Semi-regular podcast recommendation: “Revisionist History”

My first exposure to Malcolm Gladwell was in 2004, when I was assigned to read The Tipping Point during the summer before my first year of grad school. I liked it, but didn’t read any of his books or articles in the years that followed. I was eventually reintroduced to Gladwell when I heard a few of his interviews on “The Bill Simmons Podcast.” He was an excellent guest and I eventually gave his own podcast, “Revisionist History,” a chance.

A quick aside: it is nearly impossible to trace the origins of my podcast subscriptions. Most of my subscriptions are part of a series of podcast networks  and I can never remember on which podcast I heard a recommendation for another podcast that I eventually followed. 

Gladwell’s podcast debuted last year with 10 episodes. Unlike most new pods that spend weeks and months working out their form, “Revisionist History” hit the ground running with its voice fully intact. It covers a broad range of topics – sports, music, art, higher education – that won’t always appeal to every listener, but a good podcast is about much more than just the subject at hand, and Gladwell keeps the episodes short enough to maintain interest.

Recommended sample: Try Episode 7, “Hallelulah,” in which Gladwell traces the origin of the now famous Leonard Cohen song and his obsession revisions. He categorizes creative types by comparing Cézanne, who endlessly revised and tinkered with his paintings, and Picasso, who produced his art quickly and fully formed. Leonard Cohen was a Cézanne, having spent years working on and rewriting the song “Hallelujah.” The song further evolved as a series of artists covered it and added their own spin, and eventually Jeff Buckley created his own version that is now widely renowned.

Gladwell’s deft touch as a narrator is on full display in this podcast. He moves seamlessly from funny to serious topics, while still displaying due reverence for a tragic subject like Jeff Buckley’s tragic death.

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