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Music Inside Out: Music Lessons

How Music Works
How Music Works

Musicians make great teachers and Music Inside Out is shining a light on some of our favorite faculty:

“Half-shot, hot spot, fleshpot, mascot, young Scott, slingshot.” Singer-songwriter AJ Croce, says that a rhyming dictionary can be a songwriter’s best friend. When Croce listens to a song on the radio, he can sometimes figure out which dictionary the songwriter used. Check out Croce’s video, https://youtu.be/5VZZsjQ0ZQA" style="caret-color: rgb(90, 90, 90); font-family: "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; color: rgb(0, 136, 204);">“Right on Time,” which features his writing process.  

Jim McCormick has written and co-written an impressive number of hits for country music artists, including two number one songs. He says song lyrics shouldn’t necessarily be set in stone. McCormick is sanguine when an artist wants to change the words — as long as the change maintains the spirit of the song.

Jazz drummer and vibraphonist Jason Marsalis, says a real musical master is a perennial student. Marsalis is comfortable in either role.

Musicianship begins with the human voice and Rickie Lee Jones, has kept hers remarkably intact. Jones can still sing songs that she recorded 30 years ago — in their original key. But she also can bring world-weary excellence to an acapella rendition of the Blind Willie Johnson 1927 spiritual, “Dark Was the Night, (Cold Was the Ground).”

Jon Cleary has been a student of New Orleans music since arriving here from England more than 30 years ago. One of the unexpected consequences of radio signals from this area, he says, was the rise of ska and reggae music in the Caribbean.


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Gwen Thompkins is a New Orleans native, NPR veteran and host of WWNO's Music Inside Out, where she brings to bear the knowledge and experience she amassed as senior editor of Weekend Edition, an East Africa correspondent, the holder of Nieman and Watson Fellowships, and as a longtime student of music from around the world.