In my sheer boredom as a result of quarantine from the COVID-19 outbreak, I took it upon myself to express some creativity. I often spend hours trying to perfect playlists of music for a variety of reasons. For one, I’m a creative professional and although I’ve always dabbled with playing music, I believe my music appreciation greatly outweighs my abilities to create it. I also believe more than most other art forms, music has a consciousness – an ability to tell you exactly what you need to hear, connect you to like minds, and maybe even change your mind.
So I put together a playlist of 30 songs for quarantined individuals with a couple things in mind. I wanted to include both negative and positive songs in some kind of balance. And, although my preferences lean towards soul, R&B, and blues, I tried to create a playlist with songs from varying eras with diverse voices. If 30 songs isn’t enough for you, I have a larger and even more diverse playlist with over 5 hours of music. Below you’ll find my notes, ramblings, and thoughts on how I built my playlist. I hope you enjoy!
I have to start it out with one of my favorite artists – Marvin Gaye. ‘What’s Going On’ perfectly encapsulates my hope in this exercise in lines “you know we’ve got to find a way to bring some understanding here today.” In a similar vein, N.W.A.’s ‘Express Yourself’ persuasively urges me to put this out in the world as a creative professional without patrons in hopes that it does some good for someone. That’s what art is about right?
There are many versions of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, but none that speaks to my soul more than the original queen, Aretha Franklin. This rendition is one of my favorite pieces of music in the world and Franklin manages to fuse feelings of a dreary situation with buttery hope in her gift of a voice. When in doubt, I always come back to this self-made philosophy – everyone could use a little more Aretha.
In a shift from popular songs, next up is ‘Everybody’ by Anthony Hamilton. This chipper reggae groove just puts me in a good mood. Its happy and simple. Songs like this are definitely a vital commodity especially in a time when “Everybody needs a little sun to shine.” You’ll soon notice the themes of togetherness and aloneness throughout this playlist.
And now for a turn to some angst. Being a freelancer in the entertainment industry is tough during Coronavirus. In times of international struggle, the arts are always the first thing dropped and yet they’re the tool we use most frequently to encapsulate times of strife, and, one could argue, preserve a historical record. In light of this contradiction I thought some sarcasm from ‘The Entertainer’ fitting. “Today I am your champion, I may have one your hearts, But I know the game, you’ll forget my name, And I won’t be here in another year if I don’t stay on the charts. (Billy Joel)” I’ve gone three months now without work and being a self-employed worker, I can’t apply for under or unemployment. Such a skid can take a toll on self-confidence and pride. Theo Katzman’s ‘I Don’t Want to be a Billionaire’ sums up my desires for just a livable wage. Is that such a huge ask? The California Honeydrops encapsulates what working from home with no work feels like in their moody ‘Just Another Day’.
I’m going to take a quick turn into darkness but don’t fret, there’s a point and it’ll be brief. Dave Matthews ‘Eh Hee’ has been on my mind throughout this chaos. It’s a beautiful and scary song with what I gather is a troubled and battling point of view. One stanza in particular though has lodged in my brain and recently resurfaced on a trip to our local grocery store. “Strange evolution how people have come to believe that we are its greatest achievement, when really we’re just a collection of cells overrating ourselves, Hello, God I’m avoiding the truth.”
This virus has shown the true colors of many people. I’m grateful that I have a lot of caring, loving people surrounding me but at times it is difficult to avoid noticing the ‘Mad World’ (Tears for Fears). My parents shared a story about a family friend who had her one package of toilet paper snatched out of her shopping cart when she wasn’t looking. Is this how petty we’ve become? I have grown frustrated and annoyed by the abundance of selfish ‘Better Thee Than Me’ attitudes (Sly and the Family Stone). I don’t often find myself in a constant state of irritation. But when I notice that I am, there’s perhaps no better song to hear than the Across the Universe rendition of ‘Let It Be.’ I could list the beautiful lyrics by a band you already know a great deal about that would apply to this exercise and my feelings but I plead you to just absorb Carol Woods unearthly voice. It brings me to tears. Every time.
Phew. Getting back on track. In this difficult time, I have taken the time to develop other professional skills that are not my strengths. I tell myself, sometimes ‘It’s Good to Be Alone’ (Theo Katzman). And often to my wife’s sadness, I will stay up long ‘After Midnight’ (Eric Clapton) to work on myself – writing, reading, studying. It’s in this space, by myself, that I can let the voices in my head get into their barfights, dust off, and finally calm down.
Speaking of my wife, Kate, she is always the reason I crawl out of my own dark holes. Christian Scott’s soothing ‘Katrina’s Eyes’ reminds me of her and how gracefully she puts up with my shit. I know my moods can weigh on her, especially recently, and if she ever needs something I batter my brain to remind her to ‘Take Mine’ (Joey Dosik). Kate somehow actually appreciates that “I keep my dirt on the surface so you don’t gotta dig.” Allen Stone’s ‘Where You’re At’ speaks to me just the way that she does – always positive, always seeing the light. Taking a page from James Taylor, I’m just trying to ‘Shower the People’ you love with love.
I have been more religious in times past but Al Green’s ‘God Is Standing By’ is a great soulful comfort. The gaggle of backup vocalists weave a lullaby-esque tapestry and don’t be misled by the title, the song is not overly preachy. As my focus now shifts to togetherness, it would be wrong to not include Andra Day’s gorgeous ‘Rise Up.’ This song fills even the most polite and unobtrusive person with a loud strength. And to counter that swell of bravado Allen Toussaint serves an equally important yet groovy reminder that ‘We Are All Connected.’ At least that’s my view.
A view I wish I had, is one “riding along in my automobile, my baby beside me at the wheel.” Chuck Berry teases me these days while I have ‘No Particular Place To Go.’ My cousins once shared a song with me that will forever remind me of their knack of finding humor in almost any situation. That song, aptly titled ‘Beer Run’ (Todd Snider), is the only thing I’ve used my automobile for latley. Although I feel like I lack a purpose, sometimes living a carefree life is just what the doctor ordered (sorry, not a great pun right now). Ramblin’ Jack Elliot’s ‘San Francisco Bay Blues’ aids my dreams about partaking in some ramblin’ in a far-off corner of the world rather than my shoebox ranch house.
We’re coming to the end and I feel that one more jolt of energy couldn’t be a bad thing because ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ (The Darkness). In times like these, we may feel like begging for ‘Mercy’ (Dave Matthews Band) or maybe just a little ‘Shelter from the Storm’ (Bob Dylan). Through this exercise I am reminded that there are many wiser voices than my own to help me get through this. There are also much tougher life circumstances you could be dealing with than temporary unemployment and distaste for a scrambling public’s reaction to a world crisis. As we wonder ‘How Long Do I Have To Wait For You?’ (Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings), speaking directly to the little bastard virus now, I will keep in mind that that ‘The Power of Love’ (Huey Lewis and the News), “Might just save your life.” So I have put myself out there, as creatives do, and shared some other great art as well.
I’ve shared this overindulgent silliness mostly because I’ve needed to. I’ll call it quarantine catharsis. But I do hope that this was fun for you, or at the very least, passed some time in your own personal sterile shoebox.
And with that, I offer you two parting thoughts. First, ‘Don’t Let It Bring You Down’ (Neil Young). And perhaps, most importantly, ‘Que Sera, Sera [Whatever Will Be, Will Be]’ (Sly and the Family Stone).