Music

In Memoriam 2017: The Musicians We Lost

Dec 29, 2017

Bright voices from every corner of the music world left us this year — from virtuoso players to visionary composers, from charismatic bandleaders to golden-eared producers, from influential inventors to critics and commentators who interrogated and elevated the art they covered. Explore their legacies here.


Nat Hentoff

June 10, 1925 Jan. 7, 2017

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Tom Petty wrote a lot of hits during his more than 40 years making music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMERICAN GIRL")

TOM PETTY: (Singing) Well, she was an American girl.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REFUGEE")

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Today we're remembering a man who transformed American pop music. Jim Burns was not a well-known musician himself. He created the program "MTV Unplugged," and he was the show's executive producer during its original run through the '90s.

Actress Heather Menzies-Urich, best known for portraying Louisa von Trapp in the 1965 film The Sound of Music, died Sunday night. She was 68.

Variety magazine reports:

"Menzies-Urich, the widow of actor Robert Urich, had been recently diagnosed with cancer, according to her son Ryan Urich.

"Urich said his mother died on Christmas Eve, surrounded by her children and family members.

In 1946, Nat King Cole became the first recording artist to wrap his lush vocals around what would become a standard of the holiday season, "The Christmas Song." But that song was written by a different crooner: Mel Tormé.

NPR's Noel King spoke with Mel Tormé's youngest son, James — an accomplished jazz singer himself — to get the story behind the creation of this Christmas classic.

Ben Shirley's story is one of redemption. He'd been playing bass in bars, clubs and arenas in the Los Angeles area since he was 15 when he fell down a path of drugs and alcohol. Four bottles of vodka and $360 worth of heroin a day brought him down hard on Skid Row.

It was at the non-profit The Midnight Mission where Shirley turned his life around in 2011. Now, at 53, he's an undergrad in The San Francisco Conservatory of Music's program of Technology and Applied Composition. He debuted an original piece, "We Need Darkness to See the Stars," earlier this month.

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All 58 of the people killed in the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 died of gunshot wounds, the Clark County County Office of the Coroner/Medical Examiner has determined.

Nearly all of the fatalities were caused by a single gunshot wound, though six victims died from multiple wounds. Most had been shot in the head, chest or back. The deaths were all ruled homicides.

Cardi B is determined to finish her breakout year with a bang. The Bronx rapper has teamed up with 21 Savage for the new single "Bartier Cardi."

Updated, Dec. 21, 10:45 p.m. ET and Dec. 22, 12:09 p.m.: The responses of various orchestras to the allegations were added to this article.

The Associated Press has reported allegations of sexual assault against the famed conductor Charles Dutoit made by four women, in incidents that span from 1985 to 2010 and that took place in five different U.S. cities.

Rolling Stone's parent company, Wenner Media, has a new corporate boss. Nearly three months to the day since it began accepting bids for the coveted, if diminished, independent media company, Penske Media has been announced as having made a significant "strategic investment" in Jann Wenner's company.

On Monday, BBC news program The Victoria Derbyshire Programme asked four women in music about the pernicious sexist culture and pervasive sexual assault they'd experienced.

Goran Bregović is one of the Balkans' most beloved musicians and composers. He grew up in the Bosnian town of Sarajevo and witnessed the atrocities of war in the 1990s. But he channeled his home region's pain, as well as its endless humor, into his music, and got his big break composing for films like Emir Kusturica's Time of the Gypsies.

Reggie Ossé, better known to the hip-hop world as podcast host Combat Jack, has passed away from colon cancer. Chris Morrow, Ossé's friend and his co-founder of Loud Speaker Networks, confirmed his death, telling NPR that he died this morning at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York. Ossé was 53 years old.

Curtis Harding joins us for a session of soul music. He is from Atlanta, where his career has been developing. Harding released his first album Soul Power in 2014, which helped earn him a fan base in Europe; it was heard by the producer Danger Mouse, who signed on to produce Curtis' new one, Face Your Fear.

Chance the Rapper and Jeremih have teamed up for the second year in a row to drop a holiday-themed mixtape for the masses. After weeks of teasing fans online with the prospect of new music, Chance and Jeremih premiered Merry Christmas Lil' Mama: Re-Wrapped on Chicago's Power 92.3 earlier today.

Finals week brought a rude surprise to students and staff at the McNally Smith College of Music in Minnesota, as the school announced it was closing abruptly — and that it wouldn't be able to meet its last payroll. Some students graduated Saturday; others are frantically looking for options.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced its shortlist of original scores for the 2018 Oscars — and it is not short. There are 141 works being considered for the final five spots, including many of Hollywood's usual suspects.

Collaboration. It's at the heart of many of NPR Music's finest moments. And it's in the DNA of the intrepid Kronos Quartet, which some 40 years ago began working with composers around the globe to spotlight new music.

Opening our 10th anniversary concert at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., Kronos, true to form, gave an appreciative audience both a world premiere and an extraordinary surprise collaboration.

In three-quarter profile, half-smiling at the camera over his elaborately tattooed shoulder, New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, Jr. appeared on the cover of the April 2015 issue of the venerable Louisiana music monthly Offbeat.

A DJ is reportedly dead after the collapse of a stage during the Atmosphere dance music festival in Esteio, Brazil yesterday afternoon. Video footage of the collapse (embedded below) shows a harrowing scene of wind gusts and looming storm clouds just before the stage's scaffolding begins to disassemble.

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced Sunday that he would put his team up for sale at the end of the season after the National Football League said it was opening an investigation into accusations of workplace misconduct against him.

"I believe that it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership," Richardson, 81, said in a statement on the team's website. "Therefore, I will put the team up for sale at the end of this NFL season."

The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist established their community more than 20 years ago in Ann Arbor, Mich. where music is a daily part of the Catholic nuns' lives in the Motherhouse. With the holiday season looming, the sisters joined NPR's Scott Simon for an in-studio performance and discussion of their latest album, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring: Christmas with The Dominican Sisters of Mary.

What are the holidays without Charlie Brown?

Nowadays, the quietly elegant and celebratory recordings by pianist Vince Guaraldi have become as much a part of the holidays as the sound of unwrapping presents. And every year we are treated to at least one interpretation of that classic Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack by one of the pianists on NPR's A Jazz Piano Christmas. This year is no exception.

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