Biographical series in which guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.
Arlo Parks on Elliott Smith
Singer-songwriter Arlo Parks has been nominated for three Brit Awards at just 20 years old. Her inspiration for her debut studio album is drawn from American singer-songwriter Elliott Smith.
Matthew Parris and Arlo Parks are joined by Elliott’s friend and former manager of his band Heatmiser, JJ Gonson. They also hear from writer and college professor William Todd Schultz, author of the biography ‘Torment Saint: The Life Of Elliott Smith’.
Together they explore Elliott’s life and musical achievements; from his unsettled childhood to performing at the 1998 Oscar awards ceremony. Although nominated for Best Original Song in the Hollywood film Good Will Hunting and deemed a cult icon in the Indie music scene after releasing an impressive six solo albums, Elliott rose to fame with reluctance and eventually committed suicide at just 34 years old.
Arlo contemplates the direction Elliott’s music might have taken were he still alive today, and how his work has influenced and inspired her own.
Produced in Bristol by Caitlin Hobbs.
Jonathan Dimbleby on Harry Hopkins.
On May 10 1940, the Germans invaded the Low Countries, Winston Churchill became prime minister, and Harry Hopkins moved in to the White House. This remarkable man was President Roosevelt's closest confidante until the end of the war. A principal architect of the New Deal, he was the president's first envoy to meet Churchill and was sent off to meet Stalin too. But what also impresses his nominator, Jonathan Dimbleby, is his courage - Harry Hopkins had stomach cancer and died in 1946.
Features biographer David Roll, author of The Hopkins Touch, plus impressive archive of Hopkins on the BBC.
Presented by Matthew Parris
Produced in Bristol by Miles Warde
KT Tunstall on Ivor Cutler
Ivor Cutler is hard to categorise. Whimsical and uncompromising, depressive yet joyful, childlike and curmudgeonly, an 'outsider', championed by insiders like Paul McCartney, he's perhaps best known for his collection 'Life in a Scotch Sitting Room Volume Two" (there is no volume one) or his much-covered 1983 indie hit 'Women of the World'.
Cutler often referred to himself as a 'humourist', though his work spans music, poetry, children's books, performative and visual art. A sensitive soul and keen member of the Noise Abatement Society, he loved the small, quiet things in life - bugs, flowers, birds, small kindnesses and cups of tea. He hated chemical smells, loud noises and cars and always rode his bicycle to get around - whether peddling his harmonium to a gig to support Soft Machine or heading to Hampstead Heath to sit quietly with his notebook under a tree.
The Scottish eccentric had a distinctive style - wearing plus fours and often with a flower adorning his hat. He would approach strangers offering small sticky labels with 'cutlerisms' on like "Never Knowingly Understood", "Illiterates Against the Nizis" or "Funny Smell". He was convinced that the world was absurd and met it with a unique blend of dark and daft humour, refusing to let it crush his child's eye view.
John Peel, who recorded many sessions with Ivor Cutler, once remarked that Cutler was probably the only performer whose work had been featured on Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4. He continues to inspire a cult following 15 years after his death.
Matthew Parris and nominator KT Tunstall are joined by Bruce Lindsay, currently at work on a biography of Ivor Cutler.
We also hear excerpts from interviews with Ivor's partner Phyllis King and his son Jeremy Cutler, conducted by the producer, Ellie Richold.
Image: Courtesy of Jeremy Cutler
Black and British pioneer Kenny Lynch
Kenny Lynch was born in Stepney, East London in 1938. He toured with the Beatles, wrote best-selling songs, was a champion boxer in the army, and a regular face on British TV. He was also - at the start of his career - one of the very few black and British singers in the UK, but he's not really remembered as a pioneer. Out to change that is his nominator, broadcaster and record producer Eddie Piller who first liked Kenny for his effortless style, but loves his records too. "Kenny Lynch was no victim," he says. Features extensive archive of Kenny talking about his East End childhood plus the music he sang and produced.
Presenter Matthew Parris
Producer Miles Warde
Chinua Achebe, Nigerian novelist
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown picks Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe, the author of Things Fall Apart. With archive contributions from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Chinua Achebe himself. He was born in Nigeria in 1930 and Yasmin Alibhai Brown met him twice in Uganda in the 1960s and remains deeply impressed by both his books and his life.
The presenter is Matthew Parris, the producer is Miles Warde
The Talented Mr Ripley author, Patricia Highsmith
Director Jonathan Kent was friends with Patricia Highsmith. He'd been playing Tom Ripley for a tv show, and staying in the hotel suite next door to her. She took a shine to him. Now he repays the debt with this revealing and intriguing programme to celebrate a hundred years since her birth in 1921. Although best known for the Ripley books, she first broke through with Alfred Hitchcock's film adaptation of her novel, Strangers on a Train. She was, says Kent, not so interested in murder as in what happens to a character after the crime is done.
"I read sometimes how odd she was - I didn't find her odd at all. She was shy, very shy. She had a fringe, a sort of hank of hair that would fall over her eyes and I would catch her sneaking looks at me. But there was nothing odd about her. Perhaps my standards of oddness are different." Jonathan Kent
The programme features extensive archive of Highsmith, plus the film director Anthony Minghella; at least one other Tom Ripley actor; and her award winning biographer, Andrew Wilson, who has a few Highsmithian novels on the way.
This is the first in a new series which also features the African novelist, Chinua Achebe; the Plantagenet king Edward III; and the British entertainer Kenny Lynch.
The presenter is Matthew Parris, the producer is Miles Warde.