Rickie Lee Jones needs no introduction. Seriously. The singer-songwriter is so elementally articulate, so gifted at grasping both the rawest and the most complicatedly cooked emotions in her compositions, that critical framing best comes after the experience of listening to her.
Bruce Lundvall, the longtime President of Blue Note Records who supported many top jazz artists over the last four decades, died yesterday, May 19. The cause was complications of Parkinson's Disease, according to a Blue Note statement. He was 79.
The Minnesota Orchestra plays Havana this weekend. It's the first professional U.S. orchestra to perform in Cuba since the United States and the island nation began the process of normalization last December. For the musicians, this trip is about healing β both diplomatically and for themselves.
It seemed as if he'd go on forever β and B.B. King was working right up until the end. It's what he loved to do: playing music, and fishing. Even late in life, living with diabetes, he spent about half the year on the road. King died Thursday night at home in Las Vegas. He was 89 years old.
The nominees for the 2015 Americana Honors and Awards were announced today at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. This year's slate shows how the definition of Americana is gently expanding to include more generationally, racially and stylistically diverse stars, while remaining grounded in its country-leaning, singer-songwriter-dominated definition of roots music.
Right before the 2014 release of the James Brown biopic Get On Up, producer J. Period and The Roots rapper Black Thought recorded an entire mixtape in one take. It functions like a documentary about the Godfather of Soul.
Editor's note: In 2013, we wrote about a band named The Slants and the legal battle over its name. As the saga continues, we check back in on what it means to the band's members β and what it could mean for trademark law.
Music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora continue to grow more popular with music fans β but not with musicians, who complain they used to earn more in royalties from CD sales and music downloads. Songwriters say they've been hit even harder, and the Department of Justice appears to be taking their complaints seriously: It's exploring big changes to the music publishing business for the first time since World War II.
If you look at the top songs on the Billboard charts, most of them were written by at least one professional songwriter. It's a real job.
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One of the most distinctive voices of 1950s and '60s R&B has died. Ben E. King, best known for the song "Stand By Me," died yesterday in New Jersey of natural causes. He was 76. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has more.
Originally published on Wed April 29, 2015 2:39 pm
Trumpeter Rolf Smedvig, praised for his beautiful tone and virtuosic style, died Monday afternoon at his home in West Stockbridge, Mass. The cause of death, according to his long-time manager Mark Z. Alpert, was a heart attack. Smedvig was 62.
Originally published on Fri April 24, 2015 10:27 pm
They say you can't overestimate the power of a good handshake. If that's the case, my job interview with Waka Flocka Flame was doomed from the start.
I went in for the sort of greeting I'm familiar with -β a clasp that pivots up into a grip and pulls in for a hug β but it unexpectedly continued. He raised our wrists to shoulder level, pointed his fingers out, locked them with mine ... but by that point I was long since lost. He looked at me and smiled sympathetically. First impressions, I thought, resigned, are everything.
In the music world, today is all about bricks and mortar. It's the annual Record Store Day, when music fans are urged to get out to support their local shop.
From new releases to vintage finds, people have been posting photos of beloved albums and record stores Saturday.
Music companies are putting out dozens of limited-edition releases for the occasion. One example: Johnny Marr doing a live version of his old band The Smiths' song "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want."
Originally published on Mon April 20, 2015 8:23 am
In his home in Lahore, Pakistan, Saleem Khan holds up his late father's violin. There are no strings, the wood is scratched and the bridge is missing.
"There was a time when people used to come to Lahore from all over the world to hear its musicians," the 65-year-old violinist says in the new documentary, Song of Lahore. "Now we can't even find someone to repair our violins."
Saturday is Record Store Day, when independent music retailers around the country host parking-lot concerts and sell limited-edition pressings of vinyl records, which have made a small but forceful comeback in an age dominated by digital listening habits. But if there's one problem with the vinyl resurgence, it might be this: The machines that press vinyl records are decades old, and no one's building new ones, so keeping up with increased demand is hard.