Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tunes in the Time of Covid-19

On the morning  of March 14, Tony Neely sent me a link to this playlist. Seventeen days ago seems like years ago in Pandemic Time. As soon as I saw the list, as soon as I started listening, I realized how perfect this was for imperfect times, how Pandemic Playlists would be a lifeline for these strange days. From now on, this comprehensive Covid 19 playlist is the defining self-isolation playlist.

Seeing Tony’s list made me want to see everyone’s quarantine survival kit of sound. The playlist is the mixtape of this moment, articulating the feelings that everyone is feeling. Hopefully you will listen to this and all future installments of this “pandemic playlist project.” Send us your playlist, too. We have time to listen! A.W.S.

Tunes in the Time of Covid-19: An Annotated Playlist by Anthony D. Neely, Ph.D.

Music has always been my escape. More than an escape…music has offered a place of solace. For every moment of my life, whether joyful or morose, there has been an accompanying melody.

When my son was born, I played “Here Comes the Sun” (The Beatles) because that was the first song I wanted him to hear upon his triumphant entrance into this broken world. And I wept with pride.

My father abandoned our family, not once but twice, while I was in high school. We lost our home as a result. All memorialized to the tune of Jars of Clay’s Tea and Sympathy.

A song for every turn and every experience.

In March of this year, it became evident that Covid-19 was not merely the gone-tomorrow-flu that the media had led us to believe. As a school teacher, I saw the writing on the wall that I would likely not be returning to my classroom for quite a while…if at all during this school year. Again, music became a coping mechanism.

I decided to compile a playlist.

That playlist is titled aptly titled, Coronacation Playlist.

The obvious first song to add, as I’m sure will be a theme across most Covid-19 related playlists, was R.E.M.’s It’s The End of The World As We Know It. I chose this song as the opening track because it represents the cognitive dissonance that I, and so many others, are experiencing during this time as we simultaneously bask in a slower pace to life while watching the world’s social and economic structures crumble in front of us. It’s all just mumbled words in a major key.

As a Christian, however, I am not hopeless during this time. My faith helps me to believe that nothing happens without God’s foreknowledge. There is peace in knowing that I am not in control. Thematically, this aligned with the second track of the playlist, Sky Falls Down by Third Day.

After choosing the first two tracks, the playlist honestly became a form of mental exercise; a flexing of my music nerd muscles, if you will, to see how many songs I could pull from memory that fit within various themes related to Covid-19.

Illness: Down with Disease (Phish), Down with the Sickness (Disturbed), Sick as a Dog (Aerosmith)

Fever: Fever (Peggy Lee). Cold Sweat (James Brown), Feeling Hot Hot Hot (Bad Influence)

Contagiousness: And It Spread (The Avett Brothers), U Can’t Touch This (MC Hammer), Don’t Touch Me (Etta James)

Social Distancing: Don’t Stand So Close to Me (The Police), Keep Your Hands to Yourself (Georgia Satellites), Quarantined (At the Drive In)

Hospitals: In the Hospital (Friendly Fires), Hospital Beds (Cold War Kids), Hospital (The Lemonheads)

Death: Death with Dignity (Sufjan Stevens), Don’t Fear the Reaper (Blue Oyster Cult), Die Die Die (The Avett Brothers)

Breathing Issues: Lungs (Townes Van Zandt), Harder to Breathe (Maroon 5), Pneumonia Blues (Lightnin Hopkins)

Armageddon: End of the World Party (Medeski, Martin, and Wood), The End of The World (The Cure), The Earth Died Screaming (Tom Waits)

Hope: Hope in a Hopeless World (Widespread Panic), Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python), Touch of Grey (The Grateful Dead)

More and more themes emerged as I worked on the playlist. Examples included hygiene, medicine, ambulances, healthcare professionals (e.g., doctors, nurses), school, and hysteria, to name a few.

Knowing the first cases of Covid-19 had emerged in November 2019, I was also curious if any songs had been published specifically about the virus. I found several that I decided to include such as The Coronavirus Cruise (Oscar Shorts).

The playlist, as it exists now, consists of 132 songs and lasts 8 hours 19 minutes.

An ever growing soundtrack to this catastrophically calm time of my life.

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