Music News

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



#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



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


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

For 20 years, the New Orleans band Galactic has made people dance at clubs, festivals, house parties — you name it. "A first-rate funk band" is how The New York Times describes it.

Amateur Musicians Go Pro With The Baltimore Symphony

Jul 18, 2015

What would it sound like if you put a bunch of amateur musicians onstage with a professional orchestra and told them to play? Probably a bit like a rehearsal at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore last month.

The Internet is a strange and wonderful place.

Say you're an up-and-coming singer-songwriter and you're looking for an audience. You've got an active presence on social media, a deal with a major label and a proven sound that, while a little dated, probably would have sold reasonably well if it had come out around the peak of the late-'90s/early-'00s bubblegum pop era.

Eagles drummer, singer-songwriter and producer Don Henley is back with his first solo album in 15 years.

Last week, a story about The Runaways' Jackie Fuchs, centered around her account of being raped by the late music entrepreneur Kim Fowley in a motel room full of people on New Year's Eve in 1975, challenged the very idea that rock and roll is something worth loving.

Is Transparency The Music Industry's Next Battle?

Jul 14, 2015

The issue of how much musicians theoretically earn from their work has moved out of the trade press and into social media's trending topics recently, whether that's Taylor Swift demonstrating her clout via a successful protest of Apple Music or Jay Z's Tidal promising artists higher royalty rates than other streaming services. In the background of these debates is the question of whether songwriters and performers are actually getting all the money they're owed.

You wouldn't expect to pay a local tax when you stream a movie on Netflix, but Chicago has decided that such cloud-based services should be taxed just like tickets for live entertainment.

There was no debate or public hearing over the city's "cloud tax" — a 9 percent tax on streaming entertainment like Netflix and Spotify.

If you didn't find any new albums on iTunes or in your local music store earlier this week, it's because beginning July 10, new music around the world is being released on Fridays.

For more than 25 years, Tuesday has been the standard release day for new albums in America — a tradition Keith Caulfield, co-director of charts at Billboard, says had a lot to do with shipping in the pre-digital era.

One of the most outstanding and challenging new bits of music I've heard this year comes from Makeunder, the project of Hamilton Ulmer, an Oakland-based musician with a penchant for exploration. "Great Headless Blank" was the inspired track we played on All Songs Considered back in April, now it's the title track to Makeunder's latest EP, which we are proudly premiering here, along with track-by-track thoughts from Hamilton Ulmer.

Under the headline "Signs of Summer" in 1916, the New Castle, Del., Herald listed: lollipops, robins, bare feet and street pianos.

Yes, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, street pianos were everywhere. Their perky, plinky, preset music — playing the same songs over and over — filled the air in towns across America.

For anyone more interested in Amy Winehouse's music than in her martyrdom, the most shocking images in Asif Kapadia's new documentary Amy may not be the ones showing her strung out and terrifyingly thin at the end of her short life, nor those capturing her turn into serious addiction in filthy, paraphernalia-strewn rooms she shared with her enabler and eventual husband, Blake Fielder-Civil.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



For the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead's founding, the band will perform three shows — their last — in Chicago this weekend. According to Billboard magazine, the "Fare Thee Well" concerts will bring in an estimated $50 million. That's pretty impressive, considering that band's lead guitarist died two decades ago.

Understanding the recorded work of most popular musicians — from rock to hip-hop, jazz to country — typically means perusing their albums and singles. There are exceptions, such as rappers' guest appearances: You don't really understand Busta Rhymes' importance if you don't take into account his verse on A Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario," for example.

Spotify, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Rdio, Rhapsody, Pandora — the list of streaming music service goes on and on. On Tuesday, Apple joins that lineup with the launch of its streaming service, Apple Music. Apple will give consumers a three-month trial, and then it will charge $9.99 a month.

But most music lovers still aren't sure why they should pay. Colin Barrett, 31, has tried a few of the streaming services, but he doesn't use them anymore.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

From Robert Johnson selling his soul at the crossroads to Odysseus outwitting the sirens, the history of music is filled with myth and legend. Music loves a good story, and a certain recording from a Kenyan village definitely has one — one that's 65 years old.

In the past, if Sara Solovitch tripped up while playing the piano she would get flustered and stop. Especially in front of an audience.

"I felt like I had to correct everything and each note had to be perfect," the Santa Cruz, Calif.-based author and pianist. But now, she can breeze through a few bum notes while playing Claude Debussy's lyrical piano piece Reflections on the Water as if no one were listening.

"One of the things I've really worked on has been continuing to play," Solovitch says.

Update: 11:30 p.m. ET

In a statement Tuesday night, the talent agency that represented Horner mourned "the tragic passing of our dear colleague."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Taylor Swift is no stranger to positive, even fawning, press coverage. Just this month, there was the story about teenagers using light-up bracelets from a Swift concert to flag down help when they were trapped inside their car after a crash. The headline from MTV read "Taylor Swift Saved Three Teens' Lives — Literally."