Hey, it's Michael. Today, a special episode from my colleagues Andy Mills and Beyoncé gave her. It's Monday, December 21st. The year 2020 was difficult, painful at times, and I spent much of the past year essentially on the America is Divided beat, I traveled through dozens of states, attended a bunch of political rallies, talked to voters who lived in increasingly different realities. And because of the coronavirus, instead of flying around from place to place, I found myself for the first time in over a decade back driving a car.
And as I drove for hundreds and thousands of miles, I listened to the radio. And I loved it. I love getting to know all the new pop songs. I love finally figuring out why it is everybody likes this Harry Styles guy, and it was there in the car one night I was scanning to the stations and I rediscovered by.
Good evening, Helen, I'm Delilah. Hi, Delilah, thank you for such a great show every night. Well, thank you for being so patient. What can I do for you? I would just like to know if you have Kenny Rogers through the years, you can play for me. Oh, I love that song. I do, too. Is it a dedication or just a favorite? No. My husband passed away the year that came out in 82 and that was everything.
Our life was for 31 years of marriage, a good marriage, and he died much too young. So if you could find it in your records there, I would appreciate your playing it for me. And what's your late husband's name? Helen. Jack.
I can't remember when you were there, when I do care and hearing her show again, they're in my car, I felt emotional.
I started doing this like laugh cry thing that I do sometimes whenever I get, like, overwhelmed by emotions that are confusing but powerful. And I was like, why is this hitting me so hard right now?
And at first, I assumed, like, obviously, some of this is just nostalgia. We are here to put a smile on your face as we share great music. Great. I had originally become a fan of Delilah's radio show back when I was just in junior high.
I'm Delilah on the new ninety four one The Sound. At the time, I was too small for my age. I wasn't getting along with my parents who weren't getting along with each other. I was grounded all the time.
I was living in this small town and I wanted nothing more than to grow up, to get out of that small town, fall in love and become an adult.
And listening to this show up in my room and my headphones, it was like my first real peek into the lives of grown ups.
Melanie, what can I do for you? Actually, I was wondering if you could possibly request a song for me and my husband. We've been married for the past three years and we've just gone through a lot, lot of problems, almost on the verge of tears.
I was a practicing alcoholic for quite so many years and recently that has changed in practicing. Or did you have a perfected. Oh, I had it more than perfected. I was a true professional. And what has happened over the last year is, is that a woman that I loved very much and still do very much has come back into my life.
And that's the mother of my daughter Delilah was doing was simple. She was taking calls from all sorts of people from all over the country.
I drive a truck and I'm on the road all the time and I spend a lot of time away from my wife and my kids listening to them.
I'm going through a divorce and I have two young children and it's been quite difficult. And I sometimes feel that there's nobody out there for me.
And whatever it was, they were calling to say, what can I do for you? I'd like to know if you can dedicate a song to my wife. What's her name? Her name is Margaret. I goofed up and I'm very sorry. What did you do? I write about I got hurt on the job. I got addicted to drugs and I like and I'm very sorry.
Are you going to go get help for your addiction? I already am. Good for you. Do you think she might have a forgiving heart and see you through this?
I'm hoping right now I'm not at the house and I'm begging for her forgiveness. Well, let's hope.
And then at the end of the call, she would pick out a pop song for them. Let me find a song for you. I appreciate it. Thanks a lot. That was in some way connected to their situation. And this combination of being confessional and then together sitting and listening to pop music.
And just being awash in the mysterious power that pop music has to make people feel for all those times to me or wrong, true.
You see, I loved it as a kid, but hearing it right now as an adult.
It seemed more powerful somehow. And I didn't know. Why? And so I decided to reach out to a bunch of my friends, ask them to listen to Delilah and essentially let me know, like if it hit them the way it hit me. I know we've been dealing with the new reality, the covid-19 reality, for a long time.
And even though there's a lot of negative in the pandemic, a lot of sadness, there are some things that are good.
I'll be sharing words of love and hope and inspiration and, of course, fabulous songs all day long.
So one day I'm sitting in my apartment and I hear from my friend Andy and he asks me to listen to this lady on the radio called Delilah.
And I was like, oh, I know Delilah. She got her start in Seattle where I grew up. And I'd hear her all the time on the radio. But my association with the show was basically just that super cheesy intro, the.
And that she played pop music, which I don't really listen to when Andy called me months into the pandemic, I was deep in a sad folk music phase.
I was spending a lot of time alone. I was single for the first time in a while. I missed my friends. I even missed strangers. So one night in quarantine, I turned on Delilah.
Hi. Good evening. Is this Bob? This is Bob. Hi, Bob. What can I do to make your night a little better just for you?
I just want to tell you about the most incredible lady I ever met. OK, what's her name?
Her name is B.J.. Now, are you are you guys dating? Are you together or are you.
I was an idiot. I let her walk out of my life about seven, eight years ago. Oh, Bob, what were you.
And pretty quickly, I was taken by the collars, you knucklehead. You.
So, well, what we have to do here is, number one, I hope she may, by some stretch of the imagination, be listening.
She probably is. Well, you know, at first it was a voyeuristic pleasure, like almost a little schadenfreude when you're single.
It's kind of nice to hear that not everyone's relationships are going great. But after a while. How are you?
I'm kind of in a melancholy mood tonight. I broke the trust of the woman that I love and I'm doing everything I can to try to get it back again. The vulnerability of the callers.
I love her a whole lot.
Khalilah got to me, you know, it's it's just been really tough, really tough. We've been up and down like a roller coaster and trying to get it together has just been, you know, the toughest of all. And we listen to your show every night and you're so compassionate and we want to call you.
And within the context of these calls, the song started to get to me to. There were times when. So then I looked her up and I found out that she is the most listened to woman on American radio. Like when you look at the list of the top 20 radio shows, there's NPR, there's conservative talk radio and Delilah.
So many folks angry with one another, arguing up in each other's faces, saying unkind things.
Choose your words carefully and make sure your words are seasoned with love.
And unlike other shows, Delilah's audience can't be categorized.
It's people from red states and blue states, a mix of ages, backgrounds, race and ethnicity.
Can you hear me? Can you hear me now?
And so hoping to better understand what it was that she had tapped into Beyoncé. And I did what millions of Americans before us have done. Hello.
Hi. Am I talking to. We called Delilah.
I'm Bianca. And I'm Andy. Hi, Bianca. Hi, Andy. So are you recording on your end? Delilah looks great on my. OK, great.
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Hi, my name is Paige Kowit. I'm an editor at The Daily and I'm one of the people who stays up very late to make the show ready for you by 6:00 a.m.. So we get questions all the time from daily listeners about how to support the show. And our answer has always been to support The New York Times, because that's the engine that powers the daily. And that is true. But to me, the main thing that The New York Times does is not just power the daily, but help power a healthy democracy.
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I grew up on the southern Oregon coast. We started at the beginning, my parents were caretakers. They rented an old farmhouse and they could work off the rent by milking cows. It was a little dairy farm.
She grew up in the 60s and 70s in the small town of Reid. Support Oregon.
Everybody went fishing together and crabbing together. And everybody knew when Mrs. Luke, my mom, had the hair clippers out because she would cut everybody's hair in the neighborhood for free.
And from her earliest memories, I sadly had the show off, Jean, and not a lick of talent.
She loved attention, but she says she wasn't getting the kind of attention she wanted.
I wasn't an attractive child, but I was a goofy, clumsy, chubby little girl with steel braces on my legs. If you ever saw Forrest Gump. I actually wore the braces for 10 years that he wore in that movie. And I never felt graceful or or beautiful.
And then puberty came knocking and wow, what a change. So I left junior high.
This, you know, zit faced goofy, chubby girl. And I started high school looking like I was 19 years old.
And I think I would have gotten into a lot of trouble if it weren't for the fact that I could channel my energies into radio.
Luckily, it was right then that she got a job at CWD you in the A.M. radio station in her hometown.
I had to be there at five five thirty in the morning to go on the air at 6:00.
Good morning. And so there was no going out on Friday or Saturday nights, there was no going to parties, there was no going and doing any of the things that all the kids in the 70s did because I had to have my butt up and in the station at 5:00 in the morning.
Elton John had hit the scene really big, right when I started in radio. South side of Chicago, we play Jim Croce out of town, b, t o Bachman, Turner Overdrive was my favorite.
And what was it that you liked about it?
Talk about being in heaven for somebody with the show off, Gene. I could go on the air and say, hey, if you're driving down one on one honk and, you know, 15 people would drive by and honk is like that is the coolest nation in the world.
So, yeah, it it fulfilled so many needs in me.
Listening to her tell this story, I was sort of amazed to hear that this woman who seemed to have spoken directly into the ear of this lonely kid up in his bedroom, had herself also been a lonely kid.
You know, my mom had issues. My dad had issues. I found out that my father had actually been married before my mother and had two children that lived half an hour away and we never knew about them. It was this big, deep, dark secret. And they dealt with their issues by kind of shutting down emotionally. And the radio station was just like my sanctuary. It was a safe place. The people there loved me and encouraged me.
They were rock solid people in my life.
And so after she graduated, she wanted to move away from her small town, but she wanted to stay in the world of radio. And eventually she landed a job working the late shift as a deejay at a soft rock radio station in Seattle called Classy.
It was 1984 and it sounded like. Blue jeans, Elton John's softer side, you know, tiny dancer Billy Joel Gill with the smile she can with her eyes, and she said that a lot of nights she'd get these calls from people wanting to hear a certain song and get off the air while the music played.
She'd talk with them and these conversations gave her an idea for her own show and she pitched it to her boss.
I said, people call me and tell me the most fascinating stories. This is really amazing. Can I put it on the air?
And her boss was like, sure, sounds fine.
And so this was the beginning of Delilah starting to find her own signature sound. What did that sound like?
The mood was more mellow. I was trying to put people to sleep.
You have to be out tonight driving. Drive carefully. It's wet and windy and cold. More of the same expected throughout the day tomorrow.
There was more sound effects. I use Gaullists, it was called where it sounds like wind chimes. Use a lot of seagulls and crashing waves for Lisa and Kevin. Congratulations. You two people called mostly when they were falling in love. A lot of relationships just beginning, just budding. I had tons of teenagers calling in.
Well, I want to take a listen to my best friend and a guy she likes. Who a guy named in a class.
But she was also hearing from older listeners with more adult love stories.
When you say ex-husband, I don't feel like you want it to be ex anymore. He's my best friend and is really a very special there.
So if you knew then what you know now, would he be your ex-husband? Probably not. But it's too late now. But we've made the best of the situation and will always be part of each other's life. I will certainly get that on the air for you, Terry. Thank you.
And the show went from number seventeen or eighteen to number one in the market.
It struck a chord in a lot of hearts. And I grew a very strong and faithful audience quickly.
But from early on, Delilah wanted a bigger audience beyond the city, and she started pitching the show around for syndication.
And at each station, the bosses would say, yeah, it's not going to work. I mean, you're number one in Seattle, but that's because you're Seattle's darling daughter. Nobody else will like it.
Then she decided to leave the West Coast completely. Go to Boston.
Then when I got to be number one in Boston, the boss was like, do you want to be syndicated? You need to be in Mourning's or you need to do something like a top 40 countdown. This just won't work. These phone calls won't work.
And she heard this over and over that the phone calls were a fluke, that they wouldn't work.
One of them goes, God, can somebody just tell that broad to sit down and shut up and play the damn music?
But she kept at it.
I had moved to Boston. I had moved to Philly. I had moved back to Boston. And now I had two kids.
And as her life experiences evolved.
Hi, Mom. Hi, sir. You have a good night's sleep.
OK, she brought that onto the show, too.
Can I have a couple of kisses when I come home? OK, I'll just sneak them. All right. Oh yes. I'll just kiss you real quietly.
And then one day in nineteen ninety, the skies of Baghdad have been filled up with the sound of gunfire here. Tonight, the show unexpectedly broadened.
The tone of the show changed dramatically the night that Desert Storm happened.
This conflict started August 2nd, when the dictator of Iraq invaded a small and helpless neighbor, Kuwait.
For whatever reason, in the midst of this geopolitical event, people turned to her.
The phone lines into my studio melted down. People were scared and they were upset and they were afraid for their children, their kids that were in the military. And what does this mean? And it was terrifying. So those things began to change the scope, the flavor of the show from just being about, you know, romance and falling in love and getting married and breaking up and to really the human experience.
And Delilah says that in her career, there's essentially before that night and after that night high.
Yes, it is. Was this is learned three months ago. I called to when my son got in an accident and he was burned. Oh, I remember talking to you. How is he saying? Here beside me, would you like to talk to him? I would love to my husband for six years was struggling with drug abuse and things like that, and our family was basically falling apart. That'll do it. Yeah. Drug abuse.
It wasn't just the nature of the calls that had changed. She also finally started to get that big audience that she had always wanted.
I was high as a kite thinking, oh, my God, my dreams come true. I'm syndicated on four stations.
I'm Delilah on the new ninety four one the sound.
And within a month or two we were up to six stations.
You were here with Delilah, KQED, San Antonio, and then we hit a dozen stations oh ninety three to join the conversation called Alive.
It was so amazing. And that brings us to now.
Twenty five years later, Delilah is syndicated on over 160 radio stations around the country, has many millions of listeners every night, more attention than even she ever dreamed. But when we went out looking for her, trying to track her down for this conversation, we were surprised by where we found her.
I live my life, take care of my kids and check homework and ride horses and can salsa, can pears, can apples, canned applesauce. You know what your grandma used to do?
After years of jumping around from city to city growing her show, Delilah had ultimately moved back to a small town in the Pacific Northwest where again she is living on a farm just like she did when she was little girl. But now she's surrounded by a family of her own creation.
And how many kids do you have? Can I ask? I have 15 and my husband has five.
Wow. She lives with a lot of people. Two elderly parents, 10 horses, two zebras, three dogs, three emus, some pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, two cats and her husband.
How many times have you been married?
Oh, too many to count. Four times by our count. And as we got to ask her the sorts of questions that she's usually asking her listeners, I got married to my first husband, the man that I loved when I was 21, George.
He was like a character in a movie. He was so charming, but not so faithful, if you know what I mean.
We saw just how familiar she is with so much of what it is that they're going through.
And then when we divorced, I jumped out of the frying pan into the fire and I had a very brief six week marriage that was annulled to a man named Gary who turned out to be a drug addict.
Is a really bad decision made on the rebound, but really good for me.
And that it got me into 12 step programs from heartache and addiction to all the complexities that come from being a part of a family.
My husband was black and our son is mixed. My second husband is Hispanic, and so our two children were mixed. Now I've added many, many, many more children through adoption. But what I didn't realize when I started adopting kids with chronic illnesses is that. Sometimes they don't survive. She's lost two children, one to sickle cell anemia, another to suicide, my sister, my kids took turns babysitting me basically for a month or two until I could even breathe.
And she said that the one thing that got her through all of this was other people. Oh, my God. The calls, the letters, the cards. Just unbelievable outpouring of love, not just from my listeners, but my community. So, you know, love, love got us through and will get us through no matter what. But people who don't have that kind of support, I hope that my show is support for them. I hope that my voice and my words is love for them.
Yeah. I mean, there's so many people who don't know that anybody loves them. Yeah.
And I try every day to say on the radio, you know, you are loved when anybody listens. I want them to hear love. I want them to hear peace. I want them to hear hope, especially now. Hi, Elissa. What are you grateful for?
I'm grateful for my boyfriend. I actually just got fired from my job yesterday. He has been such an inspiration. I mean, I put him through hell and I honestly feel kind of guilty because I lost my job. But I was hoping that you could play a song for him just to show him how much I appreciate him and everything that he has done for me, even though that I'm in a really rough spot right now.
OK, before before we have this conversation, I want you to know that I have been fired 12 times. So there's there's no judgment on my part ever these days.
Delilah is doing her show from the farm five nights a week, five hours a night.
I take the calls all night long, starting at about six, 30 or seven o'clock. And I'm in the studio until 11 or 12 o'clock West Coast time.
How many calls are you typically getting in a night? Well, the number of calls we get is crazy.
It's like twenty, thirty thousand a night to our 800 number. Oh my gosh. Yeah.
And while this past year she has been broadcasting amidst the pandemic and protests and through an incredibly polarizing election, when you listen to the show this year, it sounds almost identical to how it's always sounded.
Hi. Good evening. Who is this? This is Tracy. Tracy, what can I do for you? I'm trying really hard to be in the Christmas spirit, but I lost my mom to breast cancer seven weeks ago today, and it's the first Christmas that she won't be with us.
So I was hoping maybe you could play. I'll have a blue Christmas for me and my sisters as we try and get through this first holiday without her. I will do that. But here's my only piece of advice to you. Just give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you're feeling without thinking, oh, it's the holidays.
I have to do this or I have to do that or I have to get into the holidays. This is Delilah. How are you tonight? I'm OK.
I'm missing my husband. He's in the military and he's been gone for quite some time now as she fights back tears. It's pretty miserable when anybody listens. I don't want them to hear frustration. I don't want them to hear panic. I don't want them to hear politics or bipartisan division.
I have been listening to you for years. My boyfriend and I both. He is currently in jail. I want people to feel love in a very tangible which way his drug of choice and what is yours and his drug of choice was heroin, as was mine. We have both been clean for four years. Wow. I'm really proud of you. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. You're taking care of a lot of people.
The more that I've thought about it, the more I think that the reason I responded to Delilah the way that I did driving around in my car is exactly this. She sounds the same. Nothing about what Delilah is doing has changed, but everything else feels so profoundly different so that in this moment, this super simple thing that she's been doing for decades, it feels in its sincerity radical.
To just listen to people to perform the most essential act of love. Giving people attention, this thing that she's always understood, that she wanted and she needed. Right now. It's almost subversive in its earnestness. I want to touch hearts and I want to bring joy, and even with all the craziness going on in the world, I believe I was born for such a time as this that now, more than ever, we need hope. I know it sounds corny, but it's true, Delilah, and I say this with complete respect, can be corny, cheesy at times.
But after this year and everything that we've been through, that cheesiness, that sincerity feels kind of perfect if.
Chisti, a love song, needs a lyric that tells a story.
Don't leave me in your way. And touches your heart, either makes you laugh or makes you cry or makes you swoon.
But I know. I'll think of you every step of the way.
Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love You Later, recorded by Whitney, one of the best love songs lyrically ever written and.
She's saying, I can't be with you because to be with you would hurt you. So it's a Shakespearean tragedy in a four minute song.
You is cheesiness an essential part of love, cheesiness is a definite, essential part of love.
I can hear her heartbeat. Sappy, cheesy cliche is a part of love. Yeah, to pump. Right. Well, thank you so much, Delilah. Yeah, thank you so much, Delilah. This has been really great. All right. Thank you, guys. Bye bye.
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Here's what else you need to know today, when the science changes, we must change our response. When the virus changes its method of attack, we must change our method of defense.
In a dramatic move, Britain lockdown the greater London area over the weekend, citing the out of control transmission of a new variation of the coronavirus.
Residents in those areas must stay at home. Apart from limited exemptions that out, no non-essential retail, indoor gyms and leisure facilities and personal care services was closed.
In a speech on Saturday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the new variation may be 70 percent more transmissible than the original and would require major sacrifices during the holiday season.
Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, the potential risk it poses. It is with a very heavy heart. I must tell you, we cannot continue with Christmas as planned.
Soon after, several neighboring European countries closed their borders to British citizens to avoid importing the new strain of the virus.
And we can finally report what our nation has needed to hear for a very long time. More help is on the way on Sunday night, and Congress finally reached a deal on a stimulus bill that will create enhanced federal unemployment benefits of 300 dollars per week for up to 11 weeks and give many Americans 600 dollars in one time direct payments. Those direct payments will go to both adults and children, meaning that an eligible family of four would receive 2400 dollars. Today's episode was produced by Andy Mills, and Beyoncé gave her with help from Leslie Davis, it was edited by Sara Sarasohn, Wendy Daw and Lisa Tobin and engineered by Chris Wood.
That's it for The Daily, I'm Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow. Before the email notifications begin to pour in, let's give ourselves a good morning, a good morning is a moment to pause and ease into the day. It's a moment to run and chase the sunrise or to gently settle into your routine. A good morning is a moment to be present, to find clarity and to be grounded for the day ahead. Good days. Start with good mornings and good morning.
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