INTERVIEW: Sir Michael Parkinson speaks ahead of Lancaster show

TV legend Sir Michael Parkinson is getting ready to visit our city as part of a nationwide tour.
Sir Michael Parkinson will be coming to Lancaster.  Picture by Neil Silk .Sir Michael Parkinson will be coming to Lancaster.  Picture by Neil Silk .
Sir Michael Parkinson will be coming to Lancaster. Picture by Neil Silk .

But the famous interviewer is now the one being interviewed as he reveals his passion for music ahead of his show ‘Parkinson: Our Kind of Music.’

“Since a young age I have had a passion and love for music,” said Sir Michael.

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“I was about 10 and fiddling with our radio at home in Yorkshire trying to find the American Forces Network broadcasting out of Germany.

“I was seeking an alternative to the kind of music on the BBC at that time which consisted, it seemed to me, of adenoidal crooners, syncopated dance bands and posh sounding announcers.

“Then I heard Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and a door was opened into a world of music I could only have imagined.

“It’s a passion that has stayed with me all my life and when I was lucky enough to get my talk show Parkinson, I was determined to feature the kind of music and performers that played and performed my kind of music.

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“The result was that I got to meet and sometimes talk to most of my musical heroes.”

Sir Michael presented his television talk show, Parkinson, from 1971 to 1982 and from 1998 to 2007.

On the show he met legends like Duke Ellington, Bing Crosby and Tony Bennett, as well as era defining pop stars like John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.

Parkinson: Our Kind of Music, which is coming to the Lancaster Grand Theatre, will feature an interview with Sir Michael about his love of music and his musical highlights during his career.

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The interview is conducted by Sir Michael’s long term producer and son, Mike.

“We use rarely seen classic musical clips from the archive with it all topped off by live performances by the multi-talented Joe Stilgoe and his band,” said Sir Michael.

“It’s a fascinating, entertaining and informative journey to my musical heart with the help of a few heroes.”

Some of the many musical highlights include, Sir Michael duetting with Bing, interviewing John Lennon with a bag on his head, sitting opposite McCartney as he played Yesterday, being in the studio as Fred Astaire sings Puttin on the Ritz and being exhilarated by the Buddy Rich Big Band.

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When asked about his thoughts on the modern music scene, Sir Michael replied: “Not much, mainly because it’s not aimed at me but at kids.

“The one thing that does annoy me is that there is seemingly no mainstream place for the music of the Great American Songbook. “Written between the 20s and the 50s it is not a stretch to call it America’s classical music and it has been arranged and performed by some of the most influential and defining musical figures of the 20th Century.

“For that reason I brought out a triple CD, also called Our Kind of Music, featuring 55 of what I think are the best songs and performance of the Great American Songbook.

“Like the live show it was a labour of love and I hope I can introduce a new generation to this wonderful collection of timeless music.”

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During his new show clips will be shown to the audience from Sir Michael’s classic and extensive archive.

As well as Parkinson, Sir Michael also established a lengthy career as a radio broadcaster and is often described as “The Guardian” of “the great British talkshow host.”

He reveals his best interview was with the eminent scientist Professor Jacob Bronowski.

“He was the writer and presenter of that landmark book and television series The Ascent of Man,” said Sir Michael.

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“It was the one time that the shape and progression of the interview went exactly the way I had prepared.

“But that was more to do with Professor Bronowski’s perfect command of the English language and his forensic mind then my interviewing skills.”

Sir Michael can still remember his worst interview.

He said: “Once, when they were still with us, I sat down with Alan Whicker and David Frost, both of whom I liked and deeply admired, and we agreed to write down on a piece of the paper the worst interviewee we had all interviewed.

“We then showed each other at the same time.

“Each of us had written down Thor Heyerdahl, the Norweigan anthropologist most famous for the Kon-Tiki expedition in the Pacific. “We all agreed he would not be our first choice as a crew mate on a deep sea cruise.”

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As for his favourite songs, that is more of a difficult choice for Sir Michael.

There are three songs that are near the top of his list;

* I’ve Got you Under my Skin sung by Frank Sinatra with the arrangement by Nelson Riddle.

* Summertime by George and Ira Gershwin sung by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.

* Irving Berlin’s Change Partners sung by Fred Astaire.

“If anyone asks me why I love the music of the Great American Songbook I simply tell them to listen to these songs,” he said.

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“Irving Berlin’s Change Partners sung by Fred Astaire has a special memory for me because it was playing in a dance hall where I was sitting watching a lovely young woman with auburn hair dance all night with another man.

“Her name was Mary.

“Luckily for me she did ‘Change Partners’ and over 50 years later she’s still putting up with me.”

Advice Sir Michael would offer to upcoming broadcasters and interviewers of today is to “listen.”

“The media environment they are coming into is not one I recognise.

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“The only piece of advice I can give any aspiring interviewer is do your homework and listen.”

Sir Michael will bring his show Sir Michael Parkinson - Our Kind of Music to the Lancaster Grand Theatre on Thursday May 3 at 7.30pm.

Tickets cost £27.50 from the box office on 01524 64695 or by visiting or drop in at the theatre on St Leonardsgate in Lancaster.