122 episodes

Series about pieces of music with a powerful emotional impact

Soul Music BBC

    • Personal Journals
    • 4.5, 374 Ratings

Series about pieces of music with a powerful emotional impact

    Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte by Maurice Ravel

    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

    • 27 min
    Feeling Good

    Feeling Good

    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 Sam Reynolds, who says the track helped her through challenging times, and musician, Kirsten Lamb, who sings a simplified version with young children at a homelessness project in Massachusetts.

    Producer: Karen Gregor

    • 27 min
    Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay

    Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay

    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 song's genesis, and people in their twenties to their seventies reveal why they relate it to dramatic periods in their lives.

    Booker T Jones' Time Is Tight is published by Omnibus Press

    Producers: Maggie Ayre and Mair Bosworth

    • 27 min


    “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 lives.

    For Sim Wood it's an anthem to great friendships and discovery whilst for actor Gabriel Vick it's a song that has journeyed with him from a place of fond memories to heartfelt remembrance. John Slater, who was born the same year that it was released, has his own celebratory take on 'Days' and for Laura and John Mapes it's the song that gave them the words they so needed to express.

    Produced By Nicola Humphries
    With contributions from rock critic and writer Barry Miles

    For Help and Support

    BBC Action Line support: Emotional distress

    The Samaritans

    Cruse Bereavement Care provides support after the death of someone close including face to face, telephone, group support, as well as bereavement support for children.

    SUDEP Action provides information and bereavement support to families affected by Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) and other epilepsy related deaths.

    Young Epilepsy is a national charity supporting children and young people aged 25 and under living in the UK with epilepsy.

    • 27 min
    Toto's Africa

    Toto's Africa

    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 Got Talent, one of the biggest entertainment shows in the world. Ralf's exuberant, irresistible and uniquely African arrangement of Toto's Africa was their stand-out performance. (Brief extract of AGT (c) Fremantle USA and Syco Entertainment)

    Michael Savage (aka DJ Michael Vinyl) of Prime Cuts record shop in Bristol, staged what could be considered a night of torture when he played Africa non-stop for twelve hours at a club. As Mike and Olivia Perry recall, this was to raise money for the Bristol based charity, Temwa, which operates in Malawi. They expected a handful of people to turn up, but the event had worldwide attention and was a huge success.

    Mike Massé's life was completely changed following his release on YouTube of what many consider to be one of the best Africa cover-versions ever recorded. The main photo is of Mike Massé (photo credit: Jim Mimna).

    David Greig is the Artistic Director of the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh; an esteemed playwright with intellectual clout. So, why did he include Africa in one of his plays? Well, he nearly didn't, but then he saw the light.

    And, Abigail Gardner, a reader in music at the University of Gloucestershire, explains why Africa - originally a US No. 1 for just a week in 1982 - has recently undergone a strange modern rebirth, making it one of the most streamed songs on the internet.

    Please scroll down to the 'Related Links' box to find out more about the interviewees.

    Producer: Karen Gregor

    • 27 min
    Coventry Carol

    Coventry Carol

    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 after the bombing of Coventry that destroyed the city's cathedral. Journalist Donna Marmestein tells of how the carol transformed how she felt about loss in her family; composer and performer Tori Amos describes what inspired her cover version of the song and Amy Hanson from the Small Steps Charity talks about how much her mother loved the carol. The children from the school her charity supports in Kenya sing their version of the song. Roxanne Burroughs explains about how her daughter Kaitlyn came to have the carol sung at her funeral. The soloist is Samantha Lewis; early music is from The Night Watch; Reading Phoenix choir and Southern Voices sing the carol and the children's choir is from the Rehabilitation centre Immanuel Afrika in Nairobi, Kenya. Producer: Sara Conkey

    • 27 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
374 Ratings

374 Ratings

Tom_1357 ,

Brilliant production, interesting and emotional

I only really listen to the ones where I already know the song and it always gives me a totally new perspective(s) on it. Really emotional sometimes

--12Qw ,

Lovely listen

A feel good podcast. Insightful, poignant, interesting.

Competitive mamil ,


I came across this podcast a few years ago entirely by accident. I was browsing looking for something else and was intrigued by the title - soul music - and the juxtaposition with the subject song which was not a soul record.

Over the last few years I have more than once been found sobbing my heart out as I drive to work down the M42 motorway at 630 in the morning (the latest, Africa, saw that happen today and it isn’t entirely congruous a look for a man in a suit on his way to a desk in a Landrover).

Other times I have found an entirely different perspective on, or learned an entirely different way to listen to, a piece of music that until then I thought I knew. I have learned about music that was new to me. I have enjoyed every single episode. I wonder how they find the people to contribute, but I really don’t want to know.

I love this show.

Top Podcasts In Personal Journals

Listeners Also Subscribed To

More by BBC