Music

Music

Just the mention of Aretha Franklin's name conjures up the memory of her undeniable voice. And with a career spanning more than five decades, touching gospel, R&B and pop, Franklin has earned her place in the history books and in the hearts of music fans.

Though the Detroit-raised powerhouse is known for chart-topping hits like "Respect," "Think" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," true fans know there's just as much beauty in the Franklin songs with a couple of fewer spins in the jukebox.

Though her career carried her from the Baptist churches of Detroit to a life of platinum plaques and diamond-drizzled furs, Aretha Franklin's voice never lost its flavor. Her ability to rouse emotion is a talent few other artists have ever been able to touch. And her piano-playing prowess, which she developed in church, was unmatched. It's the reason she earned the title of Queen of Soul in the 1960s.

Aretha Franklin: The 'Fresh Air' Interview

Aug 16, 2018

Aretha Franklin was more than a woman, more than a diva and more than an entertainer. Aretha Franklin was an American institution. Aretha Franklin died Thursday in her home city of Detroit after battling pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type. Her death was confirmed by her publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn. She was 76.

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" is a song many African-Americans know from school or church. But if you didn't hear it there, you may know it from one of a few landmark performances.

Just when we think we've atoned for our mistakes or healed from old wounds, the past always finds a way to resurface. Domenic Palermo knows this as much as anyone. As the guitarist, singer and songwriter of the Philadelphia rock band Nothing, Palermo has channeled a lifetime of tragedies into song, to the point where his backstory and his music are so enmeshed he can never quite escape.

Image and fame are among pop music's chief obsessions. Artists have often chosen to take on these themes in surreal and stylized ways, even veering into performance art territory.

When Candi Staton first auditioned the drummer for Unstoppable, her 30th studio album, he had not, let's say, fully matured as an artist.

Dee White's back story almost sounds like too good of a journalistic hook to be true. It goes like this: A teenager unassumingly cultivates sophisticated country music sensibilities in an unincorporated Alabama hamlet until his dad introduces him to a fellow Alabamian,who turns out to be none other than Harold Shedd, a producer and record executive whose work with the archetypal arena-rocking country band Alabama launched one of Nashville's most enviable streaks of success.

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There are a bunch of historical anniversaries in August. The Watts riots happened 53 years ago. Woodstock was 49 years ago today in fact. And then there's the 46th anniversary of Wattstax.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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Puerto Rican singer/songwriter iLe's debut album iLevitable took the indie Latinx musical world by storm in 2017, winning a Grammy for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative album with its mix of passionate classic boleros and vulnerable, sensual original songs.

Last month at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, WXPN and World Cafe hosted the fifth annual Nuevofest, a celebration of the new sounds of Latin alternative music, produced in association with AfroTaino Productions.

Seven bands took over the stages at World Cafe Live for a long day of music that mixed together varying musical styles including punk rock, electronic beats, mariachi, son, cumbia, salsa, and classic Cuban. Watch complete sets from Nuevofest 2018 below.

If you were to try and fit Erykah Badu into a neat little box, you might say she's a soul singer/songwriter and leave it at that.

But you'd fail to acknowledge her many other talents, from her work as an actress (Cider House Rules and the upcoming What Men Want), to her otherworldly grasp of social media, to her work helping babies into the world as a certified doula.

Right before the start of the second leg of his 2018 North America Tour, Dublin-hailing Dermot Kennedy stopped by NPR to play his very own Tiny Desk Concert. And before he left to back out on tour, he shared his personal bank of familiar music he likes to turn to when he's on the road.

Interview Highlights

On naming the playlist

Some folks around the NPR Music office said they felt an almost spiritual connection to Erykah Badu during her visit to the Tiny Desk. And that was before she and her band even played a single note. It came from the waft of earthly scents that followed in her wake, to the flowing dreads and clothes that hung on her like robes.

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Jukebox the Ghost is the type of band you want to play your party. Why? For one, Because they're talented, but that's just table stakes. The second reason gets us a little closer. The band members are excellent entertainers, but even that doesn't really capture it. What I think is that singer/piano player Ben Thornewill, guitarist Tommy Siegel, drummer Jesse Kristin, enjoy each other's company. And when three friends are good at what they do, and having a lot of fun with each other doing it, we're in for a good time.

The history of jazz in the 20th century is well known, but the course of the genre in the 21st century is still being charted. According to Nate Chinen, music critic for NPR Music and WBGO, jazz in the new millennium has enjoyed a type of Renaissance thanks to some key players.

Sarah Davachi's electro-acoustic compositions seek the corners of quiet with a studious and patient curiosity. Gave in Rest, her second album of 2018, takes its inspiration from early church music, in particular "the quietude, the air of reverence, the openness of the physical space, the stillness of the altars," she writes in a press release. From "Matins" (morning prayers) to "Evensong" (evening prayers), the L.A.-based composer fills the day with moments of peace.

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