Dec. 9, 2010
The new issue of Rolling Stone magazine is filled with playlists composed by famous musicians. Bono chose his favorite David Bowie songs. Rod Stewart picks his top Sam Cooke songs. Ozzy Osbourne cues up the Beatles. Elton John picks out new pop classics by the likes of Amy Winehouse, Eminem, Lady Gaga and Kanye West. Ice Cube lays out his universe of West Coast hip-hop. Iggy Pop on Chicago blues. Pete Seeger on folk music. Lucinda Williams on country women.
Jackson Browne chooses his 15 favorite Springsteen songs. Most of his choices wouldn't be on my Springsteen list. That's what makes Springsteen Springsteen.
These are songs that for one reason or another meant something to them when they were young and really listening. The music we listen to defines us, stamps itself on us forever during the dancing years.
Bono says David Bowie meant to England and Ireland what Elvis meant to America.
If you weren't there, Tom Petty says, it's hard to believe "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "I Saw Her Standing There" changed everything. You and I were there.
Everybody has a personal playlist, if not on an iPod then in their head or on the records in boxes in the basement. Someone's playlist is their diary.
Here's the one on my iPod:
* Sarah McLachlan singing Tom Waits' "Ol' 55," for the swooning melody and this: "As I pulled away slowly, feeling so holy. God I was feeling alive."
* Led Zeppelin's "Dancing Days," the original trance music. Pay no attention to the dopey lyrics. The transporting sound is all that matters.
* A version of "Walk Away Rene" because it's a melancholy rock 'n' roll treasure.
* Elvis Costello singing "Alison" at Neil Young's Bridge Concert, with Neil adding harmony. Still angry and wistful. Neil Young is on the playlist, too, singing "Comes a Time," a song that kept me company after California became home.
* Jon Martyn's "Head and Heart," a sweet invitation to bare yourself to someone. We heard it on the radio one day when you visited me in California. A DJ told us the station manager removed it from their playlist because we'd requested the song too many times. "Love me like a child."
* The Allman Brothers' "Statesboro Blues," because if not for the Allman Brothers and the Rolling Stones, a lot of Midwestern white boys wouldn't have heard the blues.
* "That's When Miracles Occur," a song by an obscure singer/songwriter named Andy Pratt. He sounds vulnerable and strong at the same time. He was the new male before anybody knew we needed one.
* The Clash doing "London Calling," a fine anarchic sing-along song for vacuuming.
* Don Henley singing "The Boys of Summer" because it evokes that freewheeling time and place, and songs to move to don't get any better.
* Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run," a song that still captures the power and spirit of rock 'n' roll. "I wanna die with you Wendy on the street tonight in an everlasting kiss." He's also on the playlist succinctly describing the mysteries of women in "Secret Garden."
* Bruce Cockburn's "The Tibetan Side of Town" because it captures the thrill of being in the etheric crossroads called Kathmandu. The air is thin in the Himalayas, and so is the separation between cloud and man.
These songs and the people who made them didn't change the world. They just changed me. And your playlist?
Sam Blackwell is a former reporter for the Southeast Missourian.