Vince Pearson

The pandemic, a bad economy, police killings and a fight for racial equality: It's a lot of take in. For some, music has been a way to cope and try to make sense of it all and that is the premise behind the Morning Edition Song Project, in which we asked musicians to write and perform an original song about this moment.

First, a pandemic, then economic collapse and now there are mass demonstrations over police brutality and racism.

In times of upheaval like this, music can be an escape. Maybe a way to reflect or try to make sense of things. This is what led to a new series we're launching today. For the Morning Edition Song Project, we've been asking musicians to write and perform an original song for us.

Andrew Watt is one of pop music's hottest hired guns. The 29-year-old has written and produced for megastars including Post Malone, Cardi B, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. His calling card is blending of-the-moment pop with a rock aesthetic. Last month, shortly after recovering from COVID-19, he played guitar while Miley Cyrus covered Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" on Saturday Night Live.

The Clark Sisters — Jackie, Dorinda, Denise, Twinkie and Karen — were one of the most important gospel groups of the 20th century. The sisters grew up in Detroit and learned to sing from their mother, Mattie Moss Clark, a renowned gospel singer in her own right. With her help, the Clark Sisters went on to win three Grammy awards and become the top-selling female gospel group of all time. Simply put, they changed the sound of modern gospel music.

"Entirely Different Stars," from Lukas Nelson's newest album, Naked Garden, is a song many people might relate to right about now. It's a fantasy about grabbing that special someone and blasting off to a less troubled planet.

For more than 30 years, Harry Connick Jr. has been putting out music that evokes the legacy of Frank Sinatra and other jazz icons. Now, he's back with a new album, True Love: A Celebration of Cole Porter, and an accompanying Broadway show. NPR's David Greene visited the singer in Hollywood's Capitol Studios, where Connick demonstrated a few Cole Porter classics on the piano and talked about the musician's enduring influence.

It's easy to imagine that Ringo Starr's closet is full of shoe boxes containing old mementos, like the photographs that populate Another Day In The Life, his newest book. The reality is a bit different though.

"If I'm in them, I just lift them off the internet," he says. "Others are what I do on tour when I'm hanging out."

Neil Young has easily one of the most recognizable names in American music, and his familiar voice isn't getting quieter with time. He has played with a lot of people over the years: There was Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. But Crazy Horse has outlasted all of them.

Historians and critics have pored over the recordings of these jazz greats like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Stan Getz so exhaustively, it might feel like they've left no stone unturned. And yet, fans are seeing a slew of exciting new discoveries lately from these and other artists — so-called "lost" albums by some of the biggest names in jazz.

After nearly 50 years, KISS is saying goodbye to touring. The over-the-top purveyors of heavy metal have embarked on a year-long finale tour titled "One Last KISS: End of the Road World Tour." The 105-stop tour spans North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand and will encapsulate KISS' larger-than-life show for the last time.

Sixty years ago, this month, Miles Davis finished recording Kind of Blue, perhaps his greatest masterpiece and still jazz's bestselling album. But it was not the only milestone recorded that year.

From 1991 to 1994, Nirvana was one of the biggest bands in the world with a look and sound that would come to define the decade's music. At the height of this fame, though, bandleader Kurt Cobain sometimes seemed to be an unwilling participant who had just been swept up and carried away by Nirvana's success. Then, after less than four years of meteoric fame, Cobain died of suicide on April 5, 1994. He was 27.

No composition seems too difficult for pianist Lang Lang. But on his latest solo record, Piano Book, the 36-year-old known for his finger-twisting virtuosity is exploring something simpler: Beethoven's "Fur Elise," Debussy's "Clair de Lune" and other pieces that accompanied him in the first few years of a lifelong love-affair with the instrument.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

It's interesting to read how the members of Beastie Boys came to know each other as teenagers and create the trio's sound. But if the new music memoir Beastie Boys Book aims to answer anything, it's this: Have the Beastie Boys grown up? The answer is sort of.

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