50 years after it was first recorded, Ralph McTell and others discuss a song that was written for a heroin addict, became an anthem against homelessness, and transcended the folk genre to become an enduring classic.
Ralph McTell says he’s thought constantly about the “blip in my graph” that is Streets of London. People say to him “50 years. One hit. You think you’d have given up by now”. But, Ralph says, that’s not why he writes songs. And, of course, he’s written many. Many that he considers far better than Streets of London. But this remains his best known, best loved, and most played track. It was first recorded 50 years ago, in 1969, for his album Spiral Staircase although it wasn’t released as a single until 1974.
Taking part in Soul Music, alongside Ralph, with their stories and memories connected to Streets of London, are:
Jerry Playle, a music producer. His first ever public performance as a teenage guitarist was of Streets of London. The guitar part went well, but when he opened his mouth to sing, he realised - to his horror - that he couldn't...
Gwen Ever, a DJ. He became homeless in the 1980s. It’s the unlikely punk version of Streets of London by the Anti Nowhere League that reminds him of this time.
Maria Bentley-Dingwall, the daughter of Iris Bentley. Iris was the sister of Derek Bentley who was hanged for a murder he did not commit. Iris spent her life campaigning for his conviction to be quashed. Ralph McTell grew up knowing this story, became a friend of the family, wrote a song about the case, and sang Streets of London at Iris Bentley’s funeral.
Producer: Karen Gregor
Back to Black
Amy Winehouse died in July 2011 aged just 27. Back to Black the title track of her second and final album is a torch song to tragic love, addiction and loss. People who loved her and her music talk about how she helped them cope with their own struggles.
Lesley Jamison is now a successful writer but at 27 she was an alcoholic. She stopped drinking the same year that Amy died. Lesley reflects on how her own life could have followed the same path had she gone further into the darkness or the black of drinking and self destruction. Daisy Buchanan tells her story of addictive love and how Back to Black helped her break free. Umaru Saidu was a vulnerable teenager with mental health issues who lost a dear childhood friend when he was 17. He later trained at the Amy's Yard programme and is grateful for the inspiration she gave him. As a young teenager Amy Charles too identified with the pain expressed in Back to Black and says it helped her deal with depression brought on by a spinal injury.
Donald Brackett is the author of Back to Black: Amy Winehouse's Only Masterpiece and believes performing the song may have become traumatic for her in the end as it forced her to relive the emotional pain. Elizabeth Kesses was visiting her terminally ill father at the same hospital where Amy Winehouse was being treated. She recalls seeing her there and hoping she would recover. Sadly it was not to be. But these stories reveal a legacy that goes beyond the music.
Producer: Maggie Ayre
Let the River Run
The story of how a song from a classic 80’s movie became an inspirational anthem for a 21st Century generation.
Carly Simon’s ‘Let the River Run’ was originally conceived as the title track for the 1988 movie ‘Working Girl. It went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It also went on to win the affection of people around the world.
Initially thought of as a ‘hymn for New York’, ‘Let the River Run’ encapsulates the spirit of striving for a better life. As Carly Simon puts it herself, “I wanted it to be large, I wanted it to be vast – it’s about bringing forth a common desire into the world”. In more recent years it has become an anthem for Woman's Rights Movements and global initiatives aimed at making a better life for all.
Featuring interviews with: Carly Simon, Ginny Suss (music producer and part of the team who organised the Women’s March on Washington), Ultra Marathon Runner Elisabet Barnes, Nina Ritzen and music from The Resistance Revival Chorus.
Produced by Nicola Humphries
The music was written by Charlie Chaplin in 1935 for the film 'Modern Times', but the lyrics were only added thirty years later. Chris Philips tells the story of how his grandfather was inspired to write the words when he left his father at boarding school; Gemma Lowery talks about how her son Bradley loved the song; writer Bryony Rheam describes why she associates the song with her grandmother; Marine Lucas remembers flying to Michael Jackson's memorial on hearing the news of his death and author Bob Williams remembers after his father died, his mother sitting on the floor listening to the Nat King Cole version and crying when he came home from school.
Schubert’s B-Flat Piano Sonata D960
The B-Flat Piano Sonata D960, which Schubert completed two months before his death, in 1828, is a vast and complex work. It’s the last of a triptych of piano sonatas that Schubert wrote, possibly in response to the death of his hero Beethoven the year before. Schubert had been a pallbearer at Beethoven’s funeral.
In this programme, pianists Imogen Cooper, Steven Osborne and James Lisney consider what it’s like to play this work. And Andrea Avery and Pamela Rose describe ways in which this sonata has marked and shaped their lives.
Producer: Rosie Boulton