Most of us suffer from a mood change in the depths of winter, with the long nights, dreary days, and the cold weather pushing us toward despair. Cozy book reading and outdoor activities help me get through the season, but the guaranteed fix for me, as you’d probably guess, is to turn to music to lift my spirits. With that in mind, I recently put together a mix called “Hopes and Dreams”, full of music to inspire and bring a smile. The full playlist can be heard on Spotify and Apple Music.
The title track and what could be referred to as an “intro” to Common’s sixth studio album, but the powerful message gives the song its own identity. A reminder to breathe, to turn inward, and to appreciate the moment.
never lookin’ back or too far in front of me, the present is a gift and i just wanna be
Music Is Worth Living For- Andrew W.K.
I had a passing interest in Andrew W.K. over the years, but I became a genuine fan after catching his late night performance on Conan in 2018 while promoting his new album, You’re Not Alone. Eight grizzled rock and rollers filled the stage, four of them playing guitars, screaming and singing about the joy of life and music like a religious chorus. The emotion spilled off the screen so intensely, I immediately purchased a ticket to the band’s upcoming concert in Chicago. I attended on my own and, when mentioning that this was my first Andrew W.K. show, I was greeted to claps on the back by numerous strangers and the words “Welcome to the congregation.” It was a crazy, sweaty, and energetic evening that left my body beaten and my heart soaring. Whenever I need a spiritual boost, I turn to this track.
music makes life worth living, music is worth living for
Stay Positive- The Hold Steady
It’s not exactly what the song is about, but there’s something uplifting about singing “whoa ho ho, we gotta stay positive” over and over.
the sing-along songs will be our scriptures
Open Road Song- Eve 6
In the lonely days and ennui of my late teens and early twenties, I would spend many an evening flying forever bored on the country roads of my hometown, windows down and radio up. This song seemed written for me and those nights, an ode to metamorphosis through isolation.
i don’t need a girl, don’t need a friend, cuz my friend lonesome’s unconditional
the night is beckoning, although I have nowhere to go but home
with every turn comes a new frame of mind
Perfect Life- Moby (feat. Wayne Coyne)
The track by Moby, with the help of The Flaming Lips lead singer, Wayne Coyne, seems to be about a chemical escape from life, but I choose to find hope in the final line of the chorus.
life is all we need
Do You Realize?- The Flaming Lips
Simple musings and realizations about life that make you pause and realize the importance of the forgotten obvious.
you realize the sun doesn't go down, it's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round
Glory- Common & John Legend
As we exit the month when we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and enter into Black History Month, this song and the fight for equality continues to be relevant. Glory is the premier track from the soundtrack of the film Selma. The movie depicts the events surrounding King’s march at the town of the same name. Glory reminds us of battles fought, the struggles that still exist, and the hope for victory against them.
they say, "stay down" and we stand up
Divisionary (Do The Right Thing)- Ages & Ages
The personal challenges of the band members permeate the joyous choruses and catchy melodies, creating an atmosphere of hope though struggle.
make yourself right, never mind them
All The Young Dudes- Mott the Hoople
This is one of my favorite stories of rock and roll. As the legend goes, Mott the Hoople was struggling with commercial success and was on the verge of splitting up when David Bowie, hearing of the turmoil, offered up two compositions. All The Young Dudes, the second, was allegedly written specifically to help the band while Bowie sat crossed-legged on the floor of a room in London. The result was a No. 3 single for the band and one of the greatest songs of all time for all of us.
but we can love, oh yes, we can love
Leaky Little Boat- Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers
I’m often heard saying that there are only a handful of things I’ve done in life as long as I’ve been a fan of Roger Clyne in his various musical incarnations. The fourteen year old version of me was pulled in by the poppy-rock hooks and mischievous tone of the early Refreshments, but the philosophies of love and life have kept me around for over two decades.
so many different colored boats i see, are all leaky, lonely, and driftin', just like me
Travelin’ Thru- Dolly Parton
Travelin’ Thru was written and recorded by Dolly Parton for the 2006 film, Transamerica, and in support of the LGBTQ community.
i’m a puzzle, i must figure out where all my pieces fit
It’s A Great Day To Be Alive- Travis Tritt
The song was written by Darrell Scott and recorded by multiple artists, including Scott, but this is likely the most well-known version.
i know the sun's still shining, when I close my eyes
The Swimming Song- Loudon Wainwright III
I know here in Michigan that summer seems far off and swimming holes are a bit less than inviting, but these poetic lyrics might just be among the most inspiring of all time. The metaphor serves as an instruction manual for life; you can stay on the shoreline and miss out or you can dive in, take a risk, and live it up.
this summer I went swimming, this summer I might have drowned, but I held my breath and I kicked my feet and I moved my arms around
Mekong- The Refreshments
Another from Roger Clyne and one of my favorite songs of all time. My anthem, my motto; cheers to us all, cheers to life.
if your bottle’s empty, help yourself to mine, thank you for your time, and here’s to life
Land of Hope and Dreams- Bruce Springsteen
While many musicians have been working as long as The Boss, Springsteen continues to make new music that is relevant to the day, avoiding the trap of becoming his own cover band. In 2012, as the country continued to struggle with it’s divisions, Bruce released a truly American album in Wrecking Ball and nothing captures the hopes and dreams of our ideals more than this track.
this train carries saints and sinners, this train carries losers and winners
In The Garage- Weezer
An ode to the lonely spots and private spaces where we can be ourselves, if only for a moment.
i write these stupid words and i love every one
40 Day Dream- Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
In August of 2010, I stood in Lincoln Hall in Chicago and witnessed an epic concert opening that removed any cynical musings about musicians playing at being flower children. In an instant, the house lights fell around the bar full of milling concertgoers and were replaced by an explosion of illumination, percussion, strings, and love, the stage now full of nearly a dozen musicians filling the room with a chorus of joy.
i know i'm sleeping 'cause this dream’s too amazin'
Out Of The Woods And Into The Light- The Rutabega
The Rutabega are at the top of my favorites of local music offerings. This track comes from brother the lights don't work, an honest and emotional album that deserves a place in every music library.
some half forgotten memory, some dream of disarray, it's a wonder we made it out alive