People who have lived in the UK for some time might be no strangers to Desert Island Discs. Me, I found it pretty late.
I was introduced to Desert Island Discs by H’s mom, who started the habit of listening to the episodes alphabetically while walking the dogs. I tried listening to a few episodes, and I was hooked immediately. From then on, Desert Island Discs has been my go-to podcast to listen to when I commute, do chores, or just want to relax. It’s soothing, inspiring, and at times can be emotional as well.
Desert Island Discs is actually a BBC Radio 4’s program that has been airing since 1942. The premise is simple, but ingenious: in each episode, a guest (called the castaway) is invited for an interview, as they’re about to be cast away on a desert island (only in imagination, really). The interview digs deep through the guest’s life (and often touches on the pivotal moments in their life), and in between, they’re asked to share 8 recordings, a book, and a luxury item they would bring if they were cast away on a desert island.
And I can tell you, learning about someone from their music choice is just brilliant. I’d highly recommend this podcast for everyone.
If you’re new to Desert Island Discs (or not), I’d like to share some of my favorite episodes.
1. Stella McCartney
The first episode of Desert Island Discs that I listened to, and the one that got me hooked. I listened to Stella McCartney in fascination as she tells her blissful childhood, her career as a fashion designer, and her opinions on ethical fashion. I enjoyed her anecdotes about hanging out with David Bowie on a Sunday, having Kate Moss walking on the runway for her graduate fashion show, and her internship at the start of her fashion career.
Having had the privileges as a Beatle’s child, it’s a nice surprise to hear how down to earth and humble she is. Her music choice, unsurprisingly, is fantastic, making this episode an all-time favorite of mine.
2. Tom Hanks
Who doesn’t love Tom Hanks? A brilliant actor and an all-round fantastic guy, his character shines out as he recounts the tales from his childhood and his career. Here, he gets candid about his struggle with the loneliness he felt when he was a child (he even chokes up at one point). “I was searching for the vocabulary of loneliness,” he says, as he explains the confusion he felt at that time, not knowing what loneliness is but feeling it acutely.
Some parts are moving, and others are hilarious (for example, when he recalls how he convinced Nora Ephron to change the script in Sleepless in Seattle). This episode just confirms my love and admiration for Tom Hanks.
3. Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg might have said controversial statements relating to her work with Facebook, but there’s no denying that she’s an intelligent, tough, and incredible woman. Sandberg opens up about her struggle and grief after her husband died in 2015, and shares what helped her get back on her feet. She also talks about her career and her views on technology, offering her opinions with such eloquence. This episode is emotional, uplifting, and inspiring.
4. David Nott
If I had to choose one favorite, this would be it. I’ve listened to this episode 3 times, and it never fails to make me shed a tear.
As a surgeon who has done volunteer work in various warzones (among them: Syria, Afghanistan, Gaza, Bosnia, Iraq, Libya, and other areas), David Nott has a lot of stories to tell — most of them heartwrenching, but also inspiring. His trauma and emotion are palpable throughout the interview it’s almost too heartbreaking to listen to, but it’s offset a little bit by funny anecdotes such us his childhood stories and lunch with Queen Elizabeth II.
I promise you this one wouldn’t disappoint. Amazing stories, and excellent choice of music as well.
5. Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono has gained fame through her relationship with John Lennon, but not many people know her beyond that. In this episode, we get a glimpse of Yoko Ono as a woman, artist, and her own person. She shares the details of how she met Lennon and the fateful night when he was shot outside their apartment in New York. Equally interesting is the story of her life before then; her adolescence in Japan and her early life in NYC when she worked odd jobs to sustain herself while trying to become an artist. She’s tough, shrewd, and witty, as revealed through this interview.