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Bill Withers, the sweet-voiced baritone behind such classic songs as "Ain't No Sunshine," "Lean on Me" and "Use Me" has died. Withers was 81 years old. According to a family statement given to the Associated Press, he died Monday in Los Angeles due to heart complications.

Bucky Pizzarelli, a tasteful sage of jazz guitar who spent the first phase of his career as a prolific session player and the last phase as a celebrated patriarch, died on Wednesday in Saddle River, N.J. Guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli, his oldest son and regular musical partner, said the cause was the coronavirus. He was 94.

Jam band superheroes Phish have capped off an incredibly quick album rollout campaign, unexpectedly releasing a new album, Sigma Oasis, Thursday.

The buildup to the release took a grand total of two days: Tuesday night, the band announced, during a break in its "Dinner and a Movie" series, that a new album was on its way. The following night, Phish hosted a listening party via YouTube and Facebook Live, before releasing the album wide on Thursday morning.

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Who: Ruston Kelly

Where: Nashville, Tenn.

Recommendation: Reading Ralph Waldo Emerson (and consuming art)

It's tempting, when assessing great creative works, to funnel all credit to a lone genius — a writer, a singer, a director, an artist, or a name that sits atop a marquee. It's so much easier to be spared the task of teasing out greatness from an interconnected web of contributors, partners, helpers, teachers and organizers. We can accept a songwriting credit that reads "Lennon-McCartney," but our icons — our geniuses, our auteurs — more often stand alone, lest their stars seem diminished.

Ellis Marsalis, jazz pianist, educator, and patriarch of the Marsalis family, has died at the age of 85. His death was announced in tweets from New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Jazz at Lincoln Center, where his son Wynton is managing and artistic director.

He reportedly went into the hospital over the weekend with symptoms of pneumonia. The New York Times reports that his son Branford says the cause of death was complications from COVID-19.

A few weeks ago, as the city of New Orleans was preparing to institute a stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus, Nicholas Payton got to work.

Wallace Roney, a trumpeter and composer who embodied the pugnacious, harmonically restive side of post-bop throughout an illustrious four-decade career, died this morning at St. Joseph's University Medical Center in Paterson, N.J. He was 59.

The cause was complications from COVID-19, according to his fiancée, Dawn Felice Jones. She said Roney had been admitted to the hospital last Wednesday.

"Entirely Different Stars," from Lukas Nelson's newest album, Naked Garden, is a song many people might relate to right about now. It's a fantasy about grabbing that special someone and blasting off to a less troubled planet.

Musician and philanthropist Dolly Parton is launching a weekly series in which she reads a children's book to an online audience at bedtime, drawing books from her popular Imagination Library project. The goal, the nonprofit says, is to give kids and families "a welcome distraction during a time of unrest and also inspire a love of reading and books."

This is the most engaging song by Bob Dylan I've heard in decades. As someone who grew up in the era of President Kennedy's assassination, the portrait Dylan paints in "Murder Most Foul" is extraordinary, and takes me back to those days, to my memories of a nation overwhelmed by grief. There's something eerie about this song coming out at this precise moment.

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Who: Jason Isbell

Where: Nashville, Tenn.

Recommendation: Happy People: A Year In The Taiga

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.


On Monday March 30, Sophie Allison, aka Soccer Mommy, was to perform a long awaited Tiny Desk concert at my desk. Now the world has changed, and with the coronavirus keeping us at a distance, we're taking a break from filming Tiny Desks at the office for a while.

One of the pioneers of Afro-funk music, the saxophonist Manu Dibango, has died of COVID-19. He was 86 years old, and died in Paris. Internationally, he was best known for his 1972 song "Soul Makossa," though his entire oeuvre could have been the soundtrack to a cooler 1970s than most people lived. But that one, funk-drenched hit, lit by Dibango's burning saxophone, went on to influence the sound of American disco — and its hooky spoken intro helped power songs by Michael Jackson and Rihanna.

YouTube

Conor Oberst has kept busy since the last Bright Eyes rec

Twenty seconds of hand washing. 60 to 90 percent alcohol. Six feet of distance. People worldwide have absorbed these guidelines as the coronavirus pandemic has closed its fist around the world. But humans also need to keep the spirit moving, as did Charles Dickens — who lived through a few epidemics — by taking a daily "breather" in the fresh air. Here we offer recommendations for psychic health from people who go deep into their own hearts and minds: artists and writers. Creative people have been uniquely affected by the onset of the current pandemic.

Late last summer, saxophonist Joshua Redman engaged in some light time travel: For a couple of nights, he reconvened a stellar ensemble he'd led 25 years prior, with Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride on bass and Brian Blade on drums.

Updated Monday, Mar. 30 at 1:37 p.m.

"I just want you to know," Raveena told the NPR office, "that in this space that we're in, you're extremely, extremely loved." I get chills when I think about it now.

Bandcamp, the digital storefront and streaming music platform used by hundreds of thousands of artists and thousands of record labels, will forgo collecting its share of revenue from sales on the site made this Friday, March 20, the company announced on Tuesday. The initiative will be active from 12:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m Pacific time.

The Austin 100

Mar 17, 2020

Among the many large gatherings to be canceled due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus, the SXSW Music Festival has arguably the largest impact on up-and-coming musicians — artists from around the world who'd been scheduled to perform this week around Austin, Texas. The festival has a truly global reach, as more than 1,500 acts were scheduled to perform; they represent a large and daunting world of music that spans many dozens of countries, not to mention countless genres and subgenres.

Updated on April 3 at 6:16 p.m. ET.

As more festivals, performances and concerts are canceled due to the coronavirus shutdown, musicians of all stripes and sizes are taking to social and streaming platforms to play live for their fans.

You can stream this playlist via Spotify or Apple Music.

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

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Until a couple of years ago, Nadia Reid had never been far away from New Zealand.

NADIA REID: I live in a place called Dunedin, which is sort of at the lower end. I was born in Auckland, which is the top of the North Island.

The first time I heard Katie Pruitt's song "Loving Her," I was taken aback by the very first line you hear: "If loving her's a sin, I don't want to go to heaven." That's a powerful declaration from a singer-songwriter. It's especially powerful coming from a gay artist raised in the South without much precedent and with very few role models to follow.

Just about a decade ago — April 5, 2010 at about 3:30 in the afternoon — an explosion fueled by methane and coal dust ripped through the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia and killed 29 miners. A new play at New York's Public Theater called Coal Country tells the story of what happened at Upper Big Branch in the words of miners who survived the blast and family members of those who didn't.

Updated on Saturday, March 7 at 11:45 a.m. ET

McCoy Tyner, a pianist whose deep resonance, hammering attack and sublime harmonic invention made him a game-changing catalyst in jazz and beyond, died Friday, March 6, at his home in New Jersey. His death was confirmed by his manager. No cause of death was given. He was 81.

Last year, the rising indie singer-songwriter Beabadoobee released a single called "I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus." In it, she sings about staying at home crying to Pavement records, and wanting to attain anything close to Malkmus' seemingly effortless cool as the leader of that band.

Throughout the next few months, we'll be sharing some of the many 2020 Tiny Desk Contest entries that have caught our eyes and ears. There's still time to enter: We're accepting videos until 11:59 p.m. ET on March 30. You can watch a playlist of all the entries we've featured on the blog on YouTube.

On Wednesday night in Switzerland, the French violinist Renaud Capuçon and the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra played a full concert — to an empty hall.

Their performance, which was canceled after the Swiss government prohibited all gatherings of 1000 or more people, was broadcast by Swiss public television and radio. It's just one of the ways that performers and organizations worldwide are grappling with the uncertainties of the coronavirus, and how to handle large gatherings of audiences in close quarters.

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