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FT Life of a Song

Each month FT music critics and contributors discuss the story of a song, from its origins and early recordings through cover versions good and bad. Formerly called FT Arts.

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The life of a song: When the Levee Breaks

From recordings by Memphis Minnie and Led Zeppelin to sampling by Dr Dre, Eminem and Massive Attack, David Cheal traces the various incarnations of ‘When the Levee Breaks’. Credits: Columbia, Atlantic, The Chronic Interscope  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

5mins

20 Feb 2015

Rank #1

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The life of a song: Misirlou

Peter Aspden tells the story of 'Misirlou', the swaying Anatolian love song that was reinvented as a 1960s surfers' anthem before gaining a massive audience with Pulp Fiction and sampling by The Black Eyed Peas. Credits: Parker Street Records, JB Production, Universal Music Group  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

5mins

29 May 2015

Rank #2

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Real to reel

Documentary films are breaking UK box office records and are, arguably, having more success than ever before. As "The Queen of Versailles", one of the hits of this year's Sundance Film Festival, heads for UK cinemas, Raphael Abraham discusses the new appetite for reality with critics Nigel Andrews and Leslie Felperin  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

19mins

23 Aug 2012

Rank #3

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The life of a song: Watermelon Man

Herbie Hancock's soul jazz classic 'Watermelon Man' originally drew on his 1940s Chicago childhood but went on to be given funk, disco, ska, pop and hip-hop makeovers, says Mike Hobart. Credits: Roslin Records, Columbia/Legacy, Salt & Pepper, History Of RnB Records  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

8mins

31 Jul 2015

Rank #4

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The life of a song: Me and Mrs Jones

From Billy Paul’s adulterous original in 1972 to Amy Winehouse's gender-bending twist on the song 30 years later, Ludovic Hunter-Tilney gets to grips with 'Me and Mrs Jones'. Credits:Philadelphia International, 143, Island  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

6mins

17 Apr 2015

Rank #5

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The life of a song: Peg

Recorded by musical perfectionists Steely Dan, sampled by hip-hop trio De La Soul and recycled in other pop songs, the story of 'Peg' is one of originality and appropriation, Peter Aspden says. Credits: MCA Records Inc, Rhino, The Echo Label Limited  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

5mins

12 Jun 2015

Rank #6

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The Life of a Song: Lady Marmalade

"Lady Marmalade" began life as a sleazy soul anthem by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan before being funked up by Labelle, given an R&B twist by Sheila E and overlaid with cheesy rap for the film "Moulin Rouge". Ian McCann charts its evolution. Credit: Epic, 20th Century Records, Fania, Warner Bros., Polydor Associated Labels  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

6mins

4 Mar 2016

Rank #7

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The Life of a Song: This Land Is Your Land

Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" has been used in the campaigns of George HW Bush, Obama and, most recently, Bernie Sanders. Richard Clayton investigates the colonial overtones and contested legacy of America's alternative national anthem. Credit: Smithsonian Folkways Recording, Daptone Records, Delta, North Face and Jib Jab.  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

7mins

15 Apr 2016

Rank #8

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The Life of a Song: In The Air Tonight

The coolification of Phil Collins is among pop's most curious turnarounds. Richard Clayton explains what the song owes to gangsta rap, "gated reverb" - and a drumming gorilla. Credit: Rhino, Atlantic, Def Jam  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

6mins

29 Apr 2016

Rank #9

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Florence and the machines: the British Library Sound Archive

Peter Aspden visits the basement treasure-house where recordings of Florence Nightingale, 1940s electronica and other rarities are stored alongside some equally exotic audio technology  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

7mins

9 Jan 2015

Rank #10

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The Life of a Song: Grandma's Hands

How did Bill Withers' little blues inspire a 1990s R&B hit and a Simon Cowell-produced football anthem? Ian McCann charts its history. Credit: Columbia, Legacy, Sony, Ministry of Sound, Syco  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

6mins

25 Mar 2016

Rank #11

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The Life of a Song: Stairway to Heaven

David Honigmann follows Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway' from its origins in a Welsh cottage to 'Wayne's World', the White House and bedrooms everywhere  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

7mins

30 Dec 2016

Rank #12

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The Life of a Song: Like a Rolling Stone

Peter Aspden deconstructs the creation of Bob Dylan's legendary song over the course of a single day in the studio. This podcast was originally published in November 2015; it is republished in celebration of Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize for Literature. Credits: Columbia/Legacy  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

6mins

14 Oct 2016

Rank #13

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The Life of a Song: Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen's most famous song nearly wasn't released after being rejected by his record label. It is now among the most covered songs, with notable contributions from Jeff Buckley, John Cale and Rufus Wainwright. Credits: Sony Music, UMOD, Syco Music, Columbia, Nonesuch  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

8mins

11 Nov 2016

Rank #14

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Life of a song: Ice Ice Baby

Ludovic Hunter-Tilney uncovers the back story of Vanilla Ice’s hit Ice Ice Baby. Credits:Ultra, EMI  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

4mins

27 Mar 2015

Rank #15

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The Life of a Song: Fast Car

Richard Clayton on how Tracy Chapman's searing ballad of low income life carried her to global acclaim. Credits: Elektra, King Tubby's Music, Virgin EMI  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

6mins

25 Sep 2016

Rank #16

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The Life of a Song: Hotel California

Peter Aspen looks at how The Eagles turned a few improvised chords into one of the most iconic, and enigmatic, rock songs of the 1970s. Credits: Rhino/Elektra, Parlophone UK, UMG Recordings, Elemental Records, Sony Music Entertainment  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

6mins

3 Apr 2017

Rank #17

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The Life of a Song: So What

Miles Davis' "So What" is one of the most famous compositions in jazz. Ian McCann explores its many incarnations, from Ronny Jordan's funk hit to Smiley Culture's musings on racial unrest. Credit: Not Now Music, Columbia/Legacy, Universal-Island Records, Universal.  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

6mins

20 May 2016

Rank #18

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The Life of a Song: Dem Bones

This song has its roots in an ancient refugee crisis and the more recent struggle for racial equality. Over the years, it's been adopted by Fats Waller, The Four Lads and the rapper M.I.A. Written by Helen Brown and read by Anna Metcalfe. Credit: Hit Wonder, Document Records, Diamond Coast, Sinetone AMR and XL Recordings.  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

6mins

18 Mar 2016

Rank #19

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The Life of a Song: Every Rose Has Its Thorn

"Every Rose Has Its Thorn" by Poison's Bret Michaels was the last popular flourish of transvestism in rock. Ludovic Hunter-Tilney discovers what inspired the classic power ballad. Credit: Capitol Catalog, Hollywood Records, Kidz Bop, BMB/Poor Boy Records  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

7mins

13 May 2016

Rank #20