David Greene

The Morning Edition Song Project, in which musicians compose an original song about the COVID-19 era, returns this week with country singer-songwriter Lori McKenna. A Nashville writer for hire and solo artist in her own right, McKenna has been spending the year doing songwriting sessions over Zoom from the basement of her family's Boston home.

"When I first started writing as a teenager, people said, 'You got to write what you know,' and I figured well this is what I know," McKenna says. "I know how to be in a family."

Hungarian architect Ernő Rubik takes play very seriously — and suggests we could all lighten up. "Most people are taking most of the things too seriously," he says. "They really can't enjoy life because of that."

If Rubik's name sounds familiar that's because he's the inventor of the Rubik's Cube — that fun (and frustrating) colorful cube puzzle.

"If you don't really mind if you are winning or losing, you enjoy the play ..." he says. "I learn most from my failures — that is the way to learn, that is the way to be successful."

Combine vibrating urbano bass that conjures classic Daddy Yankee, a silky R&B voice that could make Prince blush and textures reminiscent of John Carpenter's Halloween score, and you've got the latest album from Gabriel Garzón-Montano.

The Morning Edition Song Project, in which musicians compose an original song about the COVID-19 era, returns this week with New Orleans group Tank and the Bangas. When NPR first approached the band over the summer, the pandemic and the George Floyd protests were dominating the news. Asked to compose some music that put her feelings about the words into words, singer Tarriona "Tank" Ball responded with a song simply called "Feelings."

Morning Edition has been reaching out to musicians in recent months to get their take on the COVID-19 era, and asking them to write an original song inspired by this tumultuous time. This week's contributors, veteran folk-rock duo Indigo Girls, have lots of experience writing about social issues in their music. But according to member Amy Ray, they had some serious misgivings at first.

For the Morning Edition Song Project, we've asked musicians to capture life in the era of COVID-19 by writing an original song that describes this turbulent moment. When we contacted Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, he had an idea ready to go. He says "Slint, Spiderland" was something he had been jotting down as a sort of musical journal entry.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It's been a brutal year for Americans.

The relentless spread of COVID-19, the ensuing economic crisis and the reckoning around social injustice has made this a year like none other.

NPR wanted to know how these cataclysmic, consequential events have affected American families and how those experiences might shape their political choices in the upcoming presidential election.

For the Morning Edition Song Project, we've asked musicians to capture life in the era of COVID-19 by writing an original song that describes this turbulent moment. For our next entry, Nashville-based soul singer Devon Gilfillian examines how the pandemic created space for a national dialogue on race with his new song, "Cracks in the Ceiling," which he wrote after a difficult conversation with a close friend.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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It was during a recent interview on NPR that a postal worker reported a mysterious development. The Postal Service was removing sorting machines from Waterloo, Iowa.

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YouTube

For the Morning Edition Song Project, the show has been reaching out to musicians in recent weeks for their take on the era of COVID-19, asking them to put their thoughts to music in a

Makaya McCraven calls himself a beat scientist, so it's no surprise when you ask about his childhood, you hear he was pretty much surrounded by rhythm.

"Rehearsals at our house, banging on drums since I was able to hold a drumstick, sleeping in my dad's bass drum," he recalls. "There was no front head, and a little pillow in there. And you could just kinda go in and lay down if you're small enough."

Alex Trebek usually asks all the questions, so we turned the tables and asked him one for a change. What would the Jeopardy! clue be for the question, "Who is Alex Trebek?"

"He's the avuncular host of a popular quiz show who has been around, it seems, forever," Trebek replies.

Trebek, who turns 80 on Wednesday, has been hosting Jeopardy! since 1984. When he was offered the position back then, he had no idea he'd stay with the show for the rest of his career. "It was a job," he says.

The pandemic, a bad economy, police killings and a fight for racial equality: It's a lot of take in. For some, music has been a way to cope and try to make sense of it all and that is the premise behind the Morning Edition Song Project, in which we asked musicians to write and perform an original song about this moment.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

More than half of all U.S. states are experiencing a surge in the number of new daily coronavirus cases.

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First, a pandemic, then economic collapse and now there are mass demonstrations over police brutality and racism.

In times of upheaval like this, music can be an escape. Maybe a way to reflect or try to make sense of things. This is what led to a new series we're launching today. For the Morning Edition Song Project, we've been asking musicians to write and perform an original song for us.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

George Floyd was buried in his hometown of Houston, Texas, this week. Floyd left his mark on the city through his friends and family, but also through the music he made under the name Big Floyd.

George Floyd grew up in Houston's Third Ward — the home of the city's hip-hop and rap scene. Floyd used to spend hours in producer DjD's home studio, making the kind of slow-the-music-down form of rap made famous by the late DJ Screw, who also knew and worked with Floyd.

In Montgomery, Ala., just down the road from where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, a noisy trailer sits in a tiny church parking lot.

The trailer is like a mini-laundromat, equipped with three washers and dryers and two shower stalls. Every week, it serves a homeless congregation at River City Church — even through a pandemic.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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More than 100,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19.

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Andrew Watt is one of pop music's hottest hired guns. The 29-year-old has written and produced for megastars including Post Malone, Cardi B, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. His calling card is blending of-the-moment pop with a rock aesthetic. Last month, shortly after recovering from COVID-19, he played guitar while Miley Cyrus covered Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" on Saturday Night Live.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Is it time for states to reopen their economies? President Trump really wants it to happen. But the question is whether or not it's safe.

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People around the world are reporting that birds are much louder these days.

But Sue Anne Zollinger, an ornithologist from Manchester Metropolitan University, cautions: Don't believe everything you hear.

With the decrease in traffic, there's less noise pollution. That means birds have less noise to compete with, she says. (Scroll down to the end of this story to listen for yourself.)

Many Americans are spending a lot more time with their partners these days.

And some of those relationships are being tested by the inevitable "pressure-cooker" moments that come with weeks of being confined to the home in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

"What we're seeing is that there's a clash between the terrible anxiety about catching the virus and having to stay sequestered 24/7," says relationship therapist Julie Gottman.

So if a relationship is already on the rocks that anxiety, Gottman says, "has nowhere to go but towards the partner."

During the coronavirus pandemic, many hospitals have restricted family visits because the risk of infection is just too high.

For many families, the only connection they have to a loved one in their final moments in the ICU is through a hospital chaplain.

As New York City experiences a staggering loss of life this week, Rocky Walker, a chaplain at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, has been working outside the shut doors of patient rooms. There, while on the phone or video chat with a patient's family member, he'll describe what he's seeing in the room.

"Entirely Different Stars," from Lukas Nelson's newest album, Naked Garden, is a song many people might relate to right about now. It's a fantasy about grabbing that special someone and blasting off to a less troubled planet.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

One trillion dollars.

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David Simon's new TV series, The Plot Against America, imagines an alternative American history, one in which an aviation legend and Nazi sympathizer is elected president.

Simon adapted the series from a 2004 novel by Philip Roth: Charles Lindbergh beats Franklin Delano Roosevelt and becomes the 33rd U.S. president. It follows the story of a working-class Jewish family living in New Jersey in 1940 as Lindbergh unexpectedly ascends to power.

When you collapse on the couch after a long workday and start scrolling through social media, you're not doing your tired brain any favors, says author Celeste Headlee.

"Your brain sees your phone as work," she explains. "To your brain, any time that phone is visible, part of your brain is expending part of its energy on preparing for a notification to come in. It's like a runner at the starting gate."

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