The Song That Changed My Life

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Benedict Cumberbatch, Morgan Webb, Craig Finn and Jason Kottke

Benedict Cumberbatch
Morgan Webb
Craig Finn
Jason Kottke

Culture Recommendations with Jason Kottke

This week's pop culture picks come care of Jason Kottke, of Jason tracks down the best the internet has to offer, but this week he's all about documentaries. First up, it's a pair of short documentaries about Allan Benton and his ham. Allan is the owner of Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams, and we travel inside both his office and curing house in the films.

Next, it's the feature-length documentary Senna, profiling the thrilling and ultimately tragic tale of Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna. Senna is not just for Formula One fans -- it's a gripping profile, and the racing footage is thrilling no matter who you are. It's currently available on Netflix Instant.

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Sherlock Actor Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch is a British actor currently bringing Sherlock Holmes to life in PBS's Masterpiece series Sherlock, alongside Martin Freeman of The Office as John Watson. While Cumberbatch and Freeman are the latest in a long line of actors to play these characters, there is something fresh about their adaptation: Sherlock takes place in the present day, updating the classic detective to our modern era. In the past year, Cumberbatch has memorably stolen scenes in period dramas like War Horse and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Benedict tells us about bringing a new take to an iconic character, and what keeps Holmes relevant to both writers and audiences all these years later. He also opens up about how a life-threatening altercation while filming in South Africa in 2004 left him changed as a person. The Series Two finale of Sherlock airs this Sunday, May 20th, on PBS's Masterpiece. Series Two will be available on DVD just two days later, on Tuesday the 22nd.

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Craig Finn on The Song That Changed My Life

Craig Finn is the lead singer and guitarist for the Brooklyn rock outfit The Hold Steady. Earlier this year, Finn released his debut solo album Clear Heart Full Eyes. This week he tells us about the song that changed his life: The Replacements' "I Will Dare", off their 1984 album Let It Be.

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Video Game Journalist Morgan Webb

Morgan Webb is a video game journalist and the co-host of X-Play on the G4 TV network. Webb fell into work in front of the camera entirely by accident via a research position on Tech TV's The Screen Savers, and it wasn't long before she wound up in front of the camera. Tech TV would eventually merge with G4, and X-Play is now the longest-running program on the network.

Morgan talks about what it means to be a gamer, what she loves about the gaming experience, and her struggle for journalistic legitimacy.

Thanks to Dave Ciaccio for editing this segment.

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The Outshot: “People Get Ready” by Curtis Mayfield

For The Outshot this week, Jesse basks in the warm, loving glow of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready", and explains exactly why the singer's smiling face hangs on the wall above his son's crib.

If you've got a song that lifts you up like this one does, share the warmth on the MaxFun forum by picking your own Outshot.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Moshe Kasher, Sports Doc Undefeated, The AV Club and Lateef the Truthspeaker

Moshe Kasher
Daniel Lindsay
T.J. Martin
Lateef The Truthspeaker
Genevieve Koski
Josh Modell

Hi gang, it's our annual MAX FUN DRIVE, happening now. If you love this show, please take a moment to support it. There's a level of support for everyone, and it makes this show possible. Thank you.

The AV Club

Genevieve Koski and Josh Modell of The AV Club weigh in with their pop culture picks this week. Josh thinks you should check out John C. Reilly's very funny [adult swim] series Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule, which just began its second season. The show airs Sundays at 12:30am. Genevieve recommends the documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey, the story of Kevin Clash following his dream to work with Jim Henson, and how he gave voice to one of the Henson Company's most iconic characters.

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Comedian Moshe Kasher

Moshe Kasher is a comedian based in Los Angeles. He's performed at Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Chelsea Lately, and was named "Best New Comic" by iTunes for his debut comedy album. His new book is a memoir, but it's not what you might expect from a comedian memoir. Moshe's story is far from typical. It's called Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16 and that title should give a good idea of the wild stories it contains.

At the start, it's a story of growing up the child of two divorced deaf parents, split between living with his Hasidic father in New York, and his hippie mother in Oakland. Moshe joins Jesse to share stories from his upbringing, and shed some light on how he eventually got right and saved himself from addiction, anger, and violence.
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Lateef the Truthspeaker on "The Song That Changed My Life"

Lateef the Truthspeaker is an Oakland MC and one of the founding members of the hip-hop collective / record label Quannum Projects, whose members include DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born and Blackalicious. He talks to us about the song that changed his life -- Cloudburst by the jazz group Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross.
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Directors of the Academy-Award Winning Documentary Undefeated

Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin are the Oscar-winning directors behind the emotionally-charged sports documentary Undefeated. The film follows a challenging season for the Manassas Tigers, an underdog football team in North Memphis, Tennessee. The Tigers had traditionally been a team with troubles both on and off the field. Its fortunes changed under volunteer coach Bill Courtney, dedicated not only to excellence on the field, but in fostering resilient players off of it. As Coach Courtney says, "There's a story under every helmet," and Undefeated tells a few of them.

Daniel and T.J. sit down with Jesse to talk about developing the story of the film, the challenges of shaping a narrative when the events unfolding are out of your control, and the experience of following a handful of teens throughout their senior year of high school. Undefeated continues to open theatrically in more and more cities across the country. Find out when it's coming to your city by visiting
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The Outshot: Witchdoctor's "A S.W.A.T. Healin' Ritual"

For The Outshot this week, Jesse shines a light on one of the lesser-known members of Atlanta's Dungeon Family hip-hop collective. Witchdoctor (born Erin Johnson) might not be as famous as Family members OutKast, Cee-Lo Green or Goodie Mob, but his 1998 album A S.W.A.T. Healin' Ritual just might be the best record of its time and place.

Is there an unsung record you think is worthy of recognition? Let us know by heading over to the MaxFun forum and naming your own Outshot.
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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Daniel Handler, The Sklar Brothers, Mark Frauenfelder and Nico Muhly

Daniel Handler
Randy Sklar
Jason Sklar
Mark Frauenfelder
Nico Muhly

Culture Picks: Mark Fraueunfelder of Gweek

Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing and the Gweek podcast joins us to share his recommendations this week: the drawing game Depict and the Blackwing 602 pencil. (Embed or Share Mark Frauenfelder's Picks)

Author Daniel Handler

Daniel Handler delves into his memories of young love and high school frustrations to pen the novel Why We Broke Up -- the twist? He writes the girl's side of the story. The story is illustrated by a collection of items collected during the relationship; the paintings are provided by New Yorker illustrator Maira Kalman. Daniel Handler is also known by his alter ego, Lemony Snicket, who authored A Series of Unfortunate Events. (Embed or Share Daniel Handler on Bullseye)

Nico Muhly: The Song That Changed My Life

Nico Muhly is a classical composer who's worked with a wide range of musicians, from high-profile composer Philip Glass, to Icelandic snger-songwriter Bjork to indie rockers Grizzly Bear. His opera Two Boys is set to debut at the Metropolitan Opera in the 2013-14 season. He talks to us about the song that changed his life -- Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians. (Embed or Share Nico Muhly on Bullseye)

Comedians The Sklar Brothers

Jason and Randy Sklar, known collectively as The Sklar Brothers, are comedians and actors perhaps best known for their ESPN show Cheap Seats. They've got a new stand up album, Hendersons and Daughters and are the hosts of the comedy podcast Sklarbro Country.
They spoke to us about forming identities as stand up comedians (and twins), broadening sports comedy for the average Joe, envisioning the writing process for Grimm's Fairy Tales, and more. (Embed or Share The Sklars on Bullseye)

The Outshot: The Newsroom

Americans enjoyed a wave of cringe-inducing awkward comedy in Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Office. This week Jesse recommends one of their precedents, the Canadian series The Newsroom.
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John Roderick of The Long Winters: "The Song That Changed My Life" on The Sound of Young America

Photo credit Andrew Youssef
John Roderick

John Roderick is the front man for indie rock group The Long Winters and has worked on projects with bands like Death Cab For Cutie, The Decemberists and most recently did guest vocals on recent TSOYA guest Jonathan Coulton’s new album ‘Artificial Heart’ on the track “Nemeses.”

John talks with us about the influence on him that was ZZ Top’s masterpiece -- Give Me All Your Lovin’ -- and how it may have been the catalyst to a career in music instead of one in law.

OK GO's Damian Kulash: "The Song That Changed My Life" on The Sound of Young America

A band with DIY roots: OK Go. Damian Kulash is 2nd to right.
Damian Kulash

OK Go is a band who broke out with a hugely popular homemade video for their single A Million Ways.

Lead singer and guitarist Damian Kulash talks to us about one of the moments that led him to this place in music - hearing "Rockit" by jazz legend Herbie Hancock.

OK Go's live album 180/365 is out now and you can catch up on all of their other projects at

Phil Collins: The Song That Changed My Life on The Sound of Young America

Phil Collins

Phil Collins is one of the best-selling musical artists of all time, both as a solo performer and with his band Genesis. His solo sales total has topped 150 million worldwide, his sales with Genesis have topped 100 million, and he has won an Oscar, two Golden Globes and seven Grammy awards.

As part of our ongoing series, he chose "She Loves You" by The Beatles as the song that changed his life. Collins' latest album is "Going Back," a collection of covers of the Motown records that inspired him to become a musician. In recent years, a serious back injury has made it difficult for Collins to play, and he recently announced his retirement from music.

Click here for a transcript.

Chuck Brown, Godfather of Go-Go Music: "The Song That Changed My Life" on The Sound of Young America

Chuck Brown

Known as The Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown created a new take on funk music in the 1970s with strong dance beats and an infectious spirit. His early hits as a guitarist and singer included "I Need Some Money" and "Bustin' Loose". He's a local legend in Washington, D.C., where go-go originated.

His new 3-disc CD/DVD set We Got This includes his first Grammy nominated song, "Love", recorded with Jill Scott and Marcus Miller.

He spoke to us about a song he considers very influential -- "Mister Magic" by the jazz-funk musician Grover Washington.

The Song That Changed My Life, by Chuck Brown

Grover Washington, "Mister Magic"

Roberta Flack, Singer-Songwriter: "The Song That Changed My Life" on The Sound of Young America

Roberta Flack

The Sound of Young America was in Alberta, Canada for the Calgary Folk Music Festival, four days of performances and workshops from folk, indie, rock, country, and blues musicians. Before the festival, we talked to the headliner Roberta Flack for a new feature on the show, "The Song That Changed My Life."

Roberta Flack is a legendary singer, songwriter and pianist. She won back-to-back Grammy Awards for Record of the Year for her songs "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and "Killing Me Softly With His Song."

The Song That Changed My Life, by Roberta Flack

Stevie Wonder, "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer"

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