Some people say it's a protest song about the commercialisation of Christmas. Others that it's anti-religious. I Believe In Father Christmas is about neither, although lyricist Peter Sinfield concedes that it does include a touch of cynicism but says ultimately it's a song of joy and hope. When Greg Lake co-wrote it in 1975 he had embarked on a solo career away from Emerson Lake & Palmer. Those around him at the time, including songwriter Peter Sinfield and broadcaster Bob Harris, recall how repeating a simple acoustic guitar exercise led Greg Lake to this giant of a song that includes a full choir, orchestra, and an extract from Prokofiev to create an enduring Christmas anthem. For many people it's a comforting song conjuring images of nostalgic picture postcard Christmases of a childhood spent in the ambience of Christmas tree lights and candles with 'eyes full of tinsel and fire'. For others it's a cautionary reminder of the need to look beyond the materialism and commercialism to a quieter, more spiritual time.
Producer: Maggie Ayre
'None shall sleep'.
Jon Christos watched the Italia 90 World Cup with his Dad and says that the live performance of 'Nessun Dorma' by Pavarotti at the tournament was the only time he ever saw his Dad cry.
Beatrice Venezia conducted 'Nessun Dorma' at the 'Puccini day' she created in Lucca in 2018. She also conducted Andrea Bocelli's performance of the aria at the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June 2022.
Pavarotti's daughter Cristina talks about the impact this aria had on her father's life and how his 1990 performance of 'Nessun Dorma' inspired many people to become interested in opera.
Sir Bobby Robson's son Mark Robson was at Italia 90 and talks about the pride he felt seeing his Dad lining up with the England team for the semi-final against West Germany. It was also sung at Sir Bobby's memorial service in Durham Cathedral.
Broadcaster and author Alexandra Wilson explains that the opera Turandot is the story of Prince Calaf who falls in love with the titular Princess. In 'Nessun Dorma' Calaf expresses his determination to win her hand, ending with that extraordinary refrain "Vincerò!" or "I will win".
Paul Potts won 'Britain's Got Talent' in 2007 performing 'Nessun Dorma' and recalls singing it to over a million people at the Brandenburg Gate on New Year's Eve in 2010.
When Italy locked down in March 2020, hairdresser Piero d'Angelico played 'Nessun Dorma' from a five-story window above Cambridge railway station to show solidarity with his home country and the Italian community in his adopted city.
Voiceovers by Mike Ingham and Rebecca Braccialarghe.
Producer: Toby Field for BBC Audio in Bristol
Technical Producer: Michael Harrison
Editor: Emma Harding
Killing Me Softly with His Song
"Strumming my pain with his fingers... Singing my life with his words..."
Killing Me Softly with His Song is a song about the pleasure and embarrassment of being seen. The feeling that someone has reached into your deepest, most private feelings, and laid them bare: "I felt he'd found my letters, and read each one out loud". It's a song about a singer, and about what music can do. And it's a love song that feels at once happy and sad.
The song was a huge hit in two different generations. It won Grammy Awards for The Fugees in 1997 and for Roberta Flack in 1974. Ray Padgett, author of Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time, unfolds the layers of the song's history as a famous cover of a famous cover. The musicologist Nate Sloan explores what the song does harmonically, oscillating between major and minor chords to create a sense of uncertainty and longing. And Lori Lieberman tells the story of the Don McLean concert that inspired her lyrics for the song, that she was the first to record as a young singer-songwriter in 1972.
It's a song that transports Tiff Murray back to the hot New York summer of 1996, when the Fugees version blared from every car radio and shopfront. For her it was the soundtrack to falling in love while far from home. It's also a love song for Julie Daley, but now with a sharp edge. Dr Robin Boylorn listened to the Fugees version as a self-conscious teenager and felt a flush of recognition; Ben heard it the Christmas he first came to the UK from South Africa, played by a busker early one morning in Covent Garden as the first snow he'd ever seen began to fall; and Perminder Khatkar has treasured the song since it played in the delivery room during the birth of her first child.
Produced by Mair Bosworth for BBC Audio in Bristol
Into My Arms by Nick Cave
"I don't believe in an interventionist God" has to be one of the most original opening lines to a song. It's one that resonates with the people in this programme who take comfort from Nick Cave's love song. Els from Belgium was introduced to Cave's music through her partner Guido and Into My Arms became their song. After Guido died in a road accident Els carried on going to concerts and took great comfort from hearing that song. When she later wrote to Nick Cave's blog The Red Hand Files to tell him her story about Into My Arms she was overwhelmed when Nick Cave responded.
The Reverend John Walker feels a strong connection to the song as it's one his musician son Jonny performed just for him one evening on a rainy street in Leeds City Centre as Jonny was about to pack up and leave his busking spot. That special father-son moment has become even more cherished since Jonny's untimely death in 2018.
Many different artists have recorded their versions of Into My Arms including the Norwegian singer Ane Brun who performed it as a way of dealing with the heartache of a lost relationship.
Producer: Maggie Ayre
Powerful stories linked to this beautiful and stirring Ukrainian folk song which inspired Pink Floyd to reform so they could release their own version, 'Hey Hey Rise Up', alongside Andriy Khlyvnyuk of Boombox.
Chervona Kalyna is a clarion call with roots stretching back to 17th century Cossack history; as meaningful now as then, this episode of Soul Music reflects how music can be a unifying force in the most dangerous and difficult of times.
Anti-Russian, it was banned prior to Ukrainian independence in 1991 with one of its lyrics calling to 'free our brothers Ukrainian from Muscovites shackles'. Its full title 'Oi u luzi chervona kalyna' translates as 'Oh the red viburnum in the meadow': red viburnum is a common plant in Ukraine and in the song it's a metaphor for the country itself.
Telling their stories on Soul Music: Taras Ratushnyy, journalist turned soldier, discusses his beloved son, Roman, and the heroic role he played in Ukrainian society both before after the war began.
Elizaveta Izmalkova is a young Ukrainian singer who now lives in Lithuania. She performed Chervona Kalyna as part of a flash-mob co-organised by Egle Plytnikaite who describes why she and other Lithuanians wanted to demonstrate their support for Ukraine.
Nadia Morykvas wrote a book about the cultural polymath, Stepan Charnetskyi, who - in the early 20th century - adapted Chervona Kalyna for one of his plays. (Volodymyr Oleyko translates for Nadia Morykvas).
Andrij Halushka is a Ukrainian who now lives in London. He describes how his family history, down multiple generations, connects with the song.
Julia and Kateryna came to England under the 'Homes for Ukraine' scheme when the war began. Under the name 'Dvi Doli' they raise money for Ukraine by staging concerts where they perform traditional songs on the Bandura.
Taras Filenko is a pianist and ethno-musicologist. Originally from Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine, he now lives in Pennsylvania, USA. He discusses the musicology of the song, and recalls a neighbour from his childhood who was imprisoned for performing Chervona Kalyna in the 1940s.
Myroslava Hartmond is a British-Ukrainian cultural diplomacy expert. She explains how the current popularity of Chervona Kalyna began when Andriy Khlyvnyuk, the lead singer of Boombox, recorded an a capella version in the centre of Kyiv. This inspired Pink Floyd to collaborate with Khlyvnyuk and release their own version.
Please scroll down to the 'Related Links' box on the Radio 4 Soul Music webpage for further information about some of the interviewees and the different versions of the song used in the programme. The programme image is of Taras and Roman Ratushnyy.
Producer for BBC Audio in Bristol: Karen Gregor