Friends from all over America and beyond share songs to sustain us through lockdown times
Dylan wrote, “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.” A line he might have gotten from Mose Allison, who first wrote, “I’m not downhearted, I am not downhearted. But I’m getting there.”
This is a time of much darkness, and we are downhearted. I think we got there. It’s gotten so dark sometimes it’s hard to see at all. Yet there’s much beauty to be found shining even through these shadowlands. Any glimpses of genuine human light tends to warm our hopeful hearts.
And there are so many musicians lighting these fires everyday that help sustain the spirits of so many. The spirit to keep hope alive. Recognizing that which sustains us helps: music, of course, love, friendship, and the natural splendor forever singing in the sun which still shines, the trees, birds, even suburban squirrels. They’re still here.
Musicians and songwriters are usually hopeful people. One needs to be, to exist as an artist in this industry. That hope right now goes a long way and we’re thirsty for it.
So we extend heartfelt gratitude to all who shared your songs and reflections with us and the spirit of hope it brings. Music unifies us always, as does the passion and love musicians have for music, and for all our fellow humans whose lives are enriched by song.
“Even though we’re in the thick of things,” wrote our friend, Sarah Kramer, with her selection of Morning Has Broken” by Cat Stevens, “I still have a sense of the other side of it,” Sarah wrote. “So the breaking of the morning now – and the breaking of the morning then (once we make it through) – will be the same as it’s always been.”
“I think the time has come to greet the morning,” she continued, “to meet nature where it’s at and be grateful for all there is to receive; change is long overdue.”
Exploring the vast range of songs generously shared from friends all over America and beyond has been inspirational, instructive and entertaining. Hearing beloved songs and records I’ve known for decades has that familiar yet revelatory dynamic of reconnecting with old chums at reunions. It’s a connection with a vivid, emotional past, merged with some surprise that what seemed like a distant, arcane relic of long ago is as present and passionate as ever.
There’s also the bright delight of discovering music I’ve never known, and might never have heard, and now is a part of the soundtrack of this time. A great example is Jobim’s “Terra Brasilis,” which Rob Bonfiglio included, which is exultant.
Also Sufjan Stevens’ version of the hymn “Holy Holy Holy,” which Paul David Menser named, and which is hauntingly beautiful.
Also “Slavery Time” by Lightning Hopkins, with lyrics so direct and powerful we reprinted them here, as they are, sadly, still relevant. News that American minorities are suffering more than any, and with obvious reasons, made what was terrible so much worse, and yet undeniable. Lightning wrote and sang about it then, and that truth has not diminished.
So the outcome of this is a wonderfully immense range of music, in terms of genre, geography and decade. All kinds of music is represented, and all connected by the genuine human heart and soul expressed. It’s an expansive universe of song, maybe the best party ever given, as guests include Johnny Cash, Jaco Pastorius, Bob Dylan, George Gershwin, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Paul Simon, Rihanna, Warren Zevon, David Bowie, Ian & Sylvia, Annie Lennox, Frank Sinatra, Tom Petty, Steve Goodman and many more.
So you’re in for a fun ride, as curated by a generous group of music consultants. All of which adds up to good reasons not to give in to despair.
It all starts with the song “Fountains of Wayne Hotline” by Robbie Fulks, suggested by the great New York cellist Tomas Ulrich, which is, as Tomas promised, one of the funniest songs ever about songwriting.
And right now, next to music, few things help more than genuine humor. It’s the humorists often who seem the most heroic, finding reasons to laugh even now. And good ones. As opposed to, yes, giving up hope. As long as we can still laugh, we’re alive.
So from this brilliantly funny song we go off into the universe of song shared by friends all over during this, our season of isolation.
Thanks to all always to all our friends here in America and beyond.
Keep singing, writing songs, dancing, feeling the music. It’s some of the best medicine ever, with few serious side effects.
Stay strong. And keep hope alive.
Cellist, composer, teacher, “The Miles Davis of Cello”
New York City, New York
“Fountains of Wayne Hotline” by Robbie Fulks. The funniest song ever about songwriting. Also anything by Fountains of Wayne, who I love. Adam Schlesinger’s songs for “My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” are great.
“Whispering Pines” by The Band, with Richard Manuel singing. He has one of the most beautiful voices ever. It is pure sorrow.
Frank Zappa, “Black Napkins.”
Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, “Wanted Man.” First take.
And Jaco Pastorius in Belgium. That entire concert. Amazing band – with Toots Thielemans! [On harmonica] Paco Sery on drums, Jon Davis on piano, Paul Mousavizadeh on guitar, and Azar Lawrence on sax.
That whole show is great – Jaco and Toots together. But especially “If You Could See Me Now.” Wow.
Singer-Songwriter, Trumpet Player, Recording Artist
Cat Stevens, “Morning Is Broken.” This is an old Christian hymn from the 1930s, but it’s Cat Stevens’ version that does it for me.
What’s getting me through these times is the slowing down and tuning in to nature. The weather has been beautiful and I haven’t experienced a springtime like this since my childhood.
I came up in the ’70s, and Cat Stevens’ voice/music captures the innocence of that era. Even though we’re in the thick of things, at the beginning even, I still have a sense of the other side of it. So the breaking of the morning now, and the breaking of the morning then (once we make it through), will be the same as it’s always been.
For me, I think the time has come to greet the morning, to meet nature where it’s at and be grateful for all there is to receive; change is long overdue.
We’re living in paradise and yet we destroy it and are missing it. I’ve been playing this one at home and thinking about making a little video at some point.
Photographer, Traveler, Director of Documentaries, Singer-Songwriter Hollywood, California.
Lightnin’ Hopkins on Arhoolie.
Ron Sexsmith, any album.
Si Kahn, New Wood.
Nick Cave’s albums Ghosteen, and The Boatman’s Call, both on repeat.
And Billy Joe Shaver’s Live Forever. If the mood tanks.
By Sam “Lightning” Hopkins.
Sad when you’re sick at home alone
Won’t nobody coming ‘round
Sad when you’re sick at home alone
Oh Lord no one will come around
Just look like everybody telling everybody else
Poor boy is sinkin’ down.
Thousand years my people was a’slaves
When I was born they teach me this way
One thousand years my peoples was slaves
When I was born they teach me this way
Tip your hat to the peoples
Be careful son about what you say.
Didn’t make no difference if it was raining
Do you know man you just had to go
Make no difference if it was raining
Woah man you just had to go
But I’m so glad I’m so glad I’m so glad
It ain’t slavery time no more.
Grandma told Grandpa one morning
I’m tired a’living I just assume a’die
Why these peoples is treating us this way?
I just can’t see the reason why
Grandpa told grandma don’t worry
We’ll be all right at’a’while.
Grandpa told Grandma if we get called back
Just twenty years ago
Everybody gonna get called back old lady
I’m talking about twenty years ago
Yes I would get my shotgun and
I wouldn’t be a slave no more.
(Recorded December 18, 1967, Houston, Texas.
From Texas Blues, 1994).
Michael Wesley Hughes
North Bend, Oregon.
My go-to album of choice is always Toy Matinee [by Toy Matinee]. In myh opinion, it is a perfect album with incredible artistry. The lyrics, the playing of the instruments, the mix and the message. It fills my soul and spurs my imagination in way that brings me peace and validation.
Of course, there are many others, like listening to the orchestral arrangement on “Madman Across the Water.” Music is my main source of influencing my daydreams.
Los Angeles, California.
“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” by The Hollies. It always reminds me that we’re all here to carry each other during times like these without feeling put upon.
Los Angeles, California
I’ve been listening to Rosa Pullman’s album on repeat, From the Halo to the Boulevard. But especially “All I Desire.”
Vero Beach, Florida
I would have to say Bob Dylan’s “Every Grain of Sand” is a source of comfort during this time, and Robert Plant and Band of Joy’s “Somewhere Trouble Don’. Go.”
And as a professional singer-songwriter, I find that we often write songs to comfort ourselves. One such song was “Incommunicado”, which I wrote during a time of prolonged separation from my wife. I literally thought she was dead, because I hadn’t been able to contact her by phone for two weeks. Turns out she had lost her phone charger and hadn’t been able to find a replacement. I wrote this song in utter agony about the pain of separation and wanted to express the love I too often failed to express when we were together.
This quarantine is separating many people from their loved ones right now, and many of us are “Incommunicado.”
Tell your family and friends you love them. Don’t wait. And remember that God loves you and is in ultimate .
Musician extraordinaire,songwriter, guitarist, singer, producer
Los Angeles, California
There’s a 1980 album by Antonio Carlos Jobim & Claus Ogerman called Terra Brasilis that’s been a real tranquil escape for me as of late.
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” is a touchstone I always return to. It brings me back to listening to my dad’s tapes on our family road trips to Bob Johnson’s hockey school in Aspen, Colorado every summer growing up.
Beyond that, any Bob Marley & Jimmy Buffett usually brightens my mood.
Stay safe & well.
Singer-songwriter, recording artist, producer
Los Angeles, California
Now that I have more time on my hands, I have been enjoying listening to favorites that previously I might put on in the background while I do other things. But now I am taking the time to sit with the music and let it soak in more.
An album I listened to recently sitting quietly, and still was one of my favorite musicians – Hope Sandoval and her band Mazzy Star’s album, Seasons of Your Day.
I have been on such a folk trip for the past few years that it was nice to revisit music that is in a different genre (psychedelic rock/folk pop) and influenced me early on with my own music journey.
Babette Annapurna Ory
Artist, Chef, Singer, Daughter of jazz legend Kid Ory
Los Angeles, California.
You know me from my background. A daughter of a founding father of Jazz, raised by Victorian/New Orleans upbringing, on the road on tour, exposed to all genres of music, at least for a fleeting second.
My happy stress-reducing music in Los Angeles, or anywhere, is New Orleans Jazz, the old moldy fig type. I was conceived by it, learned to hear it after birth daily, and every action in nineteen years of my life was directly related; learning to be a chef, sew, garden, play music, sing, dance, “Muskrat Ramble,” “Saints,” “Make me a pallet on the floor.”
Dr. Jazz, “Then Blues.”
Lonnies Johnson on “Savoy Blues.”
John Lee Hooker, “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.”
Leadbelly, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”
Add to that Robert Johnson, “Come on in my Kitchen.”
“Eh La Bas” in Creole.
“See See Rider” sung by Clair Austin with my dad.
The Band, “Up On Cripple Creek”
Cat Stevens, “Wild World”
Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi”
Three Dog Night, “One”
Donovan, “Sunshine Superman
David Bowie & Queen, “Under Pressure”
Pete Seeger, “Little Boxes” and “If I Had a Hammer”
Paul David Menser
Writer for Idaho National Laboratory, songwriting partner of Nikki O’Neil; Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Sufjan Stevens’ version of “Holy Holy Holy,” the Anglican hymn by John Bacchus Dykes. As a onetime choirboy, this song is in my DNA. The week before my father died, when he was in the ICU, it was all I listened to or sang to myself.
Actress, singer, songwriter.
Christina Aguilera, “Hurt.”
I loved Warren Zevon since the first time I heard Jackson Browne play “Werewolves of London” at the old roofless under-the-stars now-gone Universal Amphitheater. I remember him spelling it out, the name Zevon, for the the crowd, saying “Remember that name.”
His first album came out and I saw him many times after and am still in awe of him.
I’m doing okay so far. One day at a time. Patience will be rewarded in time.
Also, I’m glad that I’ve taken the snail’s pace of reading Conversations With Tom Petty. I could’ve finished it in an afternoon but I spend a few minutes each day reading 5-10 pages at most.
There’s so much music that I love and so many artists that I’ve been very lucky to see live. But this song, for some reason right now, this one gives me hope.
Charles Radioflyer [Documentarian; Chicago, Illinois]
Bob Gibson singing a song Shel Silverstein wrote for him. It always makes me happy and makes me cry both. I saw Gibson sing that song a hundred times if not more. In Chicago, in the good old days. Which never got old. I wish I could hear him now. A little “Abilene,” first maybe. Then this.
- Donna Barnes-Roberts
Singer, Artist, Teacher.
Re-listening to the MFQ (Modern Folk Quartet) album, Wolfgang. It is an album only originally released for the Japanese audience. It is a group of Mozart tunes arranged by the MFQ with lyrics by the quartet and Larry Beckett. Larry was a lyricist for Tim Buckley early in his career; they had gone to school together. And I might add that he is an interesting cat also. Of course there is also the MFQ album Bamboo Saloon also. The title track is far outside of ordinary.
Writer, Author: Steve Goodman, Face The Music
As others have written, my list is too many to mention, but the songs going through my head lately would have to include:
“Everybody’s Talkin'” by Fred Neil, covered memorably by one of your interviewees, Harry Nilsson.
“Elusive Butterfly” by Bob Lind, extendo version
Most anything written or performed by Mason Williams, both instrumentals and vocals, with “Godsend,” “Road Song” and “Saturday Night at the World” right up there along with his river songs. He is my playlist of late.
“The Time Has Come Today” by the Chambers Brothers, made more vivid by a recent viewing of “Coming Home.”
Anything written and sung by Nicolette Larson, with that inimitable vocal edge.
“The Time of Times” by Damon Gough (Badly Drawn Boy) from “Definitely Maybe.”
“Wonderful Friends” by Pete Seeger, a song that I didn’t know about until a month ago and that deserves a lot more attention.
And, of course, Steve Goodman is never far from my thoughts, uplifting favorites including “Video Tape,” “You’re the Girl I Love” and “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request.”
Here’s looking forward to when “social distancing” returns to “The Original Social Media: Face to Face.”
Kathy Flud Eaton
Lately listening to Tom Petty, Leon Russell, JJ Cale, Dylan, Dave Alvin.
Music Therapist, Vocalist, Musician.
Prince, “Cream.” I love this one because Prince wrote this as a “love letter” to himself at a point in his career where he needed to say to himself “Hey, keep on.”
Also Bill Withers.
I’ve been going for walks out in Concord (Massachusetts) and around my home in Cambridge to listen to the silence; to the squirrels playing, people chatting around the pond at Great Meadows, the sounds of children playing in their yards with their parents in Cambridge, and the quiet in the streets, the quiet in the middle of the night. Just the quiet.
I’ve still been working online as a music therapist with my clients and have been playing familiar songs for them which seem to be comforting: the Great American Songbook, Broadway show tunes, songs from the 1950 – 1970s.
Having said that, I’ve started to listen to Prince and Bill Withers. I love this one because Prince wrote this as a “love letter” to himself at a point in his career where he needed to say to himself “Hey, keep on.”
I’m usually a pretty happy person. So, Whenever I do need to lift my spirits, I listen to “Keepin’ Me Alive” by Tom Petty. You can’t listen to it and not smile!! This has been my go-to song for years. It however was a bit of a double edged sword when I first heard of Tom’s passing. In the end, it still helped!
Actor, Musician, Teacher
Like a lot of musicians, when I feel the need to pick up my spirits, I pick up my guitar. Sometimes it’s the blues. “Trouble in Mind,” “Walking Blues,” many others. As someone once said, the blues are more about not having them, getting rid of them, then wallowing in them. I get that.
Or if I want something a little bouncier, I like Springsteen’s “All That Heaven Will Allow,” it makes me feel young, which I like.
Or “Into The Mystic” by Van the Man. I always feel better after an hour of playing and singing, like getting a fix.
Mark Alan Effinger
Chief Evangelist & Beta Tester at WebNutrients
Michael Hedges. His acoustic feats of awesomeness stole my heart and mind as a youth. Seeing him play in Berkeley, then Portland; he’s what I wanna be when I grow up.
At one time I was working with Sony to create a Scan Doubler for HD projection TVs in 1987-89. I used this Laser Disk recording of Windham Hill at Red Rocks as my demo. Never grew tired of hearing the notes he played. And the nuanced notes and hyperactive rhythms he created within my gray matter. Changed my life.
Seconds Out was this incredible live album from Genesis, post Peter Gabriel. There’s a 20-plus minute song on the album that is, for all intents and purposes, the Book of Revelations through a modern lens.
It was this massive musical and emotional awakening for me. I could picture every movement with such clarity.
Years later, 1992, I received a call from Peter Gabriel’s road manager. Peter was doing his WOMAD tour, and heard my laser systems had joystick control. He wanted that. I was elated, and spent the summer touring with the band, fulfilling a dream I never knew I had.
As a kid, my dad, a pianist and purveyor of fine musical grooves, would put this on the Zenith Console, drop the needle, and send my mind a-spinning. Burt restructured songs around some unwritten rules that, even today, would be considered progressive.
Also one that certainly caught my heart and mind. And still does. It always feels hopeful and like a big hug. Dionne Warwick, “I Say A Little Prayer.”
Retired Union Millwright,
“People,” by Barbra Streisand. [By Jules Stein & Bob Merrill, from Funny Girl.]
“People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” Just listened to a pianist I follow do two versions yesterday, Bryan Pezzone.
I also love Crosby Stills Nash & Young Déjà vu, Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Van Morison, and Suzy Wlliams.
Normie Materisk [Painter, Hypnotist, Uber Driver; Lake Havasu City, Arizona.]
Frank Sinatra, “In The Wee Small Hours.”
Tom Waits with Bette Midler, “Never Talk To Strangers.”
Jules Shear, “If She Knew What She Wants.”
Steve Goodman, “Somebody Else’s Troubles.”
Ian & Sylvia, “Four Strong Winds.”
And always, always, always Laura: the divine Laura, my favorite of all always, Laura Nyro. “Upstairs By A Chinese Lamp.
“And I asked that undertaker what it took to make him laugh
When all he ever saw is people cryin’
First he hands me a bunch of flowers
he’d received on my behalf,
Said, “Steve, business just gets better all the time.”
And it ain’t too hard to get along with somebody else’s troubles
And they don’t make you lose any sleep at night
Just as long as fate is out there bustin’ somebody else’s bubbles
Everything is gonna be alright
And everything is gonna be alright”
From “Somebody Else’s Troubles,” by Steve Goodman.
For more on Steve Goodman, get the great biography by Clay Eals, Facing The Music.