There’s a wonderful BBC Radio 4 series called Soul Music where people discuss pieces of music with a powerful emotional impact. This particular episode starts with the famous Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes track ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’, with Teddy Pendergrass on vocals, and works it’s way through stories of spinal paralysis, the HIV epidemic, and the death of a service dog. This is the quintessential Philly sound.
Slate.com recently named this episode as #13 in their list of the best 25 podcasts of all time. It’s an emotional roller coaster:
The BBC Radio 4 show Soul Music investigates the emotional resonance of famous pieces of music. This installment, about the song “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” which was first performed in the early 1970s by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, with Teddy Pendergrass on vocals, features a trio of interwoven segments about death, loss, and faith. The episode connects the stories of Pendergrass, who was paralyzed in a car accident at age 42; the gay community in the U.K., which danced to a remix version of the tune while mourning the loss of friends during the AIDS crisis; and Sharon Wachsler, homebound by illness, who turned to the song during dark times. The song itself, heard in its different recordings throughout the episode, gains layers of meaning, becoming more haunting and beautiful each time we hear it.
There’s some other wonderful instalments. Check out the way in which Billie Holliday’s ‘Strange Fruit‘ acts as the backdrop to stories of horror and anguish during the era of race lynching, or Labi Siffre’s ‘Something Inside So Strong‘ and South Africa’s era of apartheid.