Elizabeth Blair

For live music fans, what was supposed to be "hot vax summer" has begun to feel more like "delta variant downer." The recent COVID-19 surges around the country are putting a damper on the joys of finally experiencing live music again even as major festivals and concerts return. It's also putting organizers and artists in the music industry in an increasingly tricky and uncertain position.

Despite multiple apologies, rapper DaBaby continues to face criticism — and cancellations — for homophobic comments he made during the Rolling Loud festival in late July.

Bill Cosby called on Howard University to support former co-star Phylicia Rashad's freedom of speech after she expressed support for him when his sexual assault conviction was overturned.

In a statement, Cosby also lashed out at the media, comparing journalists to the rioters who stormed the Capitol in January.

"Howard University you must support ones Freedom of Speech (Ms. Rashad), which is taught or suppose to be taught everyday at that renowned law school, which resides on your campus," Cosby said in a statement provided to NPR by his spokesman Andrew Wyatt.

The news that Bill Cosby has been released from prison has enraged sexual assault victims' advocates and #MeToo activists.

Today the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announces new grants for arts and culture organizations under President Biden's American Rescue Plan. The pandemic relief fund set aside $135 million for both the arts and humanities endowments, nearly double the amount that was available to cultural groups in President Trump's CARES Act. Eligibility requirements for NEA grants have also been modified to allow for a broader pool of applicants.

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Kennedy Center honorees run the gamut. There's Debbie Allen, Dick Van Dyke, Joan Baez, Garth Brooks, the violinist Midori. This Sunday, CBS will air a special featuring tributes and performances. Here's NPR's Elizabeth Blair.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JOE HILL")

JOAN BAEZ: (Singing) I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night.

Updated May 25, 2021 at 6:07 PM ET

President Biden announced his intention Tuesday afternoon to appoint four new members to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, the body that oversees design and architecture of federal buildings in Washington, D.C. Their positions are appointed by the president and do not need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Drummer Roger Hawkins has died. As part of the Swampers, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, he backed Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, the Staple Singers, the Rolling Stones and others in the '60s and '70s. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.

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NPR is celebrating 50 years on the air, so we're looking back to our birth year, 1971. On this day 50 years ago, Marvin Gaye released an album still considered a masterpiece, "What's Going On." The record was a complete departure for the Motown star. Up to that point, Gaye was known for R&B pop hits like "Heard It Through The Grapevine" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" with Tammi Terrell.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH")

Demi Lovato, two-time Grammy nominee and former Disney star, has come out as nonbinary. In the first episode of their new podcast 4D, Lovato says, "Over the past year and a half, I've been doing some healing and self-reflective work. And through this work, I've had the revelation that I identify as nonbinary.

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