"This is a marvelous thing..."
It was about a year ago when Steve Perry said these words to me towards the end of our conversation for World Cafe. I've thought about the exercise he proposed next many times during the year that followed. So as I say farewell on this, my final day as the host of World Cafe, let's do it together now. It starts, as he told me, with picking a song you love:
"...I want you to sit quiet for one second and I want you to play that song in your mind just for a second and then you tell me when you've heard a little bit of it ...
"Did you hear that? You can hear it, right?"
Yes, of course we did.
"How do you do that? I don't think science really knows how we stream music in our mind. We can stream it over the internet, we can stream it over satellite, but I can sit here and I can hear my favorite Sam Cooke song any time I want to without batteries."
"There's something magical about music and where it lands in us and how it stays in us and we own it somehow. It becomes part of us and I treat that with extreme reverence, I really do. I think it's a magical thing."
I've always tried to consider how entirely weird it must be for an artist to have to sit in front of a stranger (me) who is asking them intimate questions about their art, so that other strangers (you) who they can't see will eventually hear their answers as they fly through the air. What a premise. And yet artists do it. And they do it knowing that we're not living in particularly nuanced or forgiving times. Why? I'd like to think it's connected to one of the reasons music gets made in the first place — because when we share parts of ourselves, we feel less alone and we make other people feel less alone.
There are so many songs that have become part of me over the last three years. I hope that if you've listened to World Cafe, there are songs that have become part of you too, made you feel connected to a musician, connected to us. Songs that have challenged you or changed you, songs that have helped you work up a good sweat or a good cry, songs that have made a long drive feel shorter, or made a bad day feel more bearable.
In this farewell playlist you'll find 100 songs that have challenged or changed me on the Cafe; songs I'll be taking with me as I go. I'll also be taking the powerful feeling of inspiration that comes with bearing witness to an undeniable paradigm shift in music. Voices that have always been ringing but have been historically shut out by a previously presumed "center", are being heard more and more. Thank you to those leading the charge, thank you to those making space. It's entirely overwhelming to imagine the magnitude of what happens when we exchange music; the scope of the web of connectivity that begins when an artist spins an idea into song and leaves every single body it meets vibrating a little differently than before.
If there's one thing I've learned from talking to artists day in and day out, it's that when inspiration calls, you had better pick up the phone. I'm following that feeling to my next adventure. It's not easy to say goodbye, but I know it's time for me to leave this party. And I know what I'll be listening to on the ride home.