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As a gay, left-wing woman living in the South, Indigo Girls' Amy Ray says she's in love with a place that doesn't always love her back. But she draws creative fuel from the differences of opinion and expresses gratitude for the village that's helped Ray and her partner raise their child in rural Georgia. On her latest solo album, Holler, Ray calls out the difference between Southern pride and Southern hate and imagines what Jesus might have thought of a border wall.

There are songwriters and then there are storytellers, and Steve Earle is very much the latter. His songs, such as "The Devil's Right Hand," "Copperhead Road" and "Guitar Town," have been sung by Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless and many, many more.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.


By the early 1960s, Nina Simone was well-known to the world as a singer, songwriter and classically trained pianist. But around 1963, as race relations in America hit a boiling point, she made a sharp turn in her music — toward activism.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of The Byrds' album "Sweetheart Of The Rodeo."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NOTHING WAS DELIVERED")

THE BYRDS: (Singing) Nothing was delivered. And I tell this truth to you.

Today, we're traveling back 50 years to 1968 Memphis, Tenn. to take a peek inside one of the most influential recording studios, Stax Records. Co-founded by brother and sister Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton, Stax was home to the likes of Otis Redding, the Staples Singers, Booker T.

In her Turning the Tables essay for NPR Music, singer-songwriter Kaia Kater extols Rhiannon Giddens' virtues as not only a singer, fiddler, banjoist and folklorist, but also as a reckoner of truth. "Throughout her career Giddens has been reaching towards something more imperative than the honors and praise she's received," Kater writes.

On Saturday night, Bruce Springsteen will perform, for the 236th and final night, Springsteen on Broadway, his intensely personal one-man show at the intimate, 975-seat Walter Kerr Theatre. Just a couple of hours after that, Netflix will make public a document of the show, filmed during a July performance.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced its newest class of inductees Thursday, one year to the day after the 2018 class was announced. From 15 nominees, seven remain. Here they are, in alphabetical order:

  • The Cure
  • Def Leppard
  • Janet Jackson
  • Stevie Nicks
  • Radiohead
  • Roxy Music
  • The Zombies

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Detroit. Feb. 13, 1973. A Tuesday night.

"I wouldn't have pursued music but for trouble," Joni Mitchell once said. Mitchell was referring to real problems — her childhood time spent bedridden with polio and the life-shaping loss she experienced after giving her daughter up for adoption in 1965. Those events solidified the drive that pushed Mitchell forward from small-potatoes rural Canada toward the American meccas where she would prove to be the magnet shifting the needle of pop. But trouble, in all its manifestations, is also Mitchell's muse.

Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 8, 2018. Joni Mitchell's age throughout has been updated to reflect her age as of Nov. 7, 2019.


"Good Friends," here's "The Arrangement."

Joni Mitchell, a "Woman of Heart and Mind," turns 76 today. She's "A Lucky Girl."

Roy Hargrove, an incisive trumpeter who embodied the brightest promise of his jazz generation, both as a young steward of the bebop tradition and a savvy bridge to hip-hop and R&B, died on Friday night in New York City. He was 49.

It's not enough to make list after list. The Turning the Tables project seeks to suggest alternatives to the traditional popular music canon, and to do more than that, too: to stimulate conversation about how hierarchies emerge and endure. This year, Turning the Tables considers how women and non-binary artists are shaping music in our moment, from the pop mainstream to the sinecures of jazz and contemporary classical music. Our list of the 200 Greatest Songs By Women+ offers a soundtrack to a new century. This series of essays takes on another task.

Here's a story for you about two teenage boys named Salvo and Diego. One is Mexican, one is Italian, and both are immigrants living in America. They're into punk rock like MC5 and The Stooges. And beat poetry — Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac — is their jam. The new album The Crossing tells their story of lives in America and all the thrills, adventures and realities that come with them.

Rosanne Cash is a highly distinguished singer and songwriter. Since she released her debut in 1978, she's built a fantastic body of work. She's released thirteen studio albums with highlights including Seven Year Ache (1981), The Wheel (1993), and 2009's The List, a collection of 12 essential country songs she recorded from a list of 100 country songs that her father, Johnny Cash, gave her.

AMERICANAFEST just ended and we're back from Nashville with 10 thrilling tunes for you. The artists are, for the most part, emerging musicians who tackle this diverse genre from all angles.

Defining Americana isn't easy. At the festival, there were musicians from all around the world. Some were rooted in blues, jazz, boogie rock, bluegrass, soul, gospel, comedy, country, Tejano and much more.

Prince is everything. Yes, I'm using a meme-ably meaningless phrase to describe the most fascinating artist to reign during my lifetime, but it's nearly factual for the Purple One: the intense reconsideration so many listeners have given his work since his death in April 2016 continues to reveal new facets of his genius and his work's cultural importance.

It's not enough to make list after list. The Turning the Tables project seeks to suggest alternatives to the traditional popular music canon, and to do more than that, too: to stimulate conversation about how hierarchies emerge and endure. This year, Turning the Tables considers how women and non-binary artists are shaping music in our moment, from the pop mainstream to the sinecures of jazz and contemporary classical music. Our list of the 200 Greatest Songs By Women+ offers a soundtrack to a new century. This series of essays takes on another task.

I'm sure you've had this experience at some point: You hear the voice of an artist who was important to you at a particular time and all of a sudden, the sound of it sends you tumbling back through your own memory right to where you were – that college dorm room, those bleachers on that football field, that cross country road trip with your first love — the first time you heard that voice.

Lennon-McCartney is likely one of the most famous songwriting credits in music. John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote lyrics and music for almost 200 songs and The Beatles have sold hundreds of millions of albums. The story goes that the two Beatles agreed as teenagers to the joint credit for all songs they wrote, no matter the divide in work.

Today, The Band's Robbie Robertson is going to take us back 50 years, to a basement just outside of Woodstock, New York and the formation of a sound and an album that all these years later still shapes the musical landscape.

This list is part of Turning the Tables, an ongoing project from NPR Music dedicated to recasting the popular music canon in more inclusive – and accurate – ways. This year, our list, selected by a panel of more than 70 women and non-binary writers, tackles history in the making, celebrating artists whose work is changing this century's sense of what popular music can be. The songs are by artists whose major musical contributions came on or after Jan. 1, 2000, and have shifted attitudes, defied categories and pushed sound in new directions since then.

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