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Cuban singer Omara Portuondo came to international attention in the 1950s, when that country was less isolated than it has been since the Revolution. Her voice reached ears around the world again in the '90s, when she was featured as the only female singer on the hit Buena Vista Social Club album. Today, Portuondo is 85 — and she's still performing.

Phil Chess, co-founder of the iconic Chicago blues and rock 'n' roll label Chess Records, died Wednesday in Tucson, Ariz. He was 95.

Phil and his brother, Leonard Chess, emigrated to the U.S. from Poland in 1928. Chess Records biographer Nadine Cohodas told their story to NPR in 2000.

"It was a scrappy kind of existence," Cohodas said of the Chess brothers' early years in Chicago. "Their father was very determined and he opened a junk shop, as did many other immigrants from Eastern Europe."

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Filmmaker Barry Jenkins and playwright Tarell McCraney grew up just blocks away from each other in the same housing project in Miami's Liberty City neighborhood. They went to the same elementary school at the same time, but they did not meet until they were adults, when Jenkins contacted McCraney about adapting his play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, to the screen.

Closing arguments are underway in the trial of seven people accused of illegally occupying Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge last year.

The cast recording of Lazarus, the musical David Bowie wrote with playwright Enda Walsh, is out this week, and with it arrives three previously unreleased Bowie songs recorded during his Blackstar sessions. "Killing A Little Time" is the third track to leak from the album, and it's an ominous, polyrhythmic rock scorcher that would have fit well on the icon's final album. It's one of the last songs he recorded before his death from liver cancer in January.

When Corinne Bailey Rae played "Hey, I Won't Break Your Heart" at NPR Music's Tiny Desk earlier this year, she introduced the song with a simple, yet meaningful remark. "This is a song that I wrote about love the second time around with the same person," the British singer explained. "So I guess it's about the beginning of trust again." Elegant words for complicated emotions.

Ruminations is one of Conor Oberst's most personal records — and it was a surprise, even for its creator. He didn't intend to make an album — he was trying to recover from exhaustion after he was rattled by a health scare, a cyst on his brain. But when he left New York, N.Y., and moved back to his hometown of Omaha, Neb., the songs started coming. He recorded Ruminations on piano, guitar and harmonica in 48 hours during the winter after he moved home.

Many travelers have resigned themselves to paying $25 or more to check a bag when flying. But that fee becomes especially onerous when the bag doesn't show up on the carousel at baggage claim.

The White House is proposing a new rule that would require airlines to refund the checked baggage fee if luggage is "substantially delayed," though it does not define "substantially."

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Buy An Album; Get Some Cremated Remains

Oct 19, 2016
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You think you've read every permutation of a World War II novel possible — then along comes a Venetian fisherman and his unlikely first mate, a beautiful Jewish teenaged girl on the run from the last few Nazis occupying Italy. Venerable author Martin Cruz Smith has chosen, in The Girl from Venice, to put aside his usual spy stories (e.g. Gorky Park and Three Stations) for a straightforward wartime chase-cum-romance, a slice of La Serenissima life so perfectly researched that details melt into action like the local goby fish into risotto.

The unemployment rate for transgender people is double that of the general population. Now, California has set up the nation's first ever large-scale program to help transgender people find jobs.

And it's all because of Michaela Mendelsohn, a trans woman who's employed trans people at her restaurants for years.

'I'm A Trans Owner Supporting Trans People'

Nobody loves pesticides, exactly. But one kind of pesticide, called neonicotinoids, is provoking a particularly bitter debate right now between environmentalists and farmers. The chemicals are highly toxic to bees. Some scientists think they are partly to blame for the decline in pollinators.

For the past year, the province of Ontario, in Canada, has responded to the controversy with a novel experiment. Ontario's government is asking farmers to prove that they actually need neonicotinoids, often called neonics. It turns out that "need" is a word that's hard to define.

Chuck Berry turns 90 Tuesday. I know he's a very important person in music history, but he's never been a guy I listened to much. I mean, I've heard hits like "Maybellene" from 1955, but I wanted to learn more.

So I called Tony Trov. He's an artist out of Philadelphia, but more important, he plays in a Chuck Berry cover band called It's Marvin, Your Cousin Marvin Berry, a reference to a memorable scene in Back to the Future.

In coal country, thousands of miners have lost jobs. While there aren't any easy solutions, in West Virginia, two farmers are doing what they can to keep wealth in their community and provide healthy food to more people.

In the parking lot of the Five Loaves and Two Fishes Food Bank in McDowell County, squash and basil are growing in 18 tall white towers without any dirt. It's a farming method called hydroponics. The vegetables sprout from tiny holes as water and nutrients flood the roots.

Like most farmers, Mark Nelson, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat near Louisburg, Kan., is getting squeezed. He's paying three times more for seed than he used to, while his corn sells for less than half what it brought four years ago.

"It's a – that's a challenge," Nelson says. "You're not going to be in the black, let's put it that way."

Low commodity prices are rippling up and down the farm-economy food chain — from the farm to the boardroom — and it has many of the huge companies that control farm inputs looking to a new future.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


I need a moment away from unceasing word drip of debates about the election, about whether Elena Ferrante has the right to privacy, about whether Bob Dylan writes "Literature." I need a moment, more than a moment, in the steady and profound company of Mary Oliver and I think you might need one too.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


The new album from the experimental rock band Negativland comes with a plastic bag containing 2 grams of Don Joyce's cremated remains. Joyce, a member of the group, died of heart failure in 2015. According to an official announcement on Boing Boing, the band's forthcoming album, The Chopping Channel, will ship with little bags of Joyce's ashes for as long as "supplies last."

For as much as the election has dominated the news this year, the political cycle hasn't invaded the world of All Songs Considered. But this week we've got a remarkable cut by the band EL VY that's all about Donald Trump. "Are These My Jets?" is from 30 Days, 30 Songs, an online compilation album that features a new song by a new artist every day for the final thirty days leading up to the election. (For the record, NPR is not endorsing any candidate.

After much criticism around last year's round of '70s rockers and no women, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced its nominees for the class of 2017 this morning, which include first-time nominees Tupac Shakur, Pearl Jam, Bad Brains, Joan Baez and Depeche Mode.

If you're tempted to think crunchy electric guitars and pop-punk choruses about heartbreak are the domain of emotional bros, the music of Lisa Prank is a convincing reminder that's not the case. Robin Edwards' one-woman pop-punk project juxtaposes catchy cuteness with vulnerable, relatable honesty and just enough tongue-in-cheek humor. Even the charming, cartoony album art for Adult Teen — Lisa Prank's full-length follow-up to 2014's Crush On The World —manages to combine girlishness and strength.

Today, Chuck Berry turns 90.

And today, the man who helped define rock 'n' roll celebrates by announcing his first album in 38 years.

The album is simply called CHUCK, and it features a hometown backing band that includes his children Charles Berry Jr. on guitar and Ingrid Berry on harmonica, along with his bassist for nearly 40 years, Jimmy Marsala. The album was recorded in Berry's hometown of St. Louis and will be out in 2017.

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Unintentional Skydiving Trick Is Successful

Oct 18, 2016
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Is Francine Prose just monkeying around? Is she taking a comic break after the much weightier exploration of creeping xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and right-wing proto-fascism in her last novel, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932?

Mister Monkey, her 22nd book of fiction, is a dark comedy about the mainly sad, disappointing lives of everyone involved in a woeful way-off-Broadway revival of a painfully bad musical based on a made-up classic children's book called Mister Monkey — itself an unlikely success — written by a Vietnam veteran.