For this Thanksgiving weekend special, we serve up a heaping course of sonic delights and give thanks to the artists and artisans keeping American roots cultures alive. Every year since 1982 the National Endowment for the Arts has presented Heritage fellowships — America’s highest honor in “folk & traditional arts.” We hear music from past award recipients including swamp boogie chanteuse Carol Fran and bluegrass crooner Del McCoury. And we go live to the 2017 NEA Heritage concert for songs and stories from Puerto Rican percussionist Modesto Cepeda, Hawaiian slack-key guitarist Cyril Pahinui, conjunto accordionist Eva Ybarra, Appalachian buckdancer Thomas Maupin, Danish accordionist Dwight Lamb, Piedmont blues harp player Phil Wiggins, folk music teacher Ella Jenkins, Alaskan weaver Anna Brown Ehlers and Armenian metalworker Norik Astvatsaturov.
We celebrate the songmaker, piano “professor” and producer from New Orleans who passed away suddenly in November 2015. A beloved Creole gentleman, Allen Toussaint was a hometown hero and giant on the American music scene. He wrote over 800 songs and produced regional and national hit records such as “Java” (Al Hirt), “Mother-in-Law” (Ernie K-Doe), “I Like it Like That” (Chris Kenner), “It’s Raining” (Irma Thomas), “Yes We Can” (Lee Dorsey) among others. Toussaint worked closely with the Meters, Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello. He is in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and received the National Medal of Arts. Allen Toussaint’s famed autobiographical song is “Southern Nights.”
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