Answers to “What Song or Music do you Listen to at Times of Crisis like this?” Vol. 1.

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Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Part One of a Three-part Series: Readers’ chosen songs, artists and music
they’ve turned to during this season of self-distancing.

During these days of lockdown through America, people have been coping with this imposed solitude in many ways. Many musicians and songwriters said that this has been a time when no music sufficed, and they needed silence to get through what is an ongoing crisis.

But a whole lot of people did weigh in and share songs that have helped get them through – a much larger response than we ever expected – so that this is only the first in a series of the answers, as it’s way too much for one piece to contain.

We’re grateful to all who contributed. It’s good when songwriters remember how much meaning their songs can have, at all times, but especially at times like this, when meaning – and something real to hold onto – means more than ever.

It’s also good for those who haven’t turned to music for calm, or hope, because they have been so compelled to watch the endless news, to remember the remarkably rich universe of songs we have at our fingertips. One of the best parts about working on this now was hearing this great rainbow of songs, which crosses over all genres, generations and even centuries.

It was interesting to discover which songs and songwriters came up more than once. The Beatles, of course, were expected, and they recur. But the frequency with which Tom Waits was mentioned – especially his Rain Dogs album, was not expected. But understood.

So with great gratitude to all of your who generously shared your songs and thoughts with us for this and out future installments, soon to come, here is Part 1 of your answers to the question, “What songs are you listening to now during this crisis time?”

STEPHEN KALINICH [Legendary poet-songwriter-painter]  
What kind of songs move me in a time like this are songs that touch the heart strings, inspiring me and making me think feel and be grateful to be alive.

Some I can think of off the top of my head are: 

“Let It Be,” “  Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Imagine,” “Within You Without You,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” “You Are My Sunshine.” 

My own song “Be Still” with Brian Wilson. The long one. 

Songs that encourage inspire touch move make me feel. I also like songs that I find joy in:  “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven. Another song I like is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.” 

These are just a few that help me in a storm,  and most classical music by Mozart and Bach . It is the trying to live the songs, not just hear them, to sing with them sometimes, to practice a song, stillness or meditation every day a few times. 

Stevie Kalinich at Home with his Art.
Photo by Paul Zollo/American Songwriter.

JACQUELINE TRICE. [Songwriter, Writer; Colorado]
“Let it Be”. The Beatles. |
The title alone almost says it all. One of the few songs that could be an actual prayer. For me, it is. 

“Let It Be,”  The Beatles. “Share the Land,” The Guess Who. It’s a song about togetherness, helping each other out.

The Beatles, “Let It Be.” Written by Paul McCartney.

Paul Simon soothes my restless soul.

LEE HIRSCH [Lake Balboa, California]. 
“Bridge Over Troubled Water.” (Simon & Garfunkel).
It helps me release my feelings.

Simon & Garfunkel, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Written by Paul Simon.

I’ve been completely immersed in Ivan Lins, one of my favourite composers. He makes me feel romantic. Like the world is at peace and both our hearts and our gardens are growing. I have always loved Brazilian music. This is the place that soothes me now. I’m on the southwest coast of the U.K. working every day on songs. Stay healthy.

MARTY JOURARD. [Musician, Author, Founding Member of The Motels)
Hard to beat Roxy Music’s Avalon. The entire album. Tom Petty loved that album. He said you can just listen to it over and over again, just keep flipping the record over. And I don’t think there is one cymbal crash on the album. Imagine that.

Roxy Music, “Avalon.” Written by Bryan Ferry.

MARLON HOFFMAN, [Songwriter, musician; Calabasas, California]. A song that touches me lately is “Ain’t Talkin’,” by Bob Dylan. It just helps me with my surrender to my place on earth. Forever interested in the “Dirge” of our plight and position. It confirms my violent survival and my opportunity to transcend and heal.

One of our greatest and most innovative guitar players is Marc Ribot. His first album. I flew to NYC to see him and David Bromberg play live in front of a Charlie Chaplin movie at Lincoln Center, for the New York Guitar Festival.

Mark Ribot, “The Wind Cries Mary.”

“Alright For Now,” “Wildflowers,” “You Get Me High,” “Power Drunk,” (All songs by Tom Petty).
We will get through this. Together – Apart. Strange times for sure.

DEWEY BUNNELL [Songwriter, Record-Artist, Founding Member of America]
Sometimes a song will come into my head that I haven’t heard for a while and I will listen to it a lot. One kind of poignant song that comes to mind I have listened to a lot recently is Leonard Cohen’s “The Future.” It’s dark and it kind of has some of these darker moods going on.

I also love Laura Nyro. Her album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, and the song “Stoned Soul Picnic.” She was great. It was a shame, she died young. I was so happy I got to see her live twice. She seemed like the female artist in the day. 

Leonard Cohen, “The Future.”
Laura Nyro, “Stoned Soul Picnic,” the original demo.

SABRINA CHAP. [Musician, Songwriter; New York, “Eye of the Storm.”] 
In the deepest times, I can’t hear words. I turn to Chopin, Chet Baker and John Coltrane. I don’t need more words in my head, because they trigger mental spirals. I go for the deep music, sounds that fall like an anchor to the bottom of my soul to steady me in this storm. 

The only song I have in my head is the one I’m trying to write about all of this. It’s funny. I hadn’t realized it – but I can’t listen to songs now. Tom Waits makes me cry on a regular day. Baby Dee makes me bawl. All lyrics remind of another time, and I can’t overlay any previous time over this one, or if I did – it would make me cry. I have to steady myself now, so I can’t listen to songs with lyrics.

That being said, I did pick up my guitar the other night and sing “Graceland.” But I couldn’t make it all the way through.

JEFF MESHEL: I live 25 miles from Gaza. Every time Hamas starts shooting rockets at my city, I turn to Laura Nyro’s “Save the Country.” This time it’s more than just my country. But the determination, the resolve this song expresses is just as relevant at this time.

Rain Dogs. By Tom Waits.

VINCENT THOMAS VOK. (Staten Island, New York?)
Tom Waits, “Hold On.”

JOEL AMSTERDAM [VP of Publicity, Concord Records; Los Angeles]. 
Rain Dogs (by Tom Waits) is in my Top Five All-Time.

TOMAS ULRICH [cellist, composer, recording artist, teacher; New York City]
Tom Waits, “Clap Hands” [from Rain Dogs].

Tom Waits, Rain Dogs, the full album.

“(Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night,” by Tom Waits. 

TERRY MORELAND  HENDERSON. [Retired Humanities teacher; writer; Los Angeles].
Always Dennis Wilson’s solo album, especially  the song “Farewell My Friend.” Tom Waits’ (Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night and Closing Time. My friend Gregg Sutton Soft as a Sidewalk. Simon and Garfunkel. Hank Williams. Van Morrison, “Moondance.” There are so many. Oh, and George Jones Greatest Hits,  especially “Things Have Gone to Pieces,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and almost all his ballads. Alan Jackson. George Strait. I like a good sad song to get me to that catharsis where I can wallow in my misery and bawl my eyes out and come away feeling cleansed.

JENNIFER JONASSEN (Entertainer, Los Angeles).
“O-O-H CHILD,” The First Stairsteps, 1970.

MARVIN ETZIONI [Songwriter, Producer, Recording Artist, Thee Holy Brothers, Founding Member of Lone Justice]
Elmore James, Dust My Broom. I have an original 78 of it on Trumpet Records.

There’s something very moving and powerful about this recording, scratches and all. Upon listening I’m taken and transported to another world, another time, yet the song and performance are timeless. Whatever else was going on at the moment of this recording, the world spins still as the 78 turns.

Elmore James, “Dust My Broom.”

JAMES SEAMUS KNIGHT [Filmmaker; Los Angeles].  
I sometimes listen to nothing but (the band) The Innocence Mission for weeks, because it’s melancholy enough to validate my feelings, but beautiful and hopeful enough to not make it worse.

MARTIN THOMAS [Songwriter; Filmmaker].
I love a songwriter/musician/performer living in the Pittsburgh area, like Arvo Part. Here is one of his shorter pieces:

SARAH KRAMER (Hollywood, California; Songwriter, Musician. Hollywood, California.)
An artist that always eases me is Mississippi John Hurt. Helps me relax and adds a bit of sunshine. So pure and innocent, puts me in harmony with life.

VANESSA WINANS [Singer, Church Musician].
I find I am listening to a mishmash right now – from Beethoven’s majestic “Sonata Pathetique” to my Sounds of Acadia CD, which combines sounds of nature with flute, guitar, piano and penny whistle. Both bring me serenity.

If I feel depressed and need lifting up, I find hope in old John Denver (generally sunny but not afraid to go cosmic), The Beatles (as a band and some of their solo work later, such as Harrison’s “Give Me Hope” and Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy”), and U2. Also,  “Punchlines and Ironies” by Chris Rice is another go-to. If you’ve never heard it, give it a listen.

At times like this, I crave both depth – that I am not alone in the intense emotions that I feel, that those feelings are universal – and reassurance that things will get better. All these musicians offer me those things to some extent.

As a singer and a church musician, this time of year is normally filled with rehearsals for Holy Week and Easter services. This year, we are all sitting at home, feeling even more disconnected and bereft of a structure that brings many of us purpose and fulfillment (along with the occasional burst of exasperation!). There’s nothing like choral singing to forge connections, and it’s lonely without it.

BILL BENTLEY [Writer, Musician, Author; Los Angeles].
“I Had to Tell You” by 13th Floor Elevators (1967). The chorus alone always saves me: “If you fear I’ll lose my spirit / like a drunkard’s wasted wine / don’t you even think about it / I’m feelin’ fine…” Never lets me down.

DARRYL PURPOSE [Singer-songwriter; Nederland, Colorado].
Recent find for me: Dawes, and “A Little Bit Of Everything.” The song itself has a little bit of everything — tragedy, devastation, and eventually hope.

Dawes, “A Little Bit of Everything.”

MALCOLM ORRALL. [Musician, Artist, Songwriter; Los Angeles].
The song that has come to me of late quite a bit is Bob Marley’s “So Much Trouble in the World.” When the cruelty at the border started, (and it still goes on), I was crushed emotionally at the heartlessness of policymakers and the callousness of the enablers, and when the children were being ripped from their parents’ arms in secret and spirited away with no documentation, knowing the attachment disorders that that policy would create for thousands of children, and the callous fate that many of them faced, that song came to mind as about the only thing that could give me some relief. 

And I think it is because its tone and message is simply one of acknowledging one’s limitations in creating a just world, and yet remaining strong and not giving up on being a part of the solution, and I was grateful to have that song to put on, especially because it is music that comes from Souls among us who, along with their ancestors, have had to suffer injustice and immeasurable cruelty for generations. 

The integrity of that true personal suffering and the courage to live through it and find ways to care for each other in the midst of it and to stand tall and not lose your own humanity while it is going down, is a message I needed to hear at that moment. I still put it on when I need to be reminded. 

I also think of “Under African Skies” by Paul Simon, his duet with Linda Rondstadt. It has a similar sense of life without a safety net, as though living “The Wisdom Of Uncertainty,” as so beautifully described by Alan Watts in his book of that title.

For the second time when I was in my local market picking up some essentials just now, “I Won’t Back Down,” by Tom Petty came on! I kid you not, both times I’ve been in the market since the sequester began that song came on. And interesting to note that that song encourages in the same way, surviving and living strong in adversity. I freakin’ love that song.

When I need a playful vibe about the world going to hell, “Up From The Skies” by Jimi Hendrix, where aliens come down to earth for a second visit because they wanted to see if we had grown up yet:

And of course this is why I’m so concerned,…I come back to find the stars misplaced…and the smell of a world, that is burning…I think I need a change of climate…”. (Wah wah solo out…). How prescient.

“Mother and Child Reunion,” by, of course, Paul Simon. I love this one because it is kind of a reminder that no matter how bad things get, we are all part of something bigger, and that something is so freaking beautiful and amazing, that it is almost comforting to know that one day we will return to that astounding beauty, a reunion with the infinite Mother from whence we came, who gifted us this stunning life in all its complex joys and sorrows.

Paul Simon, “Mother and Child Reunion.”

RUSSELL WIENER (Musician; Los Angeles, California.)
I find there are two albums, more than any others, that take me to a place of “everything makes sense” – where you can’t think about anything other than what you’re listening to. They are R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People and Paul Simon’s You’re the One. They are the musical and emotional equivalents of the Sistine Chapel. That’s not always what you want to listen to; sometimes you want to hear the musical equivalent of a graffiti wall or a Dali. But in times like these, music that totally overwhelms you is a good thing. 

JANET MASSA LOVELL [Program Assistant; Denver, Colorado.]
I have been listening to some older Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, specifically “You’re Gonna Get It.” It takes me back to my teens and all the fun memories of that time. I also broke out my Booker T. and the MG’s The Complete Stax Singles, Volume 1 for some “Green Onions,” “Jelly Bread,” “Mo Onions” and lots of other songs. I love the instrumentals, so my mind can wander to happy thoughts. The Facebook live videos by performers such as Lukas Nelson and Keith Urban have also lifted the weight of the day.

DAVID PAUL [Former long haul truck driver; Virginia Beach, Virginia] 
“Only God Knows Why,” as performed by Kid Rock, always does it for me. A gentle enough reminder that I’m not in control and I don’t need to be. And, I’m not the only one who thinks that way.

NIKKI O’NEILL [Recording artist, writer, educator; Los Angeles].
Al Green, “The Spirit Might Come” (from Higher Plane)
Aretha Franklin, “Spirit in the Dark” (from Spirit in the Dark)
The Beatles original or Wilson Pickett’s rendition, “Hey Jude”
U2,  “Stuck in a Moment” (from All That You Can’t Leave)

WENDY WOLFSON GABLE [Retired Attorney/Insurance Broker; Reno.]
It might sound trite, but “Here Comes the Sun” always makes me feel more positive. Richie Havens’ cover is soulful. It reminds me to look out the window, or get outside, and revel in nature’s glory. The world is so much more than any one of us. 

“Love Is Stronger Than Death” by Matt Johnson and The The. And of course Axis Bold As Love album by Jimi Hendrix and Forever Changes by Arthur Lee and Love. Also Bob Dylan’s Live Rolling Thunder Review 1975 Bootleg Series #5 songs.

SON H VO. [Musician; Los Angeles.] 
“You Take My Breath Away” by Tuck and Patti. Very emotionally precious and sincere. It makes feel love deeply every time I hear it. 

CRYSTAL SANDS [Professor of Writing; Maine.]  
We usually listen to classical music in our home, as our son is a cellist, but Tom Petty is always our exception. The man was a poet. In all of this, I have returned to his “Two Gunslingers” more and more. I don’t know how to do it, but I certainly feel the need to take control of my life. 

SUSAN HAYDEN [Writer, Creator/Producer of the long-running, monthly lit series, Library Girl, at Ruskin Group Theatre, and Steve Hochman’s wife; Santa Monica.].
Eddie Lang on guitar keeps me going. 

Eddie Lang, “Perfect.”

STEVE HOCHMAN: [Music writer; Santa Monica, Susan Hayden’s Husband].
Indeed. Susan Hayden and I dined last night to the perfect sounds of early Joe Venuti/Eddie Lang recordings.

I’ll add that one thing that keeps me going is something that has been a consistent thread through my musical web over the course of nearly 40 years now: the music of the troubadours and pilgrims of medieval Europe, particularly regions of what are now France and Spain. 

At the core of that are the Cantigas de Santa Maria, collected under the direction of King Alfonso X of Castile, who ruled in the 13th century. Few days go by without me listening to a recording of that (and there are surprisingly many excellent recordings of musicians interpreting this music). 

Alfonso X, “El Sabio,” Cantigas de Santa Maria, with Esther Lamandier

TERRY ROLAND.  [Producer, Writer; Los Angeles]
“Mercy Now” by Mary Gauthier is my go-to comfort song.

PAT NASON. [Los Angeles, California. Retired journalist, now singer-songwriter].
Willie’s Roadhouse” on Sirius carries me through just about anything, good times and bad. Outlaw Country helps a lot, too. 

Need to amend my response. Just heard Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” – shot straight to No. 1 on my “Make Me Feel Better” chart.

PAUL INGLES. [Public radio music host and documentarian; Albuquerque, New Mexico.]

When I first heard this song come on the radio in 2004. I had just gotten divorced and was living in a tiny apartment, feeling somewhat cast into an emotional wilderness. I was driving somewhere and the first low bass notes felt like an undertow, pulling my attention into it and I was transfixed from the start. It was such a compelling description of loss, confusion, loneliness, of being suddenly turned around with, dare I say, no direction home. Flashing emergency lights on the highway, rough waters, signs blown away, good intentions not enough, wondering if we’d ever find a way home. 

But then a single voice saying, if we get that lost, there’s at least one someone who’ll drive out and find us… when it don’t come easy. The bridge lets us cry out what we need to cry out… for love lost and for love hoped for. And when it all seems to be falling away, someone will be there to speak the ultimate truth, again, it’s only love that will save us. And someone will be there to stand by us and remind us of that….through perhaps this song, or perhaps another song of love. … 

Anyway, when it finished I pulled over to the shoulder of the road, grabbed my flip phone (it was  2004) and called the DJ of the station playing it to find out who was singing it. I couldn’t wait for him to end the set and backsell it, or run the risk that I wouldn’t hear the artist’s name for some reason. 

“Patty Griffin, `When It Don’t Come Easy,’” he said. 
I never ever turn away from this song when it shuffles up on my iPod and it never ever fails to draw up a tear or get me through a tough time. I watched this video again last week amid our current chaos.

Patty Griffin, “When It Don’t Come Easy”

WENDYSUE ROSLOFF. [Drummer, percussionist, Spoon Virtuoso, Cookie Maker. Los Angeles.]
This song by my friend Cary Cooper did for me this morning, Always Believe In You.”

Cary Cooper, “Always Believe In You.”

RUBY LaRUE. “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” Pulled me thru some rough times more than once. Going to it again today, still works!

My go-to artist is Van Morrison. So much uplifting music in his catalog it’s hard to choose just a few, but the double Hymns to the Silence is pretty great, and, of course, “Moondance” is such a timeless classic.

I tend to go with a bit of Motown. Can’t go wrong. Gets you moving. “My Girl.” Exceptional. “Ain’t too Proud To Beg.” A little bit of soul. And, of course, Tom Petty. His songs all work. 

NEIL ROSENGARDEN. [Songwriter, Composer, Musician, Recording Artist; Los Angeles]. 
I’m listening to Walter Wanderley, The Return Of The Original 1972.

Walter Wanderley ‎– The Return Of The Original 1972

Allman Brothers “Melissa”, has a calming effect on me.

VICTORIA THOMAS [Publicist and Pop Culture Journalist; Los Angeles.]
I always turn to classic Rolling Stones anthems for energy, strength, power, and to jolt out of any possibility of being watery, weepy, whiney or morose. Pure, raunchy, remorse-free testosterone is my tried-and-true mood elevator. Staples include : “Start Me Up”, “Brown Sugar”, “HonkyTonk Women”, “Beast of Burden”, “Jumping Jack Flash”, “It’s All Over Now”, “Gimme Shelter”, “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”, “Satisfaction”,”Under My Thumb”, “The Spider and the Fly”, “Dead Flowers,” “Let It Bleed.”

The Rolling Stones, “Beast of Burden.”

JODI M. BRIERLY. [ Former and future retail buyer for National Parks Concessionaire Company; Santa Fe, New Mexico].
“All Right For Now,” by Tom Petty (Full Moon Fever) or “A Wasted Life.”  by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Long After Dark). These songs, and many others by Tom have been in my life for a long time. And while they have always felt like a form of support, it’s now, more than ever, that I really connect with the lyrics.

I recently got laid off from my dream job because of COVID-19. Not a dead end job that I didn’t care about, but my actual dream job. And I have to think that it will be waiting for me at the end of this road. It has too. “It’ll all work out…” (So many quotes from Tom Petty could fit here). 

Thanks. It’s movements like this that keep us all connected, and sane!

ANNETTE SUMMERSETT. [Singer-Songwriter; Napa Valley, California.]
I turn to Tom Petty’s Wildflowers  album. It transports me to a familiar, and safe place in my mind. Every song is a story that stokes emotion waves. Even the song order is a transformative journey. 

Tom Petty, Wildflowers, the full album.

Anais Mitchell for her albums Hymns For The Exiled and The Brightness. Heard them at a time in my life when I was becoming cynical and jaded. I thought I’d heard it all, no longer believed in love or magic, that the best of my life was past me and the rest would be just an anergic melancholy. 

Her albums jump-started my heart and soul and made me realize how much beauty there was left in this world. Exhilarating new music and art didn’t die with the aging old guard of Beatles, Buffalo Springfield, Randy Newman or Paul Simon, but was out there to be discovered and embraced. A lesson that’s served me well these past fifteen years or so.

MICHAEL WISNIEWSKI. [Teacher, Singer-Songwriter, Painter; Evergreen, Colorado].
The medley of “Taunta/Nantucket Sleighride,: by Mountain, both soothes and energizes me. The song speaks of longing and reunion.

It also makes me happy to play and sing Beatles songs.


This one helps me. (Buddy Miller, “Wide River To Cross.”)
Nice work here, too. Thank you.

Buddy Miller, “Wide River To Cross.”

CYNTHIA CARLE. [Songwriter-Singer; Los Angeles.]
Sean Lennon, “It’s All Right.” 

Sean Lennon, “It’s Alright.” Written by Yoko Ono (his mom).

Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert! How could this amazing burst of musical genius have been spontaneously improvised?

My vote goes to “Beyond the Great Divide” by Kate Wolf.

MITCHELL SCHNEIDER. [Publicist, SRO. Los Angeles]
My perennial go-to lift me up song: Poco’s “A Good Feelin’ To Know.” It never fails me. Those high-flying melodies are medicine for the soul.

Poco, “A Good Feelin’ To Know.”

TODD LAWRENCE [Songwriter, Producer]
The one that leaps to mind is Big Star’s “The Ballad of El Goodo” – mostly for its “hold on” refrain.

Sometimes you just need a warm voice to remind you to hold on.

Big Star, “The Ballad of El Goodo.”

STEVE BALTIN. [Journalist; Los Angeles.]
So many,
Tom Petty, “Crawling Back To You.”
Kinks, “Better Things.”
Dido, Life For Rent album
Bruce Springsteen, “Bobby Jean”

As a newly divorced and white knuckled caretaker from 2006-2008, and having made nearly a dozen trips to Pennsylvania before moving my mother to Iowa to live with me, I was scrambled. Sick, newly sober, fixin’ to die. John Prine always seemed to find me and help. Meet Andy and Mary. And please just say, “Hello In There.”

John Prine, “Hello In There.” Video by John Korkie.

Thank you deeply to everyone who shared your songs with us. We’re happy songs still matter so much.

Volume II will be posted on Monday, March 30.

Until then, please be safe, kind and healthy. Keep hope alive. And also the music.

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