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In the hippest building on what has been called the coolest block in America, Venice Beach's Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Jeff Bhasker is wearing white jeans and a T-shirt, smoking an American Spirit cigarette. He's seated at his brand new piano in his brand new apartment.

The No. 1 song in the country right now is "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, a rap group out of Seattle. Their claim to fame: They got the song to the top of the chart by themselves, without being signed by a major label.

Pioneering American conductor, National Medal of Arts winner and poet James DePreist died early this morning in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 76 years old. His death, his manager told Deceptive Cadence, stemmed from complications following a heart attack he suffered nearly a year ago.

If you took one song each from the artists likely to walk away with Grammy awards on Sunday night, you'd have a pretty decent playlist.

Among the hundreds of musicians vying for Grammy Awards this year is Al Walser, a Los Angeles-based disc jockey and singer whose song "I Can't Live Without You" is nominated in the best dance single category. Walser is not a widely known name — many Grammy nominees aren't — but he's competing in a category against some of pop music's heaviest hitters.

Sometime in the mid-1960s — no one's really sure when — Lena Hughes walked into a recording studio, probably in Arkansas. What we do know is that she recorded 11 tunes on the guitar.

"It's kind of like listening to 1880," folklorist Howard Marshall says. "You kind of get a wonderful, ancient vibration."

Marshall wrote a book about traditional music in Missouri, called Play Me Something Quick and Devilish.

Reg Presley, the founder and lead singer of The Troggs, the rock group best known for the performing the original version of the song "Wild Thing," has died. Presley was 71. He died of lung cancer yesterday at his home in England.

Grab a guitar, hit those three chords (A, D, E) and take three minutes to pay your respects:

Reg Presley, who sang Wild Thing with The Troggs in 1966, is dead. He was 71 and had suffered a series of strokes recently.

The band's website says Presley "died peacefully" on Monday, "surrounded by all of his family."

NPR's Neda Ulaby tells our Newscast Desk that:

One of the Twitter hashtags devised by rabid Beyonce fans before last night's Super Bowl halftime show was religious in nature: #praisebeysus. Praise Beysus! This bit of hyperventilating resonated in interesting ways. Strutting into the very center of America's biggest television spectacle, the 31-year-old superstar intended to secure her place in the musical pantheon next to recent Super Bowl-approved legends Madonna, The Who, Bruce Springsteen and Prince.

In March, country music star Jason Aldean is playing Madison Square Garden. Tickets sold out in 10 minutes. Fans want to hear his latest No. 1 song, "Take a Little Ride."

In Afghanistan, there was no sound of music when the Taliban ruled from 1996 to 2001. The Islamist militants destroyed music CDs and instruments and even jailed musicians.

Today, there are music schools and young Afghans playing in public. And, this weekend, 48 Afghan boys and girls are traveling to the U.S. to perform at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.

Classical Crib Sheet: Top 5 Stories This Week

Feb 1, 2013

  • Hugely good news for all you wandering minstrels: After years of pressure from groups like the American Federation of Musicians, the FAA has just passed a bill that (finally!) allows musicians to carry their instruments as carry-on luggage or, for larger instruments, to buy an extra seat. However, the federal agency has a year to implement the new standards.

The Grammy-award winning singer Beyoncé has finally put an end to all the talk surrounding her performance during President Obama's second inauguration.

And she did it in diva fashion, during a press conference to preview her Super Bowl performance.

The jazz musician Butch Morris was beloved by his fellow musicians and acclaimed by critics and fans for his ability to conduct improvisation. While that may sound like a contradiction, Morris pulled it off — with jazz musicians and symphony orchestras around the world.

A resident of New York City, he died yesterday in a Brooklyn hospital of cancer. He was 65 years old.

Butch Morris, Jazz Bandleader And Conductor, Dies

Jan 29, 2013

Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris, an improvising musician who pioneered a system of ensemble interaction he called Conduction, has died at a hospital in New York City, his publicist confirmed. He had lung cancer, which was diagnosed last August. He was 65.

Prices on mail sent through the U.S. Postal Service increased this week — the price of a first-class stamp now costs 46 cents, up a penny. But for small businesses that ship products overseas, like many independent record labels, the costs could be much larger.

Brian Lowit, who has worked at Washington, D.C.'s Dischord Records for 10 years, says that while a postage rate hike is a familiar bump in the road, "I've never seen one this drastic."

The longest-running Broadway musical ever, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, celebrated Saturday another milestone: its 25th anniversary.

When it all started Jan. 26, 1988, Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, a gallon of gas cost about 90 cents and a ticket to The Phantom of the Opera was a whopping $50. It was the hottest ticket in town.

Times have changed, prices have changed, but that disfigured, tortured genius who haunts the Paris Opera House, creating havoc and causing the chandelier to fall, has endured.

You've never heard of Jimmy Van Heusen? Well, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers has. You certainly know many of his songs, says Brook Babcock, Van Heusen's grandnephew and president of his publishing company.

New Opera Gets Benefit Of The 'Doubt'

Jan 25, 2013

As a play, Doubt won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award. As a movie, it secured Oscar nominations for Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. This weekend, Doubt gets its world premiere as an opera — which, according to the work's original playwright, provides the story's fullest telling.

For the past two decades, in a small town in southern Italy, a pianist and music teacher has been hunting for and resurrecting the music of the dead.

Francesco Lotoro has found thousands of songs, symphonies and operas written in concentration, labor and POW camps in Germany and elsewhere before and during World War II.

By rescuing compositions written in imprisonment, Lotoro wants to fill the hole left in Europe's musical history and show how even the horrors of the Holocaust could not suppress artistic inspiration.

Classical Crib Sheet: Top 5 Stories This Week

Jan 25, 2013

  • Anne Akiko Meyers — the violinist who made news a year ago for an album recorded on her two Stradivarius instruments, including the then record price-breaking "Molitor" Strad, which she purchased for $3.6 million — announced yesterday that she's been given lifetime use of the 1741 "Vieuxtemps" Guarne

How Music Transforms The Silver Screen

Jan 24, 2013

Back Off The Bach To Drive Safely

Jan 23, 2013

Researchers in London claim that listening to classical music makes for unsafe driving — in fact, that it caused more erratic driving than hip-hop, heavy metal or not listening to music at all.

Update at 6:14 p.m. ET. Backing Off?

Capt. Eric Flanagan, a spokesman for the United States Marine Corps, sent us a statement that seems to back off a bit from their earlier statements saying Beyoncé lip-synced her way through the National Anthem during President Obama's inauguration, yesterday.

Advisory: The videos on this page contain profanity.

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