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Chris Butler founded The Waitresses, a smart-aleck New Wave band, in late-'70s Akron, Ohio. He recalls a long-ago summer when the owner of ZE Records asked him and his collaborators to come up with a Christmas song.

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Joe Cocker died Monday at his home in Crawford, Colo., after what his publicist described as a hard-fought battle with small-cell lung cancer. He was 70.

Top 10 Top 40 For 2014

Dec 22, 2014

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Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Christmas is the time of year for carols, presents, festive cheer, and if you were a member of The Beatles Fan Club back in the 1960s, it was the season for a special edition flexi-disc from John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Here is a holiday tradition that seems as old as Christmas trees and mistletoe.

(SOUNDBITE OF PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY SONG, "NUTCRACKER OVERTURE")

Quick survey: you're going to the Word Wide Rollers Tour, presented by a group of weed connoisseurs called the Smoker's Club. Among the featured performers is a rapper named Berner and a DJ named TreeJay. The tour poster shows a Smokey the Bear type blunting in the woods. What do you pack?

We woke up to a world with a new D'Angelo album, his first in almost 15 years. For lovers of R&B and soul — hell, for lovers of music that transcends — this is unreal.

Boston's Handel and Haydn Society is one of the oldest continuously running performing arts organizations in the country. To celebrate its bicentennial this season, the group made a new recording of a holiday perennial, Handel's Messiah, which also happens to be one of the first works it staged nearly 200 years ago. Still, the Handel and Haydn Society is very different from what it was when it started.

2014 was a divisive time in popular music, with no single album or song seeming to capture the year's mood and no trend pointing clearly toward the future. But most music lovers could agree on one thing: Beyoncé was flawless. The 33-year-old powerhouse set every standard by which pop music and celebrity are judged.

When Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff wrote the song "The Body Electric," she knew it would make its way into the world, and hoped its effects would be palpable. Horrified by the rapes that have made tragic news from India to America's college campuses, the singer-songwriter noticed that her own people — music makers and music lovers — would regularly sing along with choruses about killing women, comfortably accepting gender-based violence as part of the ballad tradition.

Cornell To Digitize A Rich Hip-Hop Archive

Dec 10, 2014

Aaliyah, Ace Hood, the Afros, Ali D, Arrested Development: In Bill Adler's extensive collection of hip-hop history, some of the genre's biggest names are arranged next to lesser mainstream artists.

The conflict over Russia's role in Ukraine is spilling over into many aspects of Russian life, including its music scene. Some of the country's most popular musicians have taken stands against the annexation of Crimea and Russia's support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

And those who oppose Russian involvement have been facing a backlash from the authorities.

The veteran band Televizor is a case in point.

He's doing it his way – even though "My Way" won't be on Bob Dylan's new album of Frank Sinatra covers.

Dylan's new album, Shadows in the Night, is being released in February. It's his 36th studio album, and will come three years after Tempest.

This song may take you back a ways — say, about 43 years.

That's Joni Mitchell, back when her voice was high and light. It's "a helium voice," as she describes it in an interview with NPR's Morning Edition.

WKRP In Perpetuity

Dec 6, 2014

DAY ONE

How much Bob Marley paraphernalia can you cram on a single boat?

That's no riddle. I'm sincerely pondering this as I stand in line at the Port of Miami, about to board the Norwegian Pearl. I am going on a cruise.

I am going on a cruise.

Ian McLagan, who played keyboard for the English rock bands Small Faces and Faces and was a sideman for the Rolling Stones, died Wednesday in Austin, Texas. He was 69.

His official website listed the cause as "complications from a stroke suffered the previous day."

"I am completely devastated by this shocking news, said Kenny Jones, McLagan's bandmate in Small Faces and Faces.

In separate recording studios and separate songs, two groups of international stars have harnessed the power of their voices to help raise awareness of Ebola.

What makes one song sound like another? Sometimes it's coincidence; sometimes it's plagiarism. And sometimes, it's the byproduct of deliberate craftsmanship: building a song piece by piece from distinct styles of music. All of that can make it hard to give a tune a genre.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Saxophonist Bobby Keys was still a teenager when he started playing with his fellow Texan Buddy Holly and pop star Bobby Vee. Later, he joined up with the Rolling Stones. And for more than 40 years, Bobby Keys' powerful sax was a key part of their sound.

Updated at 3:44 p.m.

Bobby Keys, the legendary saxophonist most associated with The Rolling Stones, has died. He was 70 years old.

Want to play a Tiny Desk Concert? Now's your chance: NPR Music and Lagunitas are holding a contest, and the winner gets to perform at my desk here at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.

For the past few years, member station Q2 in New York City has been enlisting listeners in a thought-provoking year-end poll. Forget the best music of the last year — what are the very best compositions of the last century?

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