The Playlist of Life

I am under the influence.

Of some powerful tunes, that is. Right now, I am writing this from approximately 33,000 feet somewhere over the Rockies. The airplane is obnoxiously loud. But I have my music. So I am good.

I can’t write without music. I’ve tried.

There is something about different types of music that unleashes my creativity and intelligence. From Baroque music to Gregorian chant to country, techno, rock, and folk..all of it is good stuff. My playlist is eclectic to say the least.

The local NPR station in Fort Wayne has a show called Under the Influence, on which guests share the five songs that have influenced them the most.

I thought it would be fun to do so myself here.

My top five most meaningful and impactful songs:

5. Round Here by Counting Crows

It is hard for me to believe that this classic is nearly twenty years old. I feel kind of old now.

This song was the beginning of a love for Counting Crows that ultimately became a huge part of what is now an eighteen-year friendship. Every time I hear this song or any song by them, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have such a great friendship.

4. Change Your Mind by Sister Hazel

When I won my biggest golf tournament in 2000, this was the song that was in my head. Every time I wanted to sulk, they lyrics reminded me that “if I want to be somebody else, change your mind.” I would snap to it and refocus on what I wanted to achieve.

I wrote about this song in-depth before here (must-read post). It is a reminder that whatever you want, if your mind is out of sync with your goals, you need to change it. Since that tournament, this song has held a special place in my heart.

3. Mrs. Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel

Besides being an American classic, this song holds a special place for me because it is the song that was playing in my dad’s car when he picked me up for a special weekend when I was seven. I’ll never forget that moment or that weekend and I will always think fondly of those times when I hear this song.

2. How He Loves by John Mark McMillan

I remember the first time I heard the story of this song. If you have been around the Christian music scene, you have certainly heard about it. If not, you can hear the story here.

This song is a powerful reminder that, as Lacey Mosley, the lead singer of Flyleaf says (I wrote about this recently here):

no matter who you are or what you are or what you believe or what you do or what you’ve done that God loves you

Often, that is all I need to know.

1. Born Again by Third Day

I first heard this song on the way to work on the Monday morning after a retreat I had taken. This song said exactly what I was feeling:

Well, today I found myself
After searching all these years
And the man that I saw
He wasn’t at all who I thought he’d be

I was lost when You found me here
And I was broken beyond repair
Then You came along
And You sang Your song over me

It feels like I’m born again
It feels like I’m living
For the very first time
For the very first time in my life

Make a promise to me now
Reassure my heart somehow
That the love that I feel
Is so much more real than anything

I’ve a feeling in my soul
And I pray that I’m not wrong
That the life I have now
Is only the beginning

I played that song every day for four months. I played it every time I left my now wife’s house to go back to mine. That is how I felt each time I was with her. Husbands should feel that way even after years of marriage. I should feel that way today.

We danced our first dance to that song at our wedding.

The life we had now was only the beginning.

What five songs represent or have impacted your life the most?

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  • “Just the Way You Are” by Billy Joel. Because it was the first song where I could name the sax player (Phil Woods) and the first song I remember where I learned the sax solo before I learned the words.

    “Birdland” by Weather Report. What, you mean you can marry rock & roll and jazz together and make it sound awesome? Sign me up! Jaco Pastorius in his prime on bass and Wayne Shorter on sax….

    “Dream of the Return” by the Pat Metheny Group. First dance with my wife at our wedding. Lyrics in Portugese. No clue what they say — the music is what matters. Confused many of our guests. I live for stuff like that.

    “Isn’t She Lovely” by John Stoddart. I can’t tell you how many nights I rocked my newborn daughter to sleep by this song, and to know that John was holding his own newborn baby girl as he sang it still makes me tear up.

    “He’s Not Finished With Me Yet/Wait and See” by Brandon Heath. Kind of sums up my daily realization that my life has had such a strange, twisted path that I really am a work in progress and I’m so thankful that God really isn’t done working on, with and through me.

    One more, because I can’t follow rules:

    “Give Me Jesus”, by the Wartburg College Choir. I had the privilege of singing with this group from 1983-1985 and this song almost always ended our concerts, with the choir surrounding the audience, joining hands as in this video. And during the last performance of every year, there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the group as we’d know this was the last time we’d raise our voices with the seniors in our midst. And the following year, we’d greet a new crop of freshmen and teach them our traditions and rituals and by the end of that year, they’d cry along with us to this song. I’ve never heard 60 voices able to from singing so softly to carrying so much power. It still moves me now, almost 30 years later.

    • Great list Brent.

      Good listens :) Can’t say I’d heard of 3 of them (I’m sure you can guess which ones)

  • Rich Weekly

    I will have to say in my 52 years of life I never tried writing while listening to music. I am going to start. I will have to think about my song list. I love 3rd day and Born Again is also a favorite. I play in the praise band at church and we are singing that on this weekend. Also on my list would be What a Wonderful World ~ Louis Armstrong. Thanks again for you work. Have a great day!

  • Man Matt, you can’t throw out a question like that all willy-nilly! I’ve gotta think about that one. I’ll have to think about that and get back to you later in the day! There are so many songs that impacted me, and so many songs that mean so much that I don’t know that I could narrow it down. But I’ll try!
    I love the post and the reminder of how powerful songs can be to elicit memories!

  • Gustav Holst’s “Cotswold’s Symphony”. I played the saxophone growing up and a favorite band camp had this piece as the first one we performed. I hear it today and weep for those days, in a good way.
    “Pirates” by Emerson Lake and Palmer. A powerful bit of music from a favorite group.
    “A Pirate Looks At Forty” by Jimmy Buffett. Expresses how I still feel sometimes when the occupation God’s called me to doesn’t seem to be available.
    “Allentown” by Billy Joel.
    “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire.
    Lots more I suppose I could insert, but these come to mind initially. The cool thing about rediscovering our purpose in life is that part of the process is listening to the music we used to love. And often still do, once we hear it again.

    • I thought you were going for a pirate theme there for a second :)

      Great list!

    • I love Pirates! And Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman.

  • 1) Carry On..Wayward Son by Kansas

    2) Right Now by Van Halen

    3) The Best Thing in Life by Big Tent Revival

    4) Pride (In The Name of Love) by U2

    5) In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel

  • Adam Dvorzak

    GREAT topic! My (5) in no particular order of awesomeness:

    Steely Dan – “Deacon Blues” (obnoxiously smooth music is my guilty pleasure)

    The Doobie Brothers – “What A Fool Believes” (again, soooo smooth and Michael McDonald is just awesome)

    Heavy D & The Boyz – “You Ain’t Heard Nuttin Yet” (can hip-hop be smooth? you bet!)

    Grandmaster Flash – “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” (sums up the original concept of hip-hop music in 7 minutes)

    Kruder & Dorfmeister – “High Noon” (introduced me to Austrian trip-hop)

    • Who knew? I did not see that list coming from you :)

      I’ll have to give those a listen.

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