Episodes
"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...
Published 08/04/21
"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...
Published 07/28/21
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...
Published 07/21/21
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...
Published 07/14/21
"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...
Published 02/12/21
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...
Published 01/09/21
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...
Published 12/29/20
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...
Published 12/22/20
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...
Published 12/08/20
"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...
Published 08/10/20
It's a love song about growing old. Neil Young's Harvest Moon released in 1992 is a nod to the 1970s country rock loved by music blogger Alyson Young. It's also a grown up song about love says singer-songwriter Ricky Ross. How do you make the magic last and how do you keep love alive? People tell their stories about what the song means to them: jazz singer Maureen Washington danced to the song with her late husband. Amanda Legere played it to her premature baby daughter when she went to see...
Published 08/05/20
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...
Published 07/22/20
The surprising history behind a track made famous by Nina Simone. Feeling Good was written for a now obscure musical and originally performed by Cy Grant, the first black man to appear regularly on British TV. Cy Grant's daughter, Samantha Moxon, describes her father's extraordinary life from Prisoner of War camp to a successful career in the arts. The composer, Neil Brand, discusses why the song has gone on to transcend the almost forgotten musical it was created for. Other speakers are...
Published 07/15/20
Sittin' On The Dock of the Bay was written while Otis Redding was reflecting on his life on Sausalito Bay in California in the summer of 1967. Its upbeat, laidback melody belies the loneliness of the lyrics. Just a few months later Otis Redding was killed in a plane crash and the song was released, becoming the first posthumous number 1 record in the US. His musician contemporaries including Booker T Jones and guitarist Steve Cropper, who co-wrote Dock of the Bay, tell the story of the...
Published 01/22/20
Published 01/22/20
“It’s a goodbye song, but it’s also an inspirational song, It could also mean a new beginning" - Ray Davies Written by Ray Davies and released by the Kinks in 1968 'Days' had a very different sound to the rest of their repertoire. Sorrowful but uplifting it's been embraced by listeners across the world who have found solace and hope in it's lyrics. Having been covered by numerous artists (most notably Kirsty MacColl), it speaks to people of all generations and captures moments in their...
Published 01/15/20
Released in 1982, this soft-rock anthem has become an unlikely viral smash-hit. Africa by Toto is a song that has changed lives, helped to raise thousands of pounds for charity and provided an unexpected musical corner-stone in a critically acclaimed play. Telling their personal stories in Soul Music: Ralf Schmidt is the Artistic Director of Ndlovu Youth Choir which is made up of young people from the poorest parts of South Africa. Incredibly, the choir made it to the final of America's...
Published 01/08/20
Performed as part of the mystery plays, the 'Coventry Carol' is from the Pageant of the Shearman and Taylors and tells the story of the Slaughter of The Innocents. A copy of the manuscript survived a fire in Birmingham Library in 1879 by sheer chance. Musician Ian Pittaway describes seeing the play in the ruins of Coventry cathedral in the 1980s - the drama was so powerful it still moves him to tears. The carol was sung on Christmas Day in 1940 in a live broadcast to the Empire just six weeks...
Published 12/25/19
We Are Family written by Nile Rodgers and performed by the Sledge Sisters Kathy, Kim, Debbie and Joni was released in 1978 at the height of disco's popularity. Kim Sledge says it has become the anthem for diverse groups of people around the world who come together on the dance floor to form a friend family. Professor Tim Lawrence says disco at its best was an inclusive music movement that welcomed people of all races and genders, unlike rock music which in the early 1970s appealed to a...
Published 12/18/19
The Boxer - Simon & Garfunkel. People who connect directly with the lyrics and have a deep personal connection to the song discuss what this masterpiece means to them. Seamus McDonagh is a former boxer. He describes the tumultuous time he had during and after his famous fight with Evander Holyfield in 1990. He also explains why he identifies closely with the lyrics of The Boxer. Julie Nimoy is the daughter of Leonard Nimoy and co-producer of the film 'Remembering Leonard Nimoy' which...
Published 12/11/19
Personal stories about Farewell to Stromness, by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. Written in 1980 as a protest against uranium mining in Orkney, the music has touched and changed people's lives. The Orkney landscape which inspired Max's music is described by his partner Tim Morrison. We hear from Rosalind Newton, for whom the music provided peace after the death of her grandmother. Conductor Christopher Warren-Green recalls his performance of the music at the wedding of the Prince of Wales and...
Published 07/31/19
“I follow the Moskva, down to Gorky Park… listening to the wind of change.” The German rock band Scorpions’ lead singer Klaus Meine was inspired to write Wind of Change at a rock festival in Moscow in the summer of 1989. Politics were rapidly shifting in the Soviet Union at the time as a result of Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms. Recalling the peaceful yet revolutionary atmosphere at the concerts, Klaus said “there was a whole new generation of Russian kids that said the Cold War would be over...
Published 07/24/19
50 years after it was first recorded, Ralph McTell and others discuss a song that was written for a heroin addict, became an anthem against homelessness, and transcended the folk genre to become an enduring classic. Ralph McTell says he’s thought constantly about the “blip in my graph” that is Streets of London. People say to him “50 years. One hit. You think you’d have given up by now”. But, Ralph says, that’s not why he writes songs. And, of course, he’s written many. Many that he...
Published 07/17/19
Amy Winehouse died in July 2011 aged just 27. Back to Black the title track of her second and final album is a torch song to tragic love, addiction and loss. People who loved her and her music talk about how she helped them cope with their own struggles. Lesley Jamison is now a successful writer but at 27 she was an alcoholic. She stopped drinking the same year that Amy died. Lesley reflects on how her own life could have followed the same path had she gone further into the darkness or the...
Published 07/10/19
The story of how a song from a classic 80’s movie became an inspirational anthem for a 21st Century generation. Carly Simon’s ‘Let the River Run’ was originally conceived as the title track for the 1988 movie ‘Working Girl. It went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It also went on to win the affection of people around the world. Initially thought of as a ‘hymn for New York’, ‘Let the River Run’ encapsulates the spirit of striving for a better life. As Carly Simon puts it...
Published 01/23/19