NPR recently requested listeners send them “six songs of your life:”
Everybody has a playlist — songs you carry in your head and in your heart that remind you of sometime or someplace or someone. You hear the song; you remember. You remember; you hear the song. Like an optical illusion, two memories braided together in your soul.
If you could tell your life story — chronologically, up to now — in six songs, what would they be?
These are my six sings.
- Tennessee Flat Top Box – Johnny Cash
Growing up, I remember my mom always having the radio tuned to WIRE, an AM country station out of Indianapolis. Although many country songs of that era take me back to that time, Johnny Cash is probably the exemplar. A number of years later, I had a roommate in the Navy who collected music by female artists. He liked Rosanne Cash, and I purchased “King’s Record Shop,” partly because she recorded a cover of “Tennessee Flat Top Box.”
- Jimmy Buffett – Peanut Butter Conspiracy
During my time in the Navy, I was introduced to Jimmy Buffett. In Rota Spain, a few of us threw a Buffett themed party, where all the foods and drinks were related to his songs. Yes, we did eat peanut butter and sardines. Together. I don’t think I’d had too many margaritas.
- Branford Marsalis – Citizen Tain
After the Navy, I started college at Indiana University; one of my favorite classes was “The History of Jazz.” I was in the audience with my friend Joe when Branford Marsalis came to Bloomington and recorded the live album this track is from. I remember being in the audience, mesmerized, during this song. The next day, I skipped one of my classes to go to the Branford Marsalis master class.
- Carrie Newcomer – Closer to You
I got introduced to Carrie Newcomer by a friend when we went to see her play one of her first shows after she moved to Bloomington. Ms. Newcomer became a kind of soundtrack and touchstone for my wife and I once we moved to St. Louis. This song had a particular resonance, especially when Carrie sings “As I’m leaving Missouri into Southern Illinois, I feel like I’m finally getting closer to you.” I liked to play it on our trips across Illinois back to see family in Indiana.
- Don Walser – Rose Marie
I heard the interview with Mr. Walser on WFMU in St. Louis. He was talking about his album “Down at the Sky-Vue Drive In.” I bought the album, and several years later, we moved to Austin. I didn’t make the connection between Mr. Walser and Austin until we’d been there a few years. Kronos Quartet plays with him on this track, and when they came to Austin, I hoped they might play this song with Mr Walser for an encore. I suspect he wasn’t well enough to join them. What a moment that would have been.
- Ella Fitzgerald – Mantenca
For a while I was a stay at home dad. One day when our daughter was three, I was listening to KUT, and the DJ played this track. Emma went nuts, dancing and having a high old time. When it was over, she asked to hear it again. I tried to explain the concept of broadcasting and linear time to her. The song was over, and time had moved on. A few days later, I purchased the song via iTunes. She’s 10 now, and still enjoys hearing this song.