Show cover of Soul Music

Soul Music

Series about pieces of music with a powerful emotional impact


Fast Car
'Fast Car' is one of Tracy Chapman's biggest hits, with listeners from around the world finding striking connections with their own lives in the song's story. It was released in April 1988, and that summer, the American singer-songwriter performed it to a global audience of 600 million at Nelson Mandela's 70th Birthday Tribute. This broadcast catapulted Tracy and the song to super-stardom, as it became a top ten hit on both sides of the Atlantic and received three Grammy nominations. Ever since, 'Fast Car' has resonated with people around the world. The lyrics describe a working woman trying to escape a cycle of poverty, dreaming of a plan to leave in a "fast car". She speaks of wanting to get out of the life she finds herself in, living in a shelter, and driving towards the city to find something better. This episode features the personal stories of Fitzroy Samuels in Kingston, Jamaica; Priscilla Munson in Indiana, U.S; Gemma Brown in Gateshead, UK and Dev Cuny in California, U.S. We also hear from Alister Wright in Sydney, Australia whose band, Vlossom, covered Fast Car; and Nigel Williamson, music journalist who has met and interviewed Tracy Chapman many times. Produced by Eliza Lomas, BBC Audio Bristol
27:34 05/07/2023
I Say a Little Prayer for You
When Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David wrote I Say A Little Prayer For You in 1967 the war in Vietnam was raging. The song was intended as message of support for the soldiers there. It was originally recorded by Dionne Warwick and the following year by Aretha Franklin. Doug Bradley was drafted and served in Vietnam as a war correspondent. He says the music the troops all listened to on AFVN (Armed Forces Vietnam Network) sustained him and others while they were in country. His book We Gotta Get Out of This Place (The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War) documents the vital role music played for the soldiers. Aretha Franklin was a symbol of hope and civil rights for many African American troops and I Say A Little Prayer a soothing and calming message of love. The singer-songwriter Rumer adored the song and all of Aretha's music as an unhapy teenager in England. She went on to write the hit song Aretha about a young girl whose mother has a mental illness confiding all her worries to the Queen of Soul. Her husband Rob Shirakbari was recruited by both Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach as keyboard player and musical arranger. To him the song with its mixture of time signatures and different interpretations symbolises many happy years playing with two of the musical greats. Jazz singer Nnenna Freelon has recorded two versions of because it is one she has loved throughout the years but only after the death of her husband Phil in 2019 did it become a song about the expression of grief. Her latest version interprets the song as a plea and a prayer for her late husband as well as for herself. Her podcast Great Grief is a meditation on grief and loss combined with music. In 1968 Aretha Franklin played in Stockholm. 15 year old Hasse Huss and his friend hung around her hotel hoping to meet her. Not only did they meet her but at her invitation they spent the next day with her as she rehearsed for her show. I Say A Little Prayer fills him with happiness and nostalgia for this happy day in the late sixties and he plans to incorporate the song lyrics into a speech for his son's wedding. And Professor Daphne Brooks grew up with older siblings and musical parents who introduced her to the song. It has been with her throughout her life representing for her the 'fullness of black womanhood'. The song very recently helped her deal with her beloved mother's passing at the age of 96. Producer: Maggie Ayre
27:50 24/06/2023
Ghost Town
'Ghost Town' was recorded by British two-tone band The Specials as a comment on urban decay and social unrest. It was released in June 1981 as riots were springing up around the UK and with the help of an iconic video it topped the UK singles charts. It was also be the band's final single. Writer Alex Wheatle first heard 'Ghost Town' in 1981 whilst in a social services hostel in Brixton awaiting his court appearance. He'd been arrested following a day of action in Brixton to protest against racist treatment of Black people, after rumours of police brutality. He was sentenced to one year in prison and sang 'Ghost Town' in his cell, as he began to find hope and purpose in his life. Claire Horton grew up in Dudley and says 'Ghost Town' echoed her experiences of watching the shops and nightclubs of this once vibrant town closing down. Her Dad was made redundant and it had a huge impact on her family, and as a young police officer she would walk the streets and understand why people were getting so frustrated with their situation. Soul and Reggae DJ Dave Marshall Barrett traces the history of The Specials who formed in Dave's hometown of Coventry in 1977. It's the first thing people mention when he says where he comes from. John Collins was surprised when Jerry Dammers asked him to produce the record. John created the initial opening 'ghostly' sounds on a synth at home but he says they now sound more like sirens. The song's success opened doors for John and he loves how it keeps finding new audiences. Broadcaster Samira Ahmed grew up in London and said her the recession of the early 80s hit her family's catering business hard. Too young for nightclubs, she remembers the video of 'Ghost Town' playing on Top of the Pops and says the track made a huge impact on her understanding of music and politics. Jazz singer Beverley Beirne covered 'Ghost Town' for her 2018 album 'Jazz Just Wants to Have Fun' and was reminded of it during the first lockdown when she wasn't able to perform. Founder of The Specials Jerry Dammers reflects on the inspiration behind 'Ghost Town' and how trombonist Rico Rodriguez was the heart and soul of the band. Producer: Toby Field Additional research: Melanie Pearson Technical Producer: Michael Harrison Editor: Emma Harding
27:43 17/06/2023
I Only Have Eyes For You
When I Only Have Eyes For You first emerged in 1934 it was a jaunty ditty written by Harry Dubin and Al Warren for the movie "Dames". But it gained huge popularity when the 1950s doo wop group The Flamingos under the musical arrangement of Terry Johnson transformed it into a dreamy otherworldly love song. Terry explains how he went about turning the song into an evergreen hit that has been covered by many including Art Garfunkel and Carly Simon. Musicologist Luis Cruz attributes the genius of the song to its pedal chord - the repeated use of the C note. It adds to the feeling of fixation he says where the singer cannot see anyone else but the object of his affection. The song is obviously one that speaks of deep love and Vivian Fransen was one of many who chose the song to play at her wedding. She'd been introduced to the Art Garfunkel version in 1975 when she met the man who was to become her husband. 12 years later he revealed a secret he'd been keeping from her which ended their marriage and caused her to reassess the song's meaning. Jess Farr Cox would sing the song to her aged rescue dog Pico as his health deteriorated. Only that song and the theme to Antiques Roadshow would send him to sleep when he was in pain and distress and she still gets emotional when she hears it over a year after he was eventually put to sleep. People underestimate the love you get from a rescue dog, she says. Chris Deerin is a political journalist and part of Scottish band Fat Cops. He recorded a version of I Only Have Eyes For You for the Tiny Changes Young People's Mental Health Charity founded following the death of the singer Scott Hutchison in 2018. Chris says he and fellow musician Bobby Bluebell had always loved the song and felt it was a fitting tribute to fellow musician Scott. Producer: Maggie Ayre
28:02 10/06/2023
I Believe in Father Christmas
Some people say it's a protest song about the commercialisation of Christmas. Others that it's anti-religious. I Believe In Father Christmas is about neither, although lyricist Peter Sinfield concedes that it does include a touch of cynicism but says ultimately it's a song of joy and hope. When Greg Lake co-wrote it in 1975 he had embarked on a solo career away from Emerson Lake & Palmer. Those around him at the time, including songwriter Peter Sinfield and broadcaster Bob Harris, recall how repeating a simple acoustic guitar exercise led Greg Lake to this giant of a song that includes a full choir, orchestra, and an extract from Prokofiev to create an enduring Christmas anthem. For many people it's a comforting song conjuring images of nostalgic picture postcard Christmases of a childhood spent in the ambience of Christmas tree lights and candles with 'eyes full of tinsel and fire'. For others it's a cautionary reminder of the need to look beyond the materialism and commercialism to a quieter, more spiritual time. Producer: Maggie Ayre
27:47 24/12/2022
Nessun Dorma
'None shall sleep'. Jon Christos watched the Italia 90 World Cup with his Dad and says that the live performance of 'Nessun Dorma' by Pavarotti at the tournament was the only time he ever saw his Dad cry. Beatrice Venezia conducted 'Nessun Dorma' at the 'Puccini day' she created in Lucca in 2018. She also conducted Andrea Bocelli's performance of the aria at the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June 2022. Pavarotti's daughter Cristina talks about the impact this aria had on her father's life and how his 1990 performance of 'Nessun Dorma' inspired many people to become interested in opera. Sir Bobby Robson's son Mark Robson was at Italia 90 and talks about the pride he felt seeing his Dad lining up with the England team for the semi-final against West Germany. It was also sung at Sir Bobby's memorial service in Durham Cathedral. Broadcaster and author Alexandra Wilson explains that the opera Turandot is the story of Prince Calaf who falls in love with the titular Princess. In 'Nessun Dorma' Calaf expresses his determination to win her hand, ending with that extraordinary refrain "Vincerò!" or "I will win". Paul Potts won 'Britain's Got Talent' in 2007 performing 'Nessun Dorma' and recalls singing it to over a million people at the Brandenburg Gate on New Year's Eve in 2010. When Italy locked down in March 2020, hairdresser Piero d'Angelico played 'Nessun Dorma' from a five-story window above Cambridge railway station to show solidarity with his home country and the Italian community in his adopted city. Voiceovers by Mike Ingham and Rebecca Braccialarghe. Producer: Toby Field for BBC Audio in Bristol Technical Producer: Michael Harrison Editor: Emma Harding
27:51 17/12/2022
Killing Me Softly with His Song
"Strumming my pain with his fingers... Singing my life with his words..." Killing Me Softly with His Song is a song about the pleasure and embarrassment of being seen. The feeling that someone has reached into your deepest, most private feelings, and laid them bare: "I felt he'd found my letters, and read each one out loud". It's a song about a singer, and about what music can do. And it's a love song that feels at once happy and sad. The song was a huge hit in two different generations. It won Grammy Awards for The Fugees in 1997 and for Roberta Flack in 1974. Ray Padgett, author of Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time, unfolds the layers of the song's history as a famous cover of a famous cover. The musicologist Nate Sloan explores what the song does harmonically, oscillating between major and minor chords to create a sense of uncertainty and longing. And Lori Lieberman tells the story of the Don McLean concert that inspired her lyrics for the song, that she was the first to record as a young singer-songwriter in 1972. It's a song that transports Tiff Murray back to the hot New York summer of 1996, when the Fugees version blared from every car radio and shopfront. For her it was the soundtrack to falling in love while far from home. It's also a love song for Julie Daley, but now with a sharp edge. Dr Robin Boylorn listened to the Fugees version as a self-conscious teenager and felt a flush of recognition; Ben heard it the Christmas he first came to the UK from South Africa, played by a busker early one morning in Covent Garden as the first snow he'd ever seen began to fall; and Perminder Khatkar has treasured the song since it played in the delivery room during the birth of her first child. Produced by Mair Bosworth for BBC Audio in Bristol
27:52 10/12/2022
Into My Arms by Nick Cave
"I don't believe in an interventionist God" has to be one of the most original opening lines to a song. It's one that resonates with the people in this programme who take comfort from Nick Cave's love song. Els from Belgium was introduced to Cave's music through her partner Guido and Into My Arms became their song. After Guido died in a road accident Els carried on going to concerts and took great comfort from hearing that song. When she later wrote to Nick Cave's blog The Red Hand Files to tell him her story about Into My Arms she was overwhelmed when Nick Cave responded. The Reverend John Walker feels a strong connection to the song as it's one his musician son Jonny performed just for him one evening on a rainy street in Leeds City Centre as Jonny was about to pack up and leave his busking spot. That special father-son moment has become even more cherished since Jonny's untimely death in 2018. Many different artists have recorded their versions of Into My Arms including the Norwegian singer Ane Brun who performed it as a way of dealing with the heartache of a lost relationship. Producer: Maggie Ayre
27:43 03/12/2022
Chervona Kalyna
Powerful stories linked to this beautiful and stirring Ukrainian folk song which inspired Pink Floyd to reform so they could release their own version, 'Hey Hey Rise Up', alongside Andriy Khlyvnyuk of Boombox. Chervona Kalyna is a clarion call with roots stretching back to 17th century Cossack history; as meaningful now as then, this episode of Soul Music reflects how music can be a unifying force in the most dangerous and difficult of times. Anti-Russian, it was banned prior to Ukrainian independence in 1991 with one of its lyrics calling to 'free our brothers Ukrainian from Muscovites shackles'. Its full title 'Oi u luzi chervona kalyna' translates as 'Oh the red viburnum in the meadow': red viburnum is a common plant in Ukraine and in the song it's a metaphor for the country itself. Telling their stories on Soul Music: Taras Ratushnyy, journalist turned soldier, discusses his beloved son, Roman, and the heroic role he played in Ukrainian society both before after the war began. Elizaveta Izmalkova is a young Ukrainian singer who now lives in Lithuania. She performed Chervona Kalyna as part of a flash-mob co-organised by Egle Plytnikaite who describes why she and other Lithuanians wanted to demonstrate their support for Ukraine. Nadia Morykvas wrote a book about the cultural polymath, Stepan Charnetskyi, who - in the early 20th century - adapted Chervona Kalyna for one of his plays. (Volodymyr Oleyko translates for Nadia Morykvas). Andrij Halushka is a Ukrainian who now lives in London. He describes how his family history, down multiple generations, connects with the song. Julia and Kateryna came to England under the 'Homes for Ukraine' scheme when the war began. Under the name 'Dvi Doli' they raise money for Ukraine by staging concerts where they perform traditional songs on the Bandura. Taras Filenko is a pianist and ethno-musicologist. Originally from Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine, he now lives in Pennsylvania, USA. He discusses the musicology of the song, and recalls a neighbour from his childhood who was imprisoned for performing Chervona Kalyna in the 1940s. Myroslava Hartmond is a British-Ukrainian cultural diplomacy expert. She explains how the current popularity of Chervona Kalyna began when Andriy Khlyvnyuk, the lead singer of Boombox, recorded an a capella version in the centre of Kyiv. This inspired Pink Floyd to collaborate with Khlyvnyuk and release their own version. Please scroll down to the 'Related Links' box on the Radio 4 Soul Music webpage for further information about some of the interviewees and the different versions of the song used in the programme. The programme image is of Taras and Roman Ratushnyy. Producer for BBC Audio in Bristol: Karen Gregor
27:42 26/11/2022
Bruch's Violin Concerto
A Violin Concerto in G minor, Opus 26, became the best-known work of the German composer Max Bruch. Originally written in 1866 it went through many revisions before finally being completed in 1867. It was performed extensively but having sold both the publishing and the manuscript Bruch died in relative obscurity in 1920. The Concerto would continue to be played around the world and the second movement in particular, the Adagio, became a much-loved favourite. Journalist Claire Read describes how much her Mother loved the piece after Claire learned and performed it in school, and how she would listen to it whilst being treated for cancer. Ukrainian violinist Kostia Lukyniuk recalls playing it with an orchestra in his home town aged 11, and how music still gives him strength as he plays for those battered by the Russian invasion of his home country. The second movement brings back fond memories for Archers actor June Spencer who listened to it with her husband and their friends on a veranda in Minorca. Leader of the Welsh National Opera David Adams was inspired to take-up the violin after listening to a recording of David Oistrakh playing this piece, and later performed it at the Fishguard Festival. It was a favourite of his Mum's and that recording was played at her funeral. The Carnegie Hall was the setting for violinist Shlomo Mintz's most treasured performance and he describes how it feels to play those soaring melodies. Curator Robinson McClellan at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York explains how the manuscript of this concerto made its way from Germany to the USA, and why this work would later become a source of resentment for this 'establishment' composer. Studio Manager: Ilse Lademann Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Toby Field.
27:48 18/06/2022
Ne Me Quitte Pas
Ne Me Quitte Pas is a song about begging someone not to go; of promising the world to them, if they'll only stay. From Haiti to New York, Provence to Glasgow... in versions by Nina Simone, Dusty Springfield and Scott Walker... we hear stories of what Jacques Brel's song has meant to people around the world. With contributions from France Brel, Johane Celestin, Alastair Campbell, Brendan McGeever, Peter Hawkins and Malaika Kegode. Produced by Mair Bosworth for BBC Audio
27:50 11/06/2022
Purple Rain
"I never meant to cause you any sorrow, I never meant to cause you any pain..." True stories of what Prince's epic ballad means to different people around the world, from the very first jam in 1983 to the global hit that reigns over us today. Bobby Z, the drummer from Prince and The Revolution, remembers the buzz of the first ever performance of Purple Rain, and how the recording from that night lives on. Susan Rogers, Prince's recording engineer, tells stories from the Purple Rain tour, when the crew took bets on how long Prince's guitar solos would last. Comedian Sindhu Vee first heard the song as a teenager growing up in India and was knocked sideways by it. Weather reporter Judith Ralston describes the beautiful and rare weather phenomenon of purple rain. Social historian Zaheer Ali sees the song as a cry out for change, bringing audiences from different backgrounds together in cross-genre harmony. And finally, an intensive care hospital nurse played Purple Rain to Kevin Clarke while he was in a coma, because his sister knew he loved the song and hoped it might pull him through. Produced by Becky Ripley
27:55 30/05/2022
Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton
Candi Staton and others celebrate this 1970's disco classic which delivers an optimistic message. Written by David Crawford and released in 1976 this is the kind of song that feels like a carefree celebration, something to lose yourself in on the dancefloor. But its story isn't quite so simple. As Candi tells Soul Music, Young Hearts Run Free was influenced by her own troubled and abusive relationship which she struggled to leave. In fact the creation of the song helped her gain the confidence to finally walk away. Other contributors are: Singer songwriter, Glen Hansard. He performs the song 'as' his mother because it reminds him so much of what the song meant to her. Ziggi Battles , a singer who chose to cover the song as a way of rejoicing in the role it played in recovering from a very difficult time. Jason Gilkison, the Creative Director of Strictly Come Dancing. It will forever remind him of the first time he choreographed a group dance for Strictly at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom. His grandfather had danced there himself as a young man, before establishing the first dance school in Perth, Australia, which is where Jason developed his own love of ballroom dancing. Neil Brand, composer and broadcaster, analyses why the piece works musically. He also describes the pure joy of a version by Kym Mazelle and - unlikely as it seems - the actor and opera singer, Paul Sorvino. It was used as the soundtrack to the ballroom scene in Baz Luhrmann's film of Romeo and Juliet. Versions used: Candi Staton; Glen Hansard; Maz O'Connor; Ziggi Battles; Gloria Estefan; Kym Mazelle; Kym Mazelle (Ballroom Version) with Paul Sorvino Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Karen Gregor
27:42 28/05/2022
A Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten
In 1942, Benjamin Britten boarded the M.S. Axel Johnson, a Swedish cargo vessel, to make the journey home to England after three years in America. During the voyage, the ship stopped at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Britten came across a poetry anthology in a bookshop - The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems. In his cabin, he began work on setting some of these poems for voices and harp. Originally conceived as a series of unrelated songs, the piece developed into an extended choral composition for Christmas. There are some pieces of music we return to at special moments and, for many, Britten's A Ceremony of Carols is a beloved winter piece - "Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a performance of it" says harpist Sally Pryce, who recalls performing the piece in deepest winter, desperately trying to keep her fingers warm as she prepared to play the first harp notes. Music writer Gavin Plumley tells the story of Britten's wartime voyage home and reflects on Christmases past and present. Matt Peacock remembers a very special performance of the work bringing together professional musicians, choristers and people experiencing homelessness in an Oxford college chapel. Dr Imani Mosley reflects on how the piece has helped her create a winter ritual in sunny Florida and how its meaning has changed since losing her partner. Conductor and composer Graham Ross is Director of Music at Clare College, Cambridge; he takes us deep into Britten's sound world and reflects on the genius of his approach to setting texts and the mastery of his writing for harp and voices. And Johanna Rehbaum remembers the joy of singing the work with the women of her choir, days before giving birth to her son. Produced in Bristol by Mair Bosworth for BBC Audio
27:54 18/12/2021
U2 - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
More gospel than rock, this 1987 hit has inspired great change in people's lives and created memories for music lovers across the world. Brendan McManus was a corporate high flyer with an inexplicable sense that his life needed to change direction. This song was the tipping point that encouraged him to make a huge decision. Raghav Prasad writes a music blog about the songs he grew up with as a young man in India. This track takes him back to the 'chummery' where he lived in Bombay (now Mumbai) when he was starting out on what became a globe-trotting career. This song reflects both his continued urge to travel but also how he regards his Hindu faith. Neil Brand is a musician and broadcaster and a regular Soul Music contributor. He explains that the roots of this track are more gospel than rock. Pauline Henry was the lead singer of The Chimes. Their version of this track, with Pauline's stirring vocals, not only changed her life but was said to be Bono's favourite interpretation of the song. Rory Coleman is a world-class athlete and life coach who loves nothing more than to run for hundreds of miles across inhospitable terrain. However, in his 20s, his life was out of control. Something had to change and this song provided inspiration. Gail Mullin, in Kansas City, describes how much her husband loved U2 and especially this track. Shortly before he died he received a personal letter from Bono explaining what motivated him to write this song. Scroll down on the Soul Music webpage to the 'related links' box for more info about all the guests. Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Karen Gregor
27:41 11/12/2021
Song to the Siren
"Long afloat in shipless oceans": So begins Song To The Siren whose lyrics were inspired by Homer's Odyssey and the story of the Sirens who lured unwitting sailors to their deaths on the rocks. There is something so ancient and enchanting about the Siren that appeals to us. For the wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson listening to the song reinforced his belief that the eerie calls of seals at night were in fact the original siren voices whose sound and shape convinced sailors that they were being called by strange mer-creatures. His collaboration with poet Alec Finlay led to Chris recording two singers singing to each other across a bay in the North East of England "Here I am waiting to enfold you". Song To The Siren fills him with melancholy. The image of lives lost at sea is one that Meg Bignell strongly associates with the song and when a family friend drowned in the ocean surrounding her native Tasmania she was comforted by the version by This Mortal Coil and Elizabeth Fraser's haunting vocals. Larry Beckett regrets the song's association with death as he intended the lyrics to tell a more hopeful story about love. However Tim Buckley's death at 28 and the tragedy of his son Jeff's drowning in 1997 weigh Song To The Siren with a heavy sorrow that comforts those who have lost a loved one. Former Olympic runner Anthony Famiglietti lost his childhood friend Rob in an accident when they were both 21. Rob introduced Anthony to the music of John Frusciante whose version of Song To The Siren astounded him when he first heard it. It has a profound effect on him and it speaks to him of fathers and sons communicating across time and space, when one has passed on as in the case of Tim and Jeff Buckley, and Anthony's friend Rob and his father, the man who inspired Anthony's career as a runner. When director Zack Snyder lost his daughter he stopped working on his Justice League film but when he completed it four years on he wanted to include Song To The Siren. Singer Rose Betts who recorded it for him explains how she immersed herself in the song to express the love, longing, grief and loss that it evokes. Musician and singer Dominic Stichbury sets out the musical elements that make this such a simple yet devastatingly powerful song. Producer: Maggie Ayre
28:26 04/12/2021
Unfinished Sympathy
Personal stories inspired by Massive Attack's breakthrough single. Featuring the vocals of Shara Nelson, the track together with its iconic video would help catapult this band from Bristol onto the global stage. Stories include the photographer Giles Duley whose work was displayed during the song at the band's 2016 homecoming show in Bristol. Mountaineer Dmitry Golovchenko who named an attempt on the Nepalese mountain of Jannu after the track, and solicitor Marti Burgess who saw early sets from The Wild Bunch, the collective from which Massive Attack emerged, and for whom 'Unfinished Sympathy' helped crystallise her identity. Music Producer Ski Oakenfull deconstructs the track, peeling back the layers of beats, bells and samples. Belgian singer Liz Aku recorded a version of the track during lockdown, bringing back memories of her first love. Melissa Chemam, author of 'Massive Attack Out Of The Comfort Zone' explains the origins of Massive Attack, how 'Unfinished Sympathy' was written and why, when the track was released in 1991, the band had to drop the word 'Attack' from their name. A radio producer and DJ who spent New Year's Eve in a detox centre in London was asked to pick the tune to be played at midnight, and she chose 'Unfinished Sympathy'. Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Toby Field
27:51 27/11/2021
Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific
Ezio Pinza was the first person to sing Some Enchanted Evening when South Pacific opened on Broadway in 1949. His granddaughter, Sarah Goodyear, recounts his extraordinary life story: from international opera singer, to political prisoner, then a star of musical theatre. Perhaps best known for its 1958 film version, South Pacific famously starred Rossano Brazzi as Emile de Becque. However his singing voice was provided by opera star, Giorgio Tozzi. His son, Eric Tozzi, recalls hearing his father practice Some Enchanted Evening in their California beach-side home. Canan Maxton runs the charity, Talent Unlimited, which supports student musicians. Some Enchanted Evening was the signature tune to her own love story, which inspired her to launch that organisation. Alan Titchmarsh is best known as a TV gardener, but he has a surprisingly good voice. Some Enchanted Evening is a childhood favourite which reminds him of his parents, but he couldn't have foreseen the day when he would sing it live at the London Palladium for an ITV audience (credit to ITV All Star Musicals, produced by Multistory Media for the extract used). Daniel Evans is the Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre. He staged a well-reviewed production of South Pacific, one which explores the racist theme Rodgers and Hammerstein originally sought to address in their Broadway production. He explains the role Some Enchanted Evening plays in the storyline of the show. Julian Ovenden played Emile de Becque in the Chichester production. He describes what it's like to perform this very famous and much anticipated song. Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by: Karen Gregor
27:49 20/11/2021
Ain't No Mountain High Enough
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell made Ain't No Mountain High Enough a hit for Motown in 1967. Diana Ross followed suit in 1970 as a solo artist with her version of the song. It has a place in people's hearts with its anthemic themes of love, loyalty, triumph and perseverance. Cynthia Dagnal-Miron is a former rock critic. As an African American growing up in the 1960s she says the song gave black people a sense of comfort and of being loved. Kevin Patterson recalls meeting an elderly lady in a store in Philadelphia. When the song came on over the speaker both independently started singing along. They got talking and he learned she had been part of a movement to desegregate a local school in the 1960s and she had sung it then at a talent show. Kevin says it was a brush with history that gives him a new connection to the song. John Harris also grew up hearing Ain't No Mountain High Enough . He says music and being part of a choir were what saved him when he sank into drug addiction and crime and ended up in front of Judge Elizabeth Martin who was presiding over 'Drug Court' an experimental programme to help offenders beat their habit and avoid going to jail. When he got clean Judge Martin invited him to sing at the Court's 25th anniversary celebration and the song he chose to sing with some of his choir was Ain't No Mountain High Enough. John feels a sense of gratitude towards it. "No wind no rain no winters cold can stop me from getting to you" were the words Lesley Pearl sang to her birth mother as she lay gravely ill in hospital. Lesley had braved the incoming Hurricane Sandy to fly to Charleston to be with her. She and her mother shared a love of Motown and it brought them closer towards the end of her life. The song still inspires hope and positivity. At the height of the pandemic in 2020 when New York was suffering huge numbers of Covid deaths and hospitalisations, nurse Kym Villamer sang it to staff and patients at the hospital where she works to remind them of the perseverance of the human spirit and the goodness of humanity. The drama and anticipation the song evokes are described by Lauren Eldridge Stewart who is Assistant Professor of Music at Washington University in St Louis. She breaks down the various musical elements that make Ain't No Mountain High Enough such an enduring powerful uplifting anthem.
28:44 13/11/2021
Take Me Home, Country Roads
"Country roads, take me home To the place I belong" Written by Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert with and for their friend John Denver, the song went on to be covered by Ray Charles, Toots and the Maytals, Olivia Newton John and many more. A song about the longing for home and the desire to be back with the people you love, 'Country Roads' has become one of the official state songs of West Virginia but it also speaks to people from around the world and across political divides. It's a song about togetherness, belonging, homesickness, the immigrant experience and the hold that the landscape of your 'home place' can have on you. Featuring contributions from Bill Danoff, Sarah Morris, Jason Jeong, Ngozi Fulani, Lloyd Bradley and Alison Wells. And from Molly Sarlé, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Meath of the band Mountain Man. Produced by Mair Bosworth for BBC Audio in Bristol
27:50 04/08/2021
The Parting Glass
"So fill to me the parting glass... Goodnight and joy be to you all." A popular toast at the end of an evening or a heartfelt farewell to a departed or deceased person? The Parting Glass has become synonymous with leaving. It was written in Scotland and has criss crossed the Irish Sea becoming a popular song among Celtic peoples around the world. Folk singer Karine Polwart talks of its fragile beauty as a song that can be a rousing drinking song at the end of the night but equally a poignant farewell at a funeral. For Alaskan Fire Chief Benjamin Fleagle there was no more fitting song to honour his mentor and colleague at his Fire Department when he passed away over a decade ago. The song still brings out raw emotion in him. Alissa McCulloch 'clung' to the song when she heard the Irish singer Hozier sing a version of it at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. At the time Alissa was seriously mentally unwell at home in Australia and was admitted to hospital where she listened to the song over and over finding comfort in its timeless beauty. After Canada's worst mass shooting in its history Pete MacDonald and his sisters recorded an acapella version of the song as a musical tribute to those who lost their lives. It's a tradition in Novia Scotia to sing in the kitchen at parties, wakes and celebrations and they wanted to pay their respects to the dead. The Irish singer Finbar Furey has performed the song with his band the Fureys and talks about its appeal not only in Scotland and Ireland but throughout the Scots-Irish diaspora. "But since it falls unto my lot That I should rise And you should not I'll gently rise and softly call Goodnight and joy be to you all" Producer for BBC Audio in Bristol: Maggie Ayre Song versions: Karine Polwart Hozier Finbar Furey The High Kings The MacDonalds
28:40 28/07/2021
We've Only Just Begun
The Carpenters - brother and sister duo Richard and Karen - were one of the most popular groups of the 1970s. His outstanding compositions and her stunning vocals created several massive hits including We've Only Just Begun. Originally written as a TV advert for a bank portraying happy young couples embarking on married life full of hope, they loved it and released it as their third single in 1970. Karen's wistful voice gave the song a melancholy that has long resonated with fans. After her premature death from heart failure due to anorexia nervosa, the song took on an extra poignancy with lyrics like "so much of life ahead". Fans tell their stories about the song and how it relates to their own life journeys. For Professor Karen Tongson (named after the singer), We've Only Just Begun is about growing up in the Philippines where The Carpenters epitomised the American Dream. When she emigrated to the USA, the song became a metaphor for the immigrant experience. Nomad and writer Jeff Read remembers his childhood in a poor part of Los Angeles brought up by a single mother who eventually died homeless on the street. The song brings back memories of childhood optimism and his longing for a stable family life. Poet Abigail George recalls seeing a film about Karen Carpenter's life and identifying with the singer's struggles with an eating disorder as she herself had to cope with a difficult family life in South Africa. Retired policeman John Weiss was reminded of the song when he attended the death of an elderly person at a care home. John looked at the deceased man's wedding photos and was struck by the brevity of life. The singer Natasha Khan aka Bat For Lashes always loved The Carpenters and recorded her own version of We've Only Just Begun as part of an album where things don't end well for the young bride. Ironically, her version now features in a commercial for a British bank so the song has come full circle. Randy Schmidt is the author of Little Girl Blue (The Life of Karen Carpenter). Versions of the song featured are by Grant Lee Buffalo Paul Williams Natasha Khan The Carpenters The Carpenters with the Philharmonic Orchestra Producer for BBC Audio in Bristol: Maggie Ayre
28:31 21/07/2021
Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat
This disco classic tells a powerful story: that of a young, gay man leaving his homophobic small town for the freedom of the big city. Released in 1984, Smalltown Boy continues to resonate and has become an anthem for the LGBTQ+ community. The track appeared on their album 'The Age of Consent' which drew attention to the inequality between the ages at which heterosexual people and homosexual men were legally able to have sex. Taking part in the programme: Shaun Dellenty, an ex primary school leader and author who developed an award winning LGBT+ training programme 'Celebrating Difference-Inclusion For All' which he now delivers to students and staff around the world. Paul Flynn, journalist and author of 'Good As You, 30 Years of Gay Britain'. Diane Anderson-Minshall, CEO and Editorial Director of Pride Media. Colin Crummy, freelance journalist Neil Brand, pianist, composer, writer and broadcaster Adam Carver aka Fatt Butcher, drag artist, creative producer, and community organiser. Archive: The audio of Jimmy Somerville is taken from the BBC archives Music:: various versions of Smalltown Boy by Jimmy Somerville, and Bronski Beat. Also covers by Dido, and Orville Peck. Produced by Karen Gregor for BBC Audio in Bristol.
27:34 14/07/2021
Sunshine on Leith
"While I'm worth my room on this earth......" Sunshine on Leith was released in 1988 but didn't become the big hit The Proclaimers had hoped for. However it has endured and become an anthem of love and a celebration of life. It is the song played at Hibs FC matches and has come to symbolise the sense of community felt by supporters. Margaret Alcorn recalls how she and her husband were involved in the Hibs Supporters Club organising and taking part in social events for local people in Leith. When their club came under threat from a merger with rival Edinburgh team Hearts she and her husband worked tirelessly to preserve it. Craig and Charlie Reid played a benefit concert for the Club. Sunshine on Leith became the song that expressed the emotions of the fans during that time and has remained the song they still sing at the football ground. When her husband passed away the song played at his funeral was Sunshine on Leith. Musician Ross Wilson grew up in Leith and is also a passionate Hibs Supporter. The feelings of comfort and solidarity he experiences at home games led him to create his own version of the song which he performed with a choir to celebrate one of his favourite songs that reminds him of home and that he calls true soul music. Melinda Tetley's family would always sing Proclaimers songs at home in Edinburgh while her three children were growing up. But when her teenage son fell ill with leukemia Sunshine on Leith took on a special significance for them culminating in a spontaneous joyful singalong on a walk along a lochside. The human rights lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith is a big fan of The Proclaimers and remembers seeing them perform Sunshine on Leith in New Orleans just days after 9/11 to an audience of exactly eight people - half of whom were the prosecuting team in a Death Row murder case he was defending. And musicologist Dave Robb who toured with The Proclaimers explains the song's lasting emotional appeal and spiritual beauty. Producer: Maggie Ayre
28:30 12/02/2021
Life on Mars?
Life on Mars was released on David Bowie's Hunky Dory album in 1971. Two years later it came out as a single in its own right. Famous for its exploration of disillusionment and alienation, there is no one single definitive story behind it. But that is perhaps the song's beauty and the secret behind its appeal - that its cryptic lyrics are open to interpretation, and can mean different things to different people. Musicians and fans talk about what Life on Mars? means to them, and its lasting emotional impact, in this special programme remembering Bowie's birthday on January 8th 1947 and commemorating his death on January 10th 2016. And what does the question mark in the song's title mean? With contributions from: Musician Dana Gillespie whose autobiography is Weren't Born A Man Bowie author Chris O'Leary Scientist Abigail Fraeman of NASA's Mars Mission Artist Bridget Griggs The Reverend Steve Stockman Screenwriter Ashley Pharoah (Life on Mars) Producer: Maggie Ayre for BBC Audio Bristol
28:44 09/01/2021
Once In A Lifetime
Talking Heads emerged out of the post punk scene of the late 1970s. Once In A Lifetime is the iconic single taken from their album Remain In Light. With its looped synthesizer and Afrobeat inspired by Fela Kuti it seemed to pre-empt the consumerism and ennui of the 1980s. Writer Ian Gittins interviewed David Byrne and later wrote his book Once In A Lifetime. He says David Byrne had in mind people of a certain middle class existence who seemingly breeze through life with ease when he wrote the lyrics. They may get to middle age or reach a crisis point and ask "How did I get here?" For a song that invites us to question our lives it has a suprisingly emotional core that encourages people to be grateful and make positive changes in their lives where necessary. For Glaswegian Gerry Murphy that meant becoming more present for his family after serious illness forced him to reconsider the amount of time he devoted to his career. He went on to write a book about his experience - And You May Find Yourself: A Guided Practice To Never Fearing Death Again. Ian Peddie was inspired by the song to leave his dead end existence in Wolverhampton in the mid 1980s to 'find himself in another part of the world' following his dreams. Kelly Waterhouse says the song symbolises gratitude for all the things she takes for granted and sometimes struggles with in her life as a busy working mother. And singer Angelique Kidjo recorded her own version of Once In A Lifetime in 2018 after coming full circle with the song from her arrival in Paris in 1983 after fleeing the dictatorship in her home country of Benin. She heard the song at a student party and recognised the Afrobeats adopted by David Byrne and Brian Eno that made her feel both joyful and homesick at the same time. Producer: Maggie Ayre
28:17 29/12/2020
I Wonder as I Wander
As Christmas approaches, Soul Music leads you through Advent with the Appalachian carol "I Wonder as I Wander". Written by American folklorist and singer John Jacob Niles, its origins come from a song fragment collected in 1933. Mysterious, inspiring, this traditional Christmas carol reflects on the nativity and the nature of wondering. While in the town of Murphy in Appalachian North Carolina, Niles attended a fundraising meeting held by evangelicals who had been ordered out of town by the police. He wrote of hearing the song: “A girl had stepped out to the edge of the little platform attached to the automobile. She began to sing. Her clothes were unbelievably dirty and ragged, and she, too, was unwashed. Her ash-blond hair hung down in long skeins. ... she was beautiful, and in her untutored way, she could sing. She smiled as she sang, smiled rather sadly, and sang only a single line of a song”. The girl, named Annie Morgan, repeated the fragment seven times in exchange for a quarter per performance, and Niles left with "three lines of verse, and a magnificent idea". Based on this fragment, Niles composed the version of "I Wonder as I Wander" that is known today. This most unusual of carols touches people in different ways. With childhood memories from a 1960s RAF base in Oxfordshire, a Nigerian schoolgirl who found her place in Winchester Cathedral, reflections from a candlelit vigil in an Appalachian town, and a Christmas gift as described by world renowned singer Melanie Marshall. Guests: Performer Melanie Marshall, Ron Pen (biographer John Jacob Niles), Viva Choir member Louise Sheaves, author Chibundu Onuzo and music scholar John McClain. Featuring music from John Rutter and Burl Ives. Consultant: Ted Olson. Producer: Nicola Humphries
27:49 22/12/2020
Lean On Me by Bill Withers
An enduring classic which delivers a message of support and friendship. Never more so than in 2020 when it's been the musical backdrop to the Covid crisis in the UK, and at Black Lives Matter protests in the US. Taking part: Andy Greene, a senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine, tells the remarkable life-story of Bill Withers. Composer, Neil Brand, explains how the simplicity of this track is what enables it to pack such a strong emotional punch. Sara Morrell is a nurse whose version of Lean On Me, recorded quickly at home as a way of cheering-up colleagues, caught the attention of some big names in the music industry. Sharmila Bousa organised a community flash-mob to show support to her local shops in Westbury-on-Trym which had suffered a spate of armed-robberies. Arianna Evans has become a voice of the Black Lives Matter protests. She recalls a powerful moment at one of the Washington DC rallies where local singer, Kenny Sway, sang Lean On Me creating a memorable and much-needed moment of joy and unity. Thanks to: Ian DeMartino who recorded the speech given by Arianna Evans; Zaranyzerak who provided the recording of Kenny Sway's performance; and to Tristan Cork who filmed the Westbury-on-Trym flashmob for Bristol Live Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Karen Gregor
27:16 08/12/2020
I Will Survive
"At first I was afraid, I was petrified"... From a breakup to a shipwreck, emotional true stories of what Gloria Gaynor's iconic disco anthem I Will Survive means to different people around the world. A woman sets out to become the first female rower to cross the Atlantic solo. A woman listens to the song 35 times in a row after a breakup. A drag queen steps onto the stage of a Berlin nightclub. A mother watches her daughters sing karaoke at a holiday club on the first foreign holiday since leaving her abusive marriage. And women gather on the steps of the Courts of Justice to sing the song together as they await a verdict. Featuring: Elisabeth Hoff Latrice Royale Penny Arcade Pragna Patel Nadine Hubbs Series about pieces of music with a powerful emotional impact Producer: Mair Bosworth First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2020.
27:54 10/08/2020
Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte by Maurice Ravel
Ravel's beautiful Pavane For A Dead Princess touches many people. While it is not actually about a dead princess it does evoke a sense loss. For Carla van Raay it symbolises the loss of innocence she experienced after sexual abuse as a child which led her to make some difficult life choices. Deal Hudson played it to prisoners in Atlanta and was moved by their reaction. At an academy for troubled teenagers in California the Pavane had a similar effect. Genevieve Monneris comes from the town where Ravel was born on the border with Spain. Her film Henri and Pat tells the story of three French airman who were stationed in York during World War Two. Just days before Henri's plane was shot down the three young men went to a concert of Ravel's music in York. So the piece has a strong emotional meaning for Genevieve whose own father was also stationed with the RAF in York. Professor Barbara Kelly of the Royal Northern College of Music explains the background to the Pavane's composition and why it appeals to the emotions in such a powerful way. Although it was written at the end of the 19th century it became more widely known in the 1920s. That was when a young woman called Lucia Joyce daughter of James Joyce danced to it with her avant garde dance group. The writer Annabel Abbs tells Lucia's tragic story of how her life ended in a mental asylum and how she almost became the imaginary 'dead princess'. Versions used: Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte William Orbit Julian Bream James Rhodes Maurice Ravel Ravel Pavane arrangement for harp and cello Producer: Maggie Ayre First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2020.
27:50 22/07/2020