Music News

Death And The Iron Maiden

Oct 5, 2015

Bruce Dickinson isn't through just yet. It is the end of a 12-hour press day where the Iron Maiden vocalist has been answering a multitude of questions, most concerning the iconic heavy metal band's 16th full-length album, The Book of Souls. It is a task that requires a kind of Zen-like patience, yet the 57-year-old is noticeably unfazed, excited to spend the better part of an hour talking about his passion for music — and for life.

Pioneering sound artist Henry Jacobs has died. Jacobs was a humorist, record producer, sound designer and more. None of these pursuits made him wealthy or famous, but his audio experiments influenced far better-known comedians and filmmakers. He died last Friday of a heart attack at the age of 90.

In the late 1960s, Jacobs worked on an animated TV series called The Fine Art of Goofing Off," which he described as Sesame Street for grown-ups.

Alto saxophonist Phil Woods, a leading jazz performer since the 1950s, died Tuesday afternoon. The cause was related to emphysema, his longtime agent, Joel Chriss, confirmed. Woods was 83.

I first became enchanted with Marian McLaughlin's music when she was searching for ways to mix her quirky classical guitar picking with her equally unusual voice. McLaughlin follows her muse for a sound that occasionally recalls Joanna Newsom or the psychedelic folk music of The Incredible String Band.

In a town known for "keeping it weird," the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Ore., doesn't immediately stand out. But it's got plenty of character below the surface.

The interior of this 100-year-old brick building is striking — high ceilings are accented by two gorgeous antique chandeliers, and massive arched windows line the walls. But ask concertgoers what they think the most interesting feature is and one always stands out: "I hate to say it, but the flooring," Katy Stellern says, laughing.

Here's a phrase you don't hear a lot in the US: "Pakistani pop music." In fact, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has a thriving music industry — and singer Zebunissa Bangash, or Zeb for short, is one of its stars.

There has been violence and threat to Pakistani culture since the country was founded 68 years ago, both for political and religious reasons. Zeb was never subjected to that scrutiny: She studied art history at college in the US before returning home to form a band with her cousin, Haniya. Their accessible pop songs found a devoted following.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



When the curtain rises on the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Verdi's Otello tonight, opera fans will quickly notice what's not there. For the first time since the opera was first staged at the Met in 1891, a white singer performing the title role will not be wearing makeup to darken his complexion to play the Moor at the center of the tragedy.

The Blues Finds A Home In A South Central Garage

Sep 19, 2015

One sun-baked residential street in South Central Los Angeles is regularly bombarded by the chorus of jets cruising toward Los Angeles International Airport. Unless you're in Franklin Bell's garage, where the walls soak up the raw, earthy chords of L.A. blues.

Gala event tribute speeches are often so much fluff—in the right hands, however, they ascend to the level of the poetic. On Wednesday night in Nashville, Robyn Hitchcock's paean to his longtime friends and collaborators Gillian Welch and David Rawlings hit that high mark. Handing them a Lifetime Achievement prize at the Americana Honors and Awards, Hitchcock wove a tale that was also a dream history of American roots music itself. It was so good we decided to publish it. Do they give awards for awards show speeches? The man in the polka-dot shirt deserves one.

Kevin Sylvester says that when most people see a 6-foot-2-inch, 260-pound black man, they don't expect him to also be a classically trained violinist. A recent exchange with a woman in an elevator, when he happened to have his instrument with him in its case, drove that point home.

Rock fans who are going to Metallica's concert in Quebec City Wednesday will see an unusual sight: a 48-foot tanker truck filled with Metallica-branded beer. Made at the Labatt facility, the beer is to commemorate the band as it opens a large new venue, the Centre Vidéotron.

The Centre Vidéotron says:

"Budweiser has partnered with legendary rock band Metallica to channel the brute force of this historic show and be inspired by its vibrations, its energy and its decibels to create a beer in the image of the power of rock."

NPR Music is in Nashville all this week for the 16th annual AmericanaFest. So the newest episode of All Songs Considered offers a big bundle of music from some of the acts who are playing the festival that the team is most excited to see. Before leaving D.C., Bob called up NPR Music's Ann Powers and NPR Music contributor Jewly Hight in Music City to talk about what Americana means, and who its newest and most promising voices are.

Mystical, monk-like, reclusive — those are a few words often used to describe Arvo Pärt. His music gets labeled as timeless, spiritual and meditative. The Estonian composer, born 80 years ago today, is perhaps all of these things ... and maybe none of them.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Sam Smith first melted hearts with his song "Stay With Me."


SAM SMITH: (Singing) Oh, won't you stay with me 'cause you're all I need.


Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



It may be the most famous song in the world — but you probably don't know it by the name it was originally called. "Happy Birthday to You," that little ditty that floats above cakes and candles the world over, was written by Mildred and Patty Hill, two sisters from Louisville, Ky.

The sisters wrote the song in the 1890s for Patty's kindergarten students — and they'd intended it to be sung in classrooms, as "Good Morning To All."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



If you're in the middle of a road trip this Labor Day weekend, turn up your radio.


Hours before it was scheduled to screen at the Telluride Film Festival, the Aretha Franklin documentary Amazing Grace has been pulled, after a federal court granted the singer an injunction. The film centers on footage shot by late director Sydney Pollack at a 1972 Franklin concert.

More than 20 years into Lil Wayne's career, the froggy-voiced, diminutive rapper is hardly ever described as an elder statesman.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

In case you didn't stay up late to watch the MTV Video Music Awards, there are really only two moments that matter.

They'll be the talk of the water cooler today, so you might as well take a look. Here are the two moments that matter:

1. After receiving the Video Vanguard award, the rapper Kanye West delivered a 13-minute soliloquy in which he sorta, kinda apologized for his past behavior and then he got ahead of the news cycle by announcing he's running for president in 2020.

The well-established soundscape at Burning Man is an audio layer cake of dubstep and techno. More than 60,000 people will gather in the Nevada desert next week for the annual arts festival — and many of them will spend their nights at post-apocalyptic raves, spinning fiery hula hoops and passing ChapStick around the dance floor.

"Eat, sleep, rave, repeat. Eat, sleep, rave, repeat," was the refrain of one song played all over the playa last year.

Both the song and its video fit many people's idea of Canada: clever and smiling. But the man who wrote lyrics telling Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, "It's time for you to go," has been put on leave from his job as a federal scientist at Canada's environmental agency.