KEXP Documentaries: Beth Ditto Takes It Off


Every time I make a KEXP Documentary, I think about what the KEXP audience wants to know about the subject. Fighting years of academic training, I try to let go of a long list of dates and cold facts to get to the heart of the artist.

In interviews, I try to talk to the person before we record, to let them know I’ll be asking kind of personal questions about music (not about their personal life), and will be getting deep pretty quickly. I want to know how music affected them and what songs inspired their work. What events in their lives changed them forever. Most of all I want an inside look at who they are.

My point, although not the most original, is that we are all the same. Even if a KEXP listener has no interest in the exact artist we’re covering, I do want them to think, “yeah, I’ve gone through that too.” “I’ve felt like that…”

Also, I find human nature interesting. When someone is being real, they bring surprise elements to the mix. Like nature, real information is unpredictable.

This past week’s documentary (these air first, and I blog about them afterward, before I start the next week’s doc) was on Beth Ditto. She’s the lead vocalist and songwriter for Portland band The Gossip.

I pulled the story from a past series we did called Music Revolutionaries — one of our best, I think. It also features MIA, Michael Franti, Billy Bragg, Patti Smith and Rage Against The Machine.

Since their 2005 release, Standing In The Way of Control, The Gossip have gotten tons of well-deserved attention in the U.S., but in the UK and throughout Europe they were HUGE. And it’s stayed that way. If you look at the band’s tour calendar for this month it lists: Poland, France, Sweden, Denmark, Spain and Italy.

The bigger The Gossip get, the more proud I am of the feature we did on Beth Ditto in our Music Revolutionaries series. She’s a civil rights activist, a gay activist and calls herself a “fat activist”. She likes to strip down on stage, and doesn’t feel held back by her larger size. Stunning the world with her nude picture on the cover of top Brit mag NME, Beth said “I think it’s good for people… There are a lot more people who look like me than look like supermodels”.

This KEXP Documentary gives you an inside look at Beth. My favorite part is when she answers the question “Who’s the baddest bitch in rock-n-roll?” Her answer is “Freddy Mercury”.

Listen to the documentary now:

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Beth Ditto and The Gossip are playing the Capitol Hill Block Party on Saturday, August 25! They have a brand new album out “Music for Men”, and you can download it here: Beth Ditto has also just designed a clothing line for Evans that should be in stores in the spring.

See you at the Capitol Hill Block Party!

Michele Myers rocks the airwaves on KEXP every Friday night at 9pm. She’s the producer of KEXP Documentaries and her next 10-part series called Psychedelics starts July 23 and will feature profiles on: Animal Collective, The Flaming Lips, The Orb, The Beatles, Spiritualized, The Velvet Underground and more.

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One Comment

  1. Shannon
    Posted July 15, 2009 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Why is it that fat activist is in quotes like that? Fat activism is a real thing as are the other activist things listed. After listening to the show (which was fantastic) I see no reason for that and it reads as being a bit disrespectful of people who are fat activists.

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