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Music

The one song Brian Eno couldn't live without

Brian Eno’s appearance on the BBC institution Desert Island Discs was both an enlightening and surprising listen. Despite being the master of ambience, Eno revealed his love of gospel music during the broadcast, where he claims his heart belongs.

Although he’s an Athiest, Eno feels deeply connected to gospel music and can adopt his own meaning from the songs rather than taking them at face value. He’s a true connoisseur of the genre, and likely, his love of gospel is down to it being so far detached from his area of expertise, allowing Eno to appreciate the songs without examining them to death.

In recent years, Eno has discussed his love of gospel in more depth, but it was revelatory when he appeared on Desert Island Discs in 1991. During a 2016 interview with The Guardian, the former Roxy Music member said: “I belong to a gospel choir. They know I am an atheist but they are very tolerant. Ultimately, the message of gospel music is that everything’s going to be all right”.

He added: “If you listen to millions of gospel records – and I have – and try to distil what they all have in common it’s a sense that somehow we can triumph. There could be many thousands of things. But the message… well , there are two messages… one is a kind of optimism for the future rather than a pessimism.”

Eno continued: “Gospel music is never pessimistic, it’s never ‘oh my god, its all going down the tubes’, like the blues often is. Gospel music is always about the possibility of transcendence, of things getting better. It’s also about the loss of ego, that you will win through or get over things by losing yourself, becoming part of something better.”

“Both those messages are completely universal and are nothing to do with religion or a particular religion. They’re to do with basic human attitudes and you can have that attitude and therefore sing gospel even if you are not religious.”

On Desert Island Discs, guests are asked to name the eight songs they’d like to take with them for company if they were stranded on a desert island, which includes a castaway’s favourite. His choices include Fela Kuti & Afrika 70, The Velvet Underground and Miles Davis, but Eno selected the gospel anthem, ‘Lord Don’t Forget About Me’ by Dorothy Love Coates, as his most sacred.

Explaining his decision, Eno said: “The last record is a gospel song, I mean, gospel is, I suppose, the music I’ve listened to more than any other over the last few years. I particularly love the gospel style of singing, the way that the voice is liberated in this way of singing. This is a song by probably the most liberated of all the gospel singers.”

Listen to the one song Brian Eno can’t live without below.