Music

It's never been easy to make a living as a musician. But there was always a dream: to become a star on the strength of your talent and your music. The Internet is a rude sandman, however, and today that dream is a lot more convoluted.

No longer can a would-be rock star follow the once-accepted checklist: (1) sign with a big label, (2) get a hit, (3) buy mansions and cars. The number of ways a musician can make money is now varied. The question, for many musicians still trying to make a go of it in the industry, is whether those many sources can add up to something sustainable.

During the course of his career, singer-songwriter Adam Cohen says he has twisted himself into creating commercially successful music — but not this record, not this song. "What Other Guy," from his third album Like A Man, didn't seem likely to generate mainstream popularity. And yet it did, more than any other song he has ever recorded.

The son of iconic singer Leonard Cohen, Adam Cohen says his latest record is a celebration and demonstration of his father's influence on his music.

Idan Raichel is one of Israel's top-selling pop musicians. Vieux Farka Toure is a virtuoso guitarist from Mali. The two met by chance in a German airport, and when Toure played a concert in Tel Aviv, Raichel sat in. He enjoyed himself so much that he invited Toure and two other musicians to come to a studio the next day and jam. The music they created is now an album called The Tel Aviv Session.

With Love is singer Rosie Thomas' first full-length album in four years, and she's experienced many ups and downs in that time. One of the downs was an injury: Her thyroid broke, causing her to take a hiatus from music.

Since they made their debut in 1971, it's been rare for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to not have a show on Broadway. But now they're ramping it up, with the opening of Evita following fast on the heels of Jesus Christ Superstar.

"It's actually just a coincidence as far as I can tell, because the two shows came from totally different sources," Rice says. "And by sheer chance, they've arrived within two or three weeks of each other on Broadway, which is fun!"

Right now, Dan Auerbach is living a rock-star moment, with his hard-hitting blues-rock duo The Black Keys selling out arenas all over the country. Lots of people want him on their records. So what does he do? He seeks out the 71-year-old Dr.

In his 1995 autobiography, Under a Hoodoo Moon, Dr. John writes about his tumultuous music career, a decades-long heroin addiction and the time he spent in prison on a drug-possession charge. The book is candid in a way that most of his music is not — until now. On his new album, Locked Down, Dr. John takes a more personal approach.

Photo by Beast of Traal via Flickr Creative Commons

Part 1:

Users, Unite!

This is the one union that will kick you out if you pass a drug test. Jesse McKinley wrote about the evolution and demands of the San Francisco drug users union for The New York Time.

New York Times Article  

Part 2:

The Cow Clause

Sometimes a family resemblance is so strong, you don’t even need eyes to see it.

Adam Cohen is the son of the famed Canadian musician, poet, and ladies’ man Leonard Cohen. After three solo albums, one release from his band Low Millions, and a four-year hiatus from music, Adam has returned with a new album, and a new appreciation for the family legacy.  The album Like a Man makes its U.S. release on April 3rd.

Today, Morning Edition begins a series of stories profiling the six new inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's a diverse bunch, including two acts that originated in 1960s London: The Small Faces and Donovan.

By now, you may have heard of Bombino, his album, Agadez was a hot seller on i-tunes and named one of NPR’s 50 favorite albums of 2011. Bombino, whose given name is Omara Moctar, is a guitarist from the Tuareg tribe, African nomads who have been persecuted by the government of Niger, especially, who reportedly fought for Gaddafi in Libya and are now considered rebels by the government of Mali, but their real fidelity is to eking out their lives in the desert

Folklorist Alan Lomax spent his career documenting folk music traditions from around the world. Now thousands of the songs and interviews he recorded are available for free online, many for the first time. It's part of what Lomax envisioned for the collection — long before the age of the Internet.

Baloji: Finding A Home In His Music

Mar 27, 2012

Rapper Baloji was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but raised in Belgium. He's built a reputation for incorporating Congolese music into his mix, though he mostly raps in French, his deep voice full of cocky brashness. You can catch his vibe without translation, but it's worth reading the liner notes to get his messages, as well. Baloji raps with brazen ease about the indignities of life as an African in Belgium, but also the tragic, bloody history of his homeland on his second album, Kinshasa Succursale.

In a busy New York subway station, a man serenades passersby with a beat-up guitar. A few of them look up from their BlackBerrys and toss a little change in his guitar case. It's a scene that plays out in subways and streets around the world.

(press photo) official website

Kate hosts Dar Williams at the Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction, Vermont.

Few 20th century thinkers predicted the 21st century era of social media and the Internet better than Marshall McLuhan. Beginning in the 1960s, the Toronto-based philosopher and scholar began to theorize about how television and radio were changing society, creating what he termed the "global village."

From its start in the late '90s, Zieti faced tough odds. Arranging gigs in Abidjan, Ivory Coast was a high-risk, do-it-yourself affair for the band. And that was before the country underwent a military coup, a rigged election and a brush with civil war. Zemelewa was recorded by 15 musicians in four studios on two continents. For all that, you can sense the band's solidarity, as if merely making this record was an act of resistance.

Tanlines: Grown-Up Problems, With A Beat

Mar 19, 2012

Four years since they first began making music together, the Brooklyn-based duo Tanlines is finally releasing an album: Mixed Emotions, out tomorrow. The band is Eric Emm, who sings and plays guitar, and Jesse Cohen, who plays drums, keyboards and an assortment of electronic instruments. Cohen is also the chattier of the two.

"We use a lot of different drum kits that are in a computer," Cohen explains. "We also play a lot of stuff live, and a lot of time you can't really tell which is real and which is fake. That's sort of a thing that we like to play with."

Monadnock Chorus

Mar 17, 2012
Todd Bookman, NHPR

The Monadnock Chorus has been sharing song and creating community for more than 50 years. Phyllis Scott joined the chorus in 1972.

PHYLLIS: Wherever I have lived I’ve felt the need to be singing. It’s just very fulfilling to me, it’s a wonderful way to make friends and it’s just part of me that’s all.

The SXSW music convention takes over Austin, Texas, for five days each March. This year, NPR Music's Ann Powers is in Austin trying to catch as much of the action as she can. At South By Southwest's midpoint, Powers spoke to Morning Edition's Renee Montagne about the highlights so far (including that awesome Springsteen keynote, which you can listen to in its entirety), and what she's looking forward to seeing over the festival's second half.

If you think Rebecca Black of "Friday" fame has had a tough run with web users, imagine being in the band Nickelback, the rockers the web loves to hate.

Vijay Iyer: The Physical Experience of Rhythm

Mar 15, 2012

Listen to music from jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer, and you'll hear rhythms that pulse and shift, intricate patterns of notes, a wide range of references. There are lots of examples on his trio's new album, Accelerando.

Iyer, the son of Indian immigrants, started on violin at age three. He later taught himself how to play the piano — learning through improvisation, something he never did on the violin.

Photo by Nan Palmero via Flickr Creative Commons

Austin’s South by Southwest festival has turned over from movies and technology to music before drawing to a close this weekend. The annual event is a magnet for filmmakers, movie stars, internet execs, musical heavyweights, would-be rock stars and enough techies, coders and developers to give it the nickname of summer camp for geeks. Adam Jones is a kind of media-mashing guy himself.

More than a decade ago, an album came out recorded mostly on cassette in a house, never released on a major label — and until last month it had been out of print for almost that long. When Noel Gallagher of Oasis heard it, he declared it "amazing," and The Guardian called it "the best album The Beatles never recorded."

This year's Winter Song playlist concludes with music that carried one woman though a difficult season that would change her life.

Robert Sherman — one half of the songwriting team behind Disney movies and major hit musicals — has died. He was 86. The Oscar-winning Sherman Brothers, Robert and Richard, wrote some of the most enduring Disney songs of all time. Their output was astounding: Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Aristocats.

John Lasseter, of Pixar and Disney, once said, "You cannot forget a Sherman brothers song for your life."

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