Music History

Got Some Free Time? Check Out These Music History Podcasts

A little birdie told us you have some free time these days. Check out these music podcasts while you're cleaning.
A little birdie told us you have some free time these days. Check out these music podcasts while you're cleaning. Westend61 / Getty Images
Perhaps you’ve settled comfortably into “the new normal” stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, or perhaps you’re still coming to grips with the daily news developments. Either way, it’s safe to assume you have some extra time on your hands. Simply working from home instead of your usual workplace likely means you have at least a couple of hours per day at your disposal that were previously accounted for.

Without live sports on television, any concerts to check out or pint nights to indulge in at your favorite pub, there’s no time like the present to build up your podcast queue and take a trip down a few music history rabbit holes. There are plenty of great music-focused pods featuring broad looks into a number of wide-ranging artists, albums and topics, but in recent times, there’s been a wave of well-produced, highly entertaining and impressively informative podcasts devoted to the history of a single band or artist.

Digging into these types of podcasts is a great way to learn about an influential artist’s history while simultaneously venturing into new musical waters, because it's never too late to discover new songs to love. Similar to binge-watching the latest Netflix docuseries, attacking the story and music of a single band in such an all-encompassing way makes for a rewarding study experience.

We particularly recommend exploring a group or performer you’re not terribly familiar with. Why not make these days of uncertainty work for you in a productive way? Check out some of our favorite podcasts that focus on a single band or artist.

Long May They Run

Yeah, we know, you’re too cool for jam bands. It seems the world is divided into two groups: those who love the hippie-powered, free-love experience of improv-heavy Grateful Dead-style jam bands, and those who detest them, or at least act as if they do. This podcast is tailor-made for folks in either camp. Phish loyalists will appreciate the heavy involvement of the group and the behind-the-scenes, first-person access while doubters will at least get an entertaining dissection of just how it came to be that Phish has ruled the touring circuit for so many years.

Stay Free: The Story of The Clash

You shouldn’t need to know much more about this podcast other than what the title gives away, frankly. The eight-episode series produced by Spotify and the BBC is also narrated by another anti-establishment trailblazer, Chuck D of Public Enemy, so there’s another indisputable reason you should get on this pod now, if you needed one.

No Dogs in Space
(Iggy Pop, Suicide)

Speaking of pioneering punk legends, the relatively new No Dogs in Space offers plunging, supremely produced, multi-episode deep dives into Iggy Pop, followed by Suicide and then The Damned. Overall, the series plays out like three mini-seasons, with each artist receiving their fair share of focus, one by one. The chemistry between the hosts is infectiously charming and should come as no surprise given Marcus Parks, also a host of the Last Podcast on the Left, and Carolina Hidalgo, a host of Movie Signs with Mads, are a happily married couple.

Striped: The Story of The White Stripes

With its second season arriving soon, now is a great time to get the first season under your belt. Remember when the Jack White-led duo initially burst onto the national scene all those years ago and we all wondered whether Jack and Meg were either siblings or a romantic couple? Well, this pod, produced by Jack White’s Third Man Records, goes much deeper than that Dawson’s Creek-era query.

Slow Burn: Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.

OK, so we’re cheating a bit here. It’s our list and we can do that. Although either of these titans deserve their own podcast series, there’s no disputing Biggie and Tupac are inextricably linked thanks to not only their roles as dominant rival rap contemporaries of the 1990s but for their violent deaths, only six months apart. Slate staff writer and host Joel Anderson expertly presents the life stories of both legends, and connects the many dots that show just how closely the two icons rose and fell.
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Kelly Dearmore