Friday 10 January 2020

Clive James and Pete Atkin

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Pete and Clive

Pete Atkin and Clive James have shared a partnership in songwriting for half a century since their University days in Cambridge, creating an archive of 300 or more songs known for their intellectual ranking.

"Writing song lyrics is my favourite form of writing anything. But I've never managed to become famous for it" declares Clive.

Pete and Clive's songs are reminiscent of The Great American Songbook. Although Pete is well known for performing the songs, they were also writing songs for other people to sing in a similar tradition to Tin Pan Alley.

In the 1970s, their musical partnership was described as "one of the best song-writing partnerships alive", alongside Elton John, Joni Mitchell and The Beatles. At this time, Pete Atkin was the most booked artist on The John Peel Show for two years running. The songs gained most recognition in the 1970s thanks to DJ Kenny Everett and recordings by singers Julie Covington and Val Doonican.

In this programme, we hear revealing and personal reminiscences from Pete and Clive today as they discuss how it all began, the differences between writing poetry and song, and their thoughts on the future of their songs. Friends and colleagues contribute a personal insight into this unique pairing, considered to be masters of their craft by Stephen Fry, Bruce Beresford, Daniel Finklestein, Simon Wallace and Russell Davies.

Why is this the missing part in Clive James' career despite it being the one thing he wants to be most remembered for?

Producer: Hayley Redmond
A Sue Clark production for BBC Radio 4

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