Songs That Saved My Life

Given that cortisol is public enemy number one, getting high on music is one of my favorite pastimes. Songs that match my inner mood resonate like internal endorsements – no matter what I’m feeling, I can listen and I know I’m okay. At certain points in my life, there have been tunes that mean so much they’ve changed my entire outlook, including my body chemistry. Endorphins are great, no?

A humble collection of fave artists and songs, including those heart-achingly, gut-wrenchingly beautiful songs that lifted my spirits and made me want to write music, sensual gems that get my juices going (over and over again, yes!), floor movers and ass-shakers, some socially conscious protest numbers that stick to the brain, and then some. This is just a small selection here, and I don’t discriminate by genre – “it’s all music to me…”

A Richard Ashcroft & The Verve :: Probably one of the best singer-songwriters of the 90s, whether he was with The Verve or not. He can sing in my ear anytime…

Song for the Lovers – “Don’t wanna wait…Lord I’ve been waiting all my life but I’m too late again I know but I was scared…and DJ, play a song for the Lovers…tonight…”

Sonnet – “Yes, there’s love if you want it…don’t sound like no sonnet, my lord…” The choruses on this one will lift you up and over the clouds, and gotta love that out – it sounds like Mr. Ashcroft is personally escorting me into a heaven all my own.

The Drugs Don’t Work“If Heaven calls, I’m comin’ too…” There’s something about his voice when he sings this line that hits a nerve.

A Nadia Ali :: Anything this woman sings/is featured on. Hers is one of those unique voices – you always know it’s her. Good to have that with EDM, otherwise some of it starts to sound alike…

A Anastacia :: Sick and Tired – “I lost my peace of mind somewhere along the way…I knew there’d come a time you’d hear me say…I’m sick and tired of always being sick and tired…” Is Anastacia singing about her ongoing fight with cancer, or is it really all about leaving behind some bad love? In any case, what a song, what a voice. Be well…

A Tasmin Archer :: Sleeping Satellite – “Have we lost what it takes to advance? Have we peaked too soon? If the world is so green…then why does it scream under a blue moon? We wonder why the earth’s sacrificed for the price of its greatest treasure…” Another unforgettable vocal performance, from ethereal whispers to the gritty. Two instrumental bridges wind their way around this tune as it just keeps building and building expectations, kind of like the abandonment of space exploration the song laments so well. Have we lost it? I worry about this in 2016, because look what’s happening all around: Backlashes against progress. Isolationism. Fear. Lack of follow-through. The tendency to look back on eras that never really existed, except in someone’s wishful-thinking mind. My response in just two syllables: Forward! 

B Borgeous :: Wildfire – Stuck-on-the-ceiling orgasmic! Romantic. Sensual. Breathless. I first heard this driving through the desert from Vegas to LA on BPM via satellite radio. Can’t get enough of the passionate urgency and brilliant shifts of energy in this…and truth be told, I’d not mind at all a collab with this Miami-born LA transplant. If he would have me.

C The Carpenters :: Superstar – Ahhhhhhhhhh, wow, what a song, what a tragic ending to the life and career of Karen Carpenter, whose voice often soothed me to sleep as a young kid…this woman is right up there with Freddie Mercury as far as the loss of a truly singular voice. Love to do my own version of this, which I listen to often when love (and other things) suddenly and inexplicably disappear.

C Christopher Cross :: Ride Like the Wind – “It is the night…my body’s weak…I’m on the run…no time for sleep…I’ve got to ride…ride like the wind…to be free again…and I’ve got such a long way to go…to make it to the border of Mexico…” This song always gives the escapist inside that spectacular feeling of being in motion, of running, of the wind in my hair, blowing across my skin. It is that good, and by far the best tune as backdrop for all my offshore planning needs…and all those trips to Mexico to retrieve the good health I once had, and now have again, thanks to that wonderful country.

D Dido :: Dido’s No Angel album soothed me into a different world at a time I’d felt like I’d been banished, for health reasons, to a different planet. Pulled this one out often to get into healing mode; just her syrupy voice is enough to sweeten any sour mood.

Here With Me“I don’t want to move a thing, it might change my memory…” Oh, I am what I am.

Hunter“If you were a king up there on your throne, would you be wise enough to let me go…for this queen you think you own wants to be a hunter again…I want to see the world alone again.” How’d she know the first thought on my mind waking up every day the past couple of years? Wanderlust has taken strong roots…

Don’t Think of MeGREEEEAAATTT. SONG. How’d she get the Bee Gees to do backings? LOL!

D Dixie Chicks :: Not Ready to Make Nice – I really get this one. I mean really. Censorship abounds, lucky for the DC they already had a platform. What happened to them after speaking their first amendment-protected truth was nothing short of disgusting. But it wasn’t their exercise of free speech that cost them – it was the bad behavior of those too insecure to acknowledge another opinion. Their plight confirms that music industry blacklisting is alive and well – and don’t I know it.

D The Doors :: Touch Me“Can’t you see that I am not afraid?” Something in Jim Morrison’s intensely deep, resonant, overtly sexual and intoxicatingly seductive voice just gets me every time. And his poetry in The Lords and the New Creatures is intriguing to say the least. Favorite line? The one where he declares television to have reduced us “from a mad body dancing on hillsides to a pair of eyes staring in the dark.” 

E Earth, Wind & Fire :: Fantasy – I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall of the studio where this was produced. Amazing, just the spatials alone. One of the inspirations for my naming my ASCAP publisher January 32nd Music – “Our voices will ring together…until the twelfth of never…we all will live love forever, as one…” Oh, yeahhhh!!!

F Filo & Peri :: Anthem – Took me away from first listen. “This is an anthem for…the world of yesterday…” Love the acoustic guitar juxtaposed with the club sound here, that’s the sort of contrast that reminds me of what happened in my past as compared to how much better my present is. I’m still here, right? LOL!!!

F Fuel :: Yep, it’s a band from Penn’s Woods…transplanted from Tennessee though they may be.

Shimmer“And I’m somewhere in between…I never really know a killer from a savior…’til I break at the bend.” Yeah, and you really don’t. Not until you’re broken in half, which is when all things come to light, because in that place, you’ve got a real view to seeing things clearly.

G Jeffrey Gaines :: Hero in Me – There’s something about a song that starts with the line: “He’s lived as long as he possibly can, given the circumstance” that is absolutely jarring. Then, once you’re already hooked and slightly off-balance comes: “Here in my security…I’ve put a limit on my self-potential…and my possibilities…” and now you know you’re squarely in rock-bottom, reality-based territory, full-on.

The relief comes with the crescendo: “And I sleep and dream of the person I might have been … and then realize that there’s got to be some hero in me,” and all of it just hits…every. Damn. Nerve.

This Pennsylvania singer-songwriter has so much guts and nails it in just as many ways with this tune that has gotten me through sicknesses, silences, adversities, catastrophic misunderstandings, breakups and family matters that literally shattered me to the core. Simply one of the most hauntingly spot-on human compositions I’ve ever had the disturbing, yet hopeful pleasure of hearing. I feel like I’m inside this song when I listen to it.

G Garbage :: Perfect mix of rock, pop, metal and electronic. Genius = Vig + Manson.

Vow – When Shirley Manson belts “you crucify me, but I’m back in your bed…like Jesus Christ coming back from the dead…” Well, now, that’s sayin’ somethin’…

G Marvin Gaye :: Mercy Mercy Me – A song truly ahead of its time. And an artist who needs no introduction.

J Freedy Johnson :: Bad Reputation – “Suddenly I’m on the street … seven years disappear below my feet … been breaking down … do you want me now? Do you want me now?” Yeah, I do want you now, but this tune is what losing years to anything…a long, baaaad roll in the hay, or a multi-year cancer case that just takes everything “you know I haven’t got.”

M Manic Street Preachers :: If You Tolerate This – “And…if you tolerate this, then your children will be next…” An absolutely stunning song that reminds me to learn from the past…or live on infinite loop. The Spanish have a recent memory of fascism…in their back yards, front yards, houses and streets…and that explains why they are out in the streets all time, building pyramids out of people, occupying their own spaces, making their presences known and felt. The chorus on this one is so fucking killer, it lifts, haunts, enthralls and always sends chills down my spine.

M Sarah McLachlan :: I’m convinced Sarah McLachlan’s voice can raise the dead; it has raised this songwriter from deep sleep into pre-dawn, just-awakened poetic repose. She is only one of a few singers that manage to wake me from my dreams…and she sends me straight back into dreamland with her beautiful vocals and striking lyrics. These are just two of a long list of faves from this talented songwriter:

Possession – “Oh into the sea of waking dreams…I follow without pride…nothing stands between us here…and I won’t be denied.” This song possessed yours truly from its very first note. No, I won’t be denied. The spirit is strong, it is resilient, and it lives on to so many new days, bridging new connections to new experiences, intertwining with whole, new lives. So haunting, so frightening…so beautiful and alive!

Sweet Surrender – “It doesn’t mean much…it doesn’t mean anything at all…the life I left behind me…is a cold room…I’ve crossed the last line…from where I can’t return…where every step I took in faith betrayed me…and led me from my home.” I feel the same. I left home, left the fold to deal with things on my own. But, that past is gone. A lot of it lived in those cold rooms – of illness, of loneliness, of trying to disassociate from it all…but then learning from it, finally, after all the resistance, which is a killer in itself. Sweet surrender indeed, a concept as close to divinity as can be, and no wonder it’s such a rarity to actually achieve it in this life. This driving tune takes hold and never lets go until its message sinks in. Swirled-in vocals that take me elsewhere. Great for the road, driving, travelling…or for just plain listening-and-losing-y0urself in those pre-dawn hours in expectation of the sun’s next appearance. Surrender…it will be there!

N Shane Nicholson :: I first heard this guy while streaming Nordwestradio from Germany, part of my habit to hear something different. Simply a great singer-songwriter (among my most-loved genres) whose album Faith & Science soothes the inner beast.

Faith & Science – A Rhapsody page with snippets as I can’t seem to find the vid for Set Me Up“Cause I’ve been waiting for something beautiful to blow up in my face…and I’ve been looking for something dangerous to come and take it’s place…” My thoughts exactly.

N Nine Inch Nails :: Trent Reznor, another Pennsylvanian. Shows that some of the most interesting music comes from small-town PA…

Head Like a Hole – When he sings “God-Money’s not looking for the cure,” you can believe it. I’ve lived it. Had to go outside of God-Money’s borders to find it.

Q Queen :: The Show Must Go On – “I guess I’m learning, I must be warmer now…I’ll soon be turning, round the corner now…outside the dawn is breaking…but inside in the dark I’m aching to be free…the show must go on…” The day Freddie Mercury died was among the worst in my life. Just to know that voice, belonging to that riveting, tower-of-energy showman, was really gone was enough to crack my heart and soul into bits and pieces. RIP.

R Rush :: Love Rush, love how Geddy Lee uses his bass as the lead. Always in awe of these three people making ALL THAT MUSIC. Among my must-listens…

The Pass – I don’t even remember how many times this song saved my skinny arse (and it’s still happening): “All of us get lost in the darkness…dreamers learn to steer by the stars…” Best line ever.

Subdivisions“The future pre-decided…detached and subdivided in the mass production zone…nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone.” Says it all.

Red Barchetta“Suddenly ahead of me across the mountainside…a gleaming alloy air car shoots towards me, two lanes wide…” Reminds me of one of the many constituent inventions in my father’s barn lab in Pennsylvania.

S Scorpions :: Send Me an Angel – “Wise man said find your place…in the eye of the storm…seek the roses along the way…just beware of the thorns…here I am…will you send me an angel…” This song floors me. Unabashedly lovely, and in the face of all wisdom, not at all afraid to ask for what it really wants. Why not an angel? If you’re going to go for it, go for it all.

S Al Stewart :: Broadway Hotel – An achingly lonely song from an album I can only describe as spy novel by one of the best storytellers in 3/4 timing I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. “Love was a smile away…just a defile away…I sought it every way…no one came near.” And those violin solos just lay me flat every time I hear them.

Year of the Cat“She comes in incense and patchouli…so you take her, to find what’s waiting inside…” Simply gorgeous! And those pianos…mmmmmmmm.

Roads to Moscow“The eyes of the city are opening now, it’s the end of the dream…” Epic.

S Bob Sinclar :: World Hold On – Loved this one from first listen. The repetitive nature of club, house and other EDM sub-genres I’ve found to be quite helpful in getting my body moving (movement doesn’t lie) and my brain reprogramming. Being a fan of pop songs, I tend to like pop-structured dance music like this one, though some deep house has been flowing through my veins lately.

S John Secada :: Just Another Day (Without You) – This song saved my (romantic) life on more than one occasion…and it always works 🙂 Impassioned, unique vocal arrangement on the verses on this one, part mellow backing layers woven in with strong leads. Takes hold and never lets go (maybe that’s why it works?), LOL!

T Tears for Fears :: Advice for the Young at Heart“Soon we will be older, when we gonna make it work?” Hmmm…now there’s a question.

God’s Mistake – I remember a few people who had a real problem with this one. Whatever for? “God does not play dice…yet if he’s everywhere…he’s in casinos with aces to spare…oh, love is god’s mistake…”

W Ween :: “These guys have no future.”  – Beavis and Butthead

Local guys from New Hope, Pennsylvania no less…coolest experimental act since Zappa, saw them at parties and gigs all the time. So many great memories; they did NOT ignore their hometown crowd. Best Ween memory: When Route 611 became a parking lot outside their Tohickon Tavern gig in 2001 just after I’d gotten back from Australia. Best. Show. Ever!!!

Voodoo Lady“I feel you now inside me…never once did you deny me, doin’ that stuff that you do…knockin’ me out with your voodoo…”

W Bill Withers :: Ain’t No Sunshine – This song is sent to us from heaven, through Bill Withers. Just incredible and sensual, and there are sooo many times when I need nothing more than just that.

Y Neil Young :: Philadelphia – “Sometimes I think that I know…what love’s all about…and when I see the light…I know I’ll be all right…” Another mind-blowingly gorgeous tune from beyond the stratosphere, from the Philadelphia movie soundtrack, where mind-blowing songs and performances from gifted actors abound. If any song on this list can bring on the tears, it is this one – ohhh, those piano riffs, how they tug on this listener’s heartstrings. How is it possible to write a song this sad and beautiful?