Building a playlist

With iPods and YouTube, it's easy to have access to an incredible selection of music. It's also easy to start feeling like you're listening to the same old thing over and over.

To counter that feeling, I've been building my "lifetime playlist" — a list of songs that I've enjoyed throughout my life, along with new ones scavenged from a range of sources. My list is 325 songs strong, and grows every week.

One place to find an eclectic selection of music is in the book "Music Lust: Recommended Listening for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason," by longtime radio host Nic Harcourt. "Music Lust," available in the new books section of the Ashland library, features short essays that include song and album picks.

The essay titles are almost as fun and interesting as the essays themselves — "Ain't Nothin' Like the Blues," "The Fifth Beatle and Other Collaborative Producers," "Happy Trails: Cowboy Crooners," "More Than Just Background Music: Movie Soundtracks," "Polyester Suits and Wraparound Dresses," "This Land is Your Land: Protest Singers/Protest Songs."

Reading the book provides a crash course in popular music history. It's best to read it while sitting in front of YouTube, so you can look up any songs that catch your fancy.

In one essay, Harcourt lists the 10 songs he would want on his iPod if he were stranded on a deserted island. That got me thinking about what my top 10 would be, so here goes.

1. Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry." When hanging out with friends, nothing's better than listening to Marley sing about sitting around a campfire with his friends, cooking "cornmeal porridge, of which I'll share with you."

2. Nick Drake's haunting "Black Eyed Dog." Drake died as a young man in the 1970s after overdosing on antidepressants. He was a commercial music failure in his lifetime. Now Drake has a cult following, and his songs have been used for "The Royal Tenenbaums" movie soundtrack and in car and cell phone commercials.

3. Eric Clapton's "Layla." This song has it all — one of the best guitar riffs of all time, plus a driving sound and intense emotion.

4. Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson's "Good Hearted Woman." A perfect blend of Jennings' smooth, rich voice and Nelson's raspy vocals.

5. Avril Lavigne's version of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." With her youthful voice, Lavigne reveals how Bob Dylan's timeless classic still applies to today's armed conflicts.

6. Peter, Paul and Mary's version of "If I Had a Hammer." I've loved this song since I first heard it at Girl Scout camp. I only understood its political message later.

7. "Blackbird" by The Beatles. On the surface, a simple and perky song, but with layers of desperation and hope.

8. Sheryl Crow's version of "Hallelujah." It sounds religious, but this song is really about an intimate relationship gone wrong.

9. Eva Cassidy's version of "Wade in the Water." Another song that seems to be about religion, but this old and beautiful tune contains a hidden message that escaping slaves in the South should wade in the water to throw off their human and hound pursuers.

10. Billie Holiday's version of "Summertime." With its mellow, jazzy feel, this song oozes cool.

Reach Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or

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