I’ve let my podcasts pile up this week because I’ve been listening to audiobooks instead, but the one podcast I’ve singled out here for recognition is an absolutely fabulous podcast about a certified genius.
Hit Parade :: The Everybody Say YEAH! Edition
Hit Parade traces Stevie Wonder’s career from his first #1 single – ““Fingertips, Part 2” in 1963 – and his emergence as a song writer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and recording artist into his imperial period of the 1970s. Chris Molanphy’s description of “Little” Stevie Wonder improvising on the live performance recording of “Fingerpits” as a 12-year old doing everything he can to stay up later past bedtime, is absolutely perfect.
Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances:
Believed :: The Good Guy
This podcast series from Michigan Radio investigates the story of Larry Nassar, the women’s Olympics gymnastic doctor found guilty of sexual abusing his patients for decades. This first episode depicts how Nassar was seen in the gymnastic community as a respected and lovable figure, not appearing as a monster despite performing monstrous acts. There are obvious content warning for rape and trauma for anyone considering listening to this episode.
The Memory Palace :: The Dress in the Closet
This Halloween episode is a ghost story of sorts telling the sad story of Clara Harris and Henry Rathbone and how they were haunted by being guests of Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre on the night of his murder.
Hit Parade :: The Oh. My. God. Becky Edition
The Hit Parade visits the charts circa 1991-1992 when hip-hop hits finally reach #1. It was a transitional period for hip-hop between its party song roots and the West Coast gangsta rap that emerged as a hit-churning style later in the 90s. The new styles sampled pop and R&B songs and featured more conscious lyrics. Artists included De La Soul, PM Dawn, Arrested Development, and … Sir Mix-A-Lot. Host Chris Molanphy credits the newfound success of rap on the charts partly to Billboard introducing the new SoundScan system which more accurately tracked record sales and airplay. This was another nostalgic episode for me as I liked a lot of the rap music from this period but never cottoned on to gangsta rap.
Hit Parade :: The Nights on Broadway Edition
I’m not quite a fan of The Bee Gees but I am fascinated by their story, especially their versatility and ability to remain big hit makers over decades without people even noticing.
99% Invisible :: Pockets: Articles of Interest #3
This episode of an ongoing series about clothing focuses on the pocket, the unfairly gendered feature of clothing with a history dating back to its origin as a completely separate article of clothing. I’m definitely a Pocketist.
Scientific American :: Where There’s a Wills There’s a Way to Explain the Home Run Rise
The science behind how subtle changes in the design of baseballs lead to a rise in home runs hit.
Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Classic Cartoon Sound Effects
How sounds effects for cartoons are made, reused, and become iconic signifiers.
Household Name :: The Amway Dream
Psst…it’s a pyramid scheme.
Hit Parade :: The Feat. Don’t Fail Me Now Edition
The history of the “featured artist” credit on number one singles.
To The Best of Our Knowledge :: Jeff Kripal at the Edge of Belief
Unconventional thoughts about religion, science, and the paranormal. Not that I necessarily endorse this, but it’s interesting to hear something outside of the typical.
Back Story :: Elementary, Mr. President
Robert Bork, Benjamin Spock, and Sherlock Holmes and their ties to American history.
Planet Money :: Yes in My Backyard
The radical and controversial solution to America’s housing crisis: building new housing in existing neighborhoods!
Hit Parade :: The Deadbeat Club, Part 2
This examination of the late 80s output of the two great bands of Athens, GA – R.E.M. and B-52s – fills me with painful nostalgia.
Have You Heard? :: The Problem with Fear-Based School Reform
Do schools work better when they’re “run like a business” and teachers and administrators are forced to work in a culture of fear where they’re expected to get results or else? Or do we recognize the nurturing mission of schools and support reforms lead by educators who know the children best? And how much of so-called “education reform” is rooted in anti-labor sentiment anyway? These questions and more are discussed on “Have You Heard?”
WBUR News :: Faneuil Hall, School Assignments
Boston’s ongoing history of inequality and racism are addressed in two current stories about Faneuil Hall, a building named for a slaveholder, and the lack of quality education for the city’s most vulnerable communities.
BackStory :: The Melting Pot
Stories of assimilation of immigrants, Native Americans, and hyphenated-Americans throughout our history.
Fresh Air :: The Pediatrician Who Exposed the Flint Water Crisis
Interview with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha who exposed the Flint water crisis. She also discusses growing up as a child of Iraqi refugees.
99% Invisible :: Right to Roam
I’ve always been amazed by how Britain protects the rights of walker/hikers to cross land that’s privately owned. Whereas in the US, one is liable to be shot for doing so.
Ben Franklin’s World :: Brian Regal, The Secret History of the New Jersey Devil
If you’ve ever heard the legend of the New Jersey Devil, you imagine it as a cryptozooligical creature inhabiting the Pine Barrens. Turns out that the story originates instead with a 17th-century colonist named Daniel Leeds who published an almanac that ran afoul of the Quaker authorities!
Disney History Institute :: Winsor McCay and the Origins of American Animation
Early animation originated as part of a vaudeville act featuring a trained dinosaur.
99% Invisible :: Beyond Biohazard
A video podcasts explores the effort to let future generations know that something is dangerous without using language or symbols that won’t be understood.
Hit Parade :: The Deadbeat Club Edition
The first part of the story of how two very different New Wave acts emerged from Athens, GA in the 1980s.
Twenty Thousand Hertz :: ASMR
Oh my goodness, this podcast made my head tingle!
Hidden Brain :: Emma, Carrie, Vivian
A scary story of American eugenics, racism, and misogony. And not as far removed from today as you’d want it to be.
All Songs Considered :: At 70, Smithsonian Folkways Is An Antidote To Music Algorithms
A history of one the most important record labels.
Hit Parade :: The You Give Rock a Bad Name Edition
I’m not much a fan of “hair metal” but Chris Molanphy does a fair job of evaluating Bon Jovi’s role in pop music history even as he admits how much he hates them.
Hub History :: Tent City
In 1968, Boston residents fought to stop luxury development and parking in the South End, winning community-informed affordable housing instead. Something we need to do again.
99% Invisible :: The Laff Track
I always hated the laff track on tv sitcoms, but this show made me appreciate why it exists, how it’s done, the artistry of syncing the right laugh, and why laff tracks have vanished today.
Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Emergency Alert System
I’ve always had an fascination for those tests of the Emergency Broadcast System. I taped one off the radio as a kid, I actually did them as a college radio DJ, and about 20 years ago I heard one that was NOT a test (warning for intense thunderstorms, which was both a relief and a bit underwhelming). Here is the story behind how they work.
Planet Money :: The Blue Pallet
Pallets are ubiquitous, overlooked, and seemingly hard to improve. This is the story of how CHEP pallets revolutionized the industry. My wife writes about pallets and her enthusiasm is infectious, so I loved this story.
The Nation – Start Making Sense :: It’s Time to Break Up Amazon
Reporting on the dangers of Amazon’s monopoly powers, as well as how mandatory non-compete agreements have helped corporations keep low-wage workers from getting better jobs.
Slate’s Hit Parade :: The Year Rap Music Broke
1986 is a significant year in rap music history, mainly due to RUN-DMC’s crossover hit “Walk this Way” which inadvertently helped revive the fortunes of the rock band Aerosmith (I was one of the kids who knew RUN-DMC well, but never heard of Aerosmith before their collaboration). Chris Molanphy tells the story of Def Jam Recordings, founded by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, and how in 1986 they unleashed not only RUN-DMC’s hit album Raising Hell, but also Radio by one of rap’s first solo acts with wide appeal, LL Cool J, and Licensed to Ill by the bratty white kids the Beastie Boys. Molanphy doesn’t end the story in 1986 though, but follows the ongoing careers of all four acts.
A good crop of podcasts this week featuring Parliament and owls, but not a parliament of owls.
Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Six O’Clock Soundtrack
I always liked tv news music as a child too, particularly the Action News theme. Here’s the story of how news music is made.
Sound Opinions :: New Wave & Alison Moyet
Another defining musical style of my childhood, New Wave, is examined along with an interview with New Wave musical great Alison Moyet.
Code Switch :: The ‘R-Word’ In The Age Of Trump
An exploration of when it’s appropriate to describe someone or something as racist and why some journalists are hesitant to do so.
All Songs Considered :: George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars
Parliament Funkadelic are back and as funky as ever.
LeVar Burton Reads :: “The Truth About Owls” by Amal El-Mohtar
A sweet story about a girl from Lebanon who immigrates to England and finds her place through the study of owls and Welsh mythology.
Snap Judgement :: Senior Year Mixtape
The touching and heartbreaking of three students at a San Francisco high school over the course of their senior year.
Hit Parade :: The B-Sides Edition
The first live-audience Hit Parade episode features pub trivia questions about b-sides that became bigger hits than their a-sides and a performance by Ted Leo, “the nicest guy in punk.”
The Story Collider :: The Bats and the Bees
A reluctant field researcher finds purpose in showing drunk 17-year-olds how to tag bats with microchips, and a bee researcher who is allergic to bees. Science!
Radiolab :: Stereothreat
Research into the effects of negative stereotypes and the difficulty of replicating that research.
Hit Parade :: The Queen of Disco Edition
Things I learned about Boston’s own Donna Summer: 1. she got her start in the Munich production of Hair where she became fluent in German, 2. she wrote or co-wrote most of her songs, 3. she and her producers basically invented electronic dance music, and 4. she continued to have club hits into the 2010s.
Afropop Worldwide :: A Brief History of Funk
A brief but beautiful story of funk with many funky classics and interviews with Bobby Byrd and George Clinton.
Slow Burn: A Podcast About Watergate
A new podcast that tells the story of the Watergate scandal with an as-it’s-happening approach focusing on long-forgotten key players in the scandal.
30 for 30 Podcasts :: The Lights of Wrigleyville
The story of the contentious battle between theChicago Cubs and their residential neighbors to install lights in Wrigley Field in the 1980s.
More Perfect :: Mr. Graham and the Reasonable Man
The story of a legal case that underlies our current crises in policing in America, and the legal fiction of the “Reasonable Man.”