Rank #1: Hallelujah
The song has been covered by hundreds of artists including Rufus Wainwright, K.D.Lang and Alexandra Burke.
We hear from those whose relationship with the song is deep and profound: singer Brandi Carlisle listened to it over and over again as a troubled teenager; it became a sound-track to James Talerico falling in love and Jim Kullander made a connection with the song after the death of his wife.
Apr 18 2015
Rank #2: God Only Knows
For artist Kim Lynch God Only Knows is a song that she has carried with her from the moment her father played it to her mother back in their 1960's London home and it's the song that resonated throughout her parents 65 years together.
Meanwhile in land locked Burundi, another couple are bought together from two very different cultures. Sharing the same hopes and prayers, they began their married life by blending a traditional wedding ceremony with the Californian song that spans decades - and continents - to touch souls wherever it's played.
And across the ocean, Erin Prewitt tells her love story and describes how tragic and unexpected circumstances meant she has had to learn to live out those iconic lyrics and discover what it means to be without the person you love.
With reflections from musician Al Kooper and author Barry Miles.
Produced By Nicola Humphries.
Apr 25 2018
Rank #3: How Great Thou Art
It subsequently become an Elvis Presley classic and as the country and western star , Connie Smith explains, it's the piece she always sings to close her show, the stirring lyrics and soaring melody having the ability to move and inspire audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
We also hear from George Beverly Shea, now a hundred and one but with clear memories of singing it at hundreds of Billy Graham crusades.
Sep 28 2010
Rank #4: Rhapsody in Blue
Rhapsody in Blue was first heard exactly 90 years ago when it premiered on February 12, 1924, in New York's Aeolian Hall. Through its use at the opening of Woody Allen's 'Manhattan' it has become synonymous with the city that inspired its creation. But for people around the world, George Gershwin's "experiment in modern music" has become imbued with the most personal of memories.
LA based screen writer Charles Peacock reflects on how this piece has become entwined with his life and how, on an evening at the Hollywood Bowl this music "healed him". When Adela Galasiu was growing up in communist Romania, Rhapsody in Blue represented "life itself, as seen through the eyes of an optimist". For world speed champion Gina Campbell, the opening of that piece will forever remind her of the roar of the Bluebird's ignition as it flew through the "glass like stillness of the water" and brings back the memories of her father, the legendary Donald Campbell - it was played at his funeral when he was finally laid to rest decades after his fatal record attempt on Coniston Lake.
Featuring interviews with Professor of Music Howard Pollock and musician Moby.
Apr 01 2014
Rank #5: Toto's Africa
Africa by Toto is a song that has changed lives, helped to raise thousands of pounds for charity and provided an unexpected musical corner-stone in a critically acclaimed play. Telling their personal stories in Soul Music:
Ralf Schmidt is the Artistic Director of Ndlovu Youth Choir which is made up of young people from the poorest parts of South Africa. Incredibly, the choir made it to the final of America's Got Talent, one of the biggest entertainment shows in the world. Ralf's exuberant, irresistible and uniquely African arrangement of Toto's Africa was their stand-out performance. (Brief extract of AGT (c) Fremantle USA and Syco Entertainment)
Michael Savage (aka DJ Michael Vinyl) of Prime Cuts record shop in Bristol, staged what could be considered a night of torture when he played Africa non-stop for twelve hours at a club. As Mike and Olivia Perry recall, this was to raise money for the Bristol based charity, Temwa, which operates in Malawi. They expected a handful of people to turn up, but the event had worldwide attention and was a huge success.
Mike Massé's life was completely changed following his release on YouTube of what many consider to be one of the best Africa cover-versions ever recorded. The main photo is of Mike Massé (photo credit: Jim Mimna).
David Greig is the Artistic Director of the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh; an esteemed playwright with intellectual clout. So, why did he include Africa in one of his plays? Well, he nearly didn't, but then he saw the light.
And, Abigail Gardner, a reader in music at the University of Gloucestershire, explains why Africa - originally a US No. 1 for just a week in 1982 - has recently undergone a strange modern rebirth, making it one of the most streamed songs on the internet.
Please scroll down to the 'Related Links' box to find out more about the interviewees.
Producer: Karen Gregor
Jan 08 2020
Rank #6: What a Wonderful World
Oct 14 2008
Rank #7: Wichita Lineman
David Crary is a lineman from Oklahoma. He describes his job - storm-chasing to mend fallen power-lines; travelling on 'dirt roads, gravel roads, paved roads... up in the farmlands of Illinois and Missouri... down south in the Swamplands... it ain't nothing to swerve in the middle of the road in your bucket-truck to miss an alligator '.
He recalls the first time he heard Wichita Lineman, travelling in the back of his family's Station Wagon, listening to the radio... thinking that being a lineman 'must be a cool job' if someone's written a song about it. Also a part-time musician, David has recorded his own version of the song which sums up his working life... on the road, working long hours, away from his wife and six kids.
Wichita Lineman was written by Jimmy Webb for the Country star Glen Campbell. It tells the story of a lonely lineman in the American midwest, travelling vast distances to mend power and telephone lines.
Released in 1968 it's an enduring classic, crossing the boundary between pop and country. It's been covered many times, but it's Glen Campbell's version which remains the best loved and most played.
Johnny Cash also recorded an extraordinary and very raw version. Peter Lewry, a lifelong Cash fan, describes how this recording came about, towards the end of Cash's career.
Meggean Ward's father was a lineman in Rhode Island... her memories of seeing him in green work trousers, a plaid shirt and black boots, wrapping his cracked hands in bandages every morning before setting off to climb telephone poles are interwoven forever with Wichita Lineman... as a child she always felt the song was written for her father, who else?
Glen Campbell also gave an interview for this programme. Shortly after the interview was recorded, Campbell went public about his diagnosis of Alzheimer's. His contribution to the programme is brief, and includes an acoustic performance of the song. It was a real privilege to record this, appropriately enough, down the line.
Producer: Karen Gregor.
Aug 23 2011
Rank #8: Mozart's Requiem
Crime writer Val McDermid recalls how this music helped her after the loss of her father. Hypnotist Athanasios Komianos recounts how the piece took him to the darker side of the spirit world. And a friend of ballet dancer Edward Stierle, Lissette Salgado-Lucas, explains how Eddie turned his struggle with HIV into a ballet inspired by Mozart's music.
Basement Jaxx used the Requiem in their live shows and on their album Scars - Felix Buxton reveals his love for Mozart and the divine nature of the Requiem.
And Mozart expert Cliff Eisen takes us inside the composer's world: how the orchestra and choir conjure visions of funerals, beauty, hellfire and the confusion of death. He recounts how Mozart was commissioned to write the piece by a nobleman who may have intended to pass off the work as his own. The stern challenge faced by people trying to complete the piece are described by composer Michael Finnissy, who himself wrote a completion of the work.
The Requiem was performed at the funerals of many heroic figures - Beethoven, Napoleon and J F Kennedy, among others. Gordana Blazinovic remembers one extraordinary performance during the horrors of the Bosnian war - a show of defiance and grief from the ruins of Sarajevo City Hall.
Producer: Melvin Rickarby.
Apr 26 2016
Rank #9: Don't Leave Me This Way
Producer: Maggie Ayre.
Jul 25 2013
Rank #10: Tainted Love
3/4. Tainted Love
Originally a Motown song written by Ed Cobb and recorded by Gloria Jones, Tainted Love became famous on the Northern Soul scene in the late 1970s. A classic version was later recorded by Soft Cell.
First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2008.
Jan 22 2008
Rank #11: True Colors
Billy Steinberg's lyrics were originally inspired by his mother but his song writing partner Tom Kelly recognised it's universal appeal and with a slight re-write, it became the song that Cyndi Lauper made famous the world over.
Growing up in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ken Kidd could never truly be himself. Watching Cyndi Lauper perform True Colors on MTV showed him that it was OK to be his authentic self. Years later he describes his pride at watching the Rainbow Flag being raised above the Stonewall National Monument as he and other LGBTQ campaigners sang that same song.
Lesley Pyne learnt to sing 'True Colors' with her local choir. It's a song that resonated with her more than she had ever expected. After six attempts at IVF, Lesley had had to come to terms with the knowledge that she wouldn't be able to have children. It wasn't easy. It has taken years of digging deep to work through the grief but now she helps others to find their true colours and firmly believes that they can be beautiful, like a rainbow.
And in 1999, Caroline Paige, a jet and helicopter navigator in the Royal Air Force, became the first ever openly serving transgender officer in the British military. She rose above the extraordinary challenges placed before her to show her 'True Colors' whilst serving her country on the front line in the war on terror.
Featuring songwriter Billy Steinberg and music from The Rock Choir
Produced by Nicola Humphries.
May 02 2018
Rank #12: You Are My Sunshine
Producer: Maggie Ayre
Music historian: Paul Kingsbury.
Jun 07 2017
Rank #13: A Change Is Gonna Come, by Sam Cooke
Producer: Maggie Ayre.
Oct 12 2016
Rank #14: Boys Don't Cry
Poorna Bell saw the song's lyrics echo her husband's struggle with expressing his emotions, and describes the devastating impact which that can have.
Runner Derek Redmond recalls the moment he lost his 'game face' at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, and Sara Pacella and Jeffrey Axt chart the changing fortunes of a giant Boys Don't Cry poster.
Producer Sally Heaven.
Jan 17 2018
Rank #15: Dvorak's New World Symphony
Margaret Caldicott recalls the important role the piece played in her mother's life while in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
Producer Lucy Lunt.
Aug 28 2012
Rank #16: The Boxer - Simon & Garfunkel
Seamus McDonagh is a former boxer. He describes the tumultuous time he had during and after his famous fight with Evander Holyfield in 1990. He also explains why he identifies closely with the lyrics of The Boxer.
Julie Nimoy is the daughter of Leonard Nimoy and co-producer of the film 'Remembering Leonard Nimoy' which tells the life story of this much loved actor, most famous for playing Mr Spock in Star Trek. The Boxer was his favourite song, and Julie describes exactly what it meant to him both throughout his life, and in its closing moments.
Gary Edward Jones is a singer-songwriter who for years rejected comparisons made of him to Paul Simon. Eventually, he embraced the likeness and his life changed after developing a show called 'Something About Simon - The Paul Simon Story'.
Dave Mason is an amateur guitarist who has found deep meaning in The Boxer; meaning that has changed and grown as he has.
Scroll down for photos, and to the 'Related Links' box to find out more about these interviewees.
Producer: Karen Gregor
Dec 11 2019
Rank #17: You've Got a Friend
Written by Carole King and made famous by James Taylor, You've Got a Friend won a Grammy Award in 1971. In this programme people tell how this song has affected their life.
Sep 22 2009
Rank #18: Bach's St Matthew Passion
Producer: Rosie Boulton.
Oct 09 2012
Rank #19: Faure Requiem
Sep 21 2010
Rank #20: A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum
Released in May 1967, A Whiter Shade of Pale was Procol Harum's first single. It went to No. 1 in the UK, and stayed there for six weeks.
Musicologist, Allan Moore, deconstructs the track and dismisses the almost universally accepted idea that it mimics Bach's Air on a G String.
Film-maker, Chris Rodley, remembers the impact it had on him when he heard it for the first time, in the dead of the night, on Radio Caroline.
Musician, James Pollard, explains how he created a wedding march for a friend using this track as inspiration.
Thriller writer, Nelson DeMille, describes his year in Vietnam as 'the year without music', but A Whiter Shade of Pale is the one song that reminds him of his time there.
Singer, Sarah Collins, suffered a brain tumour shortly after the birth of her second child. Making the decision to sing again was fundamental to her healing process. As her Dad, Phil, explains 'Whiter Shade' is his favourite song. He was very moved when she decided to record it for her YouTube channel.
Produced in Bristol by Karen Gregor.
Apr 11 2018