Desert Island Songs

One of my favorite podcasts to listen to is Sound Opinions with Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot out of WBEZ in Chicago. They talk about music. They have a recurring bit called the “Desert Island Jukebox.” One or both will pick a song that would be one of their few possessions if they were stuck on a desert island.

Here are my picks for my desert island jukebox.  Here is the Spotify playlist.


Moonshiner is an American folk song with murky origins. The version I picked is by one of my favorite bands of all time Uncle Tupelo. Uncle Tupelo was a group of guys from Belleville, IL who were the progenitor of which was a punk-like take on traditional American, folk, and country music. I love the haunting nature of song. The final refrain is my favorite:

let me eat when I’m hungry
let me drink when I’m dry
two dollars when I’m hard up
religion when I die
the whole world is a bottle
and life is but a dram
when the bottle gets empty
Lord, it sure ain’t worth a damn

Highway 61 Revisited

The opening stanza alone makes this one of the great songs.

Oh, God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man you must be puttin’ me on”
God says, “No”, Abe say “What?”
God say “You can do what you want Abe but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”

Well Abe said, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God say, “Out on Highway 61”

Its Dylan, so what else can I say.

3 Dimes Down

Drive-By Truckers are one of the best bands in America and one of my favorite bands of all-time. They have a discography filled with brilliantly written songs about the “other” America. The parts of the country often called “fly-over” country during presidential elections. The small towns and forgotten stretches of highway that have missed the technology revolution. This song is as good as a Raymond Carver short story. It is a snapshot of a road house bar in a small town somewhere in the South. No single lyric does it justice.

Lawyers, Guns, and Money

This song reminds me of Hunter S. Thompson. Invoking the good doctor or Raymond Carver are two the highest compliments I can bestow.

Children’s Story

Rick was such a good lyricist. Like 3 Dimes Down, it is a wonderful short story. It is a funny and deadly serious song.

He was only one teen in a madman’s dream
The cops shot the kid, I still here him scream
This ain’t funny, so don’t ya dare laugh
Just another case about the wrong path
Straight and narrow or your soul gets cast

California Stars

A song written by one of the best (Woodie Guthrie) and played by one of the great bands of the early 21st century (Wilco). This is the second of three appearances by Jeff Tweedy. It is a beautiful song in its simple melody and piano lead.

3 A.M.

Everyone has been there. It’s 3 in the morning and you are tired and things aren’t going the way you want to in your life. This sounds like Edwin McCain was sitting at a bar at his kitchen table with a glass and a half empty bottle of Jack beside him “pouring his heart out” on the page. He is talking about the life that has him traveling and playing for people some who could not give a damn about his music and thinking about the woman he left behind.

And I will play just as long as you will listen
Now I’m in no big hurry to get back on the road
Sometimes in this lifestyle
I feel like there’s so much that I’m missing
Well I’m missing you
It’s just that I’m… so far from home
It’s 3 a.m.
I’m awake and my heart is still dreaming
It’s 3 a.m.
Outside I hear the souls still screaming

Paul Revere

When they first started the Beastie Boys were three snotty punks who liked rap music. This is the best song of their pre-Paul’s Boutique era. This is another short story song that takes you to another world. This world is a wonderful and lawless place.

It started way back in history
With Adrock, M.C.A., and me – Mike D.
Been had a little horsy named Paul Revere
Just me and my horsy and a quart of beer
Riding across the land, kicking up sand
Sheriff’s posse on my tail cause I’m in demand


In his third entry on the list Jeff Tweedy. It is a song about being a young hot mess. No prospects and nothing left. Whose fault is? Is it yours? Is it the unfairness of the crappy world? Yes, to all of the above.

You know you’re just a mama’s boy
Positively unemployed
So misunderstood
So misunderstood

Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

Like any Bob Dylan song, there isn’t much you can say that has not been said. It is a brilliant blues song with brilliant guitar work and it is my favorite Hendrix to listen to over and over.

Cult Of Personality

It was 1989 and I was a kid in Shelby, NC listening to all the music I was supposed to listen to. Then one night, Vernon, Corey, Muzz, and Will showed up on the Arsenio Hall show and everything changed.

What Will You Say

Jeff Buckley is one of the greatest unrealized talents in music history. He never knew his father, singer-songwriter Tim Buckley, but his voice and his writing were eerily similar. He only released on studio album before his death, Grace, that is one of the ten best albums of the 1990s. This song is only available live on Mystery White Boy. It is a brilliant exposition of anger at his dead father. It is wrenching and heartbreaking.

Father do you hear me?
Do you know me?
Do you even care?
What will you say
When they take my place?


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