Radiolab creator and host Jad Abumrad spent the last two years following around music legend Dolly Parton, and we're here to say you should tune in! In this episode of Radiolab, we showcase the first of Jad's special series, . In this intensely divided moment, one of the few things everyone still seems to agree on is Dolly Parton—but why? That simple question leads to a deeply personal, historical, and musical rethinking of one of America’s great icons.
We begin with a simple question: How did the queen of the boob joke become a feminist icon? Helen Morales, author of “Pilgrimage to Dollywood,” gave us a stern directive – look at the lyrics! So we dive into Dolly’s discography, starting with the early period of what Dolly calls “sad ass songs” to find remarkably prescient words of female pain, slut-shaming, domestic violence, and women being locked away in asylums by cheating husbands. We explore how Dolly took the centuries-old tradition of the Appalachian “murder ballad”—an oral tradition of men singing songs about brutally killing women—and flipped the script, singing from the woman’s point of view. And as her career progresses, the songs expand beyond the pain to tell tales of leaving abuse behind.
How can such pro-woman lyrics come from someone who despises the word feminism? Dolly explains.
Check out Dolly Parton's America here at:
We eat eels in sushi, stews, and pasta. Eels eat anything . Also they can survive outside of water for hours and live for up to 80 years. But this slippery snake of the sea harbors an even deeper mystery, one that has tormented the minds of Aristotle and Sigmund Freud and apparently the entire country of Italy: Where do they come from? We travel from the estuaries of New York to the darkest part of the ocean in search of the limits of human knowledge.
This episode was produced by Matt Kielty and Becca Bressler.
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Lucy Cooke's book !
Tit for Tat
In the early 60s, Robert Axelrod was a math major messing around with refrigerator-sized computers. Then a dramatic global crisis made him wonder about the space between a rock and a hard place, and whether being good may be a good strategy. With help from Andrew Zolli and Steve Strogatz , we tackle the prisoner’s dilemma, a classic thought experiment, and learn about a simple strategy to navigate the waters of cooperation and betrayal. Then Axelrod, along with Stanley Weintraub , takes us back to the trenches of World War I, to the winter of 1914, and an unlikely Christmas party along the Western Front.
What's Left When You're Right?
More often than not, a fight is just a fight... Someone wins, someone loses. But this hour, we have a series of face-offs that shine a light on the human condition, the benefit of coming at something from a different side, and the price of being right.
Special thanks to Mark Dresser for the use of .
The Memory Palace
Nate DiMeo was preoccupied with the past, and how we relate to it, from a very young age. For the last decade or so he's been scratching this itch with he created. He does things very differently than we do, but his show has captured the hearts of Radiolab staffers, past and present, time and time again.
So we decided to get Nate into the studio to share a few of his episodes with us and talk to us about how and why he does what he does. He brought us stories about the Morse Code, the draft lottery, and then he hit us with a brand new episode about a bull on trial, that bounces off a story we did pretty recently.
More on scrub bulls.
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This episode was produced with help from Bethel Habte.
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