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On 'The Streets of New York' with Willie Nile

Willie Nile on stage at the New York bar Kenny's Castaways.
Jesse Baker, NPR
Willie Nile on stage at the New York bar Kenny's Castaways.

Every year, countless numbers of musicians pack up their belongings and head to New York City in hopes of breaking into the big time.

For Willie Nile, that break came on July 29, 1978. He was the opening act, and the influential New York Times critic Robert Palmer was in the audience to see the headliner. He wound up devoting the bulk of his review to Nile, then 29.

"Every once in awhile," wrote Palmer, "the times seems to produce an artist who is at once an iconoclast and near-perfect expression of contemporary currents."

Since that review was published, Willie Nile has earned a great deal of respect in the music business, but never became what you would call a star. It doesn't seem to matter to him.

His new CD pays homage to a place that has nurtured him over the decades: The Streets of New York.

NPR's Jesse Baker produced this story.

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Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.