Norah Jones

What comes to mind when you hear the word “Diva”? We’ve found that it’s a word that can go both ways—as praise for an accomplished and magnetic performer, or as a put-down to someone seen as pompous or high-strung. We’re singing divas’ praises while also exploring the term’s various connotations through music and interviews from high-minded women with conflicting views on the word: Bonnie Raitt, the late Abbey Lincoln, Norah Jones, and New Orleans Gospel Diva, Cynthia Girtley. Plus songs from divas and non-divas like Aretha Franklin, Patsy Cline, Lydia Mendoza, and Jessie Mae Hemphill.

Courtesy of the artist / via NPR

Come Away with Me turned Norah Jones from a total unknown to a multi-Grammy Award winning artist. That early fame has allowed her maximum artistic freedom, like unexpected collaborations with artists from Dolly Parton to Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. Her latest release, Begin Again, is a collection of singles recorded over the past year. Today, we’ll hear about what it’s like to be a touring mom and what she wants from a live audience. That’s coming up, on the World Cafe with host Talia Schlanger.

Seeking a musical balance between war and peace, I put together a set of CDs which include John Lennon's Imagine (obvious choice), Norah Jones's Peace (nice contrast) and Steve Earle's Condi, Condi (Steve Earle putting the move on Condoleeza Rice - certainly unusual enough). Thinking I had it all figured out, I made out my music list and came up with 27 songs. Just a little short, but several are more than five minutes long.

Then I noticed a stack of LPs in a little-used closet, and found two more entries:

You only have one chance to make a first impression, and these artists nailed it. On today's special edition of the World Cafe, the theme is Album 1, Side 1, Song 1. Join host Stephen Kallao as he plays the opening track from debut albums that left lasting impressions on the music world. Songs like "Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones, R.E.M.'s "Radio Free Europe," and Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun". It's an Independence Day playlist of some of the best musical beginnings. On the next World Cafe.

We take a deep dive into the vaults of Blue Note Records, the independent label that helped put artists like Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey and Jimmy Smith on the map.  

Flagbearer of trad jazz, bebop and the cool school, Blue Note is still at it after 79 years and has expanded its wheelhouse to include vocalists like Norah Jones, Ryan Adams and Van Morrison.