking trans- actional information logically laid out in a well-sequenced format. Not at all. Approaching these works as you would a biology textbook might be an unproductive and frustrating experience. Worse yet, it might discourage sincerely interested students from reaping the benefits of the deep wisdom cognized by the ancient seers.

The first obstacle is that the texts are sets of verses that were chanted by the teacher and repeated by the student until they were memorized. Miraculously, passing knowledge along in this way over untold generations maintained sufficient integrity that the verses could eventually be preserved by the more familiar means of scribing them on palm leaves or other suitable materials.

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Lost in Translation: The Western Mind and the Vedic Texts

October - November 2020

Those of us who made their way through the required language classes in high school and college might recall mo- ments when we were actually thinking in that language rather than translating to English in our heads. In fact, this is an ultimate goal of learning a language because it immerses us in a culture in a powerful way. Our neuro-physiology vibrates in the pathways of someone who is French, Chinese, Brazilian, etc. Language molds thought, opening it to a range of potentialities and constraining it with various limitations.

The growing interest in the traditional Indian subjects and texts – such as Jyotisha – has highlighted the problems that can arise, especially for Westerners, in this particular genre of translated texts. These subjects go beyond facts into the realms of transformation and are therefore less successfully translated than an article on biology. In fact, it could be said that one simply can’t translate these verses, the cognitions of the ancient seers or wise sages; one can only render them.

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The Power of Illusion (or is it the Illusion of Power?): Rahu, Ketu, and the Wizard of Oz

August - September 2020

Eclipse — a most spectacular, terrifying, hoodwinking, conjuring, phantasmal, astronomical event. The disappearance of the Sun, the bloodying of the Moon. Reality or illusion? If what you see is what you get, it is both. The eclipse spectacle shows great invention and innovation, an extensive range of possible presentations, intensity, charisma, and a radically altered view of the cosmos.

And the illusionists? Those ambitious tricksters, Rahu and Ketu. They have no substance, are shadowy outsiders; but yet, there is power in the confusion they wreak, in the manipulation and misconceptions. Yes, illusion is potent, and the purveyors can whip up the masses, disguise reality, and become “Oz, the Great and Powerful.”

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Enter the Dragon: The Story of Rahu and Ketu

June - July 2020

Our world is enlivened and justified by the recounting of myths. Robert Svoboda, in his brilliant work The Greatness of Saturn: A Therapeutic Myth, speaks of the potency of a living myth that nourishes us and in turn, gets rejuvenated through its retelling. Storytellers

typically vary the details but the myth remains a prism for focusing eternal realities. Such a tale is the great creation myth called The Churning of the Ocean, humbly rendered below.

For untold eternities the enmity between the devatas (gods, also known as suras) and the asuras (anti-gods, enemies of the suras) rages on. The de- vatas are blessed with immortality, a status that the asuras covet above all else. One particular asura, Rahu, is to- tally obsessed with this desire and his pursuit of that forbidden fruit is a pivotal factor in the story’s intrigue.

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Adam Schiff's Peanut Butter Sandwich

April - May 2020

The tenor of the times has prompted me to write another column on the power of confluence in predicting consequential time periods via the principles of Jyotisha. Although this was the topic of my most recent “Eastern Window” column,1 I could not pass up the chance to look at a starkly contrasting native, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Chairman Schiff has recently earned himself a place in history well beyond that of most other chairs of the Intelligence Committee and indeed most members of Congress, with the notable exception of some outstanding speakers of the House.

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Magical Voice and a Peanut Butter Sandwich

February - March 2020

Say what? That’s one crazy non sequitur! Or is it? Readers of my TMA contributions might hear some echoes of the past, so maybe it’s time for a scavenger hunt.

Magical Voice: A Vedic Perspective” was the article I wrote that actually launched “The Eastern Window” column, and I have been thinking to revisit it for reasons that will become obvious in just a bit.

“A Peanut Butter Sandwich”2 is the title of what I consider to be a seminal column in this series, as it brings together many of the foundation stones and methods that distinguish the tools of Vedic astrology discussed in previous columns leading up to it.

And yes, it could be a mess if a magical voice was chewing on a peanut butter sandwich right before performing, but luckily, we will be juxtaposing these two in a way that brings home the predictive power of Jyotisha.

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Divisional Charts: Fine-Tuning Timing

December 2019 - January 2020

Being an astrologer is a formidable task. Somehow you must navigate through a dizzying array of themes about our human life and recognize patterns that address the concerns of the individual who has come for ad- vice. Given all the variables that must be juggled, it can seem miraculous to pick up something meaningful from the overload of information. Yet there are ways to approach questions around the success or failure of a particular desire in life, such as having a child, getting married, etc. Such methods usually attempt to confirm attainment or non-attainment by using the rule of three - three independent variables pointing to the same outcome.

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Divisional Charts: A Fine Family or a Rowdy Brood

October - November 2019

Growing up, I loved attending musical theater. To this day, those tunes pop up, seemingly at their own volition. Most recently I heard “Plant a Radish,” that hilarious and wise duet from the hugely popular Off-Broadway play The Fantastiks. Two exasperated fathers commiserate over their wayward children, proclaiming that planting a garden is much more pleasant and substantially less risky than “planting” potentially unpredictable and unmanageable children, because “once you've planted children, you're absolutely stuck.”

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The Celestial Royals and the House of Windsor

August - September 2019

Upon the announcement of the birth of a son to Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle — the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — I am sure I wasn’t the only astrologer to immediately cast baby Archie’s chart. I took a quick in- take of breath as I viewed it. Like Prince George’s, this chart had unmistakable portents of royalty.

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Tweaking the Script

June - July 2019

Imagine you are the playwright and director of the musical play of your life’s story. At the final rehearsal, you listen intently to the performers’ delivery of the lyrics you wrote. A good thing, because you realize your lead singer is emphasizing some words that convey a different meaning than what you had in mind. Then you hear another cast member singing off-key. To top it off, the splendid harmonious duet blending two great voices is unbalanced because one of the singers is drowning out the other. You are very thankful that all of this came to your attention while you still have the time and opportunity to make important revisions to improve the performance.

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A Heavenly Toolbox: The Panchanga

April - May 2019

What is time? How was that concept cognized? A general definition is surprisingly elusive, and the nature of time remains one of the mysteries of physics. Technology, economics, philosophy, and medicine all have their own spin on the subject of time.

For ancient astronomers and astrologers, the nature of time must have seemed rather obvious; the heavens cause time because time is defined as the human perception of objects (the Sun, Moon, etc.) moving through space against the fixed reference of the star field. This idea is embedded in the oldest artifacts and inscriptions known to man.

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Four Weddings and a Funeral

February - March 2019

Four Weddings and a Funeral Storytelling is mankind’s way of preserving wisdom and traditions through the ages. Fittingly, there are many fascinating stories about the 27 lunar mansions, or nakshatras, introduced in the last column. These stories provide deep insight into the behavior of people who have prominent placements in these asterisms. Among these tales are several centered around weddings. I have chosen a few to illustrate the variety and charm of this tradition and how some aspects of the story find their way into rich astrological interpretations.

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Meet the Fascinating Wives of the Moon

December 2018 - January 2019

What an exciting and varied life the Moon has! Every month, he gets to spend a night with each one of his 27 wives. Talk about variety being the spice of life! It’s quite a feat keeping them all happy, and, truth to tell, he was almost done in by some heavy-duty jealousy - but more on that later.

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A Well-Appointed Sky

October - November 2018

In Vedic India, the calendric function was part of the duties of the astrologer, who was an expert in astronomical observation and calculations.

Major events in life like weddings, inaugurations, family reunions, etc., are meticulously and even professionally planned. Great care is taken in choosing a venue, color schemes, and even dress codes. It would be quite jarring if some- one turned up at a black-tie event at the Waldorf in shorts and a halter top, and it would be unseemly to hold a Golden Anniversary party in a hall located next to a cemetery or a garbage dump.

Still, it is common practice to plan an event in a place and at a time when the cosmos is very poorly dressed for the occasion, though this does not seem to be factored in at all. Most peo- ple don’t take into account the environs of the event beyond the local conditions of the venue.

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The Peanut Butter Sandwich

August - September 2018

Back in the days before lettuce roll-ups and gorgeous open-faced gourmet delicacies, lunch was an honest sandwich. The prevailing paradigm demanded that comfort food be found between two slices of bread, gluing everything together into one satisfying meal. To label the offering as a sandwich, all three components were non-negotiable. Probably, the king of them all was the peanut butter sandwich (with or without the jelly).

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Cosmic Duets: Enthralling Harmonies or Yowling Cats

June - July 2018

Shakespeare would have loved my favorite astrological metaphor of the grahas (planets) as actors in the play of our lifetime:

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.”

Here’s my rendering of his vision: “This incarnation is like a play, and all the grahas onstage are merely players. They each have their time on cen- ter stage (dashas, planetary periods),1 with their entrances and exits. And one graha in its time (its dasha) plays many parts.” Not sure that my version will last several hundred years, though. Oh well, at least it is now getting published!

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Timing Is Everything

April - May 2018

Have you ever noticed how many sayings there are concerning time? “To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” “A stitch in time saves nine.” “Time and tide wait for no man,” etc., etc. Our whole life is organized around time, and it is time that inevitably puts a “period” to that life.

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Elevator Going Up

February - March 2018

Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn a few years before I did. We all sang in the top-tier mixed choir of that venerable institution and were the children of immigrant Jewish families eking out a living in the late 1940s and early ’50s. The resem- blance ends there. True to our charts, they have worldwide recognition and I, alas, do not.

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The Whole is Greater than the Sum of Its Parts

December 2017 - January 2018

My grandson is a LEGO® whiz. I can’t make heads or tails of all those little pieces, yet he revels in understanding the dizzying possibilities that each one represents in combination with countless others. As he works with his “creativity box” of recycled pieces from decommissioned action heroes, he puts together new and incredible creatures from combos that look, for all the world, as though they would never amount to anything

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Barack Obama The Agony and the Ecstasy

October - November 2017

Whatever one’s opinion of former President Barack Obama, the arc of his life is a compelling story of magical highs and paralyzing disappointments. Such a life inspires examination through the lens of Jyotisha. What in his destiny pattern could describe the magnitude of his achievements and the unparalleled obstruction that dogged him through his eight years as president? And what does the chart say about the character of the man?

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The Intricate Weave of Relationships

August - September 2017

Our existence is all about relation- ships. Every moment of every day finds us relating to countless entities both animate and inanimate. Even the decision not to relate invokes energy and intention, which in itself is a kind of relationship.

We observed in the last column that grahas (planets) form relationships by yuti (association) and drishti (aspects). The latter can be either mutual or one-sided. The themes of the bhavas (houses) in the chart that are highlighted by vibrant active planetary relationships will predominate in the life of the native. Whether or not that is a good thing will depend upon the nature and strength of the grahas and the significations of the bhavas.

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Here’s Looking at You, Kid

June - July 2017

What is the most compelling form of communication? Many would immediately say it is the use of our voice. But there is an argument to be made for the power of a glance, e.g., Tony and Maria, in West Side Story, locking eyes across the crowded gym on that fateful night; the terrifying moment when you are eye to eye with a mama bear on a hiking trail; and even the creepy feeling of knowing that you’re being watched without seeing who it is.

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What’s it all about, Alfie?

April - May 2017

This is the title of a very popular song used to promote the lm Al e, released in 1966. The opening lyrics are time- less and relevant:

“What’s it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give?
Or are we meant to be kind?”

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A Rose by Any Other Name

February - March 2017

William Shakespeare and astrology? Of course! After all, he coined the term “star-crossed lovers” in his immortal Romeo and Juliet. In the play, Juliet famously asks: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” As astrologers, perhaps we could paraphrase Juliet: “That which we call a chart in any other form would look as compelling” (and tell the same story). The trick is to see the unity behind the various names and forms, and realize “Oh, it’s still a rose” in this or that astrological tradition.

Western astrologers are often puzzled by the strikingly different way the sky pattern is represented in Vedic charts, which could limit their exploration of this tradition. However, the various “roses all smell as sweet,” once you become famil- iar with the different varieties.

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Vanilla, Chocolate, or Strawberry?

December 2016 - January 2017

Ever notice how many things are categorized in groups of three? Small, medium, and large; hot, cold, and just right; executive, legislative, and judicial; and, until Baskin Robbins came along, the venerable vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.

So, perhaps it won’t come as a surprise that one’s karmic account can likewise be regarded as tripartite. As we will see, this perspective can give powerful insight into how a person’s destiny pattern interacts with free will.

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Edward Snowden

October - November 2016

Ralph Nader or Benedict Arnold? Sherlock Holmes or Moriarty? Who is Edward Snowden? Perhaps he is a fascinating combination of all of these contrasting characters. Certainly, his compelling astrological destiny pattern matches the intricate tap- estry of his still young life.

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Open Auditions

August - September 2016

You might have missed an interesting notice in a recent edition of Vari*ty magazine. It reads, “Cattle call for nine diverse actors. Work opportunities are virtually endless. Must be able to improvise when the situation calls for it. Successful candidates should be able to ourish in roles that are in and out of their wheelhouse. Their range of expression should be broad enough to accommodate dramatic highs and lows for a particular role while still maintaining the integrity of the character. Above all, they must be able to deliver their lines compellingly at every opportunity they have to command center stage.” Is this going to connect to a chart? Trust me, it will!

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What You See Is What You Get

June - July 2016

It all started when someone looked up. We will never know who. Most likely it was an instinctual, collective looking- up because survival depended on it. If our progenitors had not looked up and gured out that when the Sun was low in the western sky it would be good to retreat to the cave before nightfall, they might not have had a chance to contribute their gene pool to subsequent generations!

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Magical Voice

October - November 2015
Magical Voice Article

Who sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” so magnificently that her version instantly topped the charts? Who held Las Vegas in the palm of her hand for ve years in a one-woman show? Who stepped into the giant shoes of Freddie Mercury, fronting the legendary band Queen to sold-out arenas?

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