•   July 24, 2012 at 2:01 PM EDT

    Elton John faced a very different kind of crowd this week. Instead of thousands of screaming fans, he addressed U.S. senators, international health workers and advocates about an issue close to his heart: the AIDS epidemic.

    On Tuesday, he was on Capitol Hill for a breakfast moderated by Gwen Ifill. On Monday, he was the keynote speaker at the 19th annual International AIDS Conference. His Elton John AIDS Foundation has raised more than $275 million dollars in support of fighting AIDS worldwide.

    Gwen sat down with John on Tuesday to discuss his efforts and his new book, “Love Is the Cure: On Life, Loss, and the End of AIDS.” Their conversation will air on Tuesday’s NewsHour, and we’ll post it here later.

    Afterward, Gwen got down to other important questions: Just how many pairs of glasses does Elton John own? And can he even remember how many times he’s performed “Bennie and the Jets”?

    The answers to those questions are in this video:

    Video editing by Bob Hartman.

    For more coverage of the International AIDS Conference, visit our health page.


  •   July 17, 2012 at 3:41 PM EDT

    Bob Dylan plays a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar for the first time on stage as he performs at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25, 1965 in Newport, R.I. Photo by Alice Ochs/ Michael Ochs Archives/ Getty Images.

    It’s one of rock’s seminal moments: It’s 1965, the scene is the Newport Folk Festival, and Bob Dylan — the godfather of folk music at the time — walks on stage and plugs in. He plays an electric guitar for the first time in live performance.

    Fans boo their musical hero and Pete Seeger tries to switch off the power on his friend Dylan. And what became of the instrument that Dylan used as he transformed from folk master to rock & roll legend? Well, it went missing.

    A New Jersey woman, Dawn Peterson, believes she has the Fender Stratocaster with the sunburst pattern that belonged to Dylan. Turns out her father used to fly him and other famous musicians to and from gigs in his private plane. The guitar was left behind on the plane after the 1965 festival and remained in the family attic for decades, until Dawn started wondering about its origin after her father died.

    To help her figure out what she had, she contacted the PBS program History Detectives.

    In tonight’s season premiere, History Detectives Elyse Luray and Wes Cowan carefully unravel the missing guitar mystery. If this really is the instrument that Bob Dylan played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, then it may be worth up to a million dollars. But Dylan’s representatives insist that he is in possession of the guitar he played in Rhode Island that night.

    In this clip, we meet Dawn Peterson and her guitar, and Jeffrey Brown interviews Elyse Luray, host of History Detectives on PBS, coming up on the NewsHour later tonight:

    You can watch the entire episode of History Detectives tonight on PBS. Check your local listings.


  •   July 6, 2012 at 5:25 PM EDT

    In central Virginia’s Rappahanock County, the four-year-old Castleton Festival is part traditional summer music festival and part music training program where young performers have a chance to work with music greats. It’s the vision of renowned conductor Lorin Maazel, who first came here by accident as a young man when he took a wrong exit off the turnpike and found a beautiful setting that stayed with him.

    Friday on the Newshour, Jeffrey Brown visits Maestro Maazel at his Civil War-era home to talk about his creation: a month-long festival of operas, recitals, musicals and concerts, which runs through July 22.

    Now in his seventh decade of music making, the child prodigy also shared reflections on how he got to where he is today:


  •   June 27, 2012 at 9:22 AM EDT

    After playing Detective Odafin Tutuola on the hit series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit ” for the past 13 years, Tracy Marrow, who is better known as hip-hop pioneer Ice-T, was ready to step behind the camera. The documentary “Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap” is his directorial debut and premiered at Sundance in January. It opened in select U.S. cities earlier this month.

    The film gives a glimpse into the origins of rap through the lens of some of Ice-T’s closest friends, including Big Daddy Kane, Kanye West, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Chuck D, Afrika Bambaataa and Common. Art Beat had a chance to catch up with Ice-T and discuss his life-long love for hip-hop, his work as an actor and what it takes to get a Ph.D. in rap.

    Why did you want to make this film?

    I wanted to direct films. I want to do features down the road, and I was just looking at the state of hip-hop and was realizing that I didn’t really think people appreciated it as much as I do. I think now it’s part of global culture, and a lot of people don’t really know where it came from or how serious it was when it was nothing. So I just decided to call my friends and I said, “Let’s just do a film, but we won’t talk about the money, the cars, the girls. We’ll just talk about the craft.” And they were like, “Wow nobody even asked us those questions!” So it was just an idea trying to boost appreciation for the art form.


  •   June 22, 2012 at 11:34 AM EDT

    “Diamond in the Rough” is the name of a 1989 hit song from Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin‘s first album, “Steady On.” Now, it’s the name of a new memoir she’s just released.

    It tells the story of a small-town girl from the wide open prairies whose passion for music took her on the road and into the recording studio, making her way from church choirs to Texas honky tonks and the folk music circuit around the country.

    I recently had the chance to sit down with Colvin to discuss her book, her career and her music. Our profile of Colvin will also air soon on the NewsHour, but you can watch it now, above.

    In the videos below, she plays two songs for us:


  •   May 29, 2012 at 8:50 PM EDT

    Doc Watson; photo by Appalachian Encounters via Flickr

    Doc Watson at the 2009 Musicfest ‘N Sugar Grove. Photo by Appalachian Encounters via Flickr.

    Doc Watson, a legend of folk and bluegrass music, died Tuesday at a hospital in North Carolina, his manager reported.

    Earlier this month, Watson fell down at his home in Deep Gap, N.C., and underwent surgery at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem. He was 89 years old.

    Watson was still performing up until his death.

    “I love music and love a good audience and still have to make a living,” Watson said before a performance in October. “Why would I quit?”

    Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson was born, raised and lived most of his life in Deep Gap, N.C. An early eye infection left him blind before his first birthday, but that didn’t stop his father from putting him to work on the family farm or recognizing his musical talents. His father lead the music in their church and exposed the family to all sorts of gospel and old-time music at home.

    “What started me in music when I was 10 years old, Dad would come in from work on Friday evening and Jimmie Rodgers the yodeler was one of the favorites [to be played] in the family. And I loved those songs and I could yodel at 10 years old,” Watson said in an interview with Art Beat posted in January. His mother also frequently sang old-time songs and ballads around the house and the first instrument is father gave him was a harmonica.


  •   May 25, 2012 at 12:43 PM EDT

    “The Goat Rodeo Sessions” is the name of a recording released in October of last year. It’s also the name of a performance that airs Friday on PBS. It’s an all-star and eclectic group made up of cellist Yo-Yo Ma, bluegrass fiddler Stuart Duncan, bassist Edgar Meyer and mandolin master Chris Thile, who is well-known from the bands Nickel Creek, Punch Brothers and many other projects.

    I talked to Chris Thile earlier this week on the phone about working on “The Goat Rodeo Sessions” and his own projects:

    A transcript and more videos are after the jump.


  •   May 21, 2012 at 4:11 PM EDT

    On Monday’s NewsHour, we remember world renowned German opera singer, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. He was a master of the lieder, a form of German song, which he helped make popular in the 20th century. Fischer-Dieskau died Friday at the age of 86.

    We plan to air an excerpt of Fischer-Dieskau singing a section of Franz Schubert’s Winterreise. The performance was recorded in 1979 with Alfred Brendel playing the piano. Here’s the full performance:

    Also on Monday’s program, I also talked to Anne Midgette, the classical music critic for the Washington Post, about the life and legacy of Fischer-Dieskau. Here’s the continuation of our conversation that I mentioned on the program. (We’ll post the on-air discussion later Monday evening):


  •   May 4, 2012 at 12:25 PM EDT

    UPDATE | This entry was originally posted Feb. 17, 2012.

    Jeffrey Brown recently had a chance to sit down with John Legend as the singer-songwriter helped the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts launch “What’s Going On…Now,” a national arts, education and digital media campaign. The effort is intended to engage youth while marking the 40th anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s album of the same name and his 1972 performance at the Kennedy Center during its inaugural year.

    The Newshour plans to report reports Friday on the progress of the campaign as students across the country create videos, photos, poems and music that address issues of the day, from the economy to war to the environment. Some will come recently came to Washington, D.C., to participate in a national youth summit in May when Legend performs performed Gaye’s work at the Kennedy Center. (We’ll post Jeff’s piece here as soon as possible.)

    Here are two interviews: one with Legend on why he’s doing this and what he hopes to achieve, and one with Harry Weinger, vice president of Universal Music Enterprises, who is the producer of several deluxe editions of Gaye’s classic LPs, including “What’s Going On.” He tells the back story about why the song was first recorded.

    But first, you can listen to Gaye’s classic song here:


  •   April 26, 2012 at 2:41 PM EDT

    What do Ethiopian jazz, American funk, soul and ’70s rock ‘n’ roll have in common?

    It’s the sound of the Budos Band, an instrumental group from Staten Island, N.Y., that draws influences from all of these genres.

    “Basically at this point, we’ve scrapped calling ourselves a particular genre and just call ourselves ’70s instrumental music,” says Jared Tankel, whose baritone sax is blended with the other nine members’ intruments, including percussion, drums, guitar, bass, keyboard and trumpet, to create the Budos Band’s unique sound.

    The Budos Band has been making music for nine years, practicing in an abandoned evangelical church on a dead-end street away from the Brooklyn music scene, which they believe allows them the space to create their own sound. This is where their style has evolved.

    “We all have different tastes…but in terms of what we bring together when we press a record or when we go onstage, we’ve kind of all followed this path together, from initially really wanting to play Afro-Beat and then incorporating all these different influences,” Tankel says.

    The Budos Band has three full-length albums on Daptone Records and is on tour now.