I’m not musically inclined. My singing voice is reserved for the shower, the car, or any time/place that no one else can hear me. I’ve never learned to play an instrument and can’t read sheet music. But I’m a music lover, for sure. A song can change my mood in an instant. It can conjure up a memory and transport me to another time. I use music to keep myself going, to fall asleep, to unwind, and for a million other reasons throughout every day.
In his heyday, my dad was bassist in a band. When I was a kid, he fed me a steady diet of classic rock and blues…Rolling Stones, the Beatles, J Geils Band, BB King, a little Elvis Presley. I attended my first concert (Bon Jovi) when I was about 5 years old. I remember wearing Cabbage Patch Kid earmuffs to muffle the sound and feeling like queen of the world wearing my concert t-shirt to kindergarten the next day. My mom was a country fan through and through to the point that I still joke that Kris Kristofferson may be my biological dad. But she listened to a other genres, too. Growing up, I heard a lot of Carly Simon. Meatloaf. Cher.
Much to my parents’ chagrin, I developed a taste for hip hop and reggae in my early teen years. It took some coaxing to get their permission to attend rap concerts with friends in those years, but I managed it a handful of times. At one show, I met Lil Wayne, who was walking around the audience selling his “mix tape.” (Yeah. I’m that old.) But I never really abandoned my musical upbringing, either, which has left me with an appreciation for a little bit of everything, my go-to playlists changing every few years or so.
In high school, I listened to a lot of hip hop…DMX, Jay-Z, Ja Rule, Li’l Kim, Missy Elliot, 2Pac, Nas, and who could forget Ma$e? (Answer: Probably everyone has forgotten Ma$e. Let’s be real.) But there was also some alt-rock mixed in…311, Everclear, Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins. I remember a dirty dancing contest at a friend’s birthday party set to Closer by Nine Inch Nails, which I not only rocked but won. Then my college years were defined by the likes of Dave Matthews, Five For Fighting, Alanis Morissette, and Fiona Apple. I kept Maxwell’s cover of This Woman’s Work on steady rotation along with the City High album. In adulthood, my music has slowed down considerably, especially as the world of hip hop has devolved into absurdity. Now, I tend more towards country and “singer-songwriter” type of music. But ultimately, I’m still all over the place in my taste.
So the task of picking just 10 songs that I love is a tall order. But here goes. I’ve gone ahead and included a Spotify link for each song in case you want to give anything a listen. Please do!
No Woman, No Cry – cover by Fugees
Don’t get me wrong. I love me some Bob Marley. But when it comes to No Woman, No Cry, it’s GOT to be the Fugees cover. (Blasphemy, I know.) This one takes me back to the late 90s. I’m 15, playing Tetris on Nintendo in my bedroom. The old-style Nintendo that you have to blow into the console to get it to play correctly, because again, I’m that old. This song’s on repeat. My window is open and the volume on my stereo is cranked high. I’ve got no real responsibilities other than school and want nothing more than for the boy across the street to notice me.
Here We Go Again – Ray Charles & Norah Jones
This one takes me back to Willie Nelson’s 70th birthday party in 2003. The stage (and audience!) was star-studded. I’m sitting to the right of my then boyfriend (now husband) who has “that guy with the eyebrows from The O.C.” and his wife on his left. It bothered me the whole show that I couldn’t think of his name; Peter Gallagher. My parents are sitting front row and my mom keeps turning around to taunt Kris Kristofferson’s wife Lisa about the fact that she’s got a better seat. Performances included Bill Clinton (yes, THAT Bill Clinton) on the sax, Shania Twain, Wyclef Jean, ZZ Top…the list goes on. But the stand-out in my mind from that night was Ray Charles and Norah Jones.
Anna Begins – Counting Crows
I’m not really sure why but this song always makes me cry. This one’s on my list because of the lyrics. It’s a love story. And I’m a sucker for a good love story.
“If it’s love,” she said, “then we’re going to have to think about the consequences.” She can’t stop shaking. I can’t stop touching her and this time, when kindness falls like rain, it washes her away. And Anna begins to change her mind. “These seconds when I’m shaking leave me shuddering for days,” she says. And I’m not ready for this sort of thing.
I’ve since read that Adam Duritz wrote this song for/about a woman he met while vacationing in Greece and the fact that it’s a TRUE love story seals the deal even more for me.
Give It All To You – Luke Wade
I fell in love with Luke Wade’s music back when he was on Pharell’s team of Season 7 of The Voice. Since then, he’s toured in our area a handful of times and my husband and I have never missed a local-ish show. This song is among my favorites for several reasons but the most important reason has nothing to do with the song itself. It started when I came across Luke’s cover of Work Song. I hadn’t heard Hosier’s original at the time but was telling my husband about how romantic the lyrics were. (C’mon. He sings about crawling out of his grave to go home to his woman. That’s the ultimate in romance, no? No? Just me? Weird.) Anyway, weeks later, my husband serenaded me with Give It All To You. When he was done, he smiled proudly and I stared at him in confusion. He insisted, “You said it was the ultimate romantic song.” Realizing what had happened, I broke it to hubby that, though I appreciated the gesture, he’d learned and performed the wrong song. But since that night, this one holds a soft spot for me.
Greatest Love Story – LANCO
I know what you’re thinking. (Great…ANOTHER love story.) But this one makes the list because it reminds me of my daughter. Hubby and I took her to her first concert (Chris Young) when she was five years old. He had two opening performers for that tour: LANCO and Kane Brown. She loved the whole experience of being at a live performance and she fell in love with this song that night. Since then, she’s learned every lyric and often asks for it when we’re driving in the car or having karaoke night at my sister’s. And, yeah, it’s also a love story. Duh.
Caress Me Down – Sublime
Caution: NSFW. Sublime is some feel-good music, isn’t it? A little reggae-ish. A little Spanish. A little something else. “Ungh!” I can’t help but turn this one way up when it comes on. And it always makes me smile. Bonus Track: While we’re talking about Sublime, I’d be remiss to not mention Aimee Allen’s cover of Santeria. You’re welcome.
Yele – Wyclef Jean
Wyclef is my man. And the Carnival had several songs on it that I loved. But my favorite is hands down Yele. I don’t know what it’s about because the song isn’t in English. I’m not even 100% sure what language it IS, though I’m guessing Creole because he’s Haitian. What I do know is that I can sing along to every word and it evokes emotions that transcends language.
Moonshine – Erick Baker
My first introduction to Erick Baker was Unbroken Promise, which inspired a whole chapter of a book I’m writing. After playing that one on repeat for a while, I started to look more into his other work. I’ve since found that he was on the rise to semi-success in music when he gave up touring to save his marriage. Which makes me love him even more. He’s a good husband, a good father, and his music is pretty great, too. Moonshine is a feel-good song that makes me want to belt out every word with the car windows down. If this one doesn’t put you in a good mood, I’m not sure what will.
I wanna drink a little moonshine in the sunshine of a Summer day.
I wanna paint myself some blue skies to cover up the grays.
Cause everybody needs a good time every once in awhile.
A bad day that ends with a smile.
And some white light to wash all our troubles away.
Justice – Citizen Cope
When Cope tours in our area, hubby and I always buy tickets. Always. He began his musical career as a songwriter and eventually got talked into performing his own music, despite crippling stage fright. (In fact, to this day, he often opens shows with his eyes closed to avoid seeing the audience.) He’s got a unique sound, lyrics that can be interpreted many ways by many people, and is such an overall “chill” person. And the audience members at his shows are a reflection of that eclectic vibe. I’ve listened to podcast interviews and the Facebook Live “Q&A” sessions he does for fans and I’ve noticed that he NEVER talks about what his songs are about or what inspired him to write any given track. He leaves it all up to interpretation.
Drunk Girls in Bathroom Lines – Heidi Raye
This song single-handedly embodies an entire universal experience in a 3-minute ditty. My husband, who is a country fan, haaaaaaates this song because he says it’s annoying. But I can’t get enough of it. Maybe he needed to be there. In the line for the women’s room at a bar or a concert. It’s quite possibly the place that women are nicest and chattiest to each other. We’re all in a good mood. We’re all out, having fun. We’re all friends while waiting to pee. We’ve all made “BFF’s we’ll never see again.”
If you’ve stuck it out this long, I commend you. It means you probably love music as much as I do. Feel free to connect with me on Spotify and send me a song recommendation or two. I’ll never turn down a chance to discover some new tunes.