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Great Lives

BBC

Biographical series in which guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Biographical series in which guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Location:

London, United Kingdom

Networks:

BBC

Description:

Biographical series in which guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Language:

English


Episodes

Arlo Parks on Elliott Smith

5/12/2021
Singer-songwriter Arlo Parks has been nominated for three Brit Awards at just 20 years old. Her inspiration for her debut studio album is drawn from American singer-songwriter Elliott Smith. Matthew Parris and Arlo Parks are joined by Elliott’s friend and former manager of his band Heatmiser, JJ Gonson. They also hear from writer and college professor William Todd Schultz, author of the biography ‘Torment Saint: The Life Of Elliott Smith’. Together they explore Elliott’s life and musical...

Duration:00:28:00

Jonathan Dimbleby on Harry Hopkins.

5/6/2021
On May 10 1940, the Germans invaded the Low Countries, Winston Churchill became prime minister, and Harry Hopkins moved in to the White House. This remarkable man was President Roosevelt's closest confidante until the end of the war. A principal architect of the New Deal, he was the president's first envoy to meet Churchill and was sent off to meet Stalin too. But what also impresses his nominator, Jonathan Dimbleby, is his courage - Harry Hopkins had stomach cancer and died in 1946....

Duration:00:27:42

KT Tunstall on Ivor Cutler

4/27/2021
Ivor Cutler is hard to categorise. Whimsical and uncompromising, depressive yet joyful, childlike and curmudgeonly, an 'outsider', championed by insiders like Paul McCartney, he's perhaps best known for his collection 'Life in a Scotch Sitting Room Volume Two" (there is no volume one) or his much-covered 1983 indie hit 'Women of the World'. Cutler often referred to himself as a 'humourist', though his work spans music, poetry, children's books, performative and visual art. A sensitive soul...

Duration:00:27:54

Black and British pioneer Kenny Lynch

4/20/2021
Kenny Lynch was born in Stepney, East London in 1938. He toured with the Beatles, wrote best-selling songs, was a champion boxer in the army, and a regular face on British TV. He was also - at the start of his career - one of the very few black and British singers in the UK, but he's not really remembered as a pioneer. Out to change that is his nominator, broadcaster and record producer Eddie Piller who first liked Kenny for his effortless style, but loves his records too. "Kenny Lynch was...

Duration:00:27:53

Chinua Achebe, Nigerian novelist

4/15/2021
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown picks Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe, the author of Things Fall Apart. With archive contributions from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Chinua Achebe himself. He was born in Nigeria in 1930 and Yasmin Alibhai Brown met him twice in Uganda in the 1960s and remains deeply impressed by both his books and his life. The presenter is Matthew Parris, the producer is Miles Warde

Duration:00:27:35

The Talented Mr Ripley author, Patricia Highsmith

4/7/2021
Director Jonathan Kent was friends with Patricia Highsmith. He'd been playing Tom Ripley for a tv show, and staying in the hotel suite next door to her. She took a shine to him. Now he repays the debt with this revealing and intriguing programme to celebrate a hundred years since her birth in 1921. Although best known for the Ripley books, she first broke through with Alfred Hitchcock's film adaptation of her novel, Strangers on a Train. She was, says Kent, not so interested in murder as in...

Duration:00:27:47

Rights activist Cesar Chavez nominated by Cori Crider

1/26/2021
In 1960s California, Mexican-American Civil Rights Leader, Cesar Chavez led the United Farmworkers union in a series of strikes, boycotts and semi-religious processions, which inspired farmworkers, students and celebrities to join him in what he called 'La Causa' 'The Cause' was his struggle to force the landowners and growers - and the system in which they operated - to recognise farmworkers as human beings who deserved dignity, respect and basic rights. Senator Robert F Kennedy was a fan,...

Duration:00:32:12

Caroline Catz on Delia Derbyshire

1/19/2021
The actor Caroline Catz chooses Delia Derbyshire, the musician and composer who is best known for her work at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop where she realised the theme tune to Doctor Who. With Dr David Butler from the University of Manchester who looks after Delia's archive. Delia was born in Coventry in 1937 and describes her earliest recollections of sound as the sound of the German blitz and the air-raid sirens. She studied music and maths at Cambridge and joined the BBC Radiophonic...

Duration:00:28:42

David Jonsson on Jean Michel Basquiat

1/12/2021
Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat rose to fame in the 1980's Lower East Side New York arts scene. Andy Warhol was his friend and collaborator, Madonna a one time girlfriend and David Bowie a huge admirer. But beyond this club scene personality raged a prolific artist, writer and musician. During his short career Basquiat created no less than 1000 drawings, 700 paintings and many sculpture and mixed media works. In 2017 he became one of a handful of artists whose work broke the $100 million mark....

Duration:00:27:53

Rob Rinder on Jessica Mitford.

1/5/2021
Jessica Mitford was the fifth born of the notorious Mitford Sisters. Born into the aristocracy, as a child she had her own language, collected a running-away fund and fought to set herself apart from her fascist siblings. As an adult she was in turn a communist rebel, an investigative journalist, a civil rights activist and pop singer - opening a gig for Cyndi Lauper and recording an unlikely duet with her friend and fellow mischief maker Maya Angelou. She’s championed by Robert Rinder, the...

Duration:00:27:54

Diane Morgan on Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding

12/29/2020
Comedian and actor Diane Morgan chooses the life of Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding. Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding is best known for his role in the Battle of Britain. He is widely regarded as the architect of Britain's unlikely victory, using an intelligence strategy known as the Dowding System. The Battle of Britain was at the very end of his military career - his nickname by then was "Stuffy" Dowding - and shortly after he was side-lined. But he cared deeply for every one of his pilots,...

Duration:00:28:39

David Spiegelhalter on Frank Ramsey

12/17/2020
Frank Plumpton Ramsey contributed original ideas to the fields of logic, mathematics, economics and philosophy. He was a friend and respected interlocutor of Keynes, Wittgenstein, Russell and Moore, who considered him to be one of the sharpest minds around. His contributions are all the more remarkable given that he only lived to be 26. Matthew Parris and David Spiegelhalter are joined by Cheryl Misak, author of "Frank Ramsey: A Sheer Excess of Powers". Producer: Ellie Richold

Duration:00:27:56

The Great Lives of Great Lives

12/11/2020
Back in the late summer of 2001, a new biography series aired on Radio 4. Matthew Parris was not the first presenter, but he has chaired more editions than anyone else. His very first episode was about Morecambe and Wise, since when he's listened to claims for Leon Trotsky, Donna Summer, Doris Day and Benito Mussolini. So what makes a great life, and can anyone join? Here, with some help from the first programme's producer, he starts to draw some conclusions of his own. Extracts include Toni...

Duration:00:28:55

Katherine Parr, sixth wife of Henry VIII

12/8/2020
In her book The Taming of the Queen, Philippa Gregory asks a simple question of her subject, Katherine Parr. Who would marry a serial killer? Katherine Parr has been largely overlooked because she survived the monstrous Henry VIII, but she was a remarkable woman. She married four times, wrote books and successfully navigated the choppy waters of Henry's reign. In popular culture she's written off as matronly or nurselike. In fact she was younger than Anne Boleyn when she married the king,...

Duration:00:28:45

Xuanzang, Chinese monk and traveller

9/29/2020
It was an extraordinary journey, and a life that reads like a fairy tale. Xuanzang was born at the start of the seventh century in China. He studied as a monk and travelled for 16 years - first westwards, and then in a crescent back and down over the Himalayas to India . He returned a famous man, laden with Buddhists texts and artefacts. Historian Michael Wood has followed much of his route; he first discovered Xuanzang at university and became intrigued about his life. "I'm tempted to say...

Duration:00:27:19

James Graham on John Maynard Keynes

9/22/2020
James Graham, the award-winning playwright whose work includes the TV dramas "Brexit: The Uncivil War" and "Quiz", tells Matthew Parris why he is inspired by the life and work of John Maynard Keynes. Keynes was not just the revolutionary economist who helped shape the course of post-war history. The programme explores his colourful love life and lifelong passion for the arts. Matthew and James are joined by Linda Yueh, economist and author of "The Great Economists: How Their Ideas Can Help...

Duration:00:27:57

Sir David Adjaye on Okwui Enwezor

9/15/2020
“I was astonished by the experience of standing there, where the two oceans met. I knew at that very moment this would be my concept: the meeting of worlds". Okwui Enwezor. For centuries, the art establishment had been defined and dictated by predominantly white, wealthy, western critics and curators. Then in the early 90’s a young man who was born in Nigeria and studied Political Science in New York came onto the scene and said, ‘no more’. With an eye for aesthetic and a burning fire of...

Duration:00:27:46

Tom Allen on Kenneth Williams

9/8/2020
Comedian and presenter Tom Allen first discovered Kenneth Williams as a young boy, watching the Carry On films and listening to Round the Horne with his mum. He joins Matthew Parris and Kenneth's biographer, Christopher Stevens, to explore the life of the famous twentieth century entertainer. Together, they discuss stealing the show, sexuality and living solo. Featuring clips from Kenneth's performances from Parkinson to Just a Minute, Desert Island Discs to Hancock's Half Hour, the trio...

Duration:00:29:32

Ernie Bevin, forgotten political giant

9/1/2020
Ernie Bevin led an extraordinary life. Born in Somerset in 1881, his father is unknown and his mother died when he was eight. He left his job as a farm labourer age 11 and moved to Bristol, where he helped to found the Transport and General Worker's Union. He was Churchill's Labour minister in the wartime cabinet, and heavily involved in postwar reconstruction as Foreign secretary under Clement Attlee. He smoked too much and drank too much, and made a massive impression on everyone he met....

Duration:00:27:32

Jessie Ware on Donna Summer

8/25/2020
Jessie Ware is a singer, songwriter and podcaster. Her latest, critically acclaimed, album, What's Your Pleasure?, draws inspiration from soul, funk, boogie, and disco - and, notably, the work of the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer. Jessie joins Matthew Parris and Pete Bellotte, co-producer and co-writer of many of Donna Summer's biggest hits - I Feel Love, Love to Love You Baby, and Hot Stuff, among others - to explore the life and work of her musical heroine. Jessie, Pete and Matthew discuss...

Duration:00:27:58