Death seems to be on my mind lately — can’t imagine why — and one of the things about which I muse at such times involves a mixtape, a playlist of music I’d like to distribute, or disseminate via streaming services, for after (so to speak).
My particular flavour of autism involves a generally stolid affect, including at times that warrant more overt expression of grief or stress or elation, of any sort of intense sentiment.
But especially grief.
I am susceptible, though, to upwellings of affect when my feelings are catalysed by particular evocative artistic expressions. Since music provides the most everyday example of these feelings, songs (and hymns) are liable to render me speechless, my throat closed, and my eyes misty if not outright teary. So the memorial playlist would not involve my favourite songs; often as not I can sing straight through those. But the playlist would compile some of the music that bares my vulnerable feelings, the ones I usually can’t sing myself.
And I’d impose the artificial constraint of a dozen selections. The digital world knows no bounds (kids these days!), and a dozen cuts is not a hard and fast limit from vinyl days, but it’s at least a point of orientation.
So, what would be on that list? I’m making a first pass now, throwing possibilities (and either/ors) in, without aiming to winnow it down to a canonical twelve. Here’s where the list currently stands:
Kirsty MacColl, ‘Soho Square’ (almost a lock to make it)
Prince, ‘Thunder’ (very likely, probably as an opener)
Charles Mingus, ‘Good Bye Pork Pie Hat’ (no lyrics, but goes straight to my soul)
Bob Dylan, ‘You’re Gonna Make Ma Lonesome When You Go’ (though it’s from the survivor’s view)
Van Morrison, ‘Jackie WIlson Said’ (or possibly something else from the Band & Street Choir period)
The Band, ‘I Shall Be Released’ (No question, must be Richard Manuel)
George Harrison, ‘My Sweet Lord’ (probably most apt choice from All Things Must Pass)
The Proclaimers, ‘Sunshine on Leith’
Laurie Anderson, ‘Strange Angels’
One of Lou Reed’s elegies; maybe ‘What’s Good’ from Magic and Loss, though several other cuts from that album would do; ‘Hello It’s Me’ from Songs for Drella is too specific to Andy).
Annie Lennox’s performance of ‘Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye’
Talking Heads, ‘Dream Operator’
Iron & Wine, either ‘Passing Afternoon’ or ‘Naked as We Came’
David Bowie. maybe ‘ROck’n’Roll Suicide’? Got to be something…
Iris Dement, ‘Our Town’ or ‘Mama’s Opry’
One of several terrific performances of ‘Get Away, Jordan’ (but does that then require, or preclude a performance of ‘The Far Side Bank of Jordan’)
the Mountain Goats, ‘Deuteronomy 2:10’ or ‘Matthew 25:21’?
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, ‘I See a Darkness’ (the uptempo version from Now Here’s My Plan, or Johnny Cash’s version)
Last of all, the title theme for the BBC Campion series, written by Nigel Hess.