300 episodes

Eight tracks, a book and a luxury: what would you take to a desert island? Guests share the soundtrack of their lives.

Desert Island Discs BBC

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.6 • 424 Ratings

Eight tracks, a book and a luxury: what would you take to a desert island? Guests share the soundtrack of their lives.

    Yo-Yo Ma, musician

    Yo-Yo Ma, musician

    Yo-Yo Ma is a cellist and one of the world's most high-profile classical musicians. He has performed for eight US Presidents, appeared in concert halls across the globe and reached new audiences through film soundtracks and TV shows including The Simpsons and Sesame Street.

    Yo-Yo Ma was born in Paris in 1955. His Chinese-born parents were both musicians and his father was his first cello teacher. The family moved to the USA when Yo-Yo was seven, and a noted child prodigy, playing for John F Kennedy and Leonard Bernstein. He went on to study at the Juilliard School in New York and at Harvard University.

    He has recorded more than 100 albums, and his many Grammy awards reveal the range of his musical interests. Along with prize-winning concerto and chamber music discs, and an acclaimed recording of Bach's Suites from unaccompanied cello, he's won awards for folk and tango albums. He is also the driving force behind the Silk Road Ensemble, creating music inspired by the cultures found along the historic trade route linking China and the West.

    His high-profile appearances in America include the first performance on the site of the World Trade Centre, a year after the 9/11 attacks, and contributions to the inaugurations of Presidents Obama and Biden. A more recent informal solo performance took place at his local Covid vaccination centre in Massachusetts.

    Yo-Yo Ma has been married to Jill Hornor for more than 40 years, and they have two children.

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Sarah Taylor

    • 37 min
    Heather Hallett, former judge and crossbench peer

    Heather Hallett, former judge and crossbench peer

    Heather Hallett, Baroness Hallett of Rye, is a former judge and a cross-bench peer.

    Called to the Bar in 1972, Heather practised family, civil and criminal law, eventually specialising in criminal law. In 1989 she became a QC and was the first woman to chair the Bar Council in 1998. She was only the fifth woman to be appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2005 and was appointed vice president of the Court of Appeal Criminal Division in 2013.

    Heather was born in Eastleigh in Hampshire. Her father Hugh was a policeman who worked his way up to the rank of assistant chief constable. With each promotion the family moved house and Heather’s education was disrupted, leading her teachers to conclude that she was unlikely to secure a place at university. Heather proved them wrong and studied law at the University of Oxford.

    In 2009 she acted as coroner at the inquest into the deaths of the 52 victims of the July 7th London bombings in 2005 and she has taken over the inquest of Dawn Sturgess who died in the Salisbury Novichok poisonings.

    Heather retired as a judge in 2019 and currently sits as a life peer.

    DISC ONE: Caroline (Live) by Status Quo
    DISC TWO: Climb Ev’ry Mountain by Peggy Wood (Mother Abbess)
    DISC THREE: Wing Commander Hancock by Tony Hancock and Kenneth Williams
    DISC FOUR: Invisible Touch by Genesis
    DISC FIVE: The Best by Tina Turner
    DISC SIX: I Heard it Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye
    DISC SEVEN: Dear Lord and Father of Mankind by Temple Church Choir
    DISC EIGHT: Vissi d’Arte by Maria Callas (soprano) and Orchestra Del Teatro Alla Scala, conducted by Victor De Sabata

    BOOK CHOICE: Inspector Morse Mysteries Series Collection by Colin Dexter
    LUXURY ITEM: A solar-powered iPad
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Caroline (Live) by Status Quo

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Paula McGinley

    • 35 min
    Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, charity CEO

    Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, charity CEO

    Amanda Khozi Mukwashi is the chief executive of Christian Aid, leading development and humanitarian work in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Amanda was born in Twickenham and grew up in Zambia and Rome where her stepfather worked in the diplomatic service. She studied international trade and investment law at the University of Zambia in Lusaka and during this time she began to develop her political outlook and commitment to the issue of social justice.

    She moved to the UK in 1996 where she took a master’s degree at the University of Warwick. But even with two degrees and considerable work experience she was unable to find a job and retrained as a care worker. She says her time working in nursing homes “reshaped” and “humbled” her.

    Later she worked for the VSO and served with the United Nations Volunteer programme in Germany before landing what she calls her “dream job” at Christian Aid in 2018.

    DISC ONE: Pata Pata by Miriam Makeba
    DISC TWO: Ave Maria (after Arcadelt) Composed by Jacques Arcadelt, performed by Choeur de Chambre de Namur, conducted by Leonardo García Alarcón
    DISC THREE: My Hometown by Bruce Springsteen
    DISC FOUR: Jerusalema by Master Kg Featuring Nomcebo Zikode
    DISC FIVE: You Know My Name by Tasha Cobbs Leonard Featuring Jimi Cravity
    DISC SIX: (Red)emption Song by John Legend
    DISC SEVEN: I Believe by Fantasia
    DISC EIGHT: It Is Well With My Soul by Wintley Phipps

    BOOK CHOICE: Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr Spencer Johnson
    LUXURY ITEM: Quality Street chocolates
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: It Is Well With My Soul by Wintley Phipps

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Paula McGinley

    • 36 min
    Alexei Sayle, comedian

    Alexei Sayle, comedian

    Alexei Sayle is a comedian and writer, who began his career just over 40 years ago at the small Comedy Store venue in London, which proved a launch-pad for a new generation of comic stars.

    Alexei was born in Liverpool, where his parents were loyal members of the Communist Party: their politics informed almost every aspect of the family’s life, including holidays by train to eastern European countries that were then part of the Soviet bloc.

    He won a place at Chelsea School of Art but didn’t thrive as a painter. He began performing with a theatre troupe and - after answering an advertisement - became the compere on the opening night of the Comedy Store. He soon found himself at the centre of a new wave of British comedy. With his tight suits and often abrasive stage presence, he enjoyed successful stand-up tours, appearances on numerous TV shows including The Young Ones, and even a novelty pop hit.

    He attempted to launch a career in America, but was fired from a TV series on his 40th birthday. He stepped back from stand-up and devoted himself to writing novels and short stories. More recently, he has returned to live performance, and has also created a number of comedy series for Radio 4.

    He lives in London with his wife Linda: they have been married for almost 50 years.

    DISC ONE: Volver by Carlos Gardel
    DISC TWO: Joe Hill by Joan Baez
    DISC THREE: Aviator’s March by Yevgeny Kibkalo (baritone), conducted by Alexei Kovalev
    DISC FOUR: Seeräuber Jenny (Pirate Jenny) by Lotte Lenya
    DISC FIVE: Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin
    DISC SIX: Shipbuilding by Robert Wyatt
    DISC SEVEN: It Was a Good Day by Ice Cube
    DISC EIGHT: Bonkers by Dizzee Rascal

    BOOK CHOICE: The Sword of Honour Trilogy by Evelyn Waugh
    LUXURY ITEM: A Chinese Broadsword
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Sarah Taylor

    • 35 min
    Brian Greene

    Brian Greene

    Brian Greene is a theoretical physicist, mathematician and writer, whose area of research is string theory. His books and broadcasts distil the complexities of science for a general audience, leading one critic to say appreciatively “he speaks maths, physics and human.”

    Born in New York City, his father taught him the basics of arithmetic when he was a toddler and by the time he was five Brian was multiplying 30-digit numbers by 30-digit numbers - just for the pure joy of working things out by himself. At 11 Brian had exhausted everything his maths teacher could teach him but, thanks to his teacher’s resourcefulness, he managed to get extra tuition from a graduate student at Columbia University.

    After graduating from Harvard in 1984, Brian won a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University to study gravity and quantum mechanics. At Oxford he became captivated by the idea of string theory which was causing much excitement among the physics community at the time. String theory was seen as having the potential to answer life’s big questions about space, time and the universe.

    Over the years Brian has been at the forefront of scientific discoveries including mirror symmetry and later proving that tears could happen in the fabric of space.

    Brian is currently professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University.

    DISC ONE: An extract from Icarus At the Edge of Time. Composed by Philip Glass, performed by the Orchestra of St Lukes, conducted by Brad Lubman, narrated by John Lithgow
    DISC TWO: Rockin’ in the Rockies by The Cappy Barra Boys Harmonica Quartet
    DISC THREE: Turn Around by Harry Belafonte
    DISC FOUR: An extract from Light Falls, composed by Jeff Beal, performed by Hollywood Chamber Orchestra
    DISC FIVE: Brahms Rhapsody in G minor, Op. 79 no 2, performed by Martha Argerich
    DISC SIX: Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland with the Victor Young Orchestra
    DISC SEVEN: A Million Dreams by Ziv Zaifman, Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams
    DISC EIGHT: The Sound of Silence by Disturbed

    BOOK CHOICE: Philosophical Explanations by Robert Nozick
    LUXURY ITEM: A solar powered particle collider
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Turn Around by Harry Belafonte

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Paula McGinley

    • 38 min
    Billie Piper, actor

    Billie Piper, actor

    Billie Piper is an Olivier Award winning actor and former pop star.

    She was born in Swindon in September 1982, and her parents nurtured her interests in dance and drama from a young age.

    After a winning a scholarship to study at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, she moved to London as a young teenager, leaving the family home. By the age of 15, she was a full time pop star. She became the youngest female artist ever to go straight to number one in the UK charts when her debut single was a hit in 1998.

    Just three years later, after releasing more successful singles and two albums and touring furiously to promote them, Billie left the music industry. She married the DJ Chris Evans, and found herself the frequent subject of newspaper stories.

    She decided to turn to acting, her first love, and by 2005 she was back in the spotlight playing Rose Tyler in the BBC’s revival of Doctor Who. Since then she has taken on a wide range of acclaimed screen and stage roles, most notably picking up all six available awards for Best Actress – including the Olivier Award – when she starred in a new version of Lorca's play Yerma. Her recent TV series I Hate Suzy, which she co-created, has been BAFTA nominated and she has also written and directed her first film, Rare Beasts.

    DISC ONE: Pure Imagination by Gene Wilder
    DISC TWO: This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody) by Talking Heads
    DISC THREE: Sara by Fleetwood Mac
    DISC FOUR: Out of Space by The Prodigy
    DISC FIVE: Champagne Supernova by Oasis
    DISC SIX: Turn The Page by The Streets
    DISC SEVEN: Halo by Beyoncé
    DISC EIGHT: Juicy by The Notorious B.I.G

    BOOK CHOICE: The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy
    LUXURY ITEM: Billie’s children’s art work
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Champagne Supernova by Oasis

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Sarah Taylor

    • 36 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
424 Ratings

424 Ratings

linda murry ,

Really good

A Facebook group actually turned me on to your lovely podcast ( the only good thing to come out of FB really). Very charming, heartfelt, and endearing. It’s like a really great movie/biography. I enjoy this and wouldn’t even mind hearing one show done from common folk. The hosts have the ability to capture the pictures and soundtracks of life brilliantly 🌺🔥 I am glad to have found this treasure!

Da Suze ,

From Vancouver, Canada

Exactly, nick mick.
To DID, it would be wonderful it the music wasn’t cut off Otherwise, excellent, thx.

Nick,mick ,

Meaning of desert

Stephen from London needs to look up the word “desert” in a good dictionary.

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