Featured as a favorite on VideoWest - check out this excerpt from the documentary Alive Inside (opening at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival). It features Henry, a 94-year-old man who lives in a nursing home in Brooklyn.
From their inception, synthesized drum machines have always had supporters and detractors on both sides of the fence; some claim the machines drain the soul from a song's percussion, while others posit that the technology allows for previously unheard-of developments in rhythmic arrangement.
Afro Blue is a nine-member a cappella troupe from Howard University in Washington, D.C. The students stopped by NPR's Tiny Desk for a powerful performance (set list: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot; Motherless Child; Ain-a That Good News!).
Despite his status as a veritable institution within American music, Bruce Springsteen's allure has often stemmed from an aura of relatability, the indescribable sensation of "I could have a beer with this guy". Springsteen is casual, smart and funny—when compared to Picasso, he's quick to refer instead to the likes of Abbot and Costello—and these qualities emerge in spades as part of a recent interview with NPR's Ann Powers.
Sharon Jones and her band, The Dap-Kings, are making a comeback after Jones was diagnosed with stage-two pancreatic cancer. Jones talks with NPR's Arun Rath about wrapping up chemotherapy (without headphones) and hitting the road for a demanding tour schedule.
Got some free time? ...A lot of free time? Good, because All Song's Considered's Bob Boilen has compiled a year-end list that is, frankly, kind of insane. Boilen has ranked his 116 favorite concerts of 2013—and no, that's not a typo; it really is one hundred and sixteen.
Lose weight, be more productive, smile more; new year's resolutions are a bit of a tired concept at this point, but what about applying that idea—a decision to change habits for the better with the coming of a new year—to your approach to music? Over at All Songs Considered, NPR's Robin Hilton examines the potential of the new years resolution to change a person's musical horizons.
The Afro-Peruvian collective Novalima recently visited KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic for a live session, during which its members paid tribute to South African icon Nelson Mandela with their song "Liberta."
Phil Everly's work as half of The Everly Brothers—often providing the high harmonies that lent an alluring depth to the vocals of his brother Don—helped forever change the landscape of popular music in America. Phil passed away at the age of 74 on Friday, as a result of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Sam H. Sanders offers remembrance of a legend lost for NPR's The Record.
Gregory Porter's 2010 album Water helped solidify his status as one of jazz's most interesting new voices; the singer recently spoke with NPR's Song Travels, describing the influence of gospel and Nat King Cole on his work, and performing a few songs from his most recent offering, Liquid Spirit.
Pharrell Williams is a man of many hats, from his massively successful production work with the Neptunes (responsible for writing mega-hits like Britney Spears' "Toxic") to his chart-topping vocals on Daft Punk's "Get Lucky". Williams recently spoke with NPR's Morning Edition, where he outlined the methodical processes—including a three-step writing method that he says anyone can use—that have helped him ascend to stardom.
When it comes to popular music, Chris Molanphy correctly points out that "past performance is definitely no guarantee of future success"—as part of NPR's Best Music of 2013 series, Molanphy examines the concept of career longevity as it relates to hit-makers in 2013, dissecting the likes of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' smash hit "Thrift Shop" and Robin Thicke's controversial—but undeniably ubiquitous—"Blurred Lines".
1993 was a landmark year for hip-hop, with seminal albums from Snoop Dogg, A Tribe Called Quest, The Wu Tang Clan and more helping to forever change the landscape of the burgeoning art form. Amongst these visionaries were De La Soul, a New York trio whose third LP, Buhloone Mindstate, flew directly in the face of expectation.
The Pleyel piano factory, based in Paris, has been manufacturing 88-key masterpieces—a personal favorite of the legendary Frédéric Chopin, as well as impressionist composers like Claude Debussy —for more than 200 years. 2013 is a sad year for ivory-ticklers, then, as Pleyel will shut its doors for good at the end of the year. But... why? Was it a case of sub-par marketing? Over-expensive merchandise? A waning demand for top-quality pianos?
It's the kind of story that highlights the collaborative, social nature of jazz; in 1985, Marcus Roberts was a gifted young pianist when he caught the attention of legendary trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, who brought Roberts into his own band. Roberts went on to compose, record, teach and perform both jazz and classical music, and subsequently built his own career largely separate from Marsalis. It took almost twenty years, but Roberts and Marsalis have reunited, recording a pair of albums: Together Again in the Studio, and Together Again Live in Concert.
As ubiquitous as the remix has become, it's not something you hear much about when it comes to country music. It came as a bit of a surprise, then, when a hip-hop remix of Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise", featuring rapper Nelly, helped the track ascend to the top of the country charts and stay there long enough to break the all-time record.
At this point, the web—and, we'll admit, NPR in particular—is awash with year-end lists, seeking to summarize 2013 in pictures, song, film and more. For fans of unconventional live performance, though, the final list to top them all is right here, with a round-up of the year's most interesting Tiny Desk Concerts.
For all the talk of chains and private planes, there still exists plenty of hip-hop with a real message, made for a very real reason. Venezuelan rappers Apache and Canserbero are a prime example of this—their recent track "Stop" took aim at widespread police corruption in Venezuela. The duo have managed to transcend a limited budget to reach a wide audience; check out an in-depth examination of their work over at Morning Edition.
From the soulful tones of Frank Ocean to Kelela's bold crossovers into experimental dance music, 2013 was a fascinating year for R&B. Head over to NPR Music to check out Jason King's selection of five tracks that summarize the progress and direction of R&B in 2013.