NPR Staff

What do Van Morrison's "Domino," the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar" and Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" have in common? All of them were recorded or became hits in 1971 — the year music journalist David Hepworth insists is the best year in rock 'n' roll history.

When she goes to sleep at night, Alison MacAdam curls up with Baba, her soft, threadbare baby blanket. It's a bedtime ritual Alison has embraced for 40 years. Alison is an editor at NPR and when she told us about Baba we thought it was a little strange. Why would a successful, self-confident woman sleep with a blankie? But then, as we listened to her talk about it, we wondered if maybe it wasn't that strange at all. What's wrong with finding comfort in something soft and familiar? This week, Hidden Brain considers the psychology of touch. First, Alison tells us the story of Baba.

Last week marked the end of an era for the historic Chicago-based Johnson Publishing Co. After a 71-year run as an outlet for the expression of both the highest aspirations and deepest frustrations of African-Americans, the family-owned business has sold its iconic lifestyle magazine — Ebony -- and the now digital-only Jet magazine.

Mitski Miyawaki likes to probe heartache in her music, but melodrama isn't really her thing. Her songs explore vulnerability, yet always sound sturdy and confident — and it's that combination that's made her one of the most talked-about young rock artists of the past few years.

Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. moved with his family to Chicago, where he was to spend a year laying the groundwork for bringing the civil rights movement to the North. The campaign came to be known as the Chicago Freedom Movement — a broadening drive against segregation, which was often as thorough in practice in the northern states as in the South, especially when it came to housing.

Bernard Kleina was there, too. The Chicago native and former Catholic priest documented the King-led demonstrations in the city — and he did so in rare color photographs.

Over the past decade, comic Kevin Hart has drawn enormous crowds to his stand-up shows and comedy films. He's starred in a string of big-name buddy comedies, including Get Hard with Will Ferrell and the Ride Along films with Ice Cube; and his demanding schedule was even the subject of a joke from Academy Awards host Chris Rock at this year's Oscars.

When Finding Nemo came out in 2003, it was Dory, the plucky, forgetful blue fish, who taught us all, in the face of adversity, to "just keep swimming."

Ellen DeGeneres, who voiced Dory, says she was "flattered and honored and awed" to have her legacy tied to such a determined and positive little fish.

Dory came along during a particularly tough time for DeGeneres — "I hadn't worked for three years," she tells NPR's Kelly McEvers.

In 2012, Tig Notaro walked onto the stage at LA's Largo Theater and said this: "Good evening hello, I have cancer, how are you? Hi, how are you? Is everybody having a good time? I have cancer. How are you?"

Notaro was in the middle of one of the worst years of her life, dealing with serious illness, a breakup and the death of her mother.

When Chaz Van Queen decided to take on the stage name Chazmere, he had a certain kind of duality in mind. "It felt direct, it felt strong, it felt confident — but it also was smooth at times," he says. "Cashmere is very durable and strong, but it's also smooth to touch and feels nice on the skin."

That spirit carries over into his latest album, simply called Chazmere, on which tales of skateboarding in project hallways as a kid show two sides of his upbringing in the Bronx.

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet has defined tragic young love for centuries: Boy and girl from feuding families fall in love. Boy slays the girl's cousin for killing his friend in a duel. Girl swallows a sleeping potion. Boy thinks she's dead. Boy swallows poison. Girl wakes, sees boy dead, and stabs herself. They're both really dead. Families mourn and reconcile.

Writer Annie Proulx won a Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Shipping News, and her short story "Brokeback Mountain" became a Hollywood blockbuster — but her new novel is her most ambitious work yet. It's called Barkskins, and to say it's about deforestation undersells the book's drama, blood and epic sweep.

Ahead of the 2016 Tony Awards, it seems fair to make a few educated guesses. First: This stands to be the most widely watched Tonys in recent memory, thanks to a little show called Hamilton and its record-breaking 16 nominations. Second: Even fans of that beloved musical are going to be a little on edge — since, in a few of those categories, the show's stars are up against one another.

Former President Jimmy Carter may be on the brink of celebrating the birthday wish he made last year: the global eradication of Guinea worm disease. This year, there are only two confirmed cases, compared to 3.5 million a year in the 1980s. It's a medical milestone that took a nearly 30-year effort by the Carter Center and its partners.

Carter spoke to NPR's Robert Siegel about the fight against Guinea worm. An edited version of the interview follows.


Interview Highlights

You must be gratified to see Guinea worm almost gone.

How do you cover an incomprehensible disaster and make people connect with the real lives behind the headlines?

David Gilkey knew how.

His photos have helped define our coverage of global health and development at Goats and Soda. They have a tremendous warmth and humanity that reflects his own compassionate heart and soul.

Gregory Alan Isakov's three studio albums have been spare and intimate: His voice, his guitar, sometimes a banjo, a piano, a fiddle, some drums. With his latest LP, Isakov wanted to build his songs bigger — so he gave them to a symphony. The Colorado Symphony, to be exact.

When you look up at a starry night sky, it may make you feel small and insignificant — but it's also beautiful and awe inspiring. That's the feeling author Virginia Heffernan thinks we should be getting when we behold the Internet.

"Google organizes all the world's information," Heffernan tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "There's no way that one small person in our small, fathom-long bodies, could imagine containing all that information."

Olga Bell is a classically trained pianist who has ventured deeply into the world of electronica — and now, on her new album, Tempo, into dance music.

Yaa Gyasi's highly anticipated debut novel, Homegoing, follows two branches of a family tree as it grows over three centuries. Half-sisters Effia and Esi were born in different villages in 18th-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman (though the British soldiers call their local women "wenches" instead of wives) and she goes to live in the regal comfort of the Cape Coast Castle, which is also used to hold slaves before they were sent across the Atlantic.

Beth Orton feels a certain amount of pressure when it comes to her music. The British singer songwriter had huge success with her first album, Trailer Park, back in 1999, and for a while she was on a roll: more album sales, more touring, more fame. It wasn't, she says, altogether comfortable for her.

Leyla McCalla has built her songwriting style around the cello, an instrument that's rarely central in folk and pop styles — and one she began her study of by accident. Growing up in New Jersey, she was required to participate in her school's music program, and in fourth grade she decided she'd play what she thought was a member of the woodwind family — something like the piccolo.

At the beginning of Stephanie Danler's new Sweetbitter, there's an image of a girl, Tess, driving over the George Washington Bridge. We don't really know much about her. She's come to New York City to leave her past behind — a common experience. She falls into a job at a landmark restaurant, loosely modeled on Union Square Cafe.

When we talked with British adventurer Levison Wood back in 2015, he had recently completed an epic, nine-month journey, along the length of the Nile River. When we asked him where he was headed next, Wood told us he did have another big expedition planned but that it was "top-secret."

Savannah Buist and Katie Larson are two members of a band called The Accidentals. The band's most recent single is called "Michigan and Again," and — if you couldn't tell — it's a love song for their home state.

By the time his first memoir, Fresh Off The Boat, came out in 2013, Eddie Huang was really hitting his stride. His New York restaurant, Baohaus — which serves gua bao, or Taiwanese hamburgers — was doing really well. His TV show, Huang's World, was taking him all over the world.

Some people may only remember Vice Adm. James Stockdale as independent presidential candidate Ross Perot's running mate in 1992. His opening statement of a disastrous performance during the vice presidential debate — "Who am I? Why am I here?" — made him a punchline on late night TV.

But Stockdale's legacy far surpasses any failed political endeavors. In 1965, his plane was shot down over North Vietnam and he was taken as a prisoner of war at Hoa Lo. He would be a POW for nearly eight years.

In the late 1980s, Moby was drawn to what he calls "the dirty mecca" of New York City. As a DJ and electronic musician, he was a staple of the rave scene: massive crowds dancing until dawn, probably under the influence of a substance or two, all moving as one to his songs.

There are over 3 million people of Filipino heritage living in the U.S., and many say they relate better to Latino Americans than other Asian American groups. In part, that can be traced to the history of the Philippines, which was ruled by Spain for more than 300 years. That colonial relationship created a cultural bond that persists to this day.

It's the topic of the book The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race. Author Anthony Ocampo spoke about the book with Morning Edition's Renee Montagne.

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