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David Greene

The Black Lives Matter movement became an international phenomenon in 2020. As protesters took to the streets in cities across the U.S. in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, Minn., so did demonstrators in other countries — all with a similar message: Black lives matter.

"There is a George Floyd in every country," South Africa-based journalist Lynsey Chutel tells NPR's David Greene during a recent roundtable interview.

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Adam Weiner sings and plays piano like an old school rock and roller in the band Low Cut Connie. Like so many musicians this year, Weiner saw all his gigs go up in smoke.

From the outset, 2020 has been a roller coaster for R&B singer PJ Morton. It began in January when he won a Grammy and lost one of his heroes, basketball star Kobe Bryant.

"Of course, it's amazing to win a Grammy, but there was a dark cloud," Morton says. "So for me, even before the pandemic, it kind of started as a weird year."

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All right. This is a really big day in the global fight against this devastating pandemic.

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The Morning Edition Song Project, in which musicians compose an original song about the COVID-19 era, returns this week with singer-songwriter Sarah Jarosz, Americana artist and one-third of the band I'm with Her.

AC/DC's latest album, Power Up, was released Friday. It's a tribute to the band's late co-founder, Malcolm Young. But it's also a big comeback.

On its last tour, only a few years ago, things weren't looking good for the group. Malcolm was too ill to perform. Singer Brian Johnson was losing his hearing and had to leave the tour midway through. And bassist Cliff Williams retired afterward. Some thought AC/DC was over — but not Malcolm's brother, guitarist Angus Young.

The Morning Edition Song Project, in which musicians compose an original song about the COVID-19 era, returns this week with multi-genre singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen, leader of the band Thao & the Get Down Stay Down. Early this September, the San Francisco-based musician stepped onto her porch to find polluted air and falling ash — the fallout of the wildfires raging on the West Coast.

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President-elect Joe Biden says President Trump's refusal to accept the outcome of the election is not affecting his transition plans.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

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Joe Biden is now the president-elect. So when will President Trump concede?

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And here we are, the last day of this seemingly endless campaign season. And, David, at this point, it's probably good to talk a little bit about expectations, right?

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The Morning Edition Song Project, in which musicians compose an original song about the COVID-19 era, returns this week with folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens.

Giddens is American, but has spent the pandemic at her home in Limerick, Ireland. When we spoke to her on Monday, Ireland was just a few days into a new six-week lockdown to address the country's growing infection rate. The restrictions are among the toughest in Europe.

It took Wisconsin more than seven months to reach 100,000 coronavirus cases. On Monday, just five weeks later, it reached 200,000.

The Morning Edition Song Project, in which musicians compose an original song about the COVID-19 era, returns this week with country singer-songwriter Lori McKenna. A Nashville writer for hire and solo artist in her own right, McKenna has been spending the year doing songwriting sessions over Zoom from the basement of her family's Boston home.

"When I first started writing as a teenager, people said, 'You got to write what you know,' and I figured well this is what I know," McKenna says. "I know how to be in a family."

Combine vibrating urbano bass that conjures classic Daddy Yankee, a silky R&B voice that could make Prince blush and textures reminiscent of John Carpenter's Halloween score, and you've got the latest album from Gabriel Garzón-Montano.

The Morning Edition Song Project, in which musicians compose an original song about the COVID-19 era, returns this week with New Orleans group Tank and the Bangas. When NPR first approached the band over the summer, the pandemic and the George Floyd protests were dominating the news. Asked to compose some music that put her feelings about the words into words, singer Tarriona "Tank" Ball responded with a song simply called "Feelings."

Morning Edition has been reaching out to musicians in recent months to get their take on the COVID-19 era, and asking them to write an original song inspired by this tumultuous time. This week's contributors, veteran folk-rock duo Indigo Girls, have lots of experience writing about social issues in their music. But according to member Amy Ray, they had some serious misgivings at first.

For the Morning Edition Song Project, we've asked musicians to capture life in the era of COVID-19 by writing an original song that describes this turbulent moment. When we contacted Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, he had an idea ready to go. He says "Slint, Spiderland" was something he had been jotting down as a sort of musical journal entry.

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It's been a brutal year for Americans.

The relentless spread of COVID-19, the ensuing economic crisis and the reckoning around social injustice has made this a year like none other.

NPR wanted to know how these cataclysmic, consequential events have affected American families and how those experiences might shape their political choices in the upcoming presidential election.

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