Happy Birthday To Studs

Studs TerkelIn celebration we would like to share a few charming and illuminating examples of how people have begun to use excerpts from the constantly evolving Studs Terkel Radio Archive in creative new ways over the past few months.

Seeing Studs’ work migrate to new formats has been a delight and it doesn’t get any better than the Third Coast Audio Festival’s ShortDocs Challenge which recently closed with an amazing 150+ original new 3 minute audio pieces inspired by Studs’ way of making radio. You can listen to the whole wild collection on their website.

Third Coast Festival: Short Docs Challenge

You’ll find an immense mix of pieces including inventive examples of re-use such as Studs interviewing a smart phone in the style of his great book Working.

For anyone in the Chicago area, on June 3, Third Coast will be hosting a Peoples’ ShortDoc Election Event during which they’ll play the 8 finalists.

Third Coast Festival: Happenings

Another fun new use of material from the archive was created by our friends at PopUp Archive (which is hosting and helping transcribe the audio in the archive) for their new podcast Popcast which features bits from Studs’ 1970 interview with Maurice Sendak. That interview provides a marvelous glimpse of the personality and working methods of the author of Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen.

Freud In The Night Kitchen

For an in-depth look at how Studs’ shaped his on-air persona and his approach to the art of conversation, this podcast from Radio DePaul (Derek Peters) celebrating his 103rd birthday is a treat.

Radio DePaul: Happy Birthday Studs

Another fantastic new use was The Organist, the podcast affiliated with McSweeney’s and The Believer. They ended their current season with a marvelous piece about Studs’ views on the role of “Happy Accidents” in art and in life. Hosted by writer and publisher J.C. Gabel it is a playful analysis of Studs’ working ways and offers some exciting insights into his thought processes.

The Organist: Happy Accidents

And for sheer joy and style, nothing beats the short animations created by Blank on Blank using snippets from the archive. The most recent uses clips from several of Studs’ talks with the great inventor/designer Buckminster Fuller called “The Geodisic Life” and sheds light on how we found his calling in life.

Blank On Blank: Buckminster Fuller

And that’s just a small sampling of what happening with Studs’ work as we celebrate this 103rd birthday!


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A Justification For Racism: Voices From Montgomery Alabama

Just this week, Chicago announced that it had paid over 5.5 million dollars in reparations to victims of police brutality since 2013 and San Francisco has just announced that at least one police officer is facing termination from last week’s texting scandal.  The march from Selma to Montgomery that took place 50 years ago were the beginning of the end of institutional racism in America. At least that was the hope and yet stories such as Chicago, San Francisco, Cleveland and Ferguson have become so routine that some people aren’t even surprised when it happens in their towns.  An entire movement #BlackLivesMatter has been born to address this issue and it has once again become a major talking point amongst Americans.

Back on March 25, 1965, Studs risks personal peril when he went to Montgomery, Alabama to speak with the citizens there to find out what they were thinking and feeling during this momentous occasion. From a 110 year old reverend, born in slavery to white citizens defending segregation with Biblical teachings, these interviews will inspire and shock you. No topic is too controversial for Studs as he discusses Governor George Wallace and Dr. Martin Luther King highlighting the disconnect between white and black America.  Fifty years later the question becomes; is racism over, and if not, what can be done to fix the problem once and for all.

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Oliver Sacks and Studs Explore the Mysteries of Language and Life

Oliver Sacks, renowned neurologist, has written a new book and he’s finally telling it like it is by recounting how his life inspired his work. On The Move: A Life chronicles Sacks’ life from his childhood obsession with motorcycles, early medical practice and substance abuse in California to dealing with an unknown chronic illness in New York.  In addition to Awakenings, which was turned into a movie starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro, Sacks has written extensively about the mysteries of the human mind.

Oliver SacksIn 1990, Studs and Sacks sat down to discuss his new book Seeing Voices: A Journey Into the World of the Deaf.  Their conversation ranges from the history of sign language to his study of how learning to sign opens up the world of anyone who has the privilege of learning it. Whether they are hearing impaired or not the symbolic nature of sign language offers new ways of thinking and expression for everyone as revealed in their lively interview. This quote upon learning he has terminal cancer perfectly sums up his life and work. “Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.” *

*io9.com; George Dvorsky; 2/19/2015

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What Really Happened At Kent State? A Conversation with Peter Davies & Barry Levine

kent stateImmortalized with Neil Young’s song, Four Dead In Ohio, this week marks the 40th anniversary of the Kent State University shootings, one of the most pivotal moments in the Vietnam War protests.  On May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on students who were protesting the announcement by Richard Nixon on April 30, 1970 of the Cambodian Campaign. Killing four and wounding nine others combined with the conservative nature of the student body sparked national outrage and escalated the anti-war movement.  The response was immediate causing the closure of hundreds of universities, colleges and schools as over 4 million students went on strike and parents all over the country began to worry about whether their children could protest in peace.

Photos from the 1970 Valley News-Dispatch.


In 1973 Studs spoke with Peter Davies about his book Truth About Kent State: A Challenge to the American Conscience and Barry Levine who was a student at Kent State at the time of the shootings. They discuss the hardline tactics used by school and public officials to quash any protests, as well as the lack of charges filed against anyone in law enforcement or the government in the shooting of 13 peaceful demonstrators. Much of what they discuss is as pertinent today as it was 45 years ago and bears scrutiny during our latest national debate on the right to peacefully protest. Are those who forget the past really doomed to repeat it?

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Studs and Jacques Discuss Saving Our Lonely Planet

Today is Earth Day and it should come as no surprise that Studs was way ahead of the curve in discussing the environmental. First conceived at an UNESCO Conference in 1969, Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22nd; the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere, in 1970 and became a national movement in 1990. Founded on the notion that our planets’ resources are finite, Earth Day continues to remind us to tread lightly and leave a small carbon footprint.

jacques cousteauOn this Earth Day we couldn’t think of anyone more qualified to speak for the planet than Jacques Cousteau. One of the leaders in the movement to save the planet, Jacques Yves Cousteau hardly needs an introduction. His series The Undersea Word of Jacques Cousteau, ran from 1968 through 1976, brought the beauty and diversity of the oceans to a generation of children who would grow up to become environmental activists and scientists. While the interview is forty-six years old the major themes remain the same.  Start listening for such gems as Cousteau’s quote that governments are run by a bunch of “elected, irresponsible, ignorant, incompetent people” but stay for a lively discussion of the politics of energy, the EPA, nuclear energy, jobs and the greed of power companies.

His insights on what people want and what politicians actually do is as relevant today as it was in 1976. Their conversation about the future of energy and our planet could as easily be about Global Warming as it is about nuclear energy. Prepare to be amazed by his assertion that women are crucial to the success of saving our planet. It sounds like he would have agreed that we need more women in politics in order to form a more perfect union.

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Studs Examines Being Gay and Lesbian In America

The firestorm in Indiana is still going strong and whatever the outcome it’s clear that gender equality is here to stay, as witnessed by Governor Mike Pence’s back-pedaling on the RFRA just a few hours ago. That’s what makes this interview so fascinating and relevant today. Listen as Studs talks with three generations of gay and lesbian activists about what it meant to live in the United States in 1970. The Midwest Mattachine Organization was so successful in its mission that it was inducted into the Chicago Gay & Lesbian Hall of Fame in 2002.


While it may be easier to be LGBT now than it was over 40 years ago, many of the same issues still trouble us as have been highlighted this week in the outrage over the RFRA
(Religious Freedom Restoration Act). Many of the subjects they touch upon are still a part of our everyday conversation. What does it mean to be a discriminated against minority and what are the personal costs of hiding who you really are? And while it seems as if there is a long way to go towards equality at least today pressure is being brought nation-wide from individuals, corporations and even major political parties to make sure that all types of discrimination become a part of the past.

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Erica Jong Talks About The Fear of Flying

Before there was “Fifty Shades of Grey” there was Erica Jong and the “Fear of Flying”. To celebrate her birthday today we’d like to share her lively conversation with Stud’s from 1974. When “Fear of Flying” was published in 1973 it set off a firestorm of controversy for its frank portrayal of female sexuality and is often credited with the attitudes towards sex that dominated the second wave of feminism. In their lively discussion Studs and Erica touch on a range of subjects from the real meaning of her book to the prevailing attitudes towards sex in the ’70’s.






Early in the interview she tells an amusing story about the connection between sex and politics, how that connection got her speaking engagement cancelled by the Smithsonian and how that cancellation gained her a whole lot of notoriety from the Washington Post. Listen to their lively exchange and ask yourself how much has changed in the last 40 years.

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What Would Jane Addams Do?

Today is World Social Work Day so we’ve dug into our archives to find a fascinating interview from May, 1966 with a panel of experts from the National Association of Social Workers. The discussion includes the change in status from immigrant “poor” to migrant “poor” in the almost 80 years since the founding of Hull House in 1889. How this has changed the mission of Social Workers as well as a lively discussion of how Jane would have felt about the policies of the day and the huge social changes taking place in the mid-sixties are just a few of the fascinating subjects included in the conversation. Included is a short clip from Jesse F. Binford, a co-worker of Jane’s who has real insight into Jane and her relationship to the  community.

Jane Addams

Give this a listen and then spend a few minutes thinking about has and hasn’t changed in our discussion of the disadvantaged. Do you hear echoes of today’s conversation about welfare and social services in this program? Would Jane Addams approve of how we treat our low-income citizens today?

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