Phil Harrell

NPR turns 50 this year, and we're marking it by looking back on some other things that happened in 1971.

On this day fifty years ago, rock and roll fans lost their minds: It marks the release of Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album.

While "Stairway to Heaven" remains one of the most beloved anthems of all time, and other songs like "Black Dog" and "Rock and Roll" became staples of rock radio, there's a piece of the record that has become singularly iconic.

Jack Antonoff has become one of the most in-demand collaborators in music, with credits on the latest albums by Taylor Swift, Lorde, St. Vincent and many others. His work has taken him all over the world, but he never strays too far from his home — at least in his songwriting.

The opioid crisis in the U.S. has never gone away.

Almost every year, more people die of opioid overdoses than in the year before. More than a half-million people have died from prescription painkillers, heroin and illicit fentanyl since 1999. Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 66,000 people died of an opioid overdose in the U.S. in the 12 months to September 2020, a huge jump from the previous 12 months.

On July 4, 1970, the countdown started. Originally hosted by Casey Kasem, American Top 40 played "the best selling and most-played songs from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico," as he stated on the first program broadcast 50 years ago as of tomorrow.

On any given week, American Top 40 could feature a ballad, next to a country song, next to a funk song, next to a rock song. The show became a national obsession but 50 years ago, it was considered a risky idea.

Morning Edition's series One-Hit Wonders / Second-Best Songs focuses on musicians or bands whose careers in the United States are defined by a single monster hit, and explains why their catalogs have much more to offer.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Pioneering rockers like Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard brought the fire of a Pentecostal preacher to their pianos. That same spirit is alive and well in the work of Low Cut Connie, whose fifth album Dirty Pictures (Part 2) comes out May 18.