- - Monday, April 9, 2012

Worried he might lose some of his singing ability, Keith Urban instead emerged from his surgery to remove a polyp and a nodule from his vocal cords with benefits he never imagined.

“I think if a footballer in their 40s was given their knees back like they were in their early 20s, that’s kind of how I feel right now,” Mr. Urban said. “It’s an extraordinary feeling of freedom.”

Thousands of fans will get to hear the results for themselves when the Australian country music star takes the stage during the All for the Hall benefit Tuesday at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. It’s one of a handful of times Mr. Urban has sung in public since his surgery late last year.

Mr. Urban said he had issues with his vocal cords for years, but they were never serious enough to address. When a polyp developed, though, he began to have trouble with his voice. He had to push hard to reach the notes he used to hit even just a few years ago and he began to lose his falsetto, a key ingredient in his best songs.

All that changed almost immediately after the surgery, and Mr. Urban has been working with a vocal coach to strengthen his voice. He recently performed a 90-minute set at the Houston Rodeo, putting himself through a successful workout that showed no ill effects from the surgery.

“I don’t have to push the pedal down to 70 mph to reach those notes anymore,” Mr. Urban said.

The surgery also freed him in other ways. He found that his songwriting changed with his voice and he began imposing limits, something no writer wants to do. For instance, on his last album, “Get Closer,” he eliminated those falsetto hooks at the ends of choruses that drive his fans crazy.

“I already feel that this next album, the thrust and the pull as a songwriter is to talk more about some of my stories, personal stories, beyond my relationship with my wife [actress Nicole Kidman] and subjects that I’ve never really tapped into that much,” Mr. Urban said. “So I think getting my voice back has sort of been a metaphor for finding my voice more so as well as an artist, broadening it, really, to the things that I want to write about and I feel ready to write about that I guess I haven’t in recent years. “

This year’s benefit, which features Vince Gill sharing musical director duties with Mr. Urban, sold out in a day. The theme for the fundraiser for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is duos, vocal groups and bands and will include Lady Antebellum, the Rascal Flatts, Miranda Lambert’s Pistol Annies, Alabama, Alison Krauss & Union Station, the Band Perry, Little Big Town and others.

Mr. Urban also coyly promised a couple of surprise guests who don’t fit the theme.

“I don’t think anyone will mind these solo artists though,” he said with a laugh.

Herman Wouk, 96, readying new novel

At age 96, Herman Wouk is ready for a fresh start.

The author of “The Caine Mutiny,” “The Winds of War” and other classics has a new novel and has switched publishers after decades with Little, Brown and Co.

Mr. Wouk’s “The Lawgiver” is coming out this fall from Simon & Schuster. It’s the story of a planned movie about Moses, complete with references to Skype and Twitter.

In a statement issued Monday by the publisher, Mr. Wouk noted that his first novel, “Aurora Dawn,” also was released by Simon & Schuster. That book came out in 1947.

Bob Weinstein’s wife files for divorce

The wife of film producer Bob Weinstein has filed for divorce in New York and is seeking an order of protection.

According to the Associated Press, court papers say Anne Weinstein is seeking the protection order because she fears “bodily harm.”

A spokesman for Mr. Weinstein said his wife was reacting to a family intervention to get her to deal with a drinking problem. He said there is no abuse.

The two married in 2000. Mrs. Weinstein is a former book editor. They have two children.

Mr. Weinstein and his brother Harvey are New York natives and Hollywood mainstays who run their own film company after breaking off from Disney and Miramax, which they helped found. They have been involved with highly successful films such as “Pulp Fiction,” “The English Patient,” and “Shakespeare in Love.”

Queen Elizabeth honors Camilla on anniversary

Queen Elizabeth II has appointed the Duchess of Cornwall to the highest female rank in the Royal Victorian Order, Buckingham Palace said Monday.

The announcement that Camilla has been made a Dame Grand Cross comes on the day of her seventh wedding anniversary with Prince Charles, the queen’s son, the Associated Press reports.

Awards under the Royal Victorian Order, which was founded in 1896 by Queen Victoria, are given by the queen to people who have served her or the monarchy in a personal way. They are bestowed independently of the prime minister’s office.

Once vilified as the old flame who poisoned Charles’ first marriage to Princess Diana, Camilla has become an integral member of the royal family since she married the prince on April 9, 2005 - eight years after Diana’s death.

Since the couple’s civil ceremony at the Guildhall in Windsor, the British public has warmed to Camilla and the 64-year-old has carried out hundreds of royal engagements and taken on a wide range of patronages.

She also has traveled extensively with the prince on official visits, including a recent tour of Scandinavia with stops in Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

Lately, Camilla was seen stepping out with the queen and the former Kate Middleton - who married Prince William - for an appearance in London.