Mix Tape Friday: Musical Roots
My life is ruled by my passions. I absolutely adore or abhor things. The passion that burns brightest — more than baubles, more than Favorite Boy’s four and a quarter above six feet, more than books or movies or margarita swirls — is music. It’s at the heart of everything I do. If I’m awake, I’m singing or humming or chair-dancing. If I’m asleep, my dreams are soundtracked with a wide variety of songs. I can introduce a musical reference in most conversations, and everyone at my company knows I’m the go-to for the best tune to open a presentation.
Where did this passion ignite?
In the womb. My mother has a musical soul — a trait her three children share, that my brother’s kids (especially my niece) have. My childhood memories are filled with the music she loved and we loved.
Mama was a great age for introducing me to all types of music — young enough to love Elvis and The Beatles, old enough to introduce us to Frank Sinatra and the standards she grew up hearing. Through her, I learned to love all genres of music — rock and pop, R&B and country, jazz standards and gospel.
The radio was always playing. If we were in the kitchen, cooking a meal or cleaning up, chances are we were singing. Music was — and is — a big part of our lives. The first concert was a family night out to see Willie Nelson with Waylon Jennings (and Leon Russell on piano). She gave us our first albums, and always took us to spend allowance on the latest 45 we couldn’t live without.
And so, on this Friday before Mother’s Day, I’m proud to publish this mix tape of her favorite songs, songs that remind me of her, songs that will always be special to me because they’re special to her.
The mix kicks off with the first song I remember loving: Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road, Jack.” My mother loved the song, and so I loved it. How could I not live a life of musical obsession when one of my earliest memories is loving that song?
Ray Charles :: Hit the Road, Jack
Little Richard :: Rip It Up
The Beatles :: Revolution
Rare Earth :: Get Ready
Steve Winwood :: Roll with It
Johnny Rivers :: Memphis
Elvis Presley :: That’s All Right, Mama
Van Morrison :: Blue Money
Michael Jackson :: Billy Jean
Parliament :: P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)
Marvin Gaye :: I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Rod Stewart :: Maggie Mae
Carole King :: Smackwater Jack
Squeeze :: Tempted
Barry Manilow :: Copacabana (At the Copa)
Robert Klein + Lucie Arnaz :: They’re Playing Our Song
Lena Horne :: The Lady Is a Tramp
Billy Joel :: Only the Good Die Young
Neil Diamond :: Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show
Dionne Warwick :: I’ll Never Fall in Love Again
Bobbie Gentry + Glen Campbell :: Little Green Apples
ABBA :: Fernando
Fats Domino :: Blueberry Hill
Etta James :: At Last
Frank Sinatra :: Stars Fell on Alabama
Kevin Kline :: La Mer
Bryan Ferry :: Falling in Love Again
Willie Nelson :: I’d Have to Be Crazy
The Platters :: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Elton John :: Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Gladys Knight & The Pips :: Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me
Roberta Flack :: Feel Like Makin’ Love
Phoebe Snow :: Poetry Man
Nat King Cole :: Ramblin’ Rose
Leon Russell :: Back to the Island
R.E.M. :: Wichita Lineman
Janis Joplin :: Me and Bobby McGee
Waylon Jennings + Jesse Colter :: Suspicious Minds
Norah Jones :: Come Away with Me
Aretha Franklin :: (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
Tony Bennett + k.d. lang :: Dream a Little Dream of Me
Simon & Garfunkel :: Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall
Blood, Sweat & Tears :: And When I Die
Bobby Darin :: Splish Splash
Big Mama Thornton :: Hound Dog
Ruth Brown :: 5-10-15 Hours
Jerry Lee Lewis :: Good Rockin’ Tonight
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass :: Taste of Honey
Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo + José Carreras :: Funiculì, Funiculà
Download all these gems with one right-click to the zip file and get back to that handmade Mother’s Day card you’ve been working on all day.
"Revolution" kicks off a short set of some of Mama and OM’s favorite dance songs. Damn, those two could work a dance floor. They were perfect partners.
Okay, so chances are my mother has never heard R.E.M.’s cover of the Jimmy Webb classic “Wichita Lineman” … but Glen Campbell already appeared with Bobbie Gentry … and you know I had to work in the boys somehow. It’s a damn good cover.
But she has heard Parliament’s “P-Funk.” We’d often spend a weekend in the mountains during our junior high and high school years. My brother brought along his tape (maybe an 8-track?) of Mothership Connection for one drive, and Mama enjoyed listening to it. I don’t know if it’s wishful thinking in this embellishing Southern brain or a true moment, but I remember her singing along with the chorus. Yep, Mama’s cool.
Squeeze made it on the tape for a different — yet just as cool — reason. My parents, my sister, and I went to Europe in 1984 — a year of intense Tilbrook obsession. I’d read that he deejayed weekly at a club (if memory serves, it was something like The Yow Club) — and I was dying to go. Mama said if I could find it, she’d go with me. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t find it during our three days there. She’s damn cool, that one.
My parents saw They’re Playing Our Song — the musical story of Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager’s love affair — on Broadway in the late 1970s. During the intermission, Ruth Gordon grabbed OM’s arm, saying, “Isn’t this fun?” Mama brought home the soundtrack, and we listened to it all the time. I haven’t listened to the album in ages — but I had quite the Great White Way evening listening to the theme over and over (and over and over, for about 45 minutes) Monday — singing at the top of my lungs, dancing down the hall like a “Step It up and Dance” contestant, jazz-handing with the cat. I’m proud to say I can hold Lucia Arnez’s long note — not beautifully, but I held it.
Mama and I saw the great Lena Horne in The Lady and Her Music at the Fox Theater. We’ve shared some great concerts.
What are your mama's favorite songs?
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