The Musical Story of ME
1. “Every Ghetto Every City” – Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
I started with this song for two reasons: for one, this particular song felt like an appropriate intro for a musical retrospective. Two, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is one of my favorite albums of all time and since it's release in 1998 I’ve discovered there has never been a time in my life or a situation in which this album felt anything less than perfect. To me this is an album for all occasions.
2. “Peace Train” – Cat Stevens, Teaser & the Firecat (1971)
Lets start at the beginning... Growing up in Marino Valley California my earliest introductions to music came from my mother. We didn't live in a house where there was often music so the occasions when my mother would put a record on our record player stand out as particularly vivid memories for me. Being the youngest of three, my brothers started school before me and I can remember being at home alone with my mom when the house was most quiet and the storm and cacophony of having 3 boys was temporarily calmed she would turn off the tv and put on the music that i much later realized comprised the score of her young adulthood. Peter Paul and Mary, The Carpenters, Harry Chapin, Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkle, and other folk pioneers of the 60's, 70's and 80's. Too young to have a real understanding of music these songs became embedded as a part of me right along side learning to speak the English language. This one in particular I can recall my mother quietly singing to herself often.
3.”You Never Can Tell” – Chuck Berry
Truth is I probably learned to dance before I learned to walk. Music and dance are inseparable concepts in my life, like mind and spirit intuitively and fluidly linked. I’ve had many dance inspirations in my life, images that etched themself in my mind as well as my body to make up my particular dance style. Watching John Travolta and Uma Thurman dance to this song in pulp fiction is one of those inspirations.
4. “Lets Dance” –David Bowie, Changes (1983)
David Bowie passed in my 29th year and his death revealed a deeper connection to him and his music than I realized. my generation is one of the earliest to experience portable music devices weaving our experiences seamlessly with our own personal film score. Music is a part of our lives and it’s easy to take for granted that this soundtrack is not just an inherent ambiance that exists just for us. This song is in my top 10 favorite songs of my life, and I loved this song before I even knew it was David Bowie. When he died I listened to his albums and realized how much of his music I had attached to specific moments and memories in my life. David Bowie's music resonates with me in a way that makes me feel like songs like this were written exclusively for me.
5. “Rock With You” – Micheal Jackson, Off the Wall(1979)
I would be remiss if I did not include Micheal Jackson on this mix. He stands above and beyond as, hands down, the greatest dance, music, and performance inspirations in my life. At the age of 6 or 7 I was practicing endlessly to emulate the magic that Micheal Jackson seemed to exude in his videos. A Micheal Jackson music video coming on TV was cause enough to immediately drop everything and study with joy and awe every second. I’m certain if it were not for Micheal Jackson I would not love dancing as much as I do today. While something like “Black or White”, or “Smooth Criminal” would be more representative of the Micheal Jackson of my era, i've included this song because its one of my favorites.
6. “Werewolves of London” – Warren Zevon
I’ve never heard a song about werewolves I didn't like, starting with this one. While this may not make my top 10 list, this is definitely within my top 15 favorite songs of all time.
7. “World Go Round” – No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom(1995)
No Doubts Tragic Kingdom was the first album I ever bought in 1995. The association I make to my childhood when hearing this album makes it seem at first like an early relic of my journey to discover my own musical tastes, but listening to it today the album still holds up as one of my favorites.
8. “Hard To Explain”- The Strokes, Is This It(2001)
This album is in my top 10 list of favorite albums. The Strokes were one of the earliest truly good discoveries of my teens. Amid things like Korn, Slipknot, Will Smith, Incubus, and a plethora of other terrible listening choices I fumbled through in my awkward teen years, The Strokes stood tall and true as a guiding beacon that would steer me in the right direction towards my current deeper appreciation for music, and helped me discover a sound that would lead me to the Beatles, The White Stripes, and The Velvet Underground. This is in my Top 10 list of favorite songs.
9.”I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” – The Beatles, Abby Road(1969)
In the disillusioning years following high school I experienced the deepest heartache, loneliness, depression, and disappointment I had ever felt in my life. Life kicked me pretty hard when it was time to set out on my own, during that time I really discovered the Beatles. Before this I of course knew who The Beatles were along with a handful of songs (and a handful of songs I didn’t even know were the Beatles) but Abby Road was the first album of theirs I listened to from start to finish. The careful and intentional composition of the Album itself rather than it’s individual tracks is what struck me the most and exploded my brain pan wide open to what an album could and should be. This song in particular resonated with me and how I was feeling so much that I would sit and brood in my room just listening to it over and over. This song is one of the most clear and pure expressions of a feeling I’ve ever heard, the lyrics as well as the music. If this song didn’t have any words you’d still know what it was about. This is in my top 5 favorite songs of all time.
10. “Y Control” – The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever To Tell(2003)
Around this same time, during my first year of college, my life seemed a little out of control. I fell in love with Karen O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs the first time I heard the single “Maps” (not even the best song on the album). Their simplicity and minimalism along with their wild sound of eloquent chaos really mirrored the way I felt about my own life. This album was a great catharsis to me during the more troubling times of my young adulthood. This song in particular is filled with vivid, visceral memories of people, places, moments, and mistakes made.
11. “Black Coffee” – Sarah Vaugn
This is the beginning of my love affair with Jazz music. When I moved to New York in 2005 the first couple of months were exhilarating, strange, nerve wracking, cold and very very lonely. I wandered into a music shop and stumbled upon a female torch song compilation cd called Sirens of song in a $5 bin that featured songs by Lena Horne, Eartha Kit, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Etta James, Edith Piaf, and Nina Simone. I didn’t know I liked Jazz until this album. I nearly wore the disc out listening to it while staring out the top floor common room window of my dormitory (a 50 something floor apt. building located at 55th and Lex) over looking the concrete jungle below. This song always reminds me of that lonely time in New York when I smoked too many cigarettes in the cold just hoping for an opportunity to talk to someone.
12. “Punky's Dilemma” – Paul Simon
In 2003, at the age of 17, while hanging out with some friends on the streets of downtown Ft Worth I met an old man playing his guitar on the street corner. He was short with deep wrinkles under his eyes and bulbous arthritic, but surprisingly nimble, fingers that deftly played and strummed an old acoustic guitar. He had a long scraggly white beard that hid a mouth devoid of a bottom row of teethe save for 1 large snaggletooth that stuck up through his wrinkled lips. He had long silver hair tied in a ponytail underneath a green bandana. He asked us what kind of music we liked, what we did, where were from, and then preceded to sing and play a few songs for us. His name was Ron Boyer, and I never could have guessed it at the time but he would become one of my closest, most trusted and influential friends. I could write many pages on this man, our friendship and his impact on my life. For this purpose I'll just say the way he could play others songs as if they were his own, making old familiar words new with a deeply personal truth inspired me to play the music I play. I hope one day to tell stories and sing songs in my old age with the joy and conviction he did. This is one of the songs he played us on that night and one he played often. It was the first time I'd heard it.
13. “Going to California” – Led Zeppelin, IV(1971)
This marks a huge shift in my life and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made… moving to Los Angeles. After basically dropping out of school and moving back into my parents garage my life was going fucking no where. I was happy for the most part… er, complacent rather. After feeling as though I had failed in the real world I found a sense of self-importance by obtaining some success as an artist and an actor in DFW but I knew it wasn’t enough. I made the decision to head west and within only a few weeks was on the road with a very small trailer filled with a handful of mostly sentimental possessions, and absolutely no idea what I would find. Before I left TX a friend of mine made me a mix for the road. This song was on it and every time I hear it think of my journey here. I think of who I was before LA and how far I’ve come from that person I left behind in Ft Worth.
14. “Got to Give it UP” – Marvin Gaye
This song is also one of my top 10, and if ever there was a song that was “my jam” this would be it.
This song makes me think of dancing at a party in the house on Hub street. A few months after moving to LA I subjected myself to one of the worst, most degrading job titles I’ve ever held: street canvasser. I was new in LA, didn’t know anyone, and was totally broke, but from this job I met what would become my LA family. Maybe It was one particular party… or perhaps it was many, they all blur together in a beautiful, colorful, Pollock-like splattered memory of drunken dancing, lights and love. I can recall this song coming on during some celebration.. perhaps a birthday, or new years or maybe just a Thursday night… and I blindly followed my heart and feet to the dance floor to pay offering to the gods of music and dancing and celebration, eyes shut tight, losing myself (as I do) to the rhythm. When I opened them I found the room filled with dancing bodies… not just people dancing, but others also lost in the love and light and oblivion of being alive just like I was and sharing this sacred moment with me. I looked at their faces and saw joy, and gratitude, and passion and family. in that moment I had found my home, my tribe, and knew with my whole heart and soul that I had found a feeling of belonging that I had always been missing.
15. “Dancing With Myself” – Billy Idol
lets face it, if I had a theme song… this would be it. I wanted to be Billy Idol when I was 8 yrs old cause I though he was the epitome of cool.
16.”Love Club” – Lorde, Pure Heroine(2013)
This song will always make me think of dropping acid for the first time. Deborah Jenson and I went on a hike, dropped acid then came back to my apt to play like 5 hours of Mortal Kombat while listening to this album on repeat. It was Dec. 25, Christmas 2013.
17. “Alright” – Kendric Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly(2015)
so this brings us to today… here I am 30 rotations around the sun. This song is included as a music discovery made this year. I’m really into this album right now, I think Kendrec is a tremendous artist. This reflects the time, my outlook and a sound I’ve found myself really resonating with at the end of my 29th year. I also like to think of this particular song as a hopeful anthem for anything and everything to come after 30. I’ma be alright
19. “Long December” – The Counting Crows
This is the song I want played at my funeral.
When I was 7 years old I moved from California to Utah… from someplace sunny and warm, someplace close to the ocean with big sky’s and a diversity of people and faces to someplace cold and grey, surrounded by mountains and people who all looked the same, people that did not look or think like me. I was very sad and longed to be back home under California skies. This song was of great comfort to me and filled me with a faith that I would some day return… and that no matter what happened eventually somehow everything would be alright. This song is still that for me today, a reminder that everything passes and the long cold winters of our life will end and give way to warmer seasons.
This song to me sounds like falling in love for the first time. this song to me sounds like hope. This song to me sounds like coming home. As I pass into my 3rd decade on this planet, in this body, I am reminded, with comfort, that one day I will die. That all of this is temporary and I am filled with unimaginable gratitude to have lived this long to see the things I’ve seen, done the things I’ve done, and heard the music I’ve heard. I don’t know what the future holds for me from here…. But maybe this year will be better than the last.