Jason Heller

Jeanine Basinger is a veteran film historian and author with a well-respected body of work — including 11 books — behind her. But read her new book, The Movie Musical!, and you might think she's a debut author with something to prove.

In the prologue to her book God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip-Hop, Kathy Iandoli recounts her time working at an Internet radio station — and how, one day in 2009, a famous rapper who was appearing in the studio referred to her by saying, "F**k that c**t."

In 1969, Newsweek bestowed this honorific on Janis Joplin: "The first female superstar of rock music."

It's also a claim that Holly George-Warren sets out to prove in Janis, her new biography of the iconic Texan singer who rocketed to fame after becoming the frontwoman of the San Francisco blues-rock group Big Brother and the Holding Company — only to die four years later at the age of 27, a casualty of the freewheeling '60s, the decade she came to embody.

The end of Game of Thrones — not to mention the long gap between installments of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire — has left a smoldering, dragon-shaped hole in the hearts of fantasy fans. Dragons have been a staple of fantasy literature since The Lord of the Rings, and everyone from Ursula K. Le Guin and Anne McCaffrey to Robin Hobb and Naomi Novik have expanded upon the collective mythology of our favorite giant lizards. There's something primal about the appeal of dragons: their beauty, their majesty, their mystique, their bottomless symbolism.

When, exactly, was disco born? Was it when Billboard magazine began tabulating a chart devoted specifically to dance music in 1974? Or is that the tail wagging the dog, since armies of club DJs had been playing dance-conducive rock and pop music in discotheques since the '60s? And to put a finer point on it, what was actually the first disco song? We know all the big artists and hits of the original disco era, from The Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" to Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff." But where did that sound come from: those sweeping strings, the lush funkiness, the hi-hat-heavy beat?

Roky Erickson was rock music's ambassador to inner space.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Bandcamp playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Bandcamp playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple playlists at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Bandcamp playlist at the bottom of the page.

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