We spent the weekend up in New York, attending a funeral for my wife’s grandfather who passed suddenly late last week. It got me thinking about things like when I die and, me being me, the music I’d like played at my own funeral. This list is by no means exhaustive; a true funerary playlist would have to be at least three times this long. But these are the top ten songs I’d like played when I die.
- Iron & Wine, “Hard Times Come Again No More”: Funerals are often somber affairs. They don’t have to be, but they often are. This song carries that tone well.
- The Beatles, “Let It Be”: Preferably one of the versions with a George Harrison guitar solo, because I like George Harrison guitar solos.
- Harry Nilsson, “Many Rivers To Cross”: Sure, Nick Hornby may prefer the Jimmy Cliff version, but this is the one for me.
- Van Morrison, “Caravan (Live)”: Again, much like Nick Hornby, I love the live version of this song from the Too Late To Stop Now double live album, even if it does have the unfortunate circumstances of including band introductions halfway through. But all those guys will probably be dead by the time I die, and I’m willing to share the spotlight a bit.
- Bob Dylan, “I Shall Be Released”: I mean, it’s more about getting out of jail than getting out of this life, but I think it still works.
- Sean Watkins, “Let It Fall”: This song always felt like it belong over the closing credits to some heartfelt romantic drama. Or the end of one’s life.
- George Harrison, “All Things Must Pass”: No one does the transitory nature of existence better than George Harrison.
- Gin Blossoms, “Pieces Of The Night”: Life could just be one long night at the bar, trying to find someone, anyone, to spend just a moment with, a moment that might mean something. Or maybe I’ve already had too much gin.
- The National, “Gospel”: “Hang your holiday rainbow lights in the garden.”
- Wilco, “What Light”: This song is very simple. Many Wilco songs are. But it’s also transcendent. And I think it’d be nice to have a choir of my friends sing it.
So, as must come to pass eventually for all, I’ve gotten sick. I’ve gotten Covid. I blame Tennessee. But I have not forgotten you, and in my fever-hazed mind, I have put together a playlist for this week.
- Neko Case, “Fever”: So actually, I had a fever late last week, but it broke pretty quick and I’ve been fine since then. The Wife, on the other hand, keeps getting fevers of upwards of 103.
- MC Hammer, “U Can’t Touch This”: Please keep your distance, I might still be contagious.
- The Police, “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”: Did you not hear what I just said? Stay at least six feet away at all times. Further, honestly, if you don’t mind.
- AC Newman, “Miracle Drug”: I’ll admit, I think the vaccines are pretty damn amazing and I’m glad I got them. If there were something I could take right now to get rid of feeling like garbage, I would.
- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Something In The Air (Live)”: What, another Tom Petty song, after last week? Yes. It’s on-theme.
- Toad the Wet Sprocket, “Something’s Always Wrong”: I’ve felt like crap since last Wednesday. It’s always something new.
- They Might Be Giants, “I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die”: There’s still lots I want to do before I’m ready to kick the bucket, and I hope I get old enough to do at least most of them.
- Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, “The Pharmacist v. The Secret Stars”: I’ll be honest, I really like Ted Leo and I mostly chose this song because his backing band is called the Pharmacists.
- Spoon, “Everything Hits At Once”: I was fine last Tuesday. Woke up Wednesday feeling kinda meh. By Thursday, I was spending the entire day asleep because I felt absolutely awful.
- Van Morrison, “And The Healing Has Begun”: Given Van’s recent bizarre rants about Covid and lockdowns and whatnot, it seems a little silly to include him on this playlist, but I do feel like I’m on the mend now. Still definitely not 100%, but improving every day.
Happy Monday morning and Happy Indigenous Persons Day! Today, I feel like dancing.
- Elliott Smith, “XO (Waltz #2)”: “Here it is, the revenge to the tune/You’re no good” is just one of the best lines ever.
- Bruce Springsteen, “Dancing In The Dark”: Who doesn’t want to drag Courtney Cox up onto stage to dance with the Boss?
- ABBA, “Dancing Queen”: Oddly enough, not the first song I thought of when I came up with this theme.
- Frank Turner, “Four Simple Words”: This is the song that inspired the playlist. “I want to dance/I want to dance/I want lust and love and a smattering of romance/But I’m no good at dancing/But I have to do something.” C’mon, that’s a great chorus.
- Van Morrison, “Moondance”: Van has gotten progressively weirder and more irascible as he’s aged, but this song (and the whole album of the same name) remains solid gold.
- jeremy messersmith, “It’s Only Dancing”: Dude decided a couple of years ago to decenter his ego by no longer capitalizing his name, which…that’s not how proper nouns work, Jer. That’s not how they work at all. Still a good song, though.
- John Mellencamp, “Dance Naked”: Excellent advice, as long as nobody’s watching.
- Dire Straits, “Walk Of Life”: I’m pretty sure the walk of life is a dance. If it isn’t, it ought to be.
- Calexico, “Sunken Waltz”: Any excuse to include a Calexico song on a playlist is fine by me.
- Tom Waits, “Tom Traubert’s Blues”: Included due to the “Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda/You’ll go waltzing Matilda with me” in the chorus. It’s sad and sweet and touching and heartbreaking all at once.
Did you think I’d forgotten? That I had decided to stop posting weekly playlists? No! I’ve just been visiting family in Oklahoma, and not everyone has reliable wi-fi. Anyway, here’s last week’s and this week’s lists. *EDIT* Now with links to the playlists on Spotify!
- Jelly Roll Morton, “Black Bottom Stomp”: There are legends (likely started by Jelly Roll himself) that he created jazz and that this is the first recorded jazz song. I’m not real sure on all that, but it is a good song.
- The Hotdamns, “Gina Lynn”: Our friend Danielle was in this band back in the day, and they’re really good. Y’all should check out their two releases available on iTunes.
- The High Kings, “Galway Girl”: I think I have this song because an after-school jam group I was playing with was doing it. It’s Irish and fun, as those things tend to be.
- Healthy White Baby, “Strong Reactor”: Great band, terrible name. Part of my web of Wilco-related groups (the bassist, Laurie Stirratt, is sibling to Wilco’s bassist John Stirratt). Ask me and I’ll gladly tell you. of how almost a dozen bands are all connected via the band Wilco.
- Faces, “Three Button Hand Me Down”: A fun story song about the suit that the orphan kid got when he left the orphanage and how it’s served him well all these years.
- Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, “Good Light”: A rootsy tune by a dude with an amazing beard.
- Dire Straits, “The Man’s Too Strong”: Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the Dire Straits album cuts are a little weak sometimes. For every “Sultans of Swing,” there’s a “Les Boys.” But this one slaps, folks.
- Spoon, “Do You”: I could just listen to the album this song is off of, They Want My Soul, over and over again, and frequently have.
- Monsters of Folk, “Say Please”: A collaboration between the likes of Connor Oberst, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, M. Ward, and Mike Mogis should be pretty damn good, but the album this song is off of falls pretty short of the God-tier supergroups like the Traveling WIlburys. This song is alright, though
- The Offspring, “Self Esteem”: A couple weeks back, I was playing guitar at my dad’s house, and my step-brother’s son, Bryson, apparently really like this song by the Offspring. It’s just three chords, so it was easy to learn. Hard to sing, though.
- Van Morrison, “The Great Deception”: I’ve been borrowing my father’s Mustang Mach 1 while I’ve been visiting (a very fun car to drive, let me tell you), and Van’s Hard Nose the Highway was one of the few CDs I borrowed from him to listen to in the car. I’ve heard “The Great Deception” about a dozen times in the past two weeks, and I’m still not tired of it.
- Lizzo & Cardi B, “Rumors”: It slaps. Lizzo drops what the young folks might refer to as knowledge on ya, and it’s just a really well-done pop/rap song.
- Shania Twain, “That Don’t Impress Me Much”: Is it possible to not sing along with this song when it comes on? I posit that it is, in fact, impossible not to sing along.
- Neil Young, “Harvest”: My brother played the dance remix version of this song for me last night. I now question everything I ever thought I understood about music.
- Placebo, “You Don’t Care About Us”: The ’90s were a wild time, weren’t they? Yes, yes they were.
- Uncle Tupelo, “Whiskey Bottle”: “Whiskey bottle over Jesus/Not forever, but just for now.” Chills, man.
- Zoe Keating, “Optimist”: I don’t usually listen to strictly instrumental music. I make an exception for Zoe Keating, a cellist who can make that thing sit up and beg if you want her to.
- The Killers, “Somebody Told Me”: Clyde maintains this is the best band (and their best album) of the 21st century. He might be right.
- Linda Ronstadt, “When Will I Be Loved?” I heard my uncle play this particular song so many times back in college and graduate school when he was playing in a country cover band. It is not recommended that you try to two-step to this one.
- Old Crow Medicine Show, “Wagon Wheel”: The bane of open mics across the southwest, but still a fun and easy song to rock out to.
Happy Monday! And happy Flag Day! And happy birthday to my middle brother, Clyde (not his real name, but it’s what we all call him)! Today’s playlist is made up of songs he’d like.
- Hank Williams, “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)”: Ol’ Hank Sr. does things his way, which involves writing songs about jambalaya and gumbo apparently.
- Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, “Faded Love”: A beloved Okie who made a name for himself with a buncha Texans. Used to play the Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa a lot back in the 1920s, I believe. This is some good ol’ fashioned sad dancin’ music.
- The Elected, “Sun, Sun, Sun”: More recent sad dancin’ music from one of the guys who was in Rilo Kiley (the guy who used to date Jenny Lewis, specifically).
- Feist and Ben Gibbard, “Train Song”: A few years ago, my brother and the young woman who sings with him, Kelly, did a cover of this song and put it on Youtube. Note that the song is (correctly) attributed to Vashti Bunyan, who did it originally, rather than as a Feist/Ben Gibbard joint, which would’ve gotten them many, many more views, I’m sure. C’est la vie.
- Van Morrison, “I Wanna Roo You (Scottish Derivative)”: Best Van Morrison song. Period.
- Iron & Wine with Calexico, “Prison on Route 41”: The last concert Clyde and I got to go to was back in February 2020, and it was to see these guys. They’re damn good. I’m ready to see concerts again.
- Merle Haggard, “Living With the Shades Pulled Down”: When he was courtin’ his wife, Clyde asked me to put together a mix CD for her (this is our love language). This song was on there. It’s good.
- M. Ward, “To Save Me”: When I was up in Pennsylvania visiting my brother a couple of weekends ago (for the first time since the Pandemic started), he played this song and asked what I thought of it. “I think M. Ward owes Jeff Lynne some royalties,” I replied, because this just sounds like an ELO song. A damn good ELO song, but an ELO song.
- Skee-Lo, “I Wish”: Clyde had this CD when he was a kid and he really liked it. He also had Bone Thugs ‘n’ Harmony and Blackstreet. What I’m saying is that my brother had slightly more street cred than I did in middle school, when I was mostly listening to the Beatles and Pink Floyd.
- Rolling Stones, “Tumbling Dice”: Included for the explicit reason that he absolutely hates this song. Detests it. And what kind of brother would I be if I didn’t give just a little nudge now and again?
Here’s this week’s playlist. I was feeling a little more melancholy this week than last, which I feel is reflected in the selections.
- Josh Ritter, “Come and Find Me”: Pretty sure most of this song is just a G chord with little variations to keep it interesting.
- The Lemonheads, “Into Your Arms”: One of my team teachers loves the Lemonheads (she’s seen them in concert dozens if not hundreds of times) and I learned how to play this song on the guitar for her. It’s a good and simple song.
- The Low Millions, “Eleanor”: Did you know Leonard Cohen’s son had a band? And it was this band? And they never put out another album other than the one this song is on? It’s all true.
- The Marshall Tucker Band, “Can’t You See”: I’m a sucker for songs with a real simple chord progression, and this one is just D, C, G, D the entire way through. That’s it. No variation, no chorus, nothing but those three chords.
- The National, “90-Mile Water Wall”: My favorite part of this early song from the National is that you can hear the lead singer breathing into the microphone if you listen for it.
- Neko Case, “Margaret and Pauline”: Such a beautiful song and character sketch. The juxtaposition of the two characters is sad and gorgeous.
- Sturgill Simpson, “Keep It Between the Lines”: Part of the album Simpson wrote ostensibly as advice to his newly-born child, this one advises the listener to, “Stay in school/stay off the hard stuff and/keep it’ tween the lines.” Good advice for anyone, really.
- Uncle Tupelo, “High Water”: There was a time in graduate school where I became more than a little obsessed with everything even tangentially related to the band Wilco, which included Jeff Tweedy’s original band Uncle Tupelo. This song, from their fourth and final album, is a good indicator of why I liked them so much if not really representative of what they did as a band (think “punk country” or “alt-country,” if you will).
- Van Morrison, “Wonderful Remark”: Specifically, the version from the Philosopher’s Stone collection of outtakes and rarities. The original version is awesome, too, though this one somehow feels more striped down without the overwhelming piano of the original (and this one has flute).
- Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, “Friends”: Ryan Adams, I think we can all agree, has some problems. Dude is terrible to women and suffers from diarrhea of the recording studio (remember those times he put out three albums in a single calendar year? Yeah, I said times, plural, ’cause he’s done it more than once). But this song, from the double-album Cold Roses (which I still insist would have made one of the finest single albums of his career if he’d just cut some of the fat from the two-disc set), is still one of the best he’s ever written or committed to tape.