An Ultimate Playlist….

You can tell a lot about somebody by what they listen to. I don’t know why this particular playlist seems worthy of note but it does.  The idea behind it is to get, somehow, above the din of ugliness, drama, and chaos that is the lives I hear about daily in my office and the bizarre drama that is our news at this point. There’s enough junk out there in our world that there are two other blog pieces just waiting to be finished, but this one somehow fought it’s way out first.

Remember when music meant something? Remember when we thought it  would save the world?   As Harry Chapin once sang, “”Remember when the music
Came from wooden boxes strung with silver wire
And as we sang the words, it would set our minds on fire
For we believed in things, and so we’d sing”.

I wanted to listen to songs like that. I need to listen to songs like that so I put together this playlist on my iPhone. Lately, I skip the radio or other CDs to listen to it. Oddly, Harry’s song is not here, because I didn’t want to be told how good I was for listening, I wanted to feel how good it felt to listen. Harry is wonderful, and one of my all-time heroes, but he’s for another day.

1972, when I was 12, for some reason comes to mind here as I put this together and some of the songs — “soul” songs especially — would have come out during that time. Maybe this period would last until about 1976, when disco would have its heyday and the world would slowly fall apart around us. Intermittently, there would be songs that pop out with meaning or difference or spirit, but our national or global spirit dampened the lift that the song had, so no revolutions or long-term hope came from them. Some of them are protest songs, some of them are other-worldly, some of them are soul, some are just child-like or silly and that’s why they’re here.

It’s a long playlist because it takes a long time to overcome lost perspective and rise above it all to see beauty and hope again. It kind of began because Pandora radio, which I have at work, has a Donovan station and it helped me feel at peace. Ethereal and Indian and reminiscent of the Beatles on on hand and Joan Baez/Bob Dylan on the other hand, I kept it on for a long time. I ended up buying some Donovan for times when the radio/wireless wasn’t available. From there, as pieces came to mind or brought me that feeling, I picked those up as well. Anyway, hope you like it. It’s what I’ve been listening to.


You Get What You Give — New Radicals — “Age fourteen/ they’ve got you down on your knees. Don’t give’ve got the dreamer’s disease…”

You’ve Got A Friend — Carole King — Needs no introduction if you remember it from when it came out.

Wear Your Love Like Heaven — Donovan — Great song, for all the reasons I said.  Sarah McLaughlin does a wonderful version of this as well, because it’s a great song and it shows off her spirit.

Waterloo Sunset — Ray Davies and Jackson Browne — I have at least three versions of this beautiful song. This one has Jackson Browne, too.

Wake Up Everybody — Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes — Love this, heard it in a movie recently and my daughter asked about it. Wonderful Black preacher feel to it.

Up On The Roof (Live) — Carole King and James Taylor — I like both individual versions of this, and this isn’t the best out there, but they’re having fun and it reminded me of fun (as Robert Plant once said, “Doesn’t anybody remember laughter?”).

Turn, Turn, Turn — Pete Seeger — folk music, protest singer (has anybody written a protest song lately?), biblical references: the real deal.

This Land Is Your Land — Pete Seeger, Sweet Honey In The Rock, and others — A wonderful song with so many wonderful voices. Dylan made it possible for the Smithsonian to own Folkways records with this. It’s for all of us.

Shiny Happy People — R.E.M. and the B-52s — Hippie, Happy, beautiful joy.

Stoned Soul Picnic — Fifth Dimension — loved them as a kid — “red-yellow honey, sassafras and moonshine” sung beautifully.

Pride (In The Name of Love) — U2 — These guys give me hope for the world. Songs about MLK, Ghandi, and Jesus, with a great rhythm and energy, have a tendency to do that.

Positively 4th Street — cover version from a tribute album. I like to see when a new generation carries a song on and what they do with it. I like the banjo here.

Oh Happy Day — Edward Hawkins Singers — just no getting away from the love and the Spirit here. Amazingly, it was played on the radio when I was a kid.

Oh Girl — Chi Lights — the only song about romantic love here. From my days as a misunderstood twelve year old who knew all about loving girls.

Lalena — Donovan — more Donovan, real funky breathing creates an ethereal sound.

Itchy-Coo Park — Small Faces — How many times can you sing “It’s all too beautiful” without getting your spirit up?

Israelites — The ABC Company — I just love this.  It’s like a garage band doing reggae before anyone had heard of reggae. “Get up in the morning to go make bread/so that every mouth can be fed…” Have no idea what this has to do with Israel or Israelites, but there it is.

Hurdy Gurdy Man — Donovan — probably written on acid, but wow… otherworldly love, man…

Good Vibrations (a capella) — Wilson Phillips — I love the sound of just people’s voices and this is a really cool example. Strange hearing a woman do the bass parts as part of it all but true to the spirit of her father, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy — Bobby McFerrin — same reasons about a capella and the message is hopeful.

Do It Again — Wilson Phillips — fun for the sake of fun, celebrating fun.

Crimson and Clover — Joan Jett and the Blackhearts — I own the original Tommy James version, but not on mp3. My kids love this and it rocks.

Catch My Disease — Ben Lee — There is something about the use of kids’ piano that raises my spirits every time I hear it. This song is fun and silly and has that sound. Video’s a lot of fun as well. “They play ME on the radio… and that’s the way I like it!…”. Just plain fun. Five-year-olds can dance to this one. So can drunken college students and hippies.

Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft — The Carpenters — An incredible song. I like it better than the Klaatu original because it feels more substantial somehow. And Karen Carpenter’s voice against a robot-sounding alien voice? She does us proud.

Blowing In the Wind — by House of Fools from a tribute album — a heroic anthem, sung as an anthem featuring children’s voices, brings a tear of hope…

Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In — Fifth Dimension — a great soul anthem of hope and possibility, from Hair.

I Shall Be Released — Steel Train from the same tribute album — poignant tone of I-don’t-know-what seems like the wind and it’s great.

Long May You Run — Neil Young — My old DJ habits couldn’t resist a closing song, and this is it. St. Mary’s College of Maryland hippies, this is for you — and me.


So there it is, in all it’s glory. Hope you like it.








Don’t Know Much About Islam, But….

If someone had ever told me I’d be writing defense of Islam, I would have thought they were nuts. I’m not against Islam. It’s simply foreign to me. In the years since 9/11, Islamic people and their culture have appeared more than I ever noticed before. It is not unusual to see women in Burkas in West Hartford, or Springfield, or Boston or any other place I might go these days. My wife teaches about — and understands — Islam enough to know whether I’m even using the correct word when I say “burka”. I have had Islamic students when I have taught psychology, but we haven’t talked about religion.

About the only things I can say definitively are: Muslims 1) bow to Mecca when they pray (sometimes); 2) They believe in the words of Mohammed; 3) They have some season where they fast; 4) They worship “Allah”, a different name for the deity Jews call “Yahweh” and English-speaking Christians call “God”. It is the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph”. There are two twin brothers in the Bible book of Genesis and one was clever and took the birthright of the other. The one that took the birthright is considered the historic father of Judaism and the one that lost it is considered the historic father of Islam, but it is the same God. 5) They have this thing called “Jihad” which is something to do with purification, but often gets translated in our press as “kill the enemies of Islam, especially the United States”.  I leave my near cluelessness as the the last on the list to show how the one good thing I know about Islam gets lost in the cloud of information/disinformation that is my experience of Islam.

That said,  I am pretty clear that not everyone who says they represent Islam actually does, just as I’m sure that not everyone who claims to represent Jesus does and not every representative of Judaism actually represents God’s will.

In this category of non-Islamic Muslims is Boko Haram, which the Huffington Post calls a “Nigerian Islamist militant group”. Abubakar Shekau, “the infamous head” of this group said “I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah”. Apparently, the organization abducted 300 Nigerian girls   from their secondary school in Borno state on April 14, driving them off into the remote Sambisa forest. While some managed to escape, police said last week that 276 were still missing”, according to the Post.

I will agree that the Boko Haram is Nigerian and militant and a group. What I will not agree to is that there are Islamic or any other religion. They certainly don’t believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That God — and, frankly, any God worth worshiping —  frees people from slavery, whether that’s physical or emotional slavery. That God — and, frankly, any God worth worshiping — doesn’t pick on children. That God — and, frankly, any God worth worshiping — expects that — at the very least — their people pick on somebody their own size. That God — and, frankly, any God worth worshiping — loves people and doesn’t choose to hurt them. That God — and, frankly, any God worth worshiping — knows bravery when they see it. Even a patriarchal God who loves men more than women (whom I don’t and won’t worship, by the way) wouldn’t call kidnapping girls in middle school a brave, glorious, or holy endeavor.

Since no sane religion would think the actions of Boko Haram were reasonable, then clearly Boko Haram cannot represent Mohammed or Islam.  As a Westerner, I have seen the insane side of Islam. Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and any number of America’s “enemies” have their version of Islam which I believe varies from the liberal or “mainline” version. But enough of them — liberal and conservative — believe they are “in the ballpark” of Islam that I can’t disagree. In short, then, there are lots of Muslims around the world, some of them are nut-jobs. My experience in America tells me that they are not the majority of Islamic folks, any more than the Inquisition is the epitome of all of Christianity.

Even Ayatollah Khomeini kidnapped adults who knew the situation had the potential for danger. Saddam Hussein ruled with an iron hand, but didn’t single out young girls — children — for punishment, to my knowledge. The PLO, when they took over the Olympic compound in Munich, didn’t pick on helpless, scared-out-of-their-wits school children.  These are the images of the worst of Islam ingrained in my head. Even they — the supposed worst of Islam, via the lens of Western foreigners — aren’t as ridiculous, evil, and full of cowardice as Boko Haram is in this situation. Call them what you want, but religious, or followers of God, or spiritual people they are not. I don’t know much about Islam, but I’m sure these people aren’t it.  Let’s not call them that. I’m pretty sure even Allah wouldn’t recognize them.




















The leader of vowed to sell hundreds of schoolgirls that were kidnapped in the north of the country two weeks ago, Agence France Press reports on Monday.

Abubakar Shekau, the infamous head of the Nigerian Islamist militant group, made the comments in a taped video message in which he also claimed responsibility for the mass abduction.

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” Shekau said, according to AFP.

Armed militants abducted more than 300 Nigerian girls from their secondary school in Borno