Musicians

Breakup albums take listeners through the stages of a breakup much like the stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

The Heart-Wrenching History of the Breakup Album

From Joni Mitchell's 'Blue' to Olivia Rodrigo's 'Sour,' love and loss has an ever evolving soundtrack

A flag in New York City's Times Square marks MTV's 40th birthday.

At 40, MTV Is Officially Over the Hill

Born in 1981, the network soon grew to include reality TV and the VMAs. But nothing compares to its glory days of 24/7 music videos

Buildings in New Orleans' historic French Quarter, pictured here, sustained damage when Hurricane Ida made landfall on Sunday.

Hurricane Ida Destroys New Orleans Jazz Landmark Dubbed Louis Armstrong's 'Second Home'

The historic Karnofsky Tailor Shop and Residence collapsed on Sunday after water pooled on its roof

The Smithsonian Anthology of Hip Hop and Rap tracks the evolution of the genre from its music to its culture and to its people. "Everything that is part of hip-hop," says the Smithsonian's Dwandalyn Reece, curator of music and performing arts.

Chronicling Hip-Hop's 45-Year Ascendance as a Musical, Cultural and Social Phenom

The groundbreaking box set "Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap" features 129 tracks, liner notes and an illustrated 300-page compendium

The worn hands and nubby fingernails of Bentonia, Mississippi, bluesman Jimmy "Duck" Holmes reflect his years of experience. Holmes is one of the last bluesmen who play a style known as Bentonia blues.

At an Old Juke Joint in Mississippi, the Blues Are Alive

Jimmy Holmes is the last in a line of music legends as he seeks to keep a singular American art form thriving

The Ifesowapo dùndún ensemble performing in Igbo Ora, southwest Nigeria

How Does the West African Talking Drum Accurately Mimic Human Speech?

A new study explores how the dùndún replicates tones and patterns of the Yorùbá language

B.B. King is among the performers featured in the documentary Summer of Soul.

The Story Behind the Harlem Cultural Festival Featured in 'Summer of Soul'

Jesse Jackson, Nina Simone, B.B. King and 100,000 spectators gathered for a concert worth remembering

Here are 12 of the rarest doo-wop records ever made. “Can’t Help Loving That Girl of Mine” (1954) by Philadelphia’s 
Hide-A-Ways is, Shively says, the “holy grail of vocal group
collecting.”

A Peek Inside the World's Greatest Record Store

A lovable grouch, obsessed with the magic of American sidewalk harmony, runs the Philadelphia shop

The painting is one of 47 in the pop star's D Heads series.

Cool Finds

David Bowie Painting Purchased at Landfill for $4 Expected to Fetch Thousands

The rock star created the semi-abstract portrait—up for auction through June 24—in 1997

A previously unknown Thomas Gainsborough portrait of composer Antonín Kammel

Cool Finds

Newly Discovered Gainsborough Portrait Reveals Likeness of Overlooked Composer

The acclaimed British artist's painting of Czech musician Antonín Kammel may be worth upward of $1.3 million

L to R: John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison perform at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany, in May 1962.

How a Stint in Hamburg Helped Catapult the Beatles to Superstardom

A trove of letters and photographs associated with the band's time in Germany is set to go up for auction next month

One of the most versatile harmonica players in pop history is Stevie Wonder, shown here in Paris in 1963 at age 13.

A Brief History of the Harmonica

How the world’s handiest instrument took over American music

Featured in the museum's first temporary exhibition, the Fisk Jubilee Singers introduced spirituals to audiences around the world.

A New Museum in Nashville Chronicles 400 Years of Black Music

The culmination of two decades of planning, the National Museum of African American Music opened its doors last month

Musician Lara Downes aims to highlight the work of composers like Harry T. Burleigh, photographed c. 1938.

How Black Composers Shaped the Sound of American Classical Music

A new project seeks to elevate artists like Harry T. Burleigh and Florence Price, whose work has been ignored by white audiences

Admas. From left, clockwise: Abegasu Shiota, Henock Temesgen, Tewodros Aklilu, and Yousef Tesfaye.

Smithsonian Voices

Why the Newly Released 1980s Album 'Sons of Ethiopia,' by the Ethiopian D.C. Band Admas, Is Going Viral

Admas draws from and rearranges “golden era” Ethiopian music with then-fairly-new synthesizer and drum-machine rhythms.

Paredon Records produced music that was literally revolutionary.

From the 'Sidedoor' Podcast: How a Woman-Led Record Label Spread Songs of Protest and Revolution

This episode from the sixth season of the Smithsonian's "Sidedoor" podcast delves into the history of Barbara Dane's revolutionary Paredon Records

The film fictionalizes the night that Cassius Clay (seated, wearing a bow tie) became the world's heavyweight boxing champion. Three of his friends—Malcolm X (holding a camera at far left), Jim Brown (standing with his hand on Clay's shoulder) and Sam Cooke (raising a glass to the right of Clay)—joined the young athlete for a post-fight celebration.

Based on a True Story

The True History Behind 'One Night in Miami'

Regina King's directorial debut dramatizes a 1964 meeting between Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown

Ory in November 1945, during his comeback after working as a janitor.

Kid Ory Finally Gets the Encore He Deserves

The childhood home of the musician who put New Orleans jazz on the map will soon open to the public

Ma Rainey poses with her band for a studio group shot c. 1924-25.

'The Great Gatsby,' Songs by Ma Rainey and Other Classic Works Are Now in the Public Domain

Canonical books, songs and films became free to use in 2021

“He is setting a fine example for the youth of the country,” said a public health official after the King of Rock 'n' Roll received a vaccine on the set of “The Ed Sullivan Show” in October 1956.

Covid-19

How Elvis Helped America Eliminate Polio

The rock star's much-publicized vaccination inspired reluctant U.S. teens to get inoculated

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