"More than two thousand episodes [of Desert Island Discs] are available online as downloads or podcasts..."

"... and I began listening to them a few years ago, as a way of glimpsing times other than my own. I love hearing about the path-altering memories of others—what it was like to experience Beatlemania or Motown or punk before they were settled narratives. At first, I was drawn to specific guests, hoping to learn more about the interiority of David Beckham (the Stone Roses, Elton John, Sidney Bechet), what kind of music Zadie Smith liked (Biggie, Prince, Madonna), where the cultural theorist Stuart Hall found inspiration (Bach, Billie Holiday, Bob Marley—'the sound that saved a lot of second-generation black West Indian kids from just, you know, falling through a hole in the ground').... It’s come to seem less like a show about music and creative inspiration than one about the possibility of loneliness. How do you find meaning in total isolation?... As many people prepare for weeks of 'social distancing' and working from home, we return to comforts.... It never occurred to me, until fairly recently, that this exercise was different from merely naming your favorite songs, or what you considered to be the best.... I didn’t realize that the desert-island choices were really a question about mortality.... What would it mean to survive and find yourself alone (Pharoah Sanders)? Would you bask in memories of friendship (the Beach Boys) and good times (Derrick May), of your greatest love (the Intruders)? Would those memories be too painful? Maybe you would want to listen to music that existed free of context—the last splendid and uplifting thing you heard before getting lost, a reminder that the world goes on without you?"

From "Join Me in My Obsession with 'Desert Island Discs'" by Hua Hsu (in The New Yorker). Go here for the shows.

ADDED: To be clear: "It’s an interview show with a simple premise: each celebrity guest discusses the eight recordings that he or she would bring if cast away alone on a desert island." Just 8 songs. Not albums.

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