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When listeners in Fort Wayne, Indiana, tuned into Majic 95.1 in July, they heard something both unexpected and all-too-familiar. The station was playing Christmas music. In the heat of summer.

With the pandemic making life miserable for people, the station was looking for a way to appeal to listeners and boost its ratings, and Christmas songs can be a dependable way of doing so.

The Highwomen's "Crowded Table," an exuberant anthem evoking both the progressive political spirit of 2020 and the longing for connection at the heart of this complicated year, won song of the year Tuesday as part of the 19th annual Americana Honors & Awards.

The prize was part of a three-category sweep by the genre-crossing supergroup, which includes Brandi Carlile (2019's artist of the year), Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires. The four women also won duo/group of the year and album of the year for The Highwomen.

It's been 50 years since José Feliciano came up with the seasonal earworm "Feliz Navidad." The song is just two phrases of holiday cheer, in Spanish and in English, repeated over and over for three minutes.

Charley Pride, who sold millions of records and was the first Black performer to become a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, among many other honors, has died at age 86. A statement posted on the singer's website said Pride died in Dallas on Saturday from complications of COVID-19.

From the outset, 2020 has been a roller coaster for R&B singer PJ Morton. It began in January when he won a Grammy and lost one of his heroes, basketball star Kobe Bryant.

"Of course, it's amazing to win a Grammy, but there was a dark cloud," Morton says. "So for me, even before the pandemic, it kind of started as a weird year."

2020 Was The Year Of Dancing By Ourselves

Dec 9, 2020

In 2020, there were many ways to understand the year in music; this week, we're considering four. Dance music is a communal and carnal act, a collective catharsis charged by pulsing beats and sweating bodies. What cruel irony that 2020 produced such body-rockin' hits as dance floors stood empty. By the same token, a wide spectrum of dance music — pop, reggaeton, house, K-pop, J-pop, disco, hyperpop, R&B — transformed bedrooms into clubs, kitchens into discotheques and backyards into glow-stick raves.

Photographer Bob Gruen spent decades capturing the lives and performances of rock stars of the '60s, '70s and '80s, including John Lennon, the Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Tina Turner — and many more.

Gruen put in many hours backstage, in studios and on the road, sometimes doing drugs and drinking until dawn with his subjects.

"I carried a little flask of cognac in my camera case. It was part of my equipment. That's the way it was in the '70s," he says. "I don't know how I survived, because I crave peace and quiet — but I actually thrive in chaos."

Nearly 60 years after writing such counterculture classics as "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Like a Rolling Stone," Bob Dylan has sold his entire songwriting catalog — more than 600 songs — to Universal Music Publishing Group in a deal announced Monday morning by Universal.

Billie Holiday's life and artistry have been analyzed, scrutinized, interpreted and embellished more than any other jazz singer in history. But the first biographer to fully immerse herself in the world of Lady Day was a New York journalist and avid Holiday fan named Linda Lipnack Kuehl. For some eight years in the 1970s, Kuehl interviewed everyone she could find who had a personal association with Holiday — musicians, managers, childhood friends, lovers and FBI agents among them.

Samuel George, a 36-year-old filmmaker who's originally from Philadelphia, has an unlikely connection to go-go music.

He says it all started back in 2013 with Gregory "Sugar Bear" Elliot, the lead man of Experience Unlimited, famous for the immortal hit "Da Butt." George, who'd only been in the District for a few years, discovered that the go-go legend played every Wednesday night at The Meeting Place, a small basement bar near Farragut Square.

In his decades-long career, Peter Guralnick has written about some of the biggest icons in American music. He wrote what may be the definitive books on Elvis Presley, as well as biographies of singer Sam Cooke and Sun Records founder Sam Phillips.

His latest work, Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing, is a collection of essays, based on his interviews with many legends of early rock and roll, blues and country. At the center of it is Guralnick himself — because, in some ways, the book is about his own journey in music journalism.

The Recording Academy announced its 2021 Grammy nominations on Tuesday, with Beyonce, rising pop star Dua Lipa and stoner superstar Post Malone leading a diffuse field.

Beyonce features on two songs in the record of the year category, which essentially rewards the year's best single: the remix of Megan Thee Stallion's "Savage" and her own "Black Parade." The latter was also nominated for song of the year, which is awarded to the winner's songwriters.

Foley

Canadian singer-songwriter Sam Roberts has remained busy during the pandemic. His group, Sam Roberts Band, released new music last month.

One of the people most responsible for the unique sound of Michael Jackson's Thriller album has died. Bruce Swedien was 86 years old when he died Monday. His daughter, Roberta Swedien, announced his death on Facebook, saying that her father "passed away peacefully." No cause of death was given.

Michael Kiwanuka: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

Nov 19, 2020

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Sade Saves

Nov 11, 2020

I've tried to say how it was, in those boombox times. When I am near 21, and poor, and pregnant. There is no clue as to what next Tuesday will bring, let alone the rest of this one, when the Challenger explodes every minute on the mute TV.

The Morning Edition Song Project, in which musicians compose an original song about the COVID-19 era, returns this week with multi-genre singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen, leader of the band Thao & the Get Down Stay Down. Early this September, the San Francisco-based musician stepped onto her porch to find polluted air and falling ash — the fallout of the wildfires raging on the West Coast.

Adrianne Lenker's latest music takes you straight to where it was recorded: a cabin in the Berkshires. Lenker was supposed to be on tour with her band Big Thief this year, but once the pandemic upended those plans, she holed up in the mountains of Western Massachusetts and recorded not one, but two new albums.

YouTube

A touching video showing a former ballet dancer afflicted with memory loss gracefully dancing as she hears the music from Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake has

The pioneering Cuban percussionist Cándido Camero has died at age 99.

Camero's grandson, Julian, told NPR member station WBGO that the Cuban conguero died peacefully at his home in New York on Saturday morning.

Rahill Jamalifard

Rahill Jamalifard and her band Habibi were scheduled to perform in Columbus as part of the Melted Music Festival in March. COVID-19 led to the festival's cancellation and eventually all of the band's scheduled performances. 

At any hour of any day, somewhere on the radio dial, chances are you can find the voice of Stevie Nicks. This fall, decades after her 1970s breakthrough with Fleetwood Mac, she even became a chart sensation again, after a skateboarding TikTok star gave one of the band's classic songs a boost.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Baron Wolman, the photographer whose music images captured the immediacy of rock culture and told a story in each shot, died Monday at the age of 83 following a battle with ALS. Born in Columbus in 1937, Wolman became interested in photography while serving in the Army as a counter-intelligence officer in Berlin. 

This year's interminable election season has helped spawn an outsize assortment of frequently vital protest music. Late Tuesday, as part of Stephen Colbert's election-night special for Showtime, Arcade Fire premiered the first big post-election protest song of 2020.

Baron Wolman, the photographer whose images of Jimi Hendrix, Grace Slick and others captured the immediacy of rock culture and translated it to silent paper, died Monday following a battle with ALS. The news was confirmed to NPR by his longtime assistant, Dianne Duenzl. He was 83.

When I started working at NPR last year, I asked Alt.Latino host Felix Contreras if we could grab a quick coffee to talk about his show, of which I was a long-time listener. That coffee turned into an hour-long conversation on the office patio — not about Alt.Latino or anything work-related, but about what we discovered was a shared affinity for the music of the Grateful Dead.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEY CLOCKFACE / HOW CAN YOU FACE ME?")

ELVIS COSTELLO: (Vocalizing).

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Country music singer Jerry Jeff Walker, the man behind "Mr. Bojangles," died Friday after a battle with throat cancer. He was 78.

"He was at home until an hour before his passing," his wife of 46 years, Susan Walker, told the Austin American-Statesman. "He went very peacefully, which we were extremely grateful for."

Bruce Springsteen, who writes so often of people who lost something — a job, a family, hope — was recently inspired by a loss of his own.

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