What does your favorite music say about you? If you created a playlist on your iPod called “My Life,” which had only six songs on it that defined critical moments in your life, what songs would be on it?
The British Guardian has launched a project called “Six Songs of Me,” which seeks to answer this very question for as many people as possible. It wants to know which six songs would be on your playlist, if you had to pick one track for each of the questions below.
- What was the first song you ever bought?
- What song always gets you dancing?
- What song takes you back to your childhood?
- What is your perfect love song?
- What song would you want at your funeral?
- Time for an encore. One last song that makes you, you.
Here are my six songs, with links so you can listen to them if you want. What are yours?
- What was the first song you ever bought? “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls (which is embarrassing…)
- What song always gets you dancing? There’s an Iranian singer called Rana Farhan who sings classical Iranian poetry, like that of Rumi, to the sultry rhythms of American jazz and blues. I wrote about her for the Wall Street Journal, if you’re interested in her background. Her song, “Drunk With Love,” is my choice for this question. I would really recommend you listen to it. You won’t hear anything else like it.
- What song takes you back to your childhood? “The River” by Bruce Springsteen. It was the first song I can remember consciously loving. I was 7 or 8 and the first time I heard it, I was playing outside with my dog. As the song was coming to an end, I ran back inside to the stereo to hit the “repeat” button. Then I went back out to play. Then, three minutes later, as the song was coming to an end, I ran back inside to hit repeat. I did this a few times before my dad showed me the button to press on the stereo that keeps the track on repeat indefinitely. That was a big mistake, as he found out. Playing my favorite songs on an endless repeat loop is a habit I still have.
- What is your perfect love song? ”Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen. Just kidding. Motown love songs are all full of joy and have always had a special place in my heart. I think my favorite is “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” by Diana Ross and The Temptations. I also love the jazz standard “They All Laughed.”
- What song would you want at your funeral? This is a tough one, but for some reason the hymn-like “Daddy Sang Bass” by Johnny Cash is coming to mind (“Singin’ seems to help a troubled soul / One of these days and it won’t be long / I’ll rejoin them in a song / I’m gonna join the family circle at the throne”). I love the song because it rings with hope and joy.
- Time for an encore. One last song that makes you, you. When Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain” album comes on, I have to stop what I’m doing to listen–it is stunningly beautiful. The standout song on the album is the 17-minute long song “Concierto De Aranjuez” (the link takes you to a 7-minute clip of it). The Spanish element adds an element of oriental exotism to the song that I love.
Why should anyone care about the “Six Songs” project? Over at the Guardian, Oxford musicologist Eric Clarke writes about the enduring influence of music on the human psyche:
There’s nothing secret about music’s power in our lives, even if we are still a long way from having a proper understanding of it, but there is something astonishing and transformative about music’s grip on consciousness – and the sheer variety of musics, from every age and every part of the globe that can do that. And perhaps our early experiences of music leave a mark that we only understand much later: at the age of 50 I wrote a book called Ways of Listening whose central premise was the continuity between music and the sounds of the everyday environment. Perhaps it’s all down to the influence of those sound effects on the first records that I heard…
Music is truly an amazing part of our culture–maybe the most amazing part of it. Even the most primitive cultures–which don’t have creation myths or advanced visual art–still have music, as Edmund O. Wilson points out in his book The Social Conquest of the Earth.