Great LivesAuthor: BBC Radio 4
23 Feb 2019

Great Lives

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Biographical series in which guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

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    Matt Lucas on Freddie Mercury

    Matt Lucas chooses Freddie Mercury of Queen. The author of Bohemian Rhapsody, Lesley-Ann Jones, joins him to dissect a legend. To what extent can a troubled childhood contribute to an adult's need to perform? Farrokh Bulsara was born in Zanzibar, sent to school in India, and fled revolution in Zanzibar to Feltham, Middlesex, aged 18. His family were Parsees and Freddie, as he became better known, was brought up as a Zoroastrian. He also became one of the greatest singer songwriters in British rock history. Matt Lucas - of Little Britain, Shooting Stars and Doctor Who - was entranced by Freddie from an early age. In this revealing, funny tribute, Matt explains how Freddie inspired him to perform, and unveils his Montserrat Caballe impression on the world. Lesley-Ann Jones knew the band as a 'young scumbag journalist' and provides an eyewitness account of watching Freddie from the wings. The presenter is Matthew Parris, the producer in Bristol is Miles Warde.

  • Posted on 22 Jan 2019

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    Colin Chapman, creator of Lotus Cars, nominated by Rohan Silva

    The arrival of Lotus shook up motor sport in 1960s and 70s. In Formula One, Colin Chapman made his cars lighter and quicker than anyone else, often challenging the rules. But not everything he designed was safe. On the roads, Lotus sports cars are an icon of the era. To discuss this colourful and controversial life, Matthew Parris is joined by the entrepreneur Rohan Silva and the motor racing journalist, Maurice Hamilton. Producer: Chris Ledgard

  • Posted on 15 Jan 2019

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    Oliver Sacks chosen by neurologist Suzanne O'Sullivan

    Matthew Parris meets Suzanne O'Sullivan to discuss her medical and literary hero, Oliver Sacks. She first came across his work on a beach in Thailand, reading his famous collection of case studies, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Joining the discussion is Sacks' partner, the writer and photographer Bill Hayes. Together they discuss the career of a gifted medic and writer who also loved motorbikes and wild swimming. Sacks wrote another extraordinary book, Awakenings, which was made into a film starring Robin Williams and Robert de Niro. Suzanne O'Sullivan is an Irish neurologist and award winning author. The producer in Bristol is Chris Ledgard

  • Posted on 08 Jan 2019

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    Nikesh Shukla on the undefeated Muslim wrestler the Great Gama

    Ghulam Mohammad, or the Great Gama Pehlwan as he was more commonly known, was a Muslim wrestler born into a Kashmir family in India in 1878. When writer Nikesh Shukla first came across him in a book at the airport, he thought he must be a fictional character- the stories seemed so far-fetched. Gama reportedly drank 10 litres of milk and ate six chickens every day. He also grappled with 40 wrestlers a day and did 5000 squats. Surely this was an action hero figure and not a real man? But Gama was real with a career spanning over 50 years, unbeaten not only in India, but also in England and Europe. In 1910 he was dubbed the strongest man in the world. And the press feared his strength might inspire rebellion in India, then under British rule. Joining Nikesh to tell the story of the Great Gama is Dr Majid Sheikh. The presenter is Matthew Parris and the producer is Perminder Khatkar.

  • Posted on 01 Jan 2019

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    Sathnam Sanghera on Alexander Gardner

    Author and Journalist Sathnam Sanghera nominates a Great Life; a man dismissed as a fantasist and a liar in his own lifetime. Alexander Gardner was a Scottish-American soldier, a traveller, an explorer and adventurer - a white man with a tartan turban, who ended up in India in a Maharaja's Sikh Army in the 19th Century, just before the British Raj took over. Possibly a plagiarist and touted as a scoundrel, yet Sathnam claims he's worthy of a bigger place in history. If just a tiny portion of what we think we know about him is true, he is a genuinely remarkable figure. Joining Sathnam is our expert witness to Gardner's life, the historian John Keay. The presenter is Matthew Parris, and the Producer is Perminder Khatkar.

  • Posted on 28 Dec 2018

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