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Society & Culture
Personal Journals

Desert Island Discs

Updated 12 days ago

Society & Culture
Personal Journals
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Eight tracks, a book and a luxury: what would you take to a desert island? Guests share the soundtrack of their lives.

Read more

Eight tracks, a book and a luxury: what would you take to a desert island? Guests share the soundtrack of their lives.

iTunes Ratings

807 Ratings
Average Ratings
696
58
22
16
15

One of the best podcasts ever !

By BooksinNewYork - May 18 2019
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Kirsty Young is a remarkable host. This show is brilliant.

Love it

By Uk Karen - Aug 25 2018
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Loved it years ago, love it now.

iTunes Ratings

807 Ratings
Average Ratings
696
58
22
16
15

One of the best podcasts ever !

By BooksinNewYork - May 18 2019
Read more
Kirsty Young is a remarkable host. This show is brilliant.

Love it

By Uk Karen - Aug 25 2018
Read more
Loved it years ago, love it now.
Cover image of Desert Island Discs

Desert Island Discs

Updated 12 days ago

Read more

Eight tracks, a book and a luxury: what would you take to a desert island? Guests share the soundtrack of their lives.

Rank #1: Malcolm Gladwell

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The writer Malcolm Gladwell is interviewed by Kirsty Young for Desert Island Discs.

Always concise, frequently counterintuitive and unexpectedly beguiling, his work orders the world in a way that gives fresh insights into human behaviour.

He believes that a knowledge of people's backgrounds is necessary to understanding their success; his own achievements may presumably then be attributed, not just to his keen mind and polished prose, but also to his parents - an English mathematician and a Jamaican psychotherapist.

He says, "I am the bird attached to the top of a very large beast, pecking away and eating the gnats.... I am someone who draws inspiration from the brilliance of others and repackages it ... I am a populariser, a simplifier and a synthesizer."

Producer: Sarah Taylor.
Aug 10 2014
36 mins
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Rank #2: Tom Hanks

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Kirsty Young's castaway is Tom Hanks.

From 'Big' to 'Sleepless in Seattle', 'Captain Phillips' to 'Apollo 13', his long and distinguished film-making career has brought him multiple awards and many plaudits. He's the recipient of eight Emmys, one Bafta and four Golden Globes and was the youngest ever actor to be given a lifetime achievement award by the American Film institute. The voice of Woody in the 'Toy Story' films, he won the first of his two Oscars in 1993 for Philadelphia and again the following year for Forrest Gump.

His parents split up when he was 5 and he went to live with his father. By the age of 10 he'd lived in ten different houses in five different cities. He loved school and developed a passion for history which is reflected in the film he made with Steven Spielberg, 'Saving Private Ryan' and the TV mini-series 'Band of Brothers' and 'The Pacific' which he also produced.

His latest film is 'Hologram for The King'.

He is married to the actor & producer, Rita Wilson.
Producer: Cathy Drysdale

The podcast version of this programme is an extended version of the broadcast interview.
May 08 2016
47 mins
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Rank #3: Stephen Fry

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Kirsty Young's castaway this week is Stephen Fry.
Comedian, actor, writer, director, presenter & award-ceremony host - his list of accomplishments is long, varied and impressive. His younger years were troubled and with a propensity for stealing and lying, he was expelled from two schools and imprisoned for credit card fraud. The turning point came when he knuckled down and won a scholarship to Queens' College, Cambridge, where he read English and joined the Cambridge Footlights, becoming lifelong friends with Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie.
His career highlights include the fruits of his collaborative work with Laurie - from A Bit of Fry and Laurie to Jeeves and Wooster, he played Lord Melchett in Blackadder and Oscar Wilde on the big screen. He is a best-selling author of fiction and three volumes of autobiography, is the voice of the Harry Potter audio books and presents BBC Two's QI. He has also spoken of his experience of mental health issues and in 2006 he made a documentary exploring the effects of living with Bipolar - it won an Emmy Award.
Producer: Cathy Drysdale.
Jun 24 2015
39 mins
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Rank #4: Ed Sheeran

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Kirsty Young's castaway this week is Ed Sheeran. His songs have brought him two Grammys, four Brit awards and global success. Shortly after the release of his latest album, Divide, tracks from it occupied nine of the top 10 places in the UK singles chart.

Born into a creative family, Ed had piano and cello lessons as a youngster and briefly sang in a local church choir. At the age of 11, seeing Eric Clapton play Layla on TV at the Queen's Golden Jubilee concert inspired him to take up the guitar. Ten years later, Ed himself was performing at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert.

Ed left school and home at 16 to focus on playing gigs in London. Despite relentless performing he failed to secure a recording contract and decided to try his luck in America. During a successful stint performing in Los Angeles, he came to the attention of the Academy Award-winning actor and musician Jamie Foxx, and within months of returning to the UK he'd signed a record deal. His first single, The A Team, became a top ten hit around the world and won him an Ivor Novello award, and his second and third albums topped the UK and US charts.

In 2015 he performed at Wembley Stadium as a solo artist for three nights to capacity crowds, and this year he is headlining the Pyramid stage on the final night of Glastonbury.

Producer: Cathy Drysdale.
May 07 2017
49 mins
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Rank #5: Hugh Laurie

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Kirsty Young's castaway is the actor, Hugh Laurie.

If life were straightforward he'd be marooned on the island because of his achievements as an Olympic rower. But his early promise on the water was scuppered by a bout of glandular fever - so he's had to make do instead with life as a worldwide entertainment superstar.

Very British comedy, very big budget movies, very successful syndicated TV drama - his 30 year career has taken him from A Little Bit of Fry & Laurie to a big bit of broadcasting history: his role in the U.S. show House ran for 8 series and had a global audience of 81 million. So why now does he feel the need to risk his stellar reputation by making music too?

He says, "as soon as I acknowledge to myself that something is frightening and carries the risk of public humiliation I feel like I have to do it."

Producer: Cathy Drysdale.
Jun 23 2013
33 mins
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Rank #6: Sir Tim Waterstone, businessman

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Sir Tim Waterstone is the founder of the bookshop chain that bears his name. Born in May 1939, he was the youngest of three children. His father, who worked for a tea company all his life, served in the Royal Army Service Corps during the war, and so was absent when Tim was very young. Their relationship was difficult throughout his childhood. Tim was educated at boarding schools from the age of six, when his parents went to India for two and a half years. After studying English at Cambridge and a stint working in India, he joined Allied Breweries, moving to WH Smith in 1973. Eight years later he was fired and at this point he decided to open his own bookshop.

The first Waterstone’s opened its doors in 1982 when Tim was 43. A further 86 bookshops opened within a decade. In 1993, he sold the company to his former employer, WH Smith. Five years later, he bought it back again as part of a newly formed group, HMV Media, but just three years after that, in 2001, he resigned as chairman. Since then he’s made several unsuccessful attempts to buy back the company which changed hands most recently in 2018.

He recently celebrated his 80th birthday and lives in London with his third wife, the television director Rosie Alison.

BOOK CHOICE: Oxford Book of English Poetry
LUXURY ITEM: A Photo of his wife
CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: The Dream of Gerontius by Edward Elgar
Presenter: Lauren Laverne
Producer: Cathy Drysdale
Aug 04 2019
40 mins
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Rank #7: Bruce Springsteen

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Kirsty Young's castaway this week is Bruce Springsteen.

His career has brought him 20 Grammys, two Golden Globes, an Academy Award and his albums sell in their millions around the world. He grew up in New Jersey where the Catholic church played a central role in his early life. The family teetered on the brink of poverty, and his first guitar was rented, rather than bought. He spent his apprentice years as a musician and singer with local bands before landing a record deal in 1972. When 'Born to Run' was released in 1975 it turned him into a household name. His first Top Ten single was 'Hungry Heart', ahead of his most successful album 'Born in the USA' which was released in 1984.

In spite of having long transcended the environment he grew up in, Springsteen has remained a chronicler of blue-collar lives. His records are frequently a political commentary on the struggles of ordinary Americans. In the Nineties he settled into family life with his wife Patti Scialfa who sings with his E Street Band.

Producer: Cathy Drysdale.
Dec 18 2016
48 mins
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Rank #8: Bill Gates

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Kirsty Young's castaway is Bill Gates.

He sat at his first computer while still at school in Seattle, wrote his first computer programme aged just 13 and went on to co-found the company Microsoft, becoming one of the key figures of the technological revolution. In 2000, he and his wife, Melinda, launched the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which has given to date over $34 billion to projects aimed at reducing health inequality around the world.

Born into a professional family - his father was a lawyer, his mother a former teacher who later became involved with volunteer work - he was introduced to the idea of 'giving back' at an early age. An avid reader as a child, he attended Harvard where in his sophomore year he and Paul Allen developed software for the first micro-computers. The company would go on to achieve huge success with its Windows operating system.

By 1987, Gates had become the world's youngest self-made billionaire, then worth $1.25 billion. Consistently listed as the Richest Man in the World, he stepped down as CEO of the company in 2000 although he remained as Chairman until 2014.

These days his primary focus is his philanthropy. In 2010, Gates and his friend Warren Buffett announced the Giving Pledge which aims to inspire the wealthy people of the world to give away the majority of their net worth to worthy causes.

Producer: Cathy Drysdale.
Feb 04 2016
35 mins
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Rank #9: Lauren Bacall

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Roy Plomley's castaway is actress Lauren Bacall.

Favourite track: My Mistress' Eyes (Sonnet 130) by William Shakespeare
Book: Collected Short Stories by John Cheever
Luxury: Sun tan lotion
Mar 03 1979
28 mins
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Rank #10: Keith Richards

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Keith Richards, member of the Rolling Stones, is interviewed by Kirsty Young for Desert Island Discs.

Keith was born in Dartford and grew up as an only child. He and Mick Jagger went to the same primary school, but then lost touch until meeting again at Dartford train station in 1961 and discovering they shared a taste in blues music. Keith picked up his love of the guitar from his grandfather and honed his skills whilst at art college.

If one single, living person could be said to personify rock n' roll then it is surely him. He's been making music and causing havoc for over half a century and counting. His song writing, singing and guitar playing have helped to make The Rolling Stones a stratospherically successful group and his early and single minded dedication to the triumvirate pursuits of sex and drugs and rock and roll made him a counter-culture icon.

No surprise then that as a boy he would go to sleep at night with his arm around his first guitar.

Producer: Sarah Taylor.
Oct 25 2015
34 mins
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Rank #11: Dame Judi Dench

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Kirsty Young's castaway this week is Dame Judi Dench.

Born into a family with dramatic leanings, she followed one of her older brothers, Jeffery, to drama school. Having abandoned ideas of becoming a set designer, she made her professional debut as Ophelia at the Old Vic in 1957. An illustrious stage career followed in Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet in 1960, in Cabaret in 1968 and as Lady Macbeth for Trevor Nunn in 1976. On TV she found huge success in sitcoms - appearing with her husband, the late Michael Williams, in A Fine Romance and with Geoffrey Palmer in As Time Goes By.

She received an Oscar nomination for her first big-screen part as Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown; Shakespeare in Love won her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress; Mrs Henderson Presents, Notes on a Scandal, Iris, and Philomena followed. She played the part of 'M' in the James Bond films seven times and is about to appear as Paulina in Sir Kenneth Branagh's production of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale.

Married to Michael Williams for 30 years, their daughter, Finty, is also an actress.
Producer: Cathy Drysdale.
Sep 20 2015
38 mins
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Rank #12: Russell Brand

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Russell Brand, comedian & actor, is interviewed by Kirsty Young for Desert Island Discs.

Actor, comic, writer, Russell Brand is a compelling cultural phenomenon who in 2006 was, in his own words, "plucked from a life of hard drugs and petty crime and rocketed into the snugly carcinogenic glare of celebrity."

Along with an athletic wit and a florid turn of phrase he specialises in going too far - reckless acts of self-destruction and a degree of chaos seem to be his companions along life's winding path. It's been five years since he rocked the foundations of the BBC with what became known as the Ross Brand scandal. He's since gone on to international success with a movie career, best-selling books and all the trappings of life on the "A" list.

His most recent notable appearances have included testifying to a Parliamentary Select Committee on the importance of funding for drugs rehabilitation programmes and an appearance as a panellist on Question Time.

Producer: Cathy Drysdale.
Jul 21 2013
34 mins
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Rank #13: Damian Lewis

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Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the actor, Damian Lewis.

As part of the wave of British talent that's crashed onto America's shores in recent years his impact has made a deep impression on the creative landscape. His role as Sergeant Brodie in Homeland saw him win both an Emmy and Golden Globe and along with Band of Brothers, The Forsyte Saga and a long list of other credits, he now ranks as one of our most well recognised and highly regarded performers.

Things didn't always look so peachy: aged 11, and in the school production of Princess Ida, he forgot the entire third act and stood mute in front of a packed auditorium. Tellingly, rather than scuttling into the wings with shame he soldiered on and by 16 he knew performing was, more than anything, what he wanted to do.

He says, "I am a person who is ambitious. I'm ambitious to get the very best from every moment and even if that's just taking my children to the zoo ... I want it to be the best it can be.".
Nov 30 2014
35 mins
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Rank #14: Zadie Smith

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Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the novelist and critic, Zadie Smith.

First published at just twenty four her debut novel "White Teeth" garnered huge attention and praise. As a result she suffered the unnerving experience of doing her literary growing up in public.

Yet in spite of the scrutiny she blossomed. In the 13 years since, her novels, essays and short stories have brought numerous literary prizes and critical praise. Born to a Jamaican mother and a British father she was brought up in Willesden, North London where many of her characters live. She began writing at the age of 5 and was a voracious reader - devouring the greats of literature. Now she divides her time between Willesden and New York where she teaches creative writing.

She describes herself as "an English novelist enslaved to an ancient tradition" and yet her chosen areas of exploration could not be more of the moment.

She says, "I'm really interested in what memory feels like ... we only have snapshots of the past ..." she continues to declare that writing isn't about "being experimental, it's about finding something true."

Producer: Cathy Drysdale.
Sep 22 2013
34 mins
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Rank #15: Miranda Hart

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Kirsty Young's castaway is Miranda Hart.

She writes and stars in the hit sitcom "Miranda" and has congaed her way to the top of TV comedy by exploiting the universal truth that awkwardness lies at the heart of the human condition. Slapstick and misunderstanding underpin her work along with the impression that she's just a really, jolly, lovely 'girl': her father was a naval commander and her mother has devoted much of her life to tending a glorious garden.

Making her mark has been something of a slog. After her first appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe it was another 11 years before she could give up her job as a P.A. - for a good while she was photocopying scripts rather than performing them.

She says: "I started writing comedy because it was more fun inside my head than the real world, but that's no longer true."

Producer: Cathy Drysdale.
Dec 22 2013
36 mins
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Rank #16: Jacqueline Du Pre

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Roy Plomley's castaway is cellist Jacqueline Du Pré.

Favourite track: Piano Quintet In A Major by Franz Schubert
Book: Thesaurus by Roget
Luxury: Pencils and paper
Mar 19 1977
26 mins
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Rank #17: Jo Fairley, businesswoman

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Jo Fairley is a businesswoman and writer. She co-founded the Green & Black’s chocolate company with Craig Sams, her husband, and has launched several other successful ventures since then.

Jo did not enjoy school, left at 16 with six O-levels and learned shorthand and typing at a secretarial college. She got a job with a magazine publisher and worked her way up through the features department to become the UK’s youngest magazine editor at the age of 23.

Her move into chocolate came when she happened to try a couple of squares of a sample sitting on the desk of her future husband, Craig Sams, a health foods entrepreneur. Jo decided that it was the best she had ever tasted. She bought two tonnes of chocolate for £20,000, using all of the proceeds from the flat she had just sold. She and Craig launched Green & Black’s in 1991 and sold the company to Cadbury’s in 2005.

BOOK CHOICE: Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the World's Food Plants by National Geographic
LUXURY ITEM: Her own pillow
CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: I Wanna Be Like You by Louis Prima

Presenter: Lauren Laverne
Producer: Sarah Taylor
Aug 11 2019
35 mins
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Rank #18: David Beckham

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David Beckham is Kirsty Young's guest as Desert Island Discs celebrates its 75th Anniversary.

As a professional footballer he's the only Englishman to win the league titles in England, Spain, the US and France. He spent the bulk of his career as a midfielder for Manchester United, winning the Treble - Premiership, FA Cup and Champions League - in 1999, before moving to Real Madrid in 2003. He headed to the US to play for LA Galaxy in 2007, and ended his career at Paris Saint-Germain in 2013, retiring in May that year.

Born and raised in East London, the middle child of Ted and Sandra, David Beckham discovered football early and spent hours kicking a ball around at the local park with his father. At the age of seven, he played for his first team, Ridgeway Rovers, before coming to the attention of Manchester United while attending the Bobby Charlton Soccer School. He became a trainee with Manchester United in 1991, and progressed to make 265 first team appearances, winning the Premier League six times, the FA Cup twice and the UEFA Champions League once. He played for England from 1996 to 2009 and captained the side for six years.

He has been married to Victoria Adams - known as Posh from the Spice Girls - since 1999 and they have four children. Since retiring from professional football in 2013, David has spent more time on his work with UNICEF which he has supported since 2005.

Producer: Cathy Drysdale.
Jan 29 2017
52 mins
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Rank #19: Noel Gallagher

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Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the musician, Noel Gallagher.

He was the principal songwriter of the band Oasis - his younger brother, Liam was the lead singer. Born to Irish parents, as a child he spent his summers visiting his mother's family in rural County Mayo, in sharp contrast to the Manchester council estate where they lived. He taught himself to play the guitar and loved music: he was road manager for the Inspiral Carpets before joining Liam in Oasis.

Their debut album in 1994 marked the beginning of the band's rise to fame as part of the Britpop movement. In 1996 they played in front of 250,000 fans over two consecutive nights at Knebworth and following the Labour landslide in 1997, Noel attended what became known as the Cool Britannia party held in Downing Street by Tony Blair. Oasis won six BRIT Awards and two Ivor Novello Awards before disbanding in August 2009.

He's since formed his own band - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.

Producer: Cathy Drysdale.
Jul 19 2015
36 mins
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Rank #20: Mark Rylance

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Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the actor, Mark Rylance.

Born in Kent and brought up in America where his father was a teacher, Mark played Hamlet for the first time while he was still at school. Since then he has become particularly well known for his acclaimed and award-winning Shakespearean stage roles. He won an Olivier and a Tony award for his portrayal of Johnny 'Rooster' Byron in Jez Butterworth's 'Jerusalem' onstage in both Britain and the United States. He has also appeared in a number of film roles, was the first artistic director of The Globe Theatre - a post he held for a decade - and his portrayal of Thomas Cromwell in the BBC Television adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall has now brought him to a wider audience.

Producer: Isabel Sargent.
Feb 15 2015
37 mins
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