Gwen Thompkins

Host of Music Inside Out

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.

Ways to Connect

Rickie Lee Jones.
MusicInsideOut.org

Rickie Lee Jones says she moved to New Orleans, in part, because she wanted to be around people. In Los Angeles, she was mostly around cars.

So far, so good. People from New Orleans — either real or imagined — are all over her latest effort, “The Other Side of Desire.” And one of Jones’ neighbors here even helped inspire a song on the album.

George Porter, Jr.
MusicInsideOut.org

When George Porter, Jr. was a child, he wanted to become a Catholic priest. But an uncomfortably silent church retreat and an encounter with neighborhood blues musicians helped Porter find his musical calling.

He turned to funk and never looked back.

As the bass player for The Meters, Porter helped create a body of music in the 1960s and 70s that still resonates as some of the funkiest grooves ever recorded.

So what’s the secret to funk?

Gregg Goldman / Music Inside Out

Food may be the most popular subject on the planet. In fact, scientists have long said that men and women think about food more often than almost anything else: more often than global warming or world peace, more than super heroes, more often, even, than sex.

We can’t beat those odds, so this week on Music Inside Out we make a grocery list and dedicate the show to Louisiana songs about food.

Musician and author Ben Sandmel joins us for part of the hour. And we’re serving up songs that will hit the spot and keep you happy, until it’s time to think about food again.

Producer Scott Billington, with Irma Thomas and Dr. John.
MusicInsideOut.org

There’s a good chance that the name “Scott Billington” is on the back of your favorite album. Make that “albums.” As a long-time music producer for Rounder Records, Billington has tended the most fertile ground of American music.

John Boutte.
robbiesaurus / Flickr via MusicInsideOut.org

John Boutté is hard to intimidate. He may be the only guy who has ever told Stevie Wonder that his singing was flat. Boutté’s observation, during a chance encounter with Wonder, changed his life for good. What’s more, it made our lives better.

For more than 20 years, Boutté has built a career writing and performing his own songs, as well as re-interpreting the signature work of others. This week, Boutté tells Music Inside Out how he got so good at finding lyrics to suit his voice, his tenderness, his outrage and his legendary sass.

Deacon John.
Music Inside Out

Deacon John’s mother wanted him to be a singer, but she hated rock ‘n roll.

Oh well. Mrs. Moore’s little boy picked up a guitar, and it wasn’t long before rock ‘n roll came tumbling out.

This week, the 77-year-old New Orleans songwriter, producer and arranger Allen Toussaint died after a concert in Madrid. For most of his career, Toussaint preferred working behind the scenes, but our friend Gwen Thompkins met him at a time when he'd thrown himself into performing extensively around the world. Before they parted ways for what would be the last time, Toussaint gave Thompkins a gift: a demo recording of a song he never got to release, but said he wanted the world to hear.

Allen Toussaint.
MusicInsideOut.org

This week, we learned that Allen Toussaint died after performing at a concert Monday in Madrid. He was 77 years old. Toussaint had toured extensively since Hurricane Katrina, but he was, in many ways, a reluctant performer. He preferred his life behind the scenes in the studio — writing, producing, and arranging songs. A disciple of Professor Longhair, Toussaint seemed to understand what New Orleans music could do for the world.

Ben Jaffe, Gwen Thompkins and Charlie Gabriel.
Amanda Irizarry / Elephant Quilt Productions

Giants of traditional jazz played here; hell, they still play here: tucked behind walls with a patina worthy of the temple Preservation Hall has been through the years.

The doors opened in 1961. This was to be a sanctuary for America’s original music, born on the banks of the Mississippi. Here, the original sound of jazz would echo down St. Peter Street, even as rock ‘n’ roll swallowed radio.

MusicInsideOut.org

As a child, Jason Marsalis watched old television shows as much for the music as for anything the characters were doing onscreen.

“I became a big fan of reruns of the tv show, The Monkees,” he tells Gwen. “My father thought it was just hilarious that I was into this. But when I look back on it, that was music from the 1960s.”

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