UK rap legend Rodney P, British soul singer Mica Paris, actor Jacob Anderson and more will be amongst the presenters and narrators of a raft of new music programming on the BBC, in summer and autumn 2020. The programmes will explore a range of genres including soul, funk, jazz, gospel, pop, afrobeat, hip-hop and grime and celebrate artists including Bob Marley, Count Basie and Fela Kuti.
Jan Younghusband, Head of Commissioning, BBC Music television says: “We are thrilled with the reception of BBC Music programmes so far this year, including Imagine: This House is full of music with the Kanneh-Mason Family, The Glastonbury Experience in June, One World: Together at Home on BBC One back in April, and Later…with Jools Holland in May. Delivering great music for our audience remains incredibly important to us - despite the current restrictions - and so we’re also delighted to bring such a wide range of quality programming to viewers over the summer and beyond.”
Programming begins tonight (24th July) with Rodney P’s Jazz Funk at 9pm on BBC Four as godfather of British hip-hop, Rodney P, tells the untold story of Britain’s first home grown black music culture. The following Friday (31st July) at 9pm on BBC Four, Mica Paris delves into the history of, as well as her personal relationship with, gospel music in Gospel According to Mica.
Also on BBC Four over the summer are, Jacob Anderson (Game of Thrones) narrating the rise and enduring success of The Real Thing, the biggest-selling black group in UK pop history in Everything - The Real Thing Story (Friday 7th August, 9pm) three-part series Soul America (3 x 60m) takes an in-depth look at the evolution of soul music in the US between the 1960s and the 1980s, whilst Count Basie: Through His Own Eyes (1 x 75m) sheds new light on the life, passions, ambitions of band-leader and pianist, Count Basie.
BBC Four revisits chart topping artists of 1990, including Betty Boo, MC Tunes and Beats International in Top of the Pops: The Story of 1990 and offers a glimpse of previously unseen, restored footage of past performances in Ronnie’s: Ronnie Scott & His World Famous Jazz Club. Jazz 625 also returns to BBC Four, presented by Mercury Prize 2020 nominated Moses Boyd, and takes viewers right up to date with performances from some of the biggest stars of the current scene.
On BBC Two in August, When Bob Marley Came To Britain sheds light on Bob Marley’s influence on culture, politics and identity in the UK. And later in 2020, the channel will show BBC Arena: Fela Kuti - Father of Afrobeat exploring the enduring legacy of the pioneering Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti.
In Rodney P’s Jazz Funk (1 x 60m), produced by Acme Films for BBC Four, Rodney P reveals how the first generation of British-born black youth, inspired by the avant-garde musical fusions of 70s black America, laid the foundations of modern day multiculturalism by creating the first black British music culture with the Jazz Funk movement. The scene emerged out of the cultural void of the early 70’s when the children of Windrush Generation parents came of age only to find there was nothing to reflect their new cultural identity. They’d been born and gone to school in British cities and grown up in the same working class inner city neighbourhoods as their white friends. But as they entered their teenage years they had to create a space for self-expression that they could call their own. The arrival of American DJ Greg Edwards, host of Capital Radio’s Soul Spectrum - one of only two legal radio shows that played black music in the 1970s – changed everything. As clubs sprang up around the new sounds of American Jazz Fusion, two scenes emerged, with an older, mainly white scene in the suburbs of Kent and Essex playing the more commercial soul, jazz and funk, while in London a younger, more multicultural movement was born, with young black DJs playing deeper, more experimental music which inspired a whole new culture of expressive dance. With new performances from some of the veteran Jazz Funk dancers and rare archive from the time, Rodney meets many from the scene: superstar DJ Carl Cox, whose first gig was running a Jazz Funk mobile disco; Cleveland Anderson and Fitzroy Facey who began DJing as teenagers; BBC London presenter Robert Elms, a central figure at the Blitz Club; Leee John, lead singer of chart-topping Imagination; and Kenny Wellington of Light Of The World, one of the key acts who created the ‘Brit-Funk’ sound which went on to influence the New Romantic and British soul cultures that came out of Britain in the 80s. The film also contextualises the Jazz Funk movement in the broader social context of Britain at the time, and explores the bonds that were forged between young marginalised black clubbers and the still underground gay scene as both communities fought to express themselves on their own terms in a country that was often hostile to them.
Rodney P says: “For me, music documentaries can reveal a lot about our social history. Within the music, you can really get a sense of what was happening in the country as well. Jazz Funk in the 70s and 80s saw people coming together, breaking down barriers to celebrate something they love collectively. The history of Jazz Funk is unsung – but a hugely important story to tell.”
There will also be another chance to watch two other documentaries presented by Rodney P on BBC Four over the summer. The Last Pirates: Britain’s Rebel DJs tells the untold story of the 1980s pirate broadcasters (Friday 31st July, 10pm) and Beats, Bass and Bars: The Story of Grime, explores the roots of Grime’s rise from the council estates of east London to become the most important British musical movement since punk (Friday 7th August, 10.30pm). Both programmes were last broadcast on BBC Four in 2019 and are also produced by Acme Films.
British soul singer Mica Paris was brought up on gospel music and sang in church from an early age, becoming an international singing star in her teens. In Gospel According to Mica (1 x 60m) she explores her curiosity about the origins of the songs she sang as a child, why some of her contemporaries have returned to their gospel roots and her own big teenage decision - to leave the church and sing secular music. In this programme from Douglas Road Productions, Mica re-visits her childhood church in Lewisham to explore the meaning and origins of gospel songs. She examines songs such as Amazing Grace, sings with The Kingdom Choir, made famous from the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan, and travels to the cotton fields of America where gospel was used to make the work of enslaved Africans more bearable. She meets the choir at Fisk University in Tennessee who formed just after slavery was abolished and sang for Queen Victoria, and has a very emotional time as she finds out how the slavery freedom fighters used gospel to communicate. Mica delves into the history of Sam Cooke and Thomas A. Dorsey who both encountered tragedy after leaving the church, and she sings with bluesman Jools Holland to contemporise a favourite gospel tune. Finally Mica looks at the music of current artists such as Stormzy, who have no fear of church versus secular music, are open about their faith and are combining the two with great success.
Mica says: “A big decision for me as an early teenager was to leave the church and sing secular music. Although it was the right decision for me, gospel music has always been in my heart as my first musical love, so I jumped at the chance to make this programme, explore the roots of black gospel music and to meet and perform with other musicians - and share their stories.”
Everything - The Real Thing Story (1x 90m), produced by Screenbound Productions and narrated by Jacob Anderson (Game of Thrones) charts the rise of The Real Thing - four working class boys from one of Liverpool’s toughest neighbourhoods, who became Britain’s most enduring soul and funk act ever. With a string of hits, they dominated the international charts throughout the 1970s with iconic songs like ‘You to Me Are Everything’, ‘Can’t Get By Without You’ and ‘Can You Feel the Force’. But the group’s meteoric success was also tempered with personal tragedy, drug addiction and racial prejudice.
Featuring interviews with members of The Real Thing, David Essex OBE, Kim Wilde, Billy Ocean, Jeff Wayne, Five Star vocalist Denise Pearson, Radio 2 presenter Trevor Nelson MBE, actors Paul Barber and Louis Emerick, singer Janet Kay, and DJ Greg Edwards, this film tells the incredible true story of Britain’s first black music revolution and of 1970’s pop, painted against a backdrop of disco, politics and race, where four proud black men took on the world, and changed British music forever.
Chris Amoo of The Real Thing says: “Our journey as the Real Thing has been full of ups and downs, but Dave and I have enjoyed reminiscing about the past 45 years. And thanks to producer and director Simon Sheridan and the BBC, we are really excited that the viewers can get to look back and celebrate our career with us.”
In the 1970s, Bob Marley rose from humble beginnings in his homeland of Jamaica to become a global superstar. It was a journey that took him to Britain - the place he came to regard as his second home. Featuring rarely-seen archive and interviews with people who met and knew him, When Bob Marley Came to Britain (1 x 60m) narrated by Obaro Ejimiwe and produced by Wise Owl Films for BBC Two, looks at Marley’s special relationship with Britain. It reveals how his presence helped influence British politics, culture and identity, during a time of massive social and civil unrest in the UK - and how his universal message of One Love and unity helped inspire a generation of Black British youth. This film also takes a revealing look at Marley’s time in Britain – the houses he lived in, football kickabouts in Battersea Park and visits to the UK’s growing Rastafarian community, including secret gigs in the North of England. It was in Britain that Marley established himself as an international artist, recorded some of his most successful albums and performed some of his most memorable concerts. The film features interviews with photographer Dennis Morris, who accompanied Marley on tour, founding member of the reggae band Aswad, Brinsley Forde, The Cimarons’ Locksley Gishie, reggae legend Marcia Griffiths of Bob Marley’s vocal group The I-Threes. and filmmaker and BBC Radio 6 Music presenter and film maker Don Letts. There are also memories of the most important gigs he played in Britain, including early Wailers gigs in small pubs and clubs when the band were still largely unknown, a now-legendary acoustic performance in the gym of a Peckham High School and a triumphant show at the Lyceum theatre in London.
Don Letts says: "Bob believed in music as a tool for social and personal change and consequently it went some way into making me the man I am today."
Soul America (3 x 60m) is a three part series from BBC Studios, which chronicles the journey of soul music from its birth in gospel in the early 60s, when it delivered an assertive integrated vision of black America and produced its first generation of stars including Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin. The origins and evolution of soul music is explored throughout the series, which features contributions from The O’Jays, Mavis Staples, Fred Wesley, Mary Wilson, Peabo Bryson, Candi Staton and more. The series then moves through the late 60s and early 70s, when inequality, poverty and racism led to more radical black politics and the emergence of a harder soul sound from artists such Isaac Hayes, James Brown and the Temptations - as well the revolution of black heroes in cinema, inaugurated by the arthouse film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. The final episode explores the 70s and 80s, when a second coming of soul men led by Teddy Pendergrass, Marvin Gaye and Luther Vandross offered a black female audience slow jams and sexual healing and mid-70s disco became a lucrative side-line for female singers such as Candi Staton and Millie Jackson. The programmes are narrated by Carleen Anderson, who fronted the Young Disciples and the Brand New Heavies and has worked with artists including Bryan Ferry, Paul Weller and Dr John.
Top of the Pops: The Story of 1990 (1 x 60m) explores how, after the global political upheaval of 1989, the new decade soon demonstrated that the new pop grammars of hip-hop and dance all too often bewilder the entertainment-focused, old school institution that is the BBC’s weekly chart show. Artists such as Betty Boo, MC Tunes and Beats International bring the British take on hip-hop to the studio, whilst Adamski, Orbital, 808 State and Euro-dance sensations Snap! deliver their brand of beats to the TOTP audience. In a year in which even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and John Barnes embrace rap, breakthrough hip-hop artists share the studio with some big balladeers including Sinead O’Connor and Maria McKee. As Milli Vanilli lose their Grammy Award for lip syncing, Top of the Pops begins to question its own miming policy. Hip-hop kids and the indie underground are beginning to enter the pop mainstream but despite the new zeitgeist the battle for the Christmas Number 1 is a stand-off between the old and new guards: Cliff Richard and Vanilla Ice. Top of the Pops: The Story of 1990 features contributions from Adamski, Seal, Betty Boo, Orbital, Norman Cook and the Beats International vocalist Lindy Layton, Paul Hooton (The Farm) and Penny Ford (Snap!).
Count Basie: Through His Own Eyes (1 x 75) is a revealing biography, produced by Eagle Rock Entertainment, and told in Count Basie’s own words. It uncovers for the first time the private passions and ambitions that inspired the world-famous bandleader and pianist. Until now, little was known about Basie’s private and family life, but director Jeremy Marre has uncovered a treasure-trove of home movies and photo albums that expose Basie’s remarkable relationship with his wife Catherine, whose pioneering support for African-American causes placed her at the side of Martin Luther King. Through Basie’s intimate footage and letters - and interviews with friends like Quincy Jones and Annie Ross - we discover the Count’s protective love for his disabled daughter Diane who ‘was never out of his heart and mind: the hidden core of his creative life’. Basie’s musical achievements were remarkable: the first African-American to win a Grammy, he brought the blues to the big band podium. He was ‘the King of the Swing Kings’. The programme features rare performances with Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis Jnr. and many others and digs deeper to explore the inner motivation and passions that drove Basie’s career as he became a unique link between jazz mand America’s turbulent social history. Count Basie: Through His Own Eyes was the final film produced and directed by renowned music documentary director Jeremy Marre who died aged 76 in April 2020.
BBC Arena: Fela Kuti - Father of Afrobeat (1 x 80), from Plimsoll Productions, is the story of pioneering Nigerian musician Fela Kuti who created a sound for a continent. In 1997 over one million people gathered in Lagos for the funeral of Fela Kuti, Africa’s biggest artist, who gave the world Afrobeat, yet was also a thorn in the side of Nigeria’s military regimes. A counter-cultural revolutionary, he fought injustice with his music and provoked society with his lifestyle, on one occasion marrying 27 wives in a single ceremony. When he died from a disease that carried huge stigma in Africa, there was fear his legacy would die with him, but this film shows that the impact of his life and music is still felt today. Exclusive testimony reveals the complex man behind the maverick performer.
The history of the illustrious Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club comes alive in Ronnie’s: Ronnie Scott & His World Famous Jazz Club (1 x 102m) from Goldfinch. The venue was eponymously named after the late tenor saxophonist Ronnie Scott, who founded the club with business partner Pete King. The club doors first opened in London’s Soho in October 1959 and it was inspired by the vibrant post-War jazz venues in New York, including the Three Deuces. Since then, Ronnie’s has consistently played host to many of the world’s greatest jazz legends, including Chet Baker, Count Basie, Miles Davies, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Rich and Nina Simone who, along with many others, are all featured in the film. As well as a host of archive performances from the past 60 years, Ronnie’s features previously unseen, restored footage as well as new interviews with his friends, family and the music elite, including Chris Blackwell, Quincy Jones and Sonny Rollins.
The iconic music programme Jazz 625 returns to BBC Four for one special night in November 2020 with a 90 minute special, Jazz 625: The British Jazz Explosion (1 x 90m). The programme will celebrate the brilliant new wave of young UK jazz musicians who are making a joyful noise across the globe and will feature performances from some of the biggest stars of the current scene. There will also be features exploring the origins of the current movement and the spaces and venues that have helped shape its music. The show will be co-hosted by Mercury Prize 2020 nominated artist, drummer, band leader and BBC Radio presenter, Moses Boyd.
Also, in the coming weeks and months, BBC Four will offer another chance to see the two-part series, I Can Go For That: The Smooth World of Yacht Rock (2 x 60m) presented by Katie Puckrik, which explores the 1970s American music phenomenon of yacht rock, the mini-series about the partnership between Jimmy Lovine and Dr. Dre, co-founders of Beats Electronics, The Defiant Ones (3 x 42) and 1Xtra’s Grime Symphony (1 x 120m) first broadcast as part of the BBC Proms season in 2015 and presented from London’s Royal Albert Hall by MistaJam and Sian Anderson, featuring performances by Wretch 32 and Jules Buckley’s Metropole Orkest.
This range of programming follows the BBC’s incredibly successful Glastonbury Experience - a celebration of Glastonbury across BBC TV, radio, iPlayer and Sounds, which has seen 11.8 million programme requests for Glastonbury content on BBC iPlayer. An audience of 2.1 million tuned in to relive Adele’s 2016 performance on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage on Saturday 28th June 2020 - the biggest audience for a Glastonbury programme on BBC Two since 2017. The BBC’s live coverage of Glastonbury last year won director Janet Fraser-Crook the BAFTA award for best multi-camera director on the 17th July 2020.
Other highlights from BBC Music TV this year include Classic Albums: Tears for Fears (February, BBC Four), BBC Four’s coverage of the BBC Radio 6 Music Festival in March, featuring live performance from Brittany Howard, The Selecter, Roisin Murphy, Kate Tempest, Ed O’Brien and more, Rock n Roll Island: Where Legends Were Born (March, BBC Four), One World: Together at Home (April, BBC One), Ella Fitzgerald: Just One Of Those Things (May, BBC Two), series 55 of Later…with Jools Holland (May, BBC Two) which saw live performances from Laura Marling, Berwyn, Jacob Collier, Biig Piig, Fontaines DC and more and Dana - The Original Derry Girl (May, BBC Four).