What's my favorite song? That's a tough question, and this playlist is my answer. I don't know that I could ever pick just one song. These are the cuts that I listen to, and that mean something to me. I have lots of memories and stories tied up with them, and I share a portion of those tales on this list. Surely you will recognize some of the tracks here, but probably you'll find some that you don't, and hopefully I can help you discover some good music. You might notice that some numbers are missing, including number 1, and that's because the linked videos are no longer available, so those songs have been removed from the list.
This page only includes a few recent bits. If you'd like to read some older ones, the previous link below will take you to the post before the last one, on my Blogspot runway, which has links to earlier writings. The Master List page has links to all of the playlist Blogspot articles. However, my earliest playlist rambles, before Song 185, only live on this website, since I didn't start posting on Blogspot until February of 2014.
(Sunday, 5/24/20) Song 513: Come As You Are by Nirvana, written by Kurt Cobain. You can find a YouTube video of it here. When Nirvana's second album Nevermind showed up at the end of the summer in 1991, it got a lot of attention, and rightly so, I thought. I particularly liked the sound of this follow-up single (and I also really enjoy the video the band did for the hit, which I saw for the first time today). I had recently decided to feature a Nirvana track in this stretch as I got close to finishing the second edition of my book Expecting the Broken Brain to Do Mental Pushups, having finally had the time to complete the rewrite. The paperback focuses on my step-by-step understanding of psychiatric disorders, and about 2/3 of the way along that journey, the unfolding tragedy of Mr. Cobain's bipolar trauma, which led him to commit suicide, played a major role in putting together the puzzle for me. At the time that he killed himself, I had no comprehension, or respect, for the suffering that motivated him to pull the trigger, but a few years after, The Sock Drawer Moment (chapter 14) happened, and the necessary pieces fell into place. As I mention in the following chapter, I later said to a psychiatrist that Kurt sacrificed his life for the sake of his art, and the doctor replied, "Yes, he did!" I now have a lot more regard for the man than I did when he ended his life, and while it does sound ironic to hear him sing I don't have a gun, I certainly can venerate him for turning an old enemy into a friend, as the lyrics of this cut picture him doing.
(Sunday, 5/17/20) Song 512: Traffic Jam by James Taylor, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of it here. I had become a major JT fan during the summer of 1970 when I introduced my fellow camp counselors to Sweet Baby James, which fascinated them as much as me, to the point where that LP hit the turntable almost every day, in the months before Fire and Rain hit the charts. Seven years later, when Mr. Taylor released an album called JT, it had a few tracks that immediately grabbed my attention, including this one that appears just before the record's closer. Living in the Chicago area at the time, I all-too-often had also found myself in a situation where I could have given voice to the phrase Damn this traffic jam! Getting to know the cut, I felt most impressed with the couplet at the end, which expresses a perceptive view of the foundational dilemma on the road ahead: I used to think that I was cool running around on fossil fuel until I saw what I was doing was riding down the road to ruin. Now, a little over 4 decades later, a large proportion of our human comrades recognize what he, and I, did back then. Of course, with the current pandemic lockdowns, we have a lot fewer traffic jams, and a lot cleaner air across the globe, but as we gradually return to normalcy, our fossil fuel challenges will return as well. However, if you drive an EV, or a hybrid, getting stuck in a traffic jam won't hurt your motor, won't create any pollution, and usually won't waste any power, even if it takes fifteen minutes to go three blocks.
(Sunday, 5/10/20) Song 511: Long Tall Sally by Little Richard, written by Enotris Johnson, Robert Blackwell and Richard Penniman. You can find a YouTube video of it here. This particular lanky woman appears on the playlist today as a way to honor Little Richard, who sadly just passed away, but who did make it well past his 87th birthday. I first met this female incarnation via The Beatles, and I certainly enjoyed getting to know her. When the Fab Four rocked my world back in the winter of my seventh grade, I wrongly believed that they and their fellow British Invaders had created RnR, but I finally started digging deeper into the real story around the turn of the 1970s, when I arrived at college and got a subscription to Rolling Stone that began filling in the blanks for me, as did a 1950s revival that also happened on the radio during the same era. I soon came to appreciate the role that shouters like Little Richard had played in laying the groundwork for the music that had grabbed me, and I often concluded, with cuts like this one, that if I had heard the original versions, I would probably have become a fan of that pioneering bunch even before a certain February 1964 Ed Sullivan Show. In spite of the rough current unfolding reality that can make things feel all wrong, I urge folks to have some fun tonight listening to this track, and when you do, let it make you feel like everything's all right.
(Monday, 5/4/20) Song 510: Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, written by Neil Young. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Today being the 50th anniversary of the Kent State Massacre, it seemed like an appropriate moment to feature the stirring opus that Mr. Young wrote about the horrific incident. I had to do the post a day late this week due to a minor sickness that kept me in bed yesterday, but maybe that actually turns out to be a good thing. During my freshman year at NU, I joined a mass demonstration protesting the Nixon/Kissinger bombing campaign of Cambodia which would end up killing millions of innocent civilians. That day, a similar protest happened at Kent State, and there, national guard soldiers fired at the crowd, killing 4 students. On hearing the news about the shooting, we at NU had a bigger and louder follow-up mass demonstration, as did many other campuses across the country. When summer rolled around, I spent a good portion of it working as a counselor and music teacher at a music and art summer camp near Camptown, PA, where I heard no news whatsoever about the rest of the world, so I missed the release of this amazing hit. However, not long after I returned to Evanston, IL, at the end of the summer, I did get to hear it, and it gave me chills the first time around because it painted such a clear and compelling picture of what happened in May in Ohio. On a side note, at our protest on 5/4, someone approached me with a petition to have Nixon impeached, and I reacted by saying, "But if he got removed, then we'd have Agnew as president!" Given that reality, I couldn't sign the paper, no matter how much I might have agreed with its POV.
(Sunday, 4/26/20) Song 509: Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of it here. This hit came along around the time I put on a cap and gown to accept my HS diploma, and not long after the initial release, my best friend's younger brother sold his 45 to me, as he often did, and it spun on the turntable a lot that summer. I found the B-side Dig In engaging as well, and I might possibly feature that cut on this list one of these weeks. I had previously noticed Neil's name attached to a couple of Monkees songs I really liked, and this track added another layer to my appreciation for his talent. In the early months of 1974, I had an extended gig as a piano player for a pizza joint, and I regularly tossed this tune into the mix, particularly since it usually got a very good reception. I had decided to add this recording to the list a few weeks ago when I came across the Rolling Stone article about Diamond's virus-related version (which can be found here). Ironically, with the pandemic, it might feel like bad times never seemed so bad, but then, listening to the record, it can remind the listener of when good times never seemed so good, and perhaps that alone can bring some comfort to the present day.
(Sunday, 4/19/20) Song 508: Ain't No Sunshine by Bill Withers, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Sadly, Bill left the land of the living a few weeks ago, due to heart complications, and this track provides a good example of why he will be missed. Given the cloudy and snowy weather that has come my way in the past week or two, the cut also seems to fit the current moment quite well, though thankfully, I do still have a female companion to share my living space with, and her company means even more than usual, due to the pandemic situation that continues to surround us. Understanding that It's not warm when she's away, the recent coatings of white stuff add another layer to that appreciation, especially because she's always gone too long any time she goes away. And I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I ought to leave the young thing alone, particularly since she is a whole 3 years younger than me and she only recently turned 65, but Ain't No Sunshine when she's gone.
(Sunday, 4/12/20) Song 507: A Riff in Time by Gregg Cagno, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Seven weeks after my previous personal friend song post, this week's amusing spin comes from my good buddy Gregg. While I don't recall ever hearing him do this tune during the era when we were hanging around the same stages, the Riff in Time - actually, many of the riffs, along with a few of the lines - certainly do sound familiar. He and I both made our way through many of the same late-night scenes, campfire circles and open-mic dreams, as well as different ones in unrelated spheres, and along those journeys, we both learned this riff that's rollin' around that has been onstage in many a town. Like my good friend, I also heard it first in a Steamroller Blues, and he's correct in asserting that Tradition's passed along with no one keepin' score, so If it sounds good, good chance it's been done before. Perhaps we could call that a basic rule of fingerboard.
(Sunday, 4/5/20) Song 506: Louie Louie by The Kingsmen, written by Richard Berry. You can find a YouTube video of it here. The main reason to feature this track this week is that Saturday, 4/11, just so happens to be Louie Louie Day. Also, The Kingsmen actually recorded their version on 4/6, so tomorrow will be the 57th anniversary of that particular session, which ended up costing the band $50, according to the Wikipedia article about it. I'd say that the quintet definitely got their money's worth from that studio adventure, and the rest of us got a very captivating spin out of the deal. I don't recall the first time I got to hear the cut, but I believe that at some point during my HS years it showed up on my radar as a classic golden oldie, and I certainly agreed with that assessment. It also didn't take long to learn how to play it, and the piece would often enliven guitar circles that I joined at various events, whether chosen by me or some other member of the group. At such entertaining gatherings, I would rarely think how I'll make it home, but I would enthusiastically jump in with the chorus when it came time to sing Let's go, even though most of us at that moment were not really thinking about leaving.