Memphis has been a music town since anyone can remember, and it's had places to record that music since there have been records. Some of its studies -- Sun, Stax and Hi -- are well-known, but American Studios produced its share of hits, and yet remains obscure.
Ocean has written songs for Beyonce, Justin Beiber and John Legend; last year, his mixtape Nostalgia Ultra attracted mainstream attention. Now, Ocean has released his first major-label album, Channel Orange. Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of Ocean's album and career thus far.
Etta James, the legendary vocalist who is perhaps known for her version of the song "At Last," has died. She was 73. Fresh Air remembers the singer with excerpts from a 1994 interview about her lengthy career.
Bandleader and producer Johnny Otis, who launched and then nurtured the careers of many of R&B's greatest singers, died Tuesday at his home near Los Angeles. He was 90. Fresh Air remembers Otis with excerpts from a 1989 interview.
Anthony Hamilton's Back to Love was released late last year. Rock critic Ken Tucker says Hamilton's vocals "evoke predecessors ranging from Bill Withers to Teddy Pendergrass to Peabo Bryson," while also maintaining a contemporary sound.
For many years, the search for unknown or forgotten soul singers has dug deeply into music archives. But surprises still turn up. Music critic Milo Miles says this year's best discovery is a West African singer and bandleader named El Rego.
Before the Civil Rights movement, segregated American cities helped give birth to the Chitlin' Circuit, a touring revue that provided employment for hundreds of black musicians. Rock historian Ed Ward profiles two recent books which illuminate the conditions these musicians endured.
Al Green wrote "Take Me to the River," but it was his labelmate Syl Johnson who first made it famous. Rock historian Ed Ward traces Johnson's early career, which started in Chicago blues clubs in the 1950s.