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In the 1970s, there were few singer-songwriters more beloved than Cat Stevens. A lot has changed since his landmark album Tea for the Tillerman. For one, he's a grandfather. For two, he's not even Cat Stevens anymore: He's gone by Yusuf Islam, or simply Yusuf, since his conversion to the Muslim faith later that decade.

Morning Edition has been reaching out to musicians in recent months to get their take on the COVID-19 era, and asking them to write an original song inspired by this tumultuous time. This week's contributors, veteran folk-rock duo Indigo Girls, have lots of experience writing about social issues in their music. But according to member Amy Ray, they had some serious misgivings at first.

Stanley Crouch, Towering Jazz Critic, Dead At 74

Sep 16, 2020

Stanley Crouch, the lauded and fiery jazz critic, has died. According to an announcement by his wife, Gloria Nixon-Crouch, Stanley Crouch died at the Calvary Hospital in New York on Wednesday, following nearly a decade of serious health issues.

Updated at 11:49 a.m. ET

Frederick "Toots" Hibbert, the lead singer and songwriter of Toots and the Maytals and one of reggae's foundational figures, died Friday in Kingston, Jamaica. He was 77.

His death was announced on the band's Facebook and Twitter accounts. "It is with the heaviest of hearts to announce that Frederick Nathaniel 'Toots' Hibbert passed away peacefully tonight, surrounded by his family at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica," read the statement.

Ronald "Khalis" Bell, a co-founder, songwriter, saxophonist, vocalist and producer of the chart-topping group Kool & The Gang, died Wednesday morning at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He was 68.

Bell's death was confirmed by a Universal Music publicist, though no cause was provided.

Gary Peacock, a versatile bassist who collaborated with some of the 20th century's most notable jazz musicians, has died. He was 85.

His family confirmed in a statement to NPR that Peacock died peacefully Friday, Sept. 4, at his home in upstate New York. No cause of death was provided.

Over a career that spanned seven decades, he played on recordings alongside Albert Ayler, Paul Bley, Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, among many others.

For the Morning Edition Song Project, we've asked musicians to capture life in the era of COVID-19 by writing an original song that describes this turbulent moment. When we contacted Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, he had an idea ready to go. He says "Slint, Spiderland" was something he had been jotting down as a sort of musical journal entry.

When your breakthrough record is a post-sobriety look back, where do you go next? There's certainly no shortage of recorded music that covers the "before." Sometimes there's a clear line-in-the-sand in an artist's catalog; other times, there's no obvious intervention, no discernible divide. Nashville singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly's answer, Shape & Destroy, is more refinement than reinvention; a statement of purpose, it offers a path forward in which the process of recovery continues with resolve.

Six months ago, Scott Hammontree's job consisted of long nights spent at his music venue, The Intersection, where, as operating partner, he's been helping to break artists like Eric Church for nearly two decades. But, almost every day since Apr. 24, Hammontree has woken up, picked up the phone or logged on to a video conference app and started calling Washington, advocating for federal relief that could save homegrown businesses like his.

In Germany, several thousand volunteers attended a pop-up concert as part of an experiment to understand how COVID-19 spreads in large-scale stadium events — and how to prevent it.

These days The Mavericks are known as a hot, swinging nine-piece outfit. Before that, there were country record deals, and even further back, a stint in the South Florida alternative scene. The one thing the group hadn't done in its 30-year existence was record an album entirely in Spanish, until now; its new full-length is called En Español.

Long before Raul Malo became The Mavericks' famously expressive lead singer, he learned how to communicate growing up in a bilingual Miami household.

This year's Tiny Desk Contest wrapped up at the beginning of August with the announcement of our winner, Linda Diaz, and her song "Green Tea Ice Cream." But NPR Music's panel of judges saw over 6000 entries from around the country, and there was more than one incredible submission.

Justin Townes Earle, the award-winning singer-songwriter and son of Steve Earle, has died. He was 38.

Earle's death was announced in a post on his Facebook page that reads:

It is with tremendous sadness that we inform you of the passing of our son, husband, father and friend Justin. So many of you have relied on his music and lyrics over the years and we hope that his music will continue to guide you on your journeys.

No cause of death was given.

"I feel like we kind of manifested this."

That's Becca Mancari's playful, pop-psychology-informed proclamation to her music-making peer and fellow interviewee S.G. Goodman, near the end of our three-way Zoom session. Mancari is referring to the sense of kinship the two singer-songwriters have shared ever since a six-month period several years back, when they were both based in Nashville. Of course, we at World Cafe were unaware that they had a track record of comparing outlooks, talking shop and even, on one occasion, sharing the use of a tour van.

UPDATE: The listening party has ended.

This Friday at 4 p.m. ET, join us for an online listening party for Bright Eyes' new album, Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, hosted by All Songs Considered's Bob Boilen and featuring a live conversation with Bright Eyes members Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis and Nathaniel Walcott.

Steve Grossman, a saxophonist whose lunging projection, sure rhythmic footing and clarity of attack helped propel him into the spotlight in the 1970s, notably in bands led by Miles Davis and Elvin Jones, died on Aug. 13 at Glen Cove Hospital in Glen Cove, N.Y. He was 69. The cause was cardiac arrest after a long illness, his brother Myles Grossman confirmed to NPR.

A lot of summer camps had to close this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Camp Aranu'tiq in New Hampshire, a camp for transgender and nonbinary children. Julie Be is a music therapist who has helped run the camp since it was founded in 2009 and also one half of the children's musical duo Ants on a Log, alongside Anya Rose. So the stuck-at-home campers would feel connected, Be and Rose put out an open call for songs that reflect the trans and nonbinary experience, use gender neutral pronouns or use humor to talk about gender.

We're back with season two of Play It Forward, where we talk with artists about their music and the artists they're thankful for. The band Indigo Girls has shaped a generation of singer-songwriters.

Colin Pate was toiling away at his North Philadelphia recording studio in late June when he received an unbelievable text message: "Secret show at Johnny Brenda's tonight, 6:30."

"What you n***** know about the Dirty South?" When Cool Breeze and Goodie Mob posed that question in 1995, they weren't really looking for an answer from anybody in particular because obviously, they already knew it — not a gotdamn thing. The question came up just three months after André 3000 declared "the South's got something to say" as audience members booed after OutKast won the Best New Group trophy at the Source Awards.

How The Go-Go's Perfected Pop-Punk

Aug 5, 2020

The Go-Go's debut album, Beauty and the Beat, is universally regarded as an '80s pop and new wave classic. It's rightfully celebrated as the first album by an all-woman band who played its own instruments and wrote its own songs to top the Billboard 200 albums chart. But it was revolutionary in more than one way: It's also a harbinger of what rock would become, and a bridge between punk, the movement whose rebelliousness had quashed the excesses of classic rock, and the genre-fusing music of the 1980s.

We have a winner! For the 2020 Tiny Desk Contest from NPR Music, our all-star team of judges reviewed more than 6,000 entries from across the U.S. and chose Linda Diaz, who submitted the song "Green Tea Ice Cream."

After 25 years of hosting shows from the Grand Ole Opry, Eddie Stubbs is retiring.

Eddie Stubbs came to Nashville in 1995 to play fiddle for Kitty Wells. But within a week, that voice got him a job at radio station WSM and just a few days after that, he was auditioning to host the Grand Ole Opry.

From that perch, he's seen one amazing performance after another and quite a bit of history — from the Opry debut of Carrie Underwood to witnessing the last performance of an icon like Grandpa Jones.

Updated on Aug. 6 at 8:06 a.m. ET

In April 1945, Madame Roos wrote a letter to French authorities describing her piano she was hoping to get back. Roos, who was 72, was Jewish and her piano had been stolen when Nazis emptied her apartment in Paris.

A similar fate befell many of the 75,000 French Jews deported to concentration camps during World War II.

A charity concert, headlined by The Chainsmokers, is prompting New York authorities to investigate after video showed an audience crowding closely in spite of the state's coronavirus rules.

Taylor Swift was supposed to spend this summer touring songs from Lover, the album she put out last August. Instead, like many of us, she wound up cooped up at home. The isolation seems to have sparked her creativity, leading her to write and record an entirely new record in collaboration with producers Jack Antonoff and The National's Aaron Dessner.

New Orleans trumpeter Shamarr Allen wanted to find a way to get guns out of kids' hands, so he turned to what he knows best: music. He recently created a gun-for-trumpet exchange program — called Trumpet Is My Weapon — and has so far collected four guns that he turned over to police.

"I had some trumpets lying around, and I know for me, the trumpet saved me," he says.

Allen, who's from the city's Lower Ninth Ward, started the program after learning about Devante Bryant, 9, was fatally shot in front of his 7th Ward home earlier this month.

Blues guitarist Peter Green, a co-founder of the band Fleetwood Mac, has died at the age of 73.

Representatives from the firm Swan Turton released a statement from Green's family on Saturday saying, "It is with great sadness that the family of Peter Green announce his death this weekend, peacefully in his sleep. A further statement will be provided in the coming days."

The Newport Jazz Festival was just one year old when the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet blazed onto its stage in 1955. By 1960, when pianists Dave Brubeck and Horace Silver each played a rollicking set, the event was an institution, known all over the world. And so it remains today — though there's something to be said about the fest in that formative era, when every step forward was historic.

The first time around was special, and everyone knew it. But ask any member of the former Joshua Redman Quartet — Redman on saxophones, Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride on bass, Brian Blade on drums — and he'll confirm there was some magic in the air when they reconvened last fall at The Falcon in New York's Hudson Valley, breaking a 25-year hiatus.

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