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For members of Luminous Voices, a professional choir ensemble in Alberta, Canada, rehearsing and performing safely during the pandemic has meant getting into their cars, driving to an empty parking lot and singing with each other's voices broadcast through their car radios.

This "car choir" solution is one that college music professor David Newman — an accomplished baritone himself in Virginia — came up with so that ensembles could sing and "be" together.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

In more than four decades of music, Barry Gibb and his brothers Robin and Maurice created almost too many hits to count as the pop powerhouse the Bee Gees. Today, at 74, Barry is the last living Gibb brother, and has continued on as a solo artist. If you've only ever associated his name with the disco era, his new album may surprise you: It turns out that the musician, who emigrated from the U.K. to Australia when he and his brothers were kids, has always been a big fan of American country music.

Singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman has won her case against hip-hop star Nicki Minaj over Chapman's claims that Minaj took her work without permission.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in California's Central District on Thursday, Chapman has accepted Minaj's offer of judgment in the case, and she will receive $450,000 from Minaj. As a result, the two have avoided going to trial.

Before Julie Andrews first sang "A Spoonful of Sugar," its songwriter found inspiration for the iconic Mary Poppins tune in an unlikely place.

The late Robert B. Sherman wrote it with his brother, Richard; many of the duo's songs are featured in classic Walt Disney films. At StoryCorps last month, Robert's son, Jeffrey, said that it was telling his father about getting the polio vaccine as a child that sparked the lyrics for the famous song.

Jeffrey, now 63, said his dad had a way with words.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

An investment firm is buying the rights to songwriters' music. Here's some of what Hipgnosis Songs Fund bought just this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REFUGEE")

Slingshot's 2021 Artists To Watch

Jan 7, 2021

It's a new year, which means new opportunities for fresh faces to rise above the noise. NPR music partner stations spent the last three months listening to emerging musicians and selected 17 for our annual Slingshot list of artists to watch. Some have been honing their crafts for years and are finally primed for impact. Some released their first project in the past year. Packed with discoveries, our 2021 Slingshot list is a celebration of innovative artists, many of whom had a big 2020 and don't have any plans to slow down now.

Brandy Clark is known for her vivid character sketches. The Nashville artist put out an album in March 2020, right when the pandemic was starting to shut everything down. After her tour got canceled, Clark started seeing people less — a real problem for someone who likes to write about other people.

The 2021 Grammy Awards ceremony has been postponed, due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. The Recording Academy announced on Tuesday that the ceremony will not take place on Jan. 31, as previously scheduled, but is instead being pushed off until March 14.

Blues legend Robert Johnson has been mythologized as a backwoods loner, his talent the result of selling his soul to the devil. Wrong and wrong again, according to Johnson's younger stepsister, who lives in Amherst, Mass. She tells his true story in Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson, a memoir about growing up with her brother she published in June.

Her name is Annye Anderson, but unless you're older than she is — and fat chance of that, as she's 94 — you better call her Mrs. Anderson.

In 1977, the first Jazz Alive New Year's Eve special was broadcast live from The Cookery and The Village Gate. The tradition continues with Toast of the Nation, NPR's annual holiday special that rings in the New Year with jazz.

A few months ago I was scrolling through my phone and found that Jon Batiste had shared my new single with his Instagram followers. I DM'd him my thanks and we chatted about the music and its composer, a Black woman named Florence Price who was a brilliant musical pioneer in the 1930s. We talked about the trailblazers who've come before us and about the work we do to honor their legacy.

Tony Rice could seemingly do it all: sing, compose, play spot-on rhythm. But it was his guitar solos that just astounded audiences and fellow musicians alike. He was idolized by bluegrass and acoustic music fans in large part because he was determined never to let them down.

Rice died on Christmas morning at the age of 69. His death was first announced by the International Bluegrass Music Association.

Adam Weiner sings and plays piano like an old school rock and roller in the band Low Cut Connie. Like so many musicians this year, Weiner saw all his gigs go up in smoke.

He Was An Architect

Dec 23, 2020

In my undergraduate studies I was able to take two courses from the architecture major. We learned a lot about design, cultivated attention to the built environment. My professors emphasized imagining things as they could be, if only we had the fortitude and verve to bring those things we sensed with our imagination into being. I loved it.

Back in 1970, as the book was closing on The Beatles' time together, Paul McCartney came out with a release that established him as an artist in his own right — and a versatile one, who played every instrument on the album simply titled McCartney. In 1980, he followed it up with McCartney II — another kind of do-it-yourself solo album, released as another band of his, Wings, was breaking up.

You can find all of NPR Music's favorites from 2020 here.

Brief summary of the year in reissues and vault rediscoveries: There was an avalanche of them, across all genres and all eras. Each promises edification, offering dives into the rich contexts of historically significant records while also being flat-out thrilling listening.

In the weeks after this year's Mardi Gras celebrations, New Orleans experienced one of the most explosive COVID-19 outbreaks in the country. Since then, music has largely been missing from a city that depends on it.

Parades have been canceled for the upcoming Mardi Gras season and indoor performances are prohibited. Outdoor performances, no matter how small, require a permit. The restrictions, meant to limit the spread of the coronavirus, have devastated professional musicians and affected other aspects of the city's vibrant music scene, including education.

If you've been a jazz fan for any length of time, you know farewells are an essential part of the deal. But this was a harder year than most, as the ravages of a pandemic compounded and quickened the scope of our losses, especially during a heartbreaking stretch last spring.

Two-hundred-fifty years ago, a musical maverick was born. Ludwig van Beethoven charted a powerful new course in music. His ideas may have been rooted in the work of European predecessors Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Josef Haydn, but the iconic German composer became who he was with the help of some familiar American values: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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.

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