Fresh Air

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Fresh Air with Terry Gross, the Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues, is one of public radio's most popular programs. Each week, nearly 4.5 million people listen to the show's intimate conversations broadcast on more than 450 National Public Radio (NPR) stations across the country, as well as in Europe on the World Radio Network.

Visit the Fresh Air website for more information.

Though Fresh Air has been categorized as a "talk show," it hardly fits the mold. Its 1994 Peabody Award citation credits Fresh Air with "probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insights." And a variety of top publications count Gross among the country's leading interviewers. The show gives interviews as much time as needed, and complements them with comments from well-known critics and commentators.

Fresh Air is produced at WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and broadcast nationally by NPR.

This interview was originally broadcast on February 21, 2011.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:


What were you doing when you were 16?

When he was 16, James Burton was inventing the American guitar. He'd been born in Dubberly, La., in 1939, and was apparently self-taught on his instrument. At 15, he cut a single backing local singer Carol Williams, and then one day he came up with a guitar riff that he liked. He took it to a singer from Shreveport he was touring with, and they worked out a song to use in his act. One thing led to another, and it wound up on a record called "Suzie Q," credited to Dale Hawkins, the singer.

Many people are rapturous over the work of Wes Anderson, and for them, I expect, Moonrise Kingdom will be nirvana. The frames are quasi-symmetrical: a strong center, often human, with misaligned objects on each side suggesting a universe that's slightly out of balance, like a series of discombobulated dollhouses.

This interview was originally broadcast on August 25, 2011. The Leftovers is now available in paperback.

Last year, California-based preacher Harold Camping announced that the beginning of the end of the world would take place on May 21, 2011. The date passed by with no apparent rapture, and Camping became the butt of many late-night talk show jokes.

How Wes Anderson Soundtracks His Movies

May 24, 2012

If you see the new Wes Anderson movie Moonrise Kingdom, you'll hear background music from composers Benjamin Britten and Alexandre Desplat, as well as several songs from Hank Williams.

If you're a parent, you may have wondered what your kids are texting to each other or posting on their Facebook pages. Or maybe you've thought about it and decided you don't want to know.

That's not the best approach, says child advocate James Steyer. Steyer runs Common Sense Media, an organization that helps parents decide which kinds of technology are age-appropriate for their kids.

Happy Feet: Tips For Healthier Running

May 23, 2012

After hearing a lot about barefoot running, New York Times Phys Ed columnist Gretchen Reynolds decided to try it out for herself. An amateur runner for several decades, Reynolds says she thought the transition would be easy. But almost immediately, she got injured.

Not many classical pianists maintain blogs where they ruminate on everything from eating a terrible bowl of meatballs while on tour with Joshua Bell to seeing Twilight: New Moon (twice) and hearing strains of a Schubert song.

Whenever I think about Christopher Tilghman's writing — and I have many times since his atmospheric novel, Mason's Retreat, came out more than 15 years ago — I think of critic John Leonard. John, among many other distinctions, was my predecessor as book critic for Fresh Air and, every once in a while before his death in 2008, we'd have occasion to talk or exchange e-mails about books. I remember John sending me a note in 1996, in which he mentioned Mason's Retreat and said of Tilghman, "He's the real deal."

In 1935, George Gershwin brought the script for his folk opera Porgy and Bess to the opera's original cast, which was entirely made up of African-American actors. "[In the original], every other word was N-word this, N-word that," says actor David Alan Grier. "[And] there's a very famous story: Al Jolson really wanted to play Porgy, in blackface."

John Fullbright's voice rises up and around the guitar chords in "Me Wanting You," his tone intended to haunt the person he's addressing. His desire, his "me wanting you," is as direct as he can possibly make it — it's not a cry of despair or hope or lust. It's the sound of someone intent on making as strong a connection with the listener as he possibly can.

Sacha Baron Cohen: The Fresh Air Interview

May 21, 2012

Actor and writer Sacha Baron Cohen is famous for taking his characters — Ali G., Borat, Bruno — into the real world, interacting with people who have no idea that they're dealing with a fictional character. But his new movie, The Dictator, is a scripted comedy about a tyrant on the loose in New York.


Interview Highlights

On why he enjoyed playing a dictator

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

A Conversation With Author Carlos Fuentes

May 18, 2012

Carlos Fuentes, one of the most influential writers in the Latin American world, died Tuesday at a hospital in Mexico City. He was 83. A prolific writer, Fuentes wrote novels, short stories and plays, as well as political nonfiction and essays that criticized the Mexican government during the 1980s and '90s.

Donna Summer, the queen of disco, died Thursday at her home in Naples, Fla., after a long struggle with cancer. She was 63. Born LaDonna Andrea Gaines, she grew up in a large Boston family singing gospel music and became an icon of a powerful cultural movement, a celebrated sex queen and a staple of gay club life.

This interview was originally broadcast on Feb. 10, 2011.

The British hairdresser Vidal Sassoon, who created some of the most iconic hairstyles of the 20th century, died on May 9 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 84.

Sassoon's creations included the geometric, the Wash-and-Wear, the short bob Nancy Kwan wore in The World of Suzie Wong and Mia Farrow's famous pixie cut for Rosemary's Baby.

Many fans will be disappointed that Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator is a more or less conventional comedy and not an ambush-interview mockumentary in the style of Borat and Bruno. But that guerrilla-clown shtick would be tough to sustain: Why not let him try something else? The good news is that The Dictator is loose and slap-happy and full of sharp political barbs and has funny actors moving in and out — and at a lickety-split 83 minutes, it doesn't wear out its welcome.

Audra McDonald: Shaping 'Bess' On Broadway

May 15, 2012

Audra McDonald has starred in stage classics and on TV, where she played a leading role on the ABC drama Private Practice for four seasons. But the actress might be better known for her stunning voice and for her performances in the Broadway productions of Carousel, Master Class and Ragtime, which helped her rack up three Tony Awards before the age of 30. She won a fourth Tony for her performance in A Raisin in the Sun, putting her in the company of Broadway greats Gwen Verdon and Mary Martin.

Johnny Carson walked away from The Tonight Show, after 30 years at the top of the late-night ratings, of his own volition. And except for a few fleeting TV appearances after he retired, he never looked back — and never went back. When filmmaker Peter Jones would send an annual letter to Carson, asking for his cooperation in a TV biography of him, the answer was always no. One year, Carson went so far as to explain why: Let the work, he said, speak for itself.

Pounding Away At America's Obesity Epidemic

May 14, 2012

The numbers are staggering: One-third of Americans are obese; another third are overweight. Some 26 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes. An additional 79 million more are pre-diabetic. Thanks to these figures, the children of today have a good chance of becoming the first generation of Americans to die at younger ages than their parents.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

Lena Dunham Addresses Criticism Aimed At 'Girls': The creator and star of HBO's new series Girls addresses the growing backlash against the show, which follows four 20-somethings as they navigate the ups and downs of life in New York City.

Fresh Air At 25: A Live Musical Tribute

May 11, 2012

Friday marks the 25th anniversary of the day Fresh Air became a daily national NPR program. Before that, the show was broadcast only on WHYY in Philadelphia. How long ago was May 11, 1987? On Fresh Air's first edition, TV critic David Bianculli reviewed the finale of the TV series Hill Street Blues.

Two score and four years ago, I'd fly home from fourth grade for the 4 p.m. broadcast of Dark Shadows. In 1968, vampires and werewolves weren't mainstream — the era's horror films mostly played drive-ins — yet here on TV was a daily horror soap opera.

If you're sitting at a desk reading this article, take a minute and stand up. That's the latest advice from New York Times Phys Ed columnist Gretchen Reynolds. In her new book, The First 20 Minutes, Reynolds details some of the surprisingly simple ways you can combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

Fresh Air Remembers Author Maurice Sendak

May 8, 2012

Author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, whose classic children's book Where the Wild Things Are became a perennial and award-winning favorite for generations of children, died Tuesday. He was 83.

Sendak appeared on Fresh Air with Terry Gross several times over the years. In 1989, he told Terry Gross that he didn't ever write with children in mind — but that somehow what he wrote turned out to be for children nonetheless.

Adam "MCA" Yauch, one of the founding members of the Beastie Boys, died Friday after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 47.

With his raspy voice, Yauch started making music with Michael Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) when they were all teenagers in New York City in the early 1980s. The Beastie Boys started out as a punk band, but in 1987, the group released Licensed to Ill, the first hop-hop album to reach No. 1 on the pop charts.

Lena Dunham was just 23 years old when her second feature film, Tiny Furniture, won the best narrative feature prize at the South by Southwest Film Festival. The movie's success led to Dunham striking a deal with HBO for a comedy series about a group of 20-something girls navigating New York City.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

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