“I’ll Be Your Mirror”
The Velvet Underground, 1966
The year of 1966 has always been deemed a great year for music, starting up “The Summer of Love”, and this one specifically resonated deep within me. When I first heard it I was going through an extremely detrimental patch of my life. But the more and more I tuned into the lyrics and the tone of Nico’s (the lead singer) voice, the more thought I genuinely put into the words. Something awoke within me. I began to look at the deep connections and selfless love my family and friends provided for me, and how even in times where the last thing I wanted to do was to look into the mirror of my mind, they would be right in the reflection reminding me that I wasn’t shattered, not even cracked. Just fogged. And the second I truly saw their hearts and genuine care for me, everything cleared up for me and that gloomy stage of my life was left behind as the people that loved me retaught me to love myself.
Fleetwood Mac, 1975
Everyone knows and loves them. One of the first songs originally written by Stevie Nicks for Fleetwood Mac following her joining of the group. This song puts into perspective the “seasons” of your life where all you want is growth but you feel restrained. Whether it be by your environment, illness, a person, etc, you feel like your entire reality keeps tumbling and the more you fight it, the lower you sink. This song specifically leads my thoughts to not so much a thing, or another person in my life, but a person that I thought I had to be that kept me from flourishing. Letting go and coming to the realization that this is no longer you, this is not what makes you feel empowered, this is no longer happiness to you. When pressures from who you were in the past season of your life continue to grab at you, don’t be scared to fight back and remember that you are capable of so much more than you or anybody else is aware of.
“Like a Rolling Stone”
Bob Dylan, 1965
There I was. First week of college. No money. No idea where I was going. A new city. A constant wave of unfamiliar faces passing through me. Not a clue what I wanted to pursue. An environment forcing me to think about who I was and wanted to become for the first time. This was a song that got me through being utterly independent and extremely lonely. The slap in the face I needed. “How does it feel?”, a line that consistently resonated with me as I faced the challenges of being stripped of my security and familiarity and having to stick it out, ultimately on my own. Dylan wrote this back when he finished his tour of England where upon his return to the United States he began to feel like a puppet to the media. As if his music career was going down a path he couldn’t control. He almost considered quitting making music as a whole, until this song pulled him out of his rut, and that of many others for the years to follow.
“A Change is Gonna Come”
Sam Cooke, 1964
This man. Very few singers make people feel the passion that Sam Cooke ignites within every soul. The toughness, the pain, and the faithfulness in his voice has inspired generations. This, along with “What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gay and on a much, much darker tone “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday, are three of my favorite black suffrage songs because of the truthfulness tied to the words being sung. It provides a raw perspective that inspired many people during the civil rights movement. This song specifically stands out to me because it was one of the first movement songs I had ever heard, given that not many singers spoke out about this issue in the early 60’s while protests such as the freedom rides and sit-in’s were taking place. Songs like this one about efforts taking place are a crucial aspect of my music taste. Through these songs, I’m able to truly place myself in those times. Oldies are the types of songs that carry you from a loving carefree bubble to serious realities, all wrapped in one.
Trashcan Sinatras, 1990
Released in their first debut album titled Cake, these four Scottish men quickly rose to fame in America and the UK. Though some might find the intricate lyrics a challenge to form thoughts of, once you have truly read into them one will realize they are very relatable. The first quarter of your life is a time of major self-growth and a time where all you truly want to dedicate yourself to is making an impact somehow. That fantasy slowly becomes more difficult to achieve when the “real”, 9-5 world gets shoved down your throat the second you step out. I relate to this song in times where I’m lying in bed at 2AM wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life and feeding into the fears that I’ll fall down the rabbit hole of mediocracy. An anxiety many adolescents hold. Two more 80’s songs I feel capture this common feeling are “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” by The Smiths and on a funkier note “Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do?)” by Wham!
“It Ain’t Me Babe”
Joan Baez, 1965
Ah! A beautiful “it ain’t you, it’s me” mentality finally demonstrated. Though originally sung by Bob Dylan, this is one of the first songs ever sung by a female that truly expressed the unpopular phenomenon that a woman could actually not need nor want a man. Joan Baez always captured the liberated woman approach, which I tremendously respected given that America was alas breaking free from this ideology held on to by generations prior. This is the song I listen to when I’m in my badass mood or when I’m trying to get over heartbreak. Growing up and being one of my only friends never really interested in boyfriends, the constant wave of love songs playing no matter where I was took a toll on me as I could never genuinely relate to them.When I finally found this song, that was it; my first glimpse at female empowerment, especially in an era I loved. I don’t have time for any trivial guy to press on my breaks. I don’t need to slow down. I don’t need to settle down. “Different Drum” by Linda Ronstadt has a more upbeat melody to it but the same message.
“Two Sleepy People”
Fats Waller, 1938
A filled ashtray on the coffee table with an opened cigarette pack beside it. The only light peering into the almost empty room is that of the moonlight’s, seeping and peeking through the curtains. Your lover laying on your chest with just a blanket containing the heat. Talking purely, deeply. Then comfortable, embraceable silence transpires… This song softly playing in the corner of the room. Originally written by Hoagy Carmichael in 1935, known as one of the best composers of the first half of the 20th century. This remake with Waller’s dragged, raspy voice and contrasting gentle piano playing almost sounds like it was made just for you and the moon. No song that I have ever heard captures the mood of pillow talk as profoundly as this one. The simplicity in the notes and words Waller sings and plays, paired with the way he does so, make him, in my opinion, not only one of the best, most raw vocalists but piano players as well.