Marc Almond's Torch Song Trilogy


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Marc Almond presents a series about torch songs and torch song singers.

Marc Almond is joined by his friend and record producer Tris Penna for episode one of a three part series about torch songs and torch song singers.

In this programme Marc explains what a torch song is and traces the origins of the classic torch singers, the divas who were associated with this style of song in the 1920s and 1930s - among them, Libby Holman performing her signature tune 'Moanin Low' which was first published in 1929. Marc says: 'Libby was perhaps the first bona fide torch singer. She gave it its style.'

Marc and Tris discuss the lyrics used as well as the delivery of the early performances and recordings. Tris tells Marc: 'The torch singers don't necessarily have to have the best voice but they have an amazing voice'. But do you really need to have been through the heartache yourself to deliver a torch song authentically?

Marc and Tris celebrate the work of some of the great female torch singers of the 20th Century with tracks from Marlene Dietrich, Edif Piaf and Billie Holiday. And Marc delves through his record collection to unearth some rarely played torch songs including the powerful Trouble Man sung by Lotte Lenya. There is reference to Dinah Washington's influence on contemporary artistes, there's an appearance from Eartha Kitt and inevitably Judy Garland who is forever associated with the torch song genre.


Marc Almond continues his three-part celebration of torch songs and torch song singers.

Marc Almond is joined by his friend and record producer Tris Pena for the second episode in a three part series exploring the world of torch songs and torch singers.

It was once said that a torch singer had to be woman but in this programme Marc plays music from a selection of the finest male performers to tackle the torch song, including Frank Sinatra's rendition of 'I'm A Fool To Want You'. Marc says: 'It's said that Ava Gardner, who was one of the big loves of his life, taught him how to sing a torch song.'

Marc and Tris discuss why torch songs were originally only recorded by female singers. Tris says: 'The idea of masculinity was very rigid and any show of emotion was a sign of weakness.' Proving men can carry a torch song Marc plays tracks from Mario Lanza, Johnny Mathis and Mel Torme as well as his own version of 'The Shadow of Your Smile.'

There's a step change in the second part of tonight's programme as Marc and Tris play torch songs designed to get you up and dance through the tears as we hear songs from Yvonne Elliman, The Supremes and Gloria Gaynor. Marc says: 'If you put a torch song to a dance beat it becomes an anthem of survival.'

Produced by Ashley Byrne and Kurt Brookes

A Made in Manchester Production for BBC Radio 2.

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Marc Almond concludes his three-part celebration of torch songs and torch song singers.

Marc Almond concludes his three part celebration of the torch song and torch song singers as he sifts through his collection for gems from the pop era.

Among the great torch songs being discussed in this programme, Shirley Bassey's version of the Lionel Bart penned classic 'As Long As He Needs Me', which was originally written for the musical Oliver, Cher's 'A Woman's Story' and Dusty Springfield with 'You Don't Have To Say You Love Me'. Marc is once again joined by his friend and record producer Tris Penna who tells him: 'I was very lucky to have known Dusty well and worked with her. She was an extraordinary talent who managed to make each one of her songs her own.'

The tradition of European chanson gets more than a mention for its contribution to torch songs. Marc talks about why and how he created his own English version of the Jacques Brel classic Ne Me Quitte Pas (If You Go Away) and we hear the legendary Charles Aznavour singing Who Could Forget You.

There's also torch tracks from Elvis and from Billy Fury, who often rivalled Cliff Richard for title of 'The British Elvis'. Marc says: 'Billy Fury was huge, the perfect pop star, everything about him... the way he performed, the way he sang.'

There's also songs from Karen Carpenter, Sinead O'Conner and Whitney Houston.

As Marc and Tris delve through their collection it becomes clear that torch songs aren't just about sadness but can in a way make you feel happy as well. Marc says: 'Many torch songs have this sort of good to feel sad feel about them'.