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Fresh Air At 25: A Live Musical Tribute

<em>Fresh Air</em>'s staff, surrounded by employees of WHYY at their 25th-anniversary party.
Melody Kramer/Fresh Air
Fresh Air's staff, surrounded by employees of WHYY at their 25th-anniversary party.

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.

Terry Gross.
Terry Gross.

A 25th anniversary is a pretty big event in the life of a show. To celebrate, it seemed appropriate to do something that reflected our 25 years on the air, so we decided to select some of Fresh Air's great live musical performances from our archive. Among the performers on Friday's show: Peggy King, Susannah McCorkle, Loudon Wainwright III, Charlie Haden, Shirley Horn, Arthur Alexander, Richard Thompson, Dave Frishberg, Rebecca Kilgore, Nick Lowe, John Doe and Catherine Russell.

So many other great musicians have performed on our show over the past 25 years. (You can find many of their performances online here.) We feel very fortunate — not many shows get to celebrate a 25th anniversary — because we've been given the greatest anniversary gift a show can ask for: you. Whether you've been listening for 25 years or just a few days, you have given us the privilege of marking this anniversary and continuing to produce Fresh Air. On behalf of all of us who have worked on the show over the past 25 years, our current crew and our alumni, thank you. A lot.

Fresh Air's executive producer is Danny Miller. The people who work so hard to find our guests, edit our interviews and keep us on the air include Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Roberta Shorrock, Sam Briger, Ann Marie Baldonado, Lauren Krenzel, John Myers, John Sheehan (who edited and mixed this anniversary show), Heidi Saman, Teresa Madden, Melody Kramer, Dorothy Ferebee and Audrey Bentham.


Some of the singing you hear on Fresh Air isn't from concerts; it's just guests breaking out into song. The medley on today's show features:

  • Al Green on "Tired of Being Alone"
  • Nathan Lane delivering singing telegrams
  • David Sedaris singing the old Oscar Mayer Wiener commercial jingle, in his Billie Holiday voice
  • James Brown counting off "On the One"
  • Martin Short singing "I Shot the Sheriff" as Frank Sinatra
  • Jason Segel performing the "Little Girl Song" from Les Miz
  • Patti Smith singing "Slow Boat to China" — the kind of song she said she likes to sing around the house
  • Richard Belzer imagining Bob Dylan at his bar mitzvah
  • Bill Murray yelling at the band in character as a lounge singer
  • Paul McCartney giving us a few bars of the great Beatles song "From Me to You"
  • Mel Brooks as the German Ethel Merman
  • Tom Kinney singing in the cartoon voice for which he's best known, SpongeBob
  • Jack Black flexing his rock God voice
  • Bret McKenzie channeling some Harry Nilsson in "Without You"
  • Fresh Air's administrative assistant Dorothy Ferebee on the Chiquita Banana theme song
  • Robin Williams giving us his Ethel Merman
  • Martin Short singing "Come Fly With Me"
  • Ray Manzarek of The Doors revealing an inner Sonny and Cher.
  • Jay-Z remembering his first rhyme
  • And Martin Short, in character as the Tin Pan Alley songwriter Irving Cohen
  • Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.