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 • 1.2K Ratings

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

    Michael Sandel, philosopher

    Michael Sandel, philosopher

    Michael Sandel is a political philosopher and professor of government theory at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has also presented the BBC Radio 4 series The Public Philosopher and The Global Philosopher, in which he examines the thinking behind a current controversy.

    His books have tackled the idea of meritocracy and the moral limits of markets, and he has been described as a “philosopher with the global profile of a rock star.”

    Michael grew up in Minnesota until the age of 13 when his family relocated to Los Angeles. As a boy he was fascinated by politics and he invited Ronald Reagan, who was then governor of California, to take part in a debate at his school.

    During his university studies he took an internship at the Houston Chronicle and covered the Watergate scandal, sitting in on the Supreme court deliberations and subsequent impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill. Later, while he was studying as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University he was, as he puts it, “seduced by philosophy”.

    Justice, the course he devised at Harvard, is one of the most popular in the university’s history – thousands of students apply to attend in person and tens of millions watch his classes online.

    DISC ONE: Feeling Good by Nina Simone
    DISC TWO: Only a Pawn in Their Game by Bob Dylan
    DISC THREE: Battle Hymn of the Republic by Odetta
    DISC FOUR: Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday
    DISC FIVE: Alexander Hamilton by Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton
    DISC SIX: Anthem by Leonard Cohen
    DISC SEVEN: The Stars Will Sing To You by Kiku Adatto
    DISC EIGHT: America the Beautiful by Ray Charles

    BOOK CHOICE: The Collected Dialogues of Plato
    LUXURY ITEM: Binoculars
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: The Stars Will Sing To You by Kiku Adatto

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Paula McGinley

    • 35 min
    Deborah Meaden, businesswoman

    Deborah Meaden, businesswoman

    Deborah Meaden is a businesswoman and entrepreneur. She’s been one of the investment ‘Dragons’ in the BBC TV series since 2006.

    Destined to be a successful entrepreneur, Deborah Meaden launched her first business straight out of college at nineteen years old, importing artisan Italian glass and ceramic homeware goods to the UK.

    After running various franchise businesses, she joined her family company, Weststar Holidays and eventually became Managing Director. A few years later, when her parents wanted to retire, she bought them out of the business and later sold the company making her a multi-millionaire.

    Deborah is now a full time investor with a wide ranging portfolio. For the last fifteen years, she has been one of the investment Dragons on BBC TV’s Dragon’s Den. Even though she has many millions in the bank, she has no plans to step back from business. “Why would I stop doing something that I love?”

    She lives in Somerset with her husband, Paul.

    DISC ONE: Ride a White Swan by T. Rex
    DISC TWO: The Bottle by Gil Scott-Heron / Brian Jackson
    DISC THREE: Mercy Mercy Me by Marvin Gaye
    DISC FOUR: Don't Push It Don't Force It by Leon Haywood
    DISC FIVE: Money's Too Tight To Mention by The Valentine Brothers
    DISC SIX: El Condor Pasa by Simon And Garfunkel
    DISC SEVEN: Suite: The Planets – Jupiter composed by Gustav Holst, performed by BBC Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent
    DISC EIGHT: Be Thankful For What You've Got by William De Vaughn

    BOOK CHOICE: A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor
    LUXURY ITEM: A sketch book and pencil
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Be Thankful For What You've Got by William De Vaughn

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Sarah Taylor

    • 36 min
    Dame Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano

    Dame Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano

    The mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly has sung at the most prestigious venues around the world, including the Royal Opera House, London and the Metropolitan Opera in New York, as well as Glyndebourne, Vienna and Bayreuth. In 2009 she was a soloist at the Last Night of the BBC Proms, singing Rule Britannia dressed as Admiral Nelson, and she has also made a name for herself taking on male or so-called “trouser roles” in opera, including Handel’s Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar).

    As a child, she was an outstanding pianist with a passion for classical music and jazz. After studying piano and voice at the Royal College of Music, she decided to become a singer. She was a member of the BBC Singers for five years, before taking the leap and seeking work as a soloist.

    She took a break from public performance in 2019 to have treatment for breast cancer, but has now resumed her career.

    She was made a DBE in the 2017 Birthday Honours and last year she became an Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society, recognising her outstanding services to music.

    DISC ONE: Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
    DISC TWO: Handel: L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, ed il Moderato, Part III: As steals the morn. Performed by Mark Padmore (tenor), Lucy Crowe (soprano) and The English Concert, conducted by Andrew Manze
    DISC THREE: Rebel Rebel by David Bowie
    DISC FOUR: Blue In Green by Miles Davis
    DISC FIVE: Embroidery in Childhood (Act III, scene 1) Composed and conducted by Benjamin Britten. Performed by Claire Watson (soprano) and Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
    DISC SIX: Schubert Winterreise : Das Wirtshaus, performed by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone) and Gerald Moore (piano)
    DISC SEVEN: Wagner - Der Ring : Keilberth, Bayreuth live, 1955. Act 3 Die Walküre, Denn einer nur freie die Braut. Performed by Hans Hotter (bass-baritone) and Bayreuth Festival Orchestra
    DISC EIGHT: Symphony Number 3 in D minor Mahler 3 : Mov’t 6, Ruhevoll- Empfunden (what love tells me) Performed by Vienna Philharmonic and conducted by Claudio Abaddo

    BOOK CHOICE: The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter
    LUXURY ITEM: A grand piano with a tuning kit
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Wagner - Der Ring : Keilberth, Bayreuth live, 1955. Act 3 Die Walküre, Denn einer nur freie die Braut. Performed by Hans Hotter (bass-baritone) and Bayreuth Festival Orchestra

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Sarah Taylor

    • 37 min
    Tom Ilube, entrepreneur

    Tom Ilube, entrepreneur

    Tom Ilube is an entrepreneur, known for his successful start-up companies, and a philanthropist. He recently took up the post of chairman of the Rugby Football Union.

    He was born in 1963 to a Nigerian father and a British mother, and grew up first in London, and then in Uganda, a stay cut short by the rise to power of Idi Amin. He began his teenage years back in the UK, enjoying rugby and ice-skating, before moving with his family to Nigeria, where he also attended university, studying Applied Physics and launching his first business selling flared trousers to fellow students.

    He returned to London looking for work in information technology. After many unsuccessful job applications, British Airways gave him a break, and he later worked for the London Stock Exchange and Goldman Sachs. In 1996, he founded his first company and has since been involved with several other start-ups – “thinking up ideas, raising venture capital, building companies, selling them and doing it all again,” he says. He is also involved with philanthropic projects in education, including founding a school for high-achieving but disadvantaged girls in Ghana with a focus on maths and science.

    In 2017 he topped the Powerlist, the annual list of the 100 most influential people of African and African Caribbean heritage in Britain, and was appointed a CBE in 2018. He is married to Caron and has two grown-up children.

    DISC ONE: Doctor Who by BBC Radiophonic Workshop
    DISC TWO: Sweet Mother by Prince Nico Mbarga And Rocafil Jazz International
    DISC THREE: The Boys Are Back in Town by Thin Lizzy
    DISC FOUR: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot by Ladysmith Black Mambazo
    DISC FIVE: That's The Way Love Goes by Janet Jackson
    DISC SIX: Family Business by Kanye West
    DISC SEVEN: Mr Bojangles by Sammy Davis Jr
    DISC EIGHT: A Change is Gonna Come by Ayanna Witter-Johnson

    BOOK CHOICE: The Wormwood Trilogy by Tade Thompson
    LUXURY ITEM: A solar-powered puzzle generator, designed by Tom.
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Mr Bojangles by Sammy Davis Jr

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Sarah Taylor

    • 36 min
    Tracey Ullman, actor and comedian

    Tracey Ullman, actor and comedian

    Tracey Ullman was the first woman to be offered her own television sketch show – both in Britain and America – and has starred in film and television dramas alongside Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett and Hugh Grant. The Emmy-winning Tracey Ullman Show ran for four seasons in the US and provided the launch pad for the Simpsons.

    Tracey was born in Slough and as a child she would impersonate people and put on shows for the amusement of her mother after the death of her father. At 12 she won a scholarship to the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London and worked in repertory theatre and the West End in London before her television career took off. She was one of the stars of the BBC’s primetime sketch show Three of a Kind alongside David Copperfield and a young Lenny Henry.

    In 1985 she moved to Los Angeles with her husband, the producer Allan McKeown, where her uncanny impressions of Americans from all walks of life won her acclaim and awards in equal measure.

    After the death of her husband Tracey returned to the UK in 2016 and was soon back on our screens in a new sketch series, Tracey Ullman’s Show, which showcased her enduring talent for sending up the powerful and the famous, including Dame Judi Dench, Angela Merkel and Theresa May.

    DISC ONE: American Girl by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
    DISC TWO: You Won't See Me by The Beatles
    DISC THREE: Nichols and May At Work by Mike Nichols And Elaine May
    DISC FOUR: That's The Way Of The World by Earth, Wind & Fire
    DISC FIVE: Everyday I Write the Book by Elvis Costello And The Attractions
    DISC SIX: They Don’t Know by Kirsty MacColl
    DISC SEVEN: You and I by Stevie Wonder
    DISC EIGHT: This Is the Sea by The Waterboys

    BOOK CHOICE: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: You and I by Stevie Wonder

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Paula McGinley

    • 34 min
    Baroness Hale of Richmond, former judge.

    Baroness Hale of Richmond, former judge.

    Brenda Hale, Baroness Hale of Richmond, is a former judge who served as the first female president of the Supreme Court. In 2019 she announced the court’s judgement that the prorogation of Parliament was ‘unlawful, void and of no effect’. The twinkling spider brooch she wore that day caused a sensation and set social media aflame. She was the first woman and the youngest person to be appointed to the Law Commission and in 2004 became the UK’s first woman law lord.

    Lady Hale was born in Yorkshire and read law at the University of Cambridge where she graduated top of her class. She spent almost 20 years in academia and also practised as a barrister. Later at the Law commission she led the work on what became the 1989 Children Act.

    Lady Hale retired as a judge in January 2020.

    DISC ONE: Messiah - Part 1: O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings To Zion, composed by Georg Friedrich Händel, performed by Kathleen Ferrier and The London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult
    DISC TWO: Love Me Do by The Beatles
    DISC THREE: Move Him Into The Sun. Composed and conducted by Benjamin Britten. Performed by Peter Pears (tenor) and Galina Vishnevskaya (soprano) with the Bach Choir and the London Symphony Orchestra
    DISC FOUR: Part 1 Nos 4 & 5: Gloria in excelsis Deo – Et in terra pax. Composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by The Monteverdi Choir and The English Baroque Soloists and conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner
    DISC FIVE: The Marriage of Figaro), K. 492 Sull'Aria. Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by sopranos Charlotte Margiono and Barbara Bonney, Netherlands Opera Chorus and the Concertgebouw Orchestra
    DISC SIX: Hand in Hand by Glória (Ireland’s Gay and Lesbian Choir)
    DISC SEVEN: Parry: I Was Glad, composed by Hubert Parry, performed by Westminster Abbey Choir, Simon Preston (organ) and conducted by William McKinney
    DISC EIGHT: Dies Irae. Composed by Giuseppe Verdi, performed by Swedish Radio Choir and the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, with the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Claudio Abbado

    BOOK CHOICE: A Desert Island survival manual
    LUXURY ITEM: A solar-powered computer with sudoku puzzles and a writing application
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Part 1 Nos 4 & 5: Gloria in excelsis Deo – Et in terra pax, composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by The Monteverdi Choir and The English Baroque Soloists, conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Paula McGinley

    • 38 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
1.2K Ratings

1.2K Ratings

JulesClay ,

Treasure Trove

I’ve spent the past month of lockdown listening to episode after episode dating back to the earliest days of the show. What a gift! It’s endlessly inspiring and entertaining. Thank you.

Mikehillslasveg ,


I am done with this biased show. It used to be a fun show where we got to know about the guests through their music. It is now a forum to talk about political agenda, I’m done.

JMac1970 ,

All time favorite

I love this show. One of the best ever and a huge favorite.

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