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Arts: Music

A wall dedicated to the memory of US rapper Tupac Shakur is seen on May 26, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

The late rapper and actor Tupac Shakur will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April. Tupac recorded his best-known songs for Death Row Records in Los Angeles, but he spent some of his formative years in the Bay Area and continued to claim Oakland after he left the city because, as he put it, “that’s where I got the game at.” Tupac lived in a Marin City public housing complex known as “The Jungle,” attended Tamalpais High School and debuted as a rapper with the Oakland hip-hop group Digital Underground. Before his murder in 1996, Tupac had become one of hip-hop’s most charismatic and controversial figures. His music addressed issues of inequality, police brutality and racism, but also espoused the gangster lifestyle and a personal code of ethics he called “thug life.” In this hour we talk about Tupac’s life and legacy, and his ties to the Bay Area.

Beyonce's Formation tour

Beyoncé is expected to hit the stage this Sunday at the Grammy Awards, along with The Weeknd, Daft Punk, Adele and Bruno Mars. Music’s big awards night will also feature tributes to Prince and George Michael. But Kanye West and Justin Bieber have hinted that they may not attend, and despite having one of 2016’s most popular albums, Frank Ocean will boycott the show because it’s “not representative of the best new music.” We talk about this year’s Grammy nominations — including some for local artists like Fantastic Negrito and Frances England.

Philip Watt as trumpeter Chet Baker

Chet Baker comes back to life this February in “The Cool,” a play based on the sounds and struggles of the jazz trumpeter. Actor Philip Watt portrays a young Chet Baker playing in a Hollywood jazz club on the night the public discovered his singing voice. Watt and playwright Barry Eitel join us to talk about the play and the racism, homophobia, and police brutality of 1950s America.

More Information on ‘The Cool’

lizzwright-cropped-for-web

As the daughter of a Georgia minister, Lizz Wright grew up singing gospel music. She weaves that call-and-response style into her latest album, “Freedom and Surrender.” The album touches on music’s healing role in Wright’s journey through divorce and a nearfatal car accident. The soul and jazz singer with the smoky voice has been likened to Norah Jones and Tracy Chapman.

ed-ward-cropped

The “rock-and-roll historian” for NPR’s Fresh Air, Ed Ward, has published a new book, “The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1, 1920-1963,” where he argues that rock ‘n’ roll began with neither Beatlemania nor Elvis Presley. Instead, Ward weaves together the individual stories of 900-plus lesser-known musicians and producers who shaped the origins and trajectory of rock ‘n’ roll and situates them within broader cultural and historical shifts. We’ll talk with Ward about why no one “invented” rock ‘n’ roll and why he says that “one of the most important things that makes American music American is the African-American connection.”

People walk past souviners of Broadway plays in Times Square on May 27, 2015 in New York City.

In his new book, “Showstoppers! The Surprising Backstage Stories of Broadway’s Most Remarkable Songs,” critic Gerald Nachman draws on in-depth interviews with icons of musical theater to explore what makes certain songs “knock us out” and send audiences home humming. These tunes “often become a vital part of Americana, firmly lodged in the country’s collective memory” he writes. We talk with Nachman about his favorite hits, his 50 years as a theater critic and what worries him about today’s musicals.

Joan Baez poses for a portrait.

Joan Baez was 18 when she first performed at the Newport Folk Festival. She quickly rose to fame, popularizing songs like “Diamonds and Rust” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” But the folk singer also quickly established herself as an activist, marching alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. and protesting the Vietnam War. “I sang about what I believed in,” she says.” Baez joins us in studio and reflects on her music, the influence of her Mexican heritage and the activism still to be done.

The Beatles and George Martin

How did record producer Mark Ronson coax out Amy Winehouse’s signature sound in her hit song “Rehab”? And how was a guitar maker named Lester Polsfuss partly responsible for changing the sound of every song we hear on the radio today? Those are some of the stories revealed in the new PBS documentary series “Soundbreaking,” which takes viewers behind-the-scenes on how big advances in sound technology impacted everything from the Beach Boys to MTV and hip-hop. We take a peek inside the eight-part series, which features interviews with Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Questlove, Brian Eno, Run-D.M.C. and others.

More Information:

Joan Baez poses for a portrait.

Joan Baez was 18 when she first performed at the Newport Folk Festival. She quickly rose to fame, popularizing songs like “Diamonds and Rust” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” But the folk singer also quickly established herself as an activist, marching alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. and protesting the Vietnam War. “I sang about what I believed in,” she says.” Baez joins us in studio and reflects on her music, the influence of her Mexican heritage and the activism still to be done.

More Information:

Lizz Wright sitting

As the daughter of a Georgia minister, Lizz Wright grew up singing gospel music. She weaves that call-and-response style into her latest album, “Freedom and Surrender.” The album touches on
music’s healing role in Wright’s journey through divorce and a near-fatal car accident. The soul and jazz singer, whose smoky voice has been likened to that of Norah Jones and Tracy Chapman, performs this weekend at San Jose Jazz Summer Fest.

More Information:

Alan Cumming

While many may recognize actor Alan Cumming as the conniving campaign manager Eli Gold from TV’s “The Good Wife,” the Scotsman is also an award-winning showman who netted a Tony for “Cabaret” and starred in a number of films, including “Goldeneye” and “X Men United.” He opens up about his personal life, including heartbreak and family trauma, with his newly released album, “Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs.” Cumming joins us in-studio to talk about his varied career.

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Chris Strachwitz

Smithsonian Folkways, the museum and record label that preserves significant works, is acquiring El Cerrito-based
Arhoolie Records and its vast archive of roots, blues and rural music. Arhoolie founder Chris Strachwitz was
instrumental in finding and recording musicians from the rural south like Big Mama Thornton, Mississippi Freddy
McDowell, and Flaco Jimenez. In this hour we’ll learn about the role Arhoolie played in developing America’s
trademark sounds and what’s next for the storied label.

Related Links:

Arhoolie Records Sold to Smithsonian Folkways, Will Keep Releases in Print (KQED Arts)

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970:  Photo of Janis Joplin  Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Janis Joplin discovered her powerful, bluesy voice while growing up in Port Arthur Texas, but it wasn’t until moving to San Francisco that she found herself on the path toward rock stardom and an early demise at the age of 27. Forum looks back on the life and music of Joplin, who once described herself as “one of those regular weird people.” We’ll talk with Joplin’s sister, one of her bandmates and the director of  “Janis: Little Girl Blue,” part of PBS’ American Masters documentary series, which airs on KQED TV Tuesday night.

 

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  • KQED’s Complete Coverage of Janis Joplin’s Life and Music
prince

The world lost a music legend Thursday when Prince died at age 57. The genius behind scores of iconic songs, including “Purple Rain,” “Controversy” and “Sign O’ the Times,” leaves a legacy that crosses and blends musical genres from funk to New Wave. Forum talks with a panel of local musicians about Prince’s virtuosity, his revolutionary and optimistic spirit and the impact he had on culture, music and musicians of all kinds.

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