Music News

At the launch party of his band's first album in a crowded Beirut café, singer Anas Maghrebi steps up to the microphone in front of a crowd of hip guys and women in vintage glasses, sipping icy drinks in the sultry evening.

The songs swell; the audience cheers and sings along. Maghrebi is 26 years old, tall and thin with a beard and cap, soaking up the adulation. He's not, perhaps, a typical Syrian refugee, but his journey to realize a dream of making a rock record has been fraught with hardship.

This past Friday, Aug. 14, the record producer Bob Johnston died in hospice care near his home in Nashville, Tenn. He was 83 years old.

Straight Outta Compton, the provocative biopic on the late-'80s hip-hop group N.W.A, reportedly brought in more than $60 million last weekend. Among other things, it pays homage to a cultural reference made famous by its member Ice Cube in the 1995 film Friday -- one that later became shorthand to dismiss trolls on Twitter with the hashtag #ByeFelicia.

But writer Allison Davis didn't find the joke in Straight Outta Compton funny.

The list of its faculty and students is a who's who of 20th-century music: Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, John Adams, Augusta Read Thomas.

In the late 1980s, Los Angeles hip-hop group N.W.A created a sensation and controversy with their music, which was labeled gangsta rap. Like the group's story, the making of their much-anticipated biopic, Straight Outta Compton, is filled with drama.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The party's over for Columbia House, the music and movie subscription company that has been called "the Spotify of the '80s."

Filmed Entertainment Inc., which owns Columbia House, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday in a Manhattan court after more than two decades of declining revenues, according to a company statement.

Charlie McCoy has been a fixture in the Nashville studio scene for nearly half a century. He's best known as a country virtuoso on harmonica, but he's also done a whole lot else: rock 'n' roll, R&B, pop, even Celtic music. And he was part of a pivotal moment in the city's history, when the counter-cultural folk-rock of the late 1960s came to town.

A machine with superhuman intelligence is a staple of science fiction. But what about a machine with just ordinary human intelligence? A machine that's so humanlike in its behavior that you can't tell if it's a computer acting like a human, or a real human?

In the isolated regions of Central Appalachia, music was once the only form of entertainment. It's still alive today thanks to The Crooked Road, a driving trail that connects music venues in Southwest Virginia. It stretches from the Blue Ridge to the Cumberland Mountains for 333 miles, crossing some of the poorest areas in the country.

Making a living in those areas has never been easy, as guitarist Greg Ward knows. He's a native of Floyd, Va. — population: 432.

"You know, it was a rough life," he says. "It was a hard life."

The first weekend of August saw the coronation of a new King of Hip-Hop. Like all transitions of power, it had been years in the making and orchestrated by powers both seen and unseen.

It's a story that could have been taken from a breaking news report: A soldier, gravely wounded in a brutal battle, flees the fighting to try and make his way home. Only this story is set during the Civil War.

The Metropolitan Opera is poised to make a big change.

When the fall production of Verdi's Otello opens next month, its lead character will not be wearing the traditional blackface-style makeup.

The Met tells NPR by email that its upcoming production of Otello will be the first without dark makeup since the company first produced the opera in 1891.

"They want to know if he's still got it..."

When the renowned radio personality and Grand Ole Opry fixture Bill Cody walked onto the stage at the Ryman Auditorioum to welcome Dolly Parton there for the first time in twelve years, he called her "the most beloved artist of all time." Then he quickly, almost imperceptibly, corrected himself, adding a qualifier: female artist." Who knows what flashed in Cody's mind in that moment — perhaps the face of Johnny Cash, the patron

The Newport Jazz Festival is under way this weekend in Newport, Rhode Island. Among the featured performers is a young pianist — a very young pianist — named Joey Alexander. He is 12 years old, completely self-taught and one of the youngest musicians ever to play the storied festival.

The Hollywood Bowl. Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Madison Square Garden. They're the iconic venues that round out top-10 lists of the country's best places to see live music. But this summer, Morning Edition is visiting America's side stages, places the locals know and where players love to play. We begin, appropriately, in Music City at 3rd and Lindsley, an intersection that's the home and namesake of an unassuming Nashville venue.

Ivan Moravec, a Czech pianist known for his lyrical and selfless approach to music, died Monday in a Prague hospital, according to a management representative, Linda Marder of CM Artists in New York. Moravec had been treated for pneumonia. He was 84.

Some musicians argue that instruments have souls. Guitarist Richard Bishop says he felt a relationship forming the moment he saw a mysterious acoustic guitar in a secondhand store in Switzerland. He's known for playing electric guitar in the improvisational rock trio Sun City Girls, but something told Bishop the acoustic had to be his.

The most puzzling musician on the lineup at the 2015 Newport Folk Festival was easily Pink Floyd's Roger Waters. For me, Pink Floyd represents the antithesis of folk music, with the band's psychedelic pulsating landscapes and big rock drums and guitars. Out there and psychedelic, yeah — down home and folky, nope.

Size Matters: The Vocabularies Of Pop Musicians

Jul 25, 2015
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers throughout our newsroom share pieces that have kept them reading. They share tidbits using the #NPRreads hashtag — and on Fridays, we highlight some of the best stories.

This week, we bring you four reads.

From NPR's Washington correspondent Don Gonyea:

It's only rock and roll.

Ethel Smyth was not your typical Victorian lady. She defied her father, a stern army general, to pursue a career in music. She loved women, played sports and played an important role in the women's suffrage movement in Britain in the early 20th century. Along the way she composed chamber and orchestral music, an acclaimed Mass and six operas.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's take a moment now to remember a Grammy-winning songwriter.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALWAYS ON MY MIND")

ELVIS PRESLEY: (Singing) Maybe I didn't love you.

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