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The Musical Universe

 

A new book and museum exhibition celebrate the work of North Carolina luthier Freeman Vines. His handmade guitars are crafted from found materials and hunks of old wood, including some from a tree once used for a lynching.

"There was something about that wood that was mental, spiritual," Vines says.

It made him uneasy working with the black walnut – acquired from an elderly white man, something that had likely been passed down as a memento.

"Working with that wood was a spiritual thing," he says. "Not good, not bad, and not ugly. But just strange."

Updated at 11:49 a.m. ET

Frederick "Toots" Hibbert, the lead singer and songwriter of Toots and the Maytals and one of reggae's foundational figures, died Friday in Kingston, Jamaica. He was 77.

His death was announced on the band's Facebook and Twitter accounts. "It is with the heaviest of hearts to announce that Frederick Nathaniel 'Toots' Hibbert passed away peacefully tonight, surrounded by his family at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica," read the statement.

In downtown Namie, a small coastal city in eastern Fukushima prefecture, there was a chorus of construction noise this spring. Truck after truck rolled through, bringing workers to string up power lines and rip down deserted houses, rebuild structures and repave roads.

But at night, all was quiet — except in one small corner of a tiny strip mall. The faint sounds of music, laughter and maybe a hit of tambourine floated on the wind, traveling down empty sidewalks and deserted streets, leading to a karaoke bar in full swing.

After breaking through in 2019 and collaborating with Beyonce in early 2020, Megan Thee Stallion has been riding an even bigger wave of popularity this summer due to the song she's featured in with superstar Cardi B. "WAP" shot to No. 1 on iTunes' songs chart, in spite of controversy over its sexually explicit lyrics. But the rapper is also involved in another recent controversy, which has raised important questions about Black women and violence.

Philadelphia's Best Of The Bass, Part 1 includes WRTI's 8 favorite bebop and hard bop players. Philadelphia's Best Of The Bass, Part 2 features some of the most impactful jazz, rock, funk, and fusion bassists to have come out of Philly. This final installment of the series showcases artists at the crossroads of jazz, pop, hip-hop, and R&B.


Two years ago, Amanda Jones was at a luncheon for the NAACP Image Awards. She was working for a television studio at the time, and wanted to change directions. When she spotted writer/producer Lena Waithe, she walked up to her and told her she wanted to be a full-time film and TV composer.

"I was like, 'Hey, I'm getting ready to take the leap,' " Jones says. "And she was like, 'Oh, cool. Here's my email — let's keep in touch.' "

Ronald "Khalis" Bell, a co-founder, songwriter, saxophonist, vocalist and producer of the chart-topping group Kool & The Gang, died Wednesday morning at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He was 68.

Bell's death was confirmed by a Universal Music publicist, though no cause was provided.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

We don't think of flowers and Black folks together enough. But it is the Black church, and Black art, that tell us about the sound of flowers.

Philadelphia's Best Of The Bass, Part 1 includes WRTI's 8 favorite bebop and hard bop players. The list of some of the most impactful bass players to have come out of Philadelphia continues with this group of jazz, rock, funk, and fusion bassists.


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Bruce Springsteen released a new song Thursday morning called "Letter to You," the title track to an upcoming, 12-s

For a lot of people, the light-as-air guitar riff and clear-blue horns that prologue the song "Superman," by Goldfinger, can surface memories of a simpler time, when ska was something you might have been expected to know about.

Today we've got a mini-concert with the up and coming duo, Carolina Story. Before we get to that, we introduce you to the newest member of the World Cafe team, Jessie Scott. Jessie's joining us from WMOT in Nashville, and you might have heard one of her interviews on the show before, but it was time for a proper introduction.

This is a glimpse, a cross-section of some of the most impactful bass players to have come out of Philadelphia. Sometimes their respective impacts were local, sometimes national, sometimes global. Collectively, they've excelled in several different eras and idioms, from bebop and hard bop, to free jazz and post-bop and fusion, all the way through Philly Soul and R&B to hip-hop.

Weather Report founder Joe Zawinul once famously declared that the city produced "the world's greatest bassists." This list will show you why.

Hal Willner was known as "the man with the golden Rolodex," a music producer who could call Lou Reed, Sting or Marianne Faithful and persuade them on a moment's notice to participate in any number of offbeat projects: tribute albums and concerts of Kurt Weill songs, Disney music and sea chanteys. Willner, who was also a music coordinator for Saturday Night Live, died from COVID-19 in April while working on his final project, a tribute to the songwriting of T. Rex frontman Marc Bolan.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

A priest, a newspaper editor and a mariachi musician — they've all had their work and lives upended in a corner of the country that has been devastated by the coronavirus.

More than 2,000 people in the Rio Grande Valley in the southern tip of Texas have perished in the pandemic.

While it's still unknown when musicians and touring artists will again be able to perform in venues, those based abroad and hoping to tour the U.S. will face increased costs to do so legally.

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

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The singer-songwriter George Harrison was known as the quiet member of The Beatles. It was an image that he sometimes promoted in interviews.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DICK CAVETT SHOW")

Protoje: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

Sep 8, 2020

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Gary Peacock, a versatile bassist who collaborated with some of the 20th century's most notable jazz musicians, has died. He was 85.

His family confirmed in a statement to NPR that Peacock died peacefully Friday, Sept. 4, at his home in upstate New York. No cause of death was provided.

Over a career that spanned seven decades, he played on recordings alongside Albert Ayler, Paul Bley, Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, among many others.

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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SO LONG")

MAYA HAWKE: (Singing) When I am with you...

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Singer Danielle Ponder knows that empathy is a powerful tool in songwriting. "I think in music, you're telling a story," she tells NPR's Weekend Edition, "and a good songwriter is telling a story in a way where the audience empathizes or can see themselves in that person's shoes."

It's really not that different, the Rochester, N.Y.-based musician says, from being a defense attorney. She should know; outside of her music career, Ponder also spent five years as a public defender.

In January 2019, NPR reported on a Mongolian heavy metal band whose epic music videos were racking up millions of views on YouTube. Eight months later The Hu released their first album, which blends the screaming guitars of heavy metal and traditional Mongolian guttural singing. We caught up with two band members on a video call to Mongolia, where they have been waiting out the pandemic.

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Bob James is one of those musicians you may not have heard of but who you've likely heard.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOB JAMES'S "NAUTILUS")

More than 60 plucked and stringed West African instruments were the predecessors of the modern banjo. Join Fiona Ritchie to follow the migration of the banjo from its African roots to the heart of American music and hear how it crosses over to sit within the Celtic sound. Bela Fleck, Rhiannon Giddens, Mick Moloney and Our Native Daughters all contribute to the telling of this unique musical story.

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Finding Another Way

Radio journalist Jad Abumrad spent years developing a formula for storytelling—then one contentious report upended it all. He shares his journey of finding resolution in stories where truths collide.

About Jad Abumrad

Jad Abumrad is a radio host, composer, and producer.

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