Memorial Day 2020
In a world turned sideways how do we mark the passing of time and remember the things we ought to?
As a kid, I hated having to march in the Memorial Day parade. To put that in perspective, if I was asked to do so more than a handful of times that would have been a lot. Yet I saw the very idea as a major encroachment.
It takes a lifetime to recognize sacrifice and understand that rituals are not devoid of meaning. They are how we convey honor and mark the passing of time.
Maybe it’s not so strange, then, that many of our rituals have gone missing in this Groundhog Day of a Spring.
But not all of them. This is the 5th year I’ve created a playlist to mark the unofficial start of summer. Let’s remember the things we’re missing will still be there when we’re in the safe zone. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.
Bell Boy– The Who (1973)
There are any number of songs about the ocean in this 1973 ‘rock opera’ set in a summer resort. In many ways, this song is the most improbable selection, at least if you glanced at the title alone. And while it is, in part, a song about a bell boy, it’s the indelible power of the opening line that matters. The beach really is a place where a man can feel he’s the only soul in the world that’s real.
Pete Rose Way–The Baseball Project (2011)
I grew up with a football-loving father and a grandfather who had seen every Yankees great from Babe Ruth to Mantle and Marris play in the original stadium. Never exactly passionate about sports, my heart lies with baseball, a game made for languid summer days and evenings. Here, a sort of jangle pop supergroup puts it all in perspective. (Venue note: Drew’s house is really a house, there really is a Drew, and that really is Peter Buck, Mike Mills & co.)
Lightning’s Blues–John Gorka (1990)
Some artists exist so I can eat crow. In general, I quickly tire of crunchy granola singer-songwriters. In part that’s just my personality. I’d much rather create a ruckus than quietly fit words, chords and notes together to express an emotional state. But, I have my moments. Joni. Suzanne Vega. And Gorka, another near-contemporary, who has enough songs like this one for me to get past the ones that start, “Like a clock I…”
No More Hot Dogs–Hasil Adkins (c. 1992)
What I like most about the Interwebs is the ease with which one can make a point. Because even a madman of psychobilly sat down to write the songs he sings. Was Hasil Adkins any less a singer-songwriter because his subject matter included hot dogs? I don’t think so, even if he did go a bit heavy on the meat songs. Besides, I’m not prone to argue with a man whose given name is pronounced ‘Hassle.’
Picnic in the Summertime–DeeeLite (1994)
Summer ought to be about fun, right? I mean, school’s out. The days are long. It’s too hot to work. The distractions that sleep nine months of the year all beckon. And so, too, the musical palette should lighten. So here’s to sunshine on a cloudy day and picnics that stop time.
We are the People–John Mellencamp (1987)
I remain hopelessly sentimental about the idea of America. Because first and foremost it’s an idea, which means it’s okay for the idea to grow and expand and get better. That makes me a sucker for an anthem from the heartland. This one seems appropriate to cap the list.
Soldier Poet King–The Oh Hellos (2015)
I don’t want to leave without including something for the men and women who have died in the service of our country. I’ll leave the honors to a somewhat new (they started in 2011) indie, folk-rock, sibling-led group.