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Usha Subrahmanyam, 69: Norah Jones' 'Don't Know Why'

Usha Subrahmanyam, of New York, N.Y., died at the age of 69.
Courtesy of Uttara Marti
Usha Subrahmanyam, of New York, N.Y., died at the age of 69.

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.

My amma just adored Norah Jones' voice. Classically trained in bharatanatyam in her youth and a naturally gifted dancer in several styles, amma loved to sway to Norah Jones while preparing a delicious meal, enjoyed absorbing the notes and lyrics while lounging in a blanket, or even just feeling the comfort of the songs while digging into the newspaper or a good book. When amma was in the hospital, I studied her Spotify choices throughout each day with intensity, to determine if she was trying to wind down for the evening — Vishnu Sahasranamam — or just listen to something that, in her words, was "very soothing" during the day, like Norah Jones. I believe she connected more personally to the fact that Norah has a tie to India through her father and, perhaps just as importantly, spent a good amount of her life in the East Village just like my mother had.

It is very unlike me to fill out a form like this and share something about my family, so bear with me. When amma was in the hospital, I sent her links to several podcasts and albums through our WhatsApp chat to listen to, most of which she didn't get to. She kept coming back to Norah Jones over and over again. I found this so incredibly reassuring to spy her listening to something that I thoroughly enjoy, too. I began listening to it on my phone at the same time so that I could feel like we were in the living room consuming it together.

Writing this, it just occurred to me that since amma passed in January, I haven't really been listening to music much. When I am in the kitchen preparing dinner in a few minutes for my father shortly, I will put on her Come Away With Me album. Amma and I often discussed going to a Norah Jones show as part of our checklist of to-do's post-COVID. I need to make sure to do so. —Uttara Marti, daughter

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