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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.

In music and the culture it reflects, 2017 was predictably unpredictable: idols fell, empires shook, consensus was scarce. This conversation is one of five with artists, makers and thinkers whose work captured something unique about a chaotic year, and hinted at bigger revelations around the bend.

Camila Cabello got her start as one-fifth of Fifth Harmony, a group formed by music impresario Simon Cowell from girls who had auditioned for the music competition show The X Factor. The experience forced a teenage Cabello out of her shell and propelled her and her bandmates to pop stardom.

Connie Lim, who writes and records as MILCK, makes music for anyone who feels out of place in the world. Hers are songs of empowerment and cathartic healing for the displaced and brokenhearted.

Life can be a lot of things and convenient is rarely one of them. Hop Along's Frances Quinlan sings from this perspective on "How Simple," the Philly rock band's first single from their upcoming album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog.

Welcome to a rock 'n' roll reunion, with our guests The Dream Syndicate. In 2017, the band released its first new album since breaking up nearly 30 years ago.

At the end of last year, I spoke to bandleader Steve Wynn about the Syndicate's history. Steve formed the band in Los Angeles in the '80s, which he intended to be in opposition to the way he saw music changing. (For instance, people were putting their guitars down and picking up synthesizers and keytars.) This was happening in the mainstream, it was happening in the underground.

Steve was not into it.

WCBE is looking forward to the return of the Ben Miller Band to perform Live From Studio A

RCA Studio B is no longer the hit factory it was when it opened 60 years ago in Nashville. But some modern musicians are still recording there, seeking the signature sound that helped spur the careers of artists like Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison.

There must be some meaning to life if we still have music — it gives form to our existential dread, and sometimes you can dance to it. In just four short years, Nap Eyes have made much ado about meaninglessness with rock 'n' roll songs that shake just offbeat and smart lyrics wrapped in bemused ennui.

What the world needs now is another cat video. Seriously.

In March of 2016, just a handful of months after her debut album Sprained Ankle was released, Julien Baker came and played a quiet, thoughtful Tiny Desk concert that went on to become one of our most popular and certainly one of the most-talked-about Tiny Desk Concerts of the year. (It's now approaching two million views on YouTube alone.)

James Brown once said, "I've only got seventh grade education, but I have a doctorate in funk, and I like to put that to good use."

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This project was started to give young musicians a way to create music about social justice issues.

For more details, click here.

The second Paragon Project release, "Medicinal Music" has been completed, and the release show will be at the Columbus Performing Arts Center the evening of the 5th.

In the 1970s, William Eggleston shocked the New York art world when the Museum of Modern Art exhibited his color photographs (Until then, most
serious photography had been black and white). Eggleston's pictures of the everyday established color photography and turned him into an art star. At the age of 78, the Memphis native surprised people yet again by releasing his first body of original music last October, an album titled Musik.

NPR's Noel King and David Greene look back on a year of great music releases with writers who cover the various genres.

Lee Ann Womack, The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone

"Lee Ann Womack is sort of a modern traditionalist; she was a mainstream hitmaker in the late 90's, and she's in a different phase of her career now. With this particular album, she kind of is trying to get to what she feels like is the emotional core of country music: it's melancholy." - Jewly Hight

Every year around this time, the jazz community takes the measure of its highlights and bright moments — along with a tally of its losses. And while it's true that important jazz artists leave us every year, 2017 was tougher than most.

You know when somebody has that special something? The star quality you can't really describe but it's just there? Jidenna has that something.

Regardless of how much we acknowledge that group-movement to a centralized rhythm is medicine for the soul, some emotional climates simply aren't conducive to reaching a singular moment of exultation and release on the dance floor. Across much of the world, 2017 sure as heck didn't feel like the right year for the ecstatic. So then, the question is: what to do? One answer arrived at in our listening was to get planning.

This was an excellent year for jazz on record, across every possible iteration of style. (If you're seeking evidence for the claim, consult the 2017 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll.) But it's always worth pointing out that albums only tell part of the story, which often assumes different dimensions at street level, where the music pulses in real time.

In Pictures: Sharon Jones Remembered

Dec 19, 2017

Jacob Blickenstaff is a New York-based music photographer who worked with Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings extensively since 2009. Here, he shares archival shots of the dearly departed star. Jones' posthumous album with The Dap-Kings, Soul of a Woman, was released by Daptone Records in November.

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