In the March issue of Songlines, the legendary broadcaster Sir David Attenborough speaks to Julian May about his love of world music. You can enjoy an extract from this fascinating interview below. To read the full interview, buy the latest issue of Songlines today!
David Attenborough has been making natural history programmes for 60 years. He is held in such high regard that when he went to the White House, it was the president of the US who interviewed him rather than the other way around. I wonder if, after discussing the fragility of planet Earth, Obama and Attenborough had a conversation about another concern they share – music. After all, one of Attenborough’s earliest collaborations, as a young television producer in the early 50s, was with Alan Lomax, the American folklorist who collected songs from Leadbelly, Jelly Roll Morton and many others.
“I had become interested in folk music through the Third Programme, now Radio 3,” Attenborough tells me. “The BBC brought Alan Lomax over, initially to make programmes about flamenco. When I heard them, I thought it would be a good idea to make a series about traditional music here. Alan was very enthusiastic and soon musicians from all over Britain and Ireland were coming to the studios at Alexandra Palace to take part in our series called Song Hunter. Among them were people who became famous figures: the Copper Family, the great fiddle player Michael Gorman… and Margaret Barry. She left her banjo under the studio lights, so when she came to sing ‘She Moved Through the Fair’ not a string was in tune, and she had taken her teeth out. The audience disagreed, but I thought she was magnificent!”…
Read Julian May’s full interview in the new issue of Songlines (March #125) with David Attenborough’s playlist on the free cover-mount CD with the magazine. Subscribe here: www.songlines.co.uk/subs