Music News

Maria Yanez might be the present-day music industry's ideal customer. The 36-year-old from Long Beach, Calif., owns roughly 1,000 vinyl records. Though she has sold "a lot" of her CDs and stopped buying digital music about three years ago, she's mostly content with her paid Spotify subscription.

There was a moment in the mid-2000s when it seemed like we might be collecting songs, one-by-one, into eternity. Internet connections were getting faster, hard drives stored more data in tinier spaces, songs were easier than ever to find and available for little or no money. Every year, the new version of Apple's iPod, first introduced in 2001 with a now-adorable 5GB of storage space, held thousands upon thousands more songs.

A Band Of Their Own

May 30, 2015

Jeanette Baker got to know John Dolphin when she was an aspiring teenage singer in the 1950s.

"I can see him now walking around with that cigar," Baker says. "When he walked around, you knew he was somebody, OK, because he had that air ... which was kind of unusual in those days because being a black man with all that competence that he had, he was like a role model to us."

DJ Quik X Spoon, 'Inside Out' Remix

May 29, 2015
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's hear some new music now with our guides Stephen Thompson and Bob Boilen of NPR Music.

Updated below at 6:40 p.m. ET with defendants' response.

Was it a laudable snapshot of cross-generational jamming, or taking advantage of a jazz titan?

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

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

A decade ago, you could hardly turn on the radio without hearing this song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MR. BRIGHTSIDE")

ABBA's Essential, Influential Melancholy

May 23, 2015

Dressed in black and greeted by Barry and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, former ABBA members Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson took their 2010 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seriously and sincerely. While Lyngstad definitively dismissed reunion rumors, Andersson spoke of the quartet's musical roots and emotional core.

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.

After Thaw, Minnesota Orchestra Returns To Cuba

May 17, 2015

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 — both diplomatically and for themselves.

B.B. King And The Majesty Of The Blues

May 16, 2015

It seemed as if he'd go on forever — 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.

Vinyl's Comeback Keeps Record Pressers Busy

May 13, 2015
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(SOUNDBITE OF JACK WHITE SONG, "HIGH BALL STEPPER")

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FRIEND OF THE DEVIL")

GRATEFUL DEAD: (Singing) I set out running, but I'll take my time. A friend of the devil is a friend of mine.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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

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 — and what it could mean for trademark law.

Music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora continue to grow more popular with music fans — 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.

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

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now a pop lesson - the evolution of pop music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE TWIST")

CHUBBY CHECKER: (Singing) Come on, baby. Let's do the twist.

Everyone knows the song — or, well, parts of it.

"Louie, Louie." "Ohhhhhh, baby." "A fine little girl, she waits for me."

But the next line ... How's it go again?

The voice growling out those indecipherable lyrics belonged to Jack Ely, the lead singer of The Kingsmen, who died this week at the age of 71.

In a recital hall at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, a group of musicians got together to play Jean-Baptiste Singelée's 1857 quartet for saxophones on some very old, very special instruments.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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.

Soul Singer Ben E. King, best known for his hit "Stand By Me," has died, his publicist says. He was 76.

Phil Brown, the publicist, says King died Thursday of natural causes.

Born Sept. 28, 1938, in Henderson, N.C., King moved to Harlem, N.Y., at age 9, his biography says.

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.

Waka Flocka Flame Is Hiring

Apr 24, 2015

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 -– a clasp that pivots up into a grip and pulls in for a hug — 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.

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