FT Arts

Mike Hobart explores the history of Chic’s “Good Times”, a last-gasp salute to disco inspired by the Great Depression and Harlem Renaissance. Credit: Atlantic Records, Sanctuary, Castle

 

The quintessential Grunge anthem, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ hinted at the racial politics, school shootings and ennui which entangled America’s Generation X. David Honigmann traces the song’s evolution. Credit: Universal Music TV Campaign Division, Columbia, UMC (Universal Music Catalogue), Rhino Atlantic

 

A pocket symphony, “Surf’s Up” was written by Brian Wilson at the peak of his creative brilliance. David Cheal discusses the Beach Boy who didn’t surf, and how he caught the wave of emerging 1960s counterculture. Credits: Capital Catalog, Smog Veil Records

 

How did a dirge-like song about a serial killer written by a Marxist playwright and a left-wing composer become a swinging jazz classic and global commercial success? David Cheal follows a trail not yet gone cold. Credits: Naxos; Decca Music Group Ltd; Not Now Music; Delta

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An unforgettable track whose lyrics emerged from an all-night writing session, “Sunshine of Your Love” has been covered by Jimi Hendrix and Ella Fitzgerald. David Cheal seeks the source of the song’s primal brilliance. Credits: Legacy Recordings; Polydor Ltd; LRC Ltd; Groove Merchant Records

 

A ballad as much about reunions as separations, Auld Lang Syne can signify everything from the year’s end, to closing time in Japanese department stores. David Cheal explores the many incarnations of this sentimental Scottish song. Credit: Culburne Records; Lismor Recordings; Anti/Epitaph

 

This much-loved Christmas Carol uses words published by Cecil Sharp in 1911. But to what extent did he graft Christian elements onto a very different original? FT arts editor Jan Dalley traces the gender shifts which define the song’s evolution. Credit: Universal-Island Records Ltd; Warner Classics

 

A new short story for the holidays, from the winner of the 2013 Man Booker International Prize. The reader is Christine Spolar

 

It was written for Otis Redding but he never sung it, became a hit for the Bee Gees and covered by numerous bands in various genres but who was the unlikely inspiration for ‘To Love Somebody’? Ian McCann tells the story. Credits: Bee Gees/Reprise; Ace Records; Sanctuary; London Records

 

John Leyton’s 1961 “death disc” was born out of a séance and banned by the BBC but still reached Number 1. Cathi Unsworth tells the song’s eerie tale and follows the trail of tears it left behind. Credit: Puzzle Productions/DMI; Goldenlane Records; Caribe Sound; EMI