Happy Monday, folks. I spent last week visiting family in Oklahoma; specifically, I went to see my grandparents. They’re all getting up there in years (all of them are now well into their 90s), and their health is in decline. They take it with the same sort of Okie stoicism I’ve come to know from them over the past 40-odd years, but it doesn’t make it any easier to see these remarkably strong people become increasingly weaker and less able to do things they used to do with such ease.
Of particular concern is my maternal grandmother. She, like her husband before her, has started to suffer from dementia. We finally got her into an assisted living center last month, but that was a trial and a half and thank God it’s over. While she seemed resistant to it at first, she seems to have settled in and is doing quite nicely. She likes all of the staff and she’s made friends and is participating in activities. Everyone keeps talking about how sweet she is, to which I replied, “Really? My grandmother? The sour-faced lady?” But she does seem to be genuinely happy for the first time in . . . years, I’d say. Since before my grandfather got poorly, at least.
Anyway, all of that had me thinking about memory and the things we carry with us and the things that we try to carry with us but, ultimately, can’t, and this playlist popped out.
- Glen Campbell, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”: Glen Campbell suffered from Alzheimer’s, and toward the end of his life couldn’t really do much as that disease robbed him of everything that made him, him. But he gave us one last song, and damn if it isn’t a doozy. Contemplating life, death, and loss, he reflects on the fact that while the Alzheimer’s might be destroying him, it’s really those around him who will suffer from it.
- The Pixies, “I Can’t Forget”: The Pixies cover a Leonard Cohen song. About trying to remember but being unable to do so.
- Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”: A long, sinuous jam of a song, the sort I’m usually not that in to. But this one is pretty good, as those things go.
- Billy Bragg & Wilco, “Remember The Mountain Bed”: Woody Guthrie’s words are so evocative here, so painfully, painstakingly clear, that I can picture the mountain bed of the title in my mind. I can picture the girl, and the leaves, and the boy lying beside her, whispering things to one another that are just on the edge of hearing. And it feels a little bittersweet. This is clearly a moment from the distant past, a stolen piece of time between two people who are no longer in each other’s lives. And it’s beautiful and ephemeral and it’s one of my favorite songs ever.
- Jars of Clay, “Unforgetful You”: Now, just for a minute, forget that the song is a Jesus song. I know, it’s hard to take it out of that context, but work with me here. It’s still a fun song about someone who absolutely refuses to forget about you, and we all kinda need someone like that in our lives.
- The Mountain Goats, “You Or Your Memory”: Once more proving the adage that there’s not a playlist yet that can’t be improved with a Mountain Goats song, we’ve got this one. As per usual, Darnielle cuts through the noise and rips out your heart, and he does it all in under 2 and a half minutes. That’s just efficient.
- Neko Case, “Don’t Forget Me”: It’s an old cover. It’s beautifully sung, because it’s Neko Case. I don’t know what else you need to hear.
- Peter Gabriel, “I Don’t Remember”: This song and the Glen Campbell song were the two that sparked this whole playlist. The Gabriel song is edgy and nervous, anxious about the loss of memory, while the Campbell song is resigned to it and leaning in.
- Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, “If I Am A Stranger”: There were quite a few Ryan Adams songs I could have put on this list (and more than one from the album Cold Roses), but I settled on this one because I remember my grandfather going from knowing everyone who was around him to being surrounded by strangers. I think it scared him sometimes, not recognizing our faces.
- George Harrison, “All Things Must Pass”: The song I always come back to for comfort. George understood the world and our place in it better than just about any other musician, and he understood that death comes for everyone eventually. And he accepted that with grace and dignity. It’s just wild to me, and helps me come to terms with things myself.
Wednesday is the new Monday, am I right?
- Vaydra, “Talk To God”: The new single from the lady who sings with my brother, except it’s not the band they’re in together but a different band she formed that plays psychedelia. It’s pretty good. Check ’em out.
- Jake Blount, “The Downward Road”: Heard this guy on a Vox video talking about the importance of the banjo in historically black music. The song itself is pretty cool, drawing from traditional African American folk music and contemporary rap and hip-hop. I dig it.
- Glen Campbell, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”: Glen Campbell died in 2017 from Alzheimer’s, and he wrote and recorded this song just before that happened. It’s a stark look at what Alzheimer’s and dementia do to a person, erasing their personality and memories until there’s nothing left there. But it doesn’t really hurt them, it hurts the people around them who watch that person erode. It is one of my greatest fears that I’ll get dementia or Alzheimer’s and become a burden to those I love and not even know it.
- Rilo Kiley, “The Moneymaker”: I hadn’t listened to this album since the year it came out (which was . . . holy crap, 2007?!). This song holds up, I think, though the More Adventurous album is still my favorite of theirs.
- Stevie Ray Vaughn, “Pride and Joy”: Sometimes, you need some low-down, dirty, Texas blues (or “blooze”). This is one of those times.
- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Straight Into Darkness”: Tom Petty is one of those guys who, even when he put out a mediocre album, it still has great songs on it. ‘Cause a mediocre Tom Petty song is better than about 70% of everything that comes out.
- Aimee Mann, “Looking For Nothing”: If you told me the only musician I was allowed to listen to for the rest of my life was Aimee Mann, I would not be entirely disappointed with that. You could do much worse.
- Drive-By Truckers, “Everybody Needs Love”: They do.
- Brian Fallon, “If Your Prayers Don’t Get To Heaven”: This dude absolutely loves the early ’60s girl groups and doo-wop and I am freakin’ here for it, yo.
- Led Zeppelin, “Fool In The Rain”: I love the drumming on this one.
Monday Thursday, everyone! Sorry about this week’s list being late. Stuff happened. Feel free to follow me on Patreon, though! This week’s list is courtesy of Don Henley of the Eagles, where he lists his eleven favorite country songs. Here they are:
- Buck Owens, “Act Naturally”: The Beatles covered this one. It was a Ringo song! This version, the original, is quite a bit different, and far more twangy, than the Beatles’ version.
- Merle Haggard, “Silver Wings”: I mostly know Merle from songs like “Living With The Shades Pulled Down” and “Okie From Muskogee,” so this softer, more tender side of his is interesting to hear.
- Matraca Berg, “If I Had Wings”: Beautiful and haunting. Love this one.
- Trisha Yearwood, “Dreaming Fields”: I didn’t expect such a light touch from Trisha Yearwood. I was pleasantly surprised.
- Ray Charles, “I Can’t Stop Loving You”: I loved when this was used in the anime movie Metropolis, as the city is destroyed and everything comes crashing down.
- Patsy Cline, “Crazy”: Man, how amazing and wonderful is Patsy Cline’s voice? That woman had such control over her instrument.
- Willie Nelson, “Always On My Mind”: I always dig Willie Nelson’s stuff, and this is one of his best.
- Jamey Johnson, “Good Times Ain’t What They Used To Be”: The chicken pickin’ in this one is just phenomenal.
- Emmylou Harris, “Together Again”: Love her voice. It’s always amazing.
- Linda Ronstadt, “Silver Thread And Golden Needles”: This woman can shred, and while she doesn’t necessarily cut loose on this particular song, she still plays the hell out of it.
- Glen Campbell, “By The Time I Got To Phoenix”: Lovely and referenced by the Old 97s in “The Other Shoe.”
It’s my sister-in-law’s birthday this Thursday, so this week’s playlist is a Meredith playlist!
- Cher, “If I Could Turn Back Time”: I’ve yet to meet a Branco who doesn’t love this song.
- Mumford & Sons, “Little Lion Man”: Does it ever bother anyone else that his guitar strumming doesn’t seem to be in time with the rest of the song? ‘Cause it bothers me to no end.
- Glen Campbell, “MacArthur Park”: Have I featured this song on another playlist? I don’t recall. It’s a bizarre song, though, and I kind of love it. So does Meredith.
- Men At Work, “Who Can It Be Now?”: When I asked Meredith what she wanted for her personal ringtone on my phone, this was the song she picked. It’s a good ‘un.
- The Offspring, “Staring at the Sun”: Who doesn’t love rock’n’roll singers who also have PhDs?
- Muse, “Starlight”: I’ve never really listened to Muse much. I always kinda thought they were a bargain-bin Radiohead. I was wrong. They’re pretty catchy.
- Coldplay, “In My Place”: Re-listening to this song inspired me to go back and listen to the whole album again. It’s still pretty damn good.
- Cake, “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”: Who doesn’t want a girl with smooth liquidation?
- Green Day, “King For A Day”: An uptempo song about being a crossdresser that doesn’t get all weird and transphobic about it.
- Linkin Park, “One Step Closer”: I’m about to break.