This week, we bring our classic Life of a Song series to your ears, with the dramatic story behind ‘Bam Bam’, Sister Nancy’s reggae dancehall classic. Despite being one of the most sampled reggae tracks of all time, it didn’t make Sister Nancy a penny for more than 30 years, Alice Kemp-Habib tells us. Then, undercover economist Tim Harford teaches us how to think about failure. What can we learn from an early 2000s Broadway flop that went on to win a Tony award?

Want to say hi? We love hearing from you. Email us at We’re on Twitter @ftweekendpod, and Lilah is on Instagram and Twitter @lilahrap

Links and mentions from the episode: 

–Life of a Song, ‘Bam Bam – said to be the most sampled reggae track of all time’: 

–To learn more about reggae and dancehall music, Alice recommends Inna de Yard: Soul of Jamaica (2019) directed by Peter Webber. Here’s the Spotify playlist 

–Tim’s podcast is called Cautionary Tales. Listen wherever you get your podcasts, or at 

–Tim’s latest Undercover Economist column for FT Magazine, ‘The lesson humble sea urchins offer about resilience’: 

–Volumes 1 and 2 of The Life of A Song: The fascinating stories behind 50 of the world’s best loved songs are available in bookshops. A paperback of both volumes together will be out in August.

–Alice is on Twitter at @Alice_Khabib. Tim is on Twitter at @TimHarford.

–Key coverage of the war in Ukraine is free to read at


Special offers for Weekend listeners, from 50% off a digital subscription to a $1/£1/€1 trial are here:

The first US FT Weekend Festival is on Saturday, May 7 in Washington, DC! To attend virtually or in person, buy tickets at – use the discount code FTFriends2022 for 50% off.

Original music by Metaphor Music. Mixing and sound design by Breen Turner.

Clips from:

”Bam Bam,” courtesy Observer Music

”Le’ts Go to Zion,” courtesy Studio One Records

”Zungguzungguguzungguzeng,” courtesy Greensleeves Records

“Revolution,” courtesy VP Records

“Tear Off Mi Garment,” courtesy UMG Recordings

“Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,” courtesy BMG Music Entertainment

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