When in Doubt, Make a Mixtape
Spring is here, a time we’d normally be out and about getting some sun and recharging our souls after a long winter. I certainly look forward to working in the yard, hiking, having outdoor picnics, and taking the occasional road trip. But this isn’t a typical year, is it?
We’re still dealing with COVID-19, and while more folks are getting vaccinated, it’ll be a while before things get back to anything resembling normal.
When I was diagnosed with MS, I didn’t get out much for a few months. I was so tired from the steroids that just taking a shower and dragging myself downstairs felt like a monumental task. Fatigue left me so drained that I could only lie on the couch and imagine all the things I wanted to do. (And sometimes even that felt too exhausting.)
However, I could make mixtapes in my head, each filled with songs I’d listen to when I was finally out and about again. It kept me from being too terribly gloomy and gave me something positive in the future to focus on.
So, today, I thought, “Why not make a mixtape to listen to when we can finally get on the road again and leave COVID-19 in our collective rearview mirror?”
Following are a dozen songs that would make the cut for me.
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2: Who doesn’t love the boys from Ireland? I saw them live during their tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of “The Joshua Tree,” and though it made me feel old, it was a great show. This is a song about searching, longing, and looking for a better future out there on the horizon.
“Time to Move On” by Tom Petty: “Wildflowers” is my favorite Tom Petty album, and this song is one of the main reasons why. Perhaps it’s the chorus: “It’s time to move on, time to get going/ What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing/ But under my feet, baby, grass is growing/ It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going.” The catchy riff and bouncy beat never fail to make me tap my hand on the sill of my open window.
“Times Like These” by Foo Fighters: This is a great track, and not only for the killer beat. It’s a song about being at a crossroads, about taking a new path and looking toward the future. Dave Grohl, the band’s lead singer, has called it the best song he’s ever written, and I can see why.
“I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash: Who doesn’t love the Man in Black, especially when he’s singing about American wanderlust and the unmistakable pull of the American highway? It’s a fun one to sing and to use as a checklist for places to visit. I mean, have you been to “Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota,/ Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota,/ Wichita, Tulsa, Ottawa, Oklahoma”? Well, add them to the list for when the time comes!
“Travelin’ Band” by Creedence Clearwater Revival: This song never gets old. I sing it every single time it comes on the radio. It’s got such an irresistible bass riff, and John Fogerty’s voice is in its prime. He sings, “I want to move/ Playin’ in a travelin’ band,” and he makes me want to get up and get going as well.
“Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac: “Rumours” is a top-notch album, and this song is one of its most popular tracks for a reason. The harmonies are so tight, and the percussion just drives the piece forward like the wheels on a truck. It’s a song that never fails to make me smile and enjoy the fact that I’m free out in the world, heading in the direction I choose.
“End of the Line” by Traveling Wilburys: Someone once described this band as “a teacher putting all the smart kids together in one group,” and that’s pretty accurate. It’s quite a musical supergroup, and each of the members reminds us that the best trips in this life are the ones where we “lend a hand” and “have someone to love.”
“Marrakesh Express” by Crosby, Stills and Nash: I love just about everything Crosby, Stills and Nash pressed into wax, but this one is a personal favorite. It always reminds me to “get away to see what [I can] find.” Plus, it’s one of the few songs I can think of that talks about the joy of traveling by train. I hope to do more of that in the coming years.
“Graceland” by Paul Simon: This is another must-own album for me. Rhymin’ Simon covers so much musical ground in 11 tracks! And the first lines are simply some of the best and most evocative prose in modern music: “The Mississippi Delta/ Was shining like a national guitar/ I am following the river/ Down the highway/ Through the cradle of the Civil War.” So great!
“Ramblin’ Man” by The Allman Brothers Band: This is another great wanderlust song, one with a strong narrative element of a young man “born in the back seat of a Greyhound bus/ Rolling down Highway 41.” The Allman Brothers take this song and make it into an absolute groove, and everything just works the way it should. It’s a song that makes me feel like everything is right with the world.
“Rockin’ Down the Highway” by The Doobie Brothers: Thanks to my father, The Doobie Brothers are my all-time favorite band. I love just about every track they’ve ever recorded, and this one from “Toulouse Street” is a great song to crank up when the windows are down. As always, the harmonies are super tight, and Michael Hossack keeps everything driving on drums.
“Take It Easy” by the Eagles: Apparently, Glenn Frey and Don Henley were once neighbors to one Jackson Browne, and when he couldn’t finish this gem of a song, he handed it to them. They got to work and created one of the best tracks the Eagles ever recorded. I mean, who hasn’t been running down the road trying to loosen their load? It’s such a universal desire to drive away from problems on the way to a solution. And that double-time banjo? It lifts the track from good to great. You have to sing along.
OK, so that’s the first side of the tape for me. How about you tell me what tracks should go on side two?
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