A few weeks ago I asked Lee Herrick, whom monthly contributor Jared Rehberg interviewed, if he wouldn’t mind coming up with a list of some of his favorite ditties for Land of Gazillion Adoptees. What follows is his VERY impressive response.
P.S. Lee Herrick will be reading at an Open Mic at The Loft in Minneapolis on Wednesday, November 9 at 7:00 pm. Event is co-sponsored by AdopSource, AK Connection, and Adoptees Have Answers.
Ten of My All-Time Favorite Songs
by Lee Herrick, Poet and Author of This Many Miles from Desire
1. “Do You Like Me,” Fugazi (from the album Red Medicine)
The guitar sounds off for a minute and half in car-accident meets dream sound before the catchy upbeat part begins, and when it does, the great opening phrase, “Your eyes/ like crashing jets,” makes me think about falling in love when I was young and falling out of love again. This is the seminal DIY Washington DC band at its very best.
Herrick’s other Fugazi favorites: “Cashout,” “Cassavetes,” “Life and Limb”
Recommended poet pairing: Allen Ginsberg and/or Barbara Jane Reyes
2. “Type Slowly,” Pavement (from the album Brighten the Corners)
You can never go wrong with Pavement—the jangly disregard but caring guitar, Malkmus’s strolling vocal range, and those lyrics—maybe the best lyrics ever. I saw Pavement in San Francisco at the first Tibetan Freedom Concert, along with 100,00 other sweaty people. Praise the grammar police.
Herrick’s other Pavement favorites: “We Are Underused,” “Transport is Arranged,” “Zurich is Stained”
Recommended poet pairing: Frank O’ Hara and/or Sun Yung Shin
3. “Relief,” Cold War Kids (from the album Loyalty to Loyalty)
Love the drums and the Long Beach cool vocal swagger and occasional falsetto. Such a gorgeous pop angular sound that you can’t quite categorize, except to say that each song is beautiful and will make you sing along. Saw them at a small venue in Visalia, California—three hundred people chanting along to “Hang Me Out to Dry.” Fun listening.
Herrick’s other Cold War Kids favorites: “We Used to Vacation,” “Hang Me Out to Dry,” “Audience”
Recommended poet pairing: Walt Whitman and/or Ed Bok Lee
4. “Fight the Power,” Public Enemy (from the album Fear of a Black Planet)
Not on my regular playlist these days, but for a decade this song and others from the seminal political band were always on my mind and my tongue. You may recall the famous opening of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing where Rosie Perez dances to the full version of the song to open the film—I also remember hearing it live in 1990 in Oakland, California, Def Jam Tour.
Herrick’s other Public Enemy Favorites: “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos,” “911 Is a Joke,” “Bring the Noise”
Recommended poet pairing: Patricia Smith and/or Bao Phi
5. “Skinny Love,” Bon Iver (from the album For Emma, Forever Ago)
The soulful indie melody of Justin Vernon’s voice on this catchy acoustic folk song has been in my head since I first heard it a couple of years ago. One of my favorite songs ever. Apparently Vernon recorded the album in three months of seclusion in a Wisconsin cabin. Good songwriters still exist. Beautiful band, Bon Iver (“ee-vair”). My, my, my.
Herrick’s other Bon Iver favorites: “Stacks,” “Blindsided,” “Flume”
Recommended poet pairings: Pablo Neruda and/or Sasha Pimentel Chacón
6. “Ramble On,” Led Zeppelin (from the album Led Zeppelin II)
I would say this is one of my all-time favorite bands, and this is one of my favorites of their dozens of remarkable songs. Yes, there was the gravity of heavy songs and the innovation of so many songs (lengthy songs with Jimmy Page’s signature guitar), but many of my favorite Zeppelin songs are the acoustic ones, the ones made for campfires, for road trips, for love.
Herrick’s other Led Zeppelin favorites: “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “That’s the Way,” and “Black Mountain Side”
Recommended poet pairing: T. S. Eliot and/or David Mura
7. “Nude,” Radiohead (from the album In Rainbows)
One of the most beautiful vocals of Thom Yorke’s many beautiful vocals. In Rainbows is an album for any mood, in any country, any time of the day, which is hard to say for most albums, but this is near perfect in my opinion. Melody, nuance, inspiration, and an awesome sing-a-long part in the middle. Long live Radiohead.
Herrick’s other Radiohead favorites: “Fake Plastic Trees,” “15 Step,” “My Iron Lung”
Recommended poet pairing: Czeslaw Milosz and/or Ed Bok Lee
8. “Bulls on Parade,” Rage Against the Machine (from the album Evil Empire)
When this song begins, you know you are in for something serious and heavy. During my college years, no band captured the political anger and the cultural resistance that I began to experience and internalize the way this band did. Every song is fierce. Every song is smart. Every song is great. With Tom Morello on guitar, how could they not be great songs? Saw them live once and somehow survived.
Herrick’s other Rage Against the Machine favorites: “Tire Me,” “Guerrilla Radio,” “Snakecharmer”
Recommended poet pairing: Tim Z. Hernandez and/or Brian Turner
9. “The Diamond World,” Ahn Trio (from the album Ahn-Plugged)
The three Korean sisters are virtuosos and my favorite classical music group currently playing. This album beautifully and deftly brings us Ewazen, Piazzola, and Leonard Bernstein in mesmerizing renditions. I like jazz and classical music, although I don’t listen to it as often as I used to. But the Ahn Trio is always exciting and gorgeous, something surprising at every turn.
Herrick’s other Ahn Trio favorites: “Adagio Non Troppo – Allegro Vivace,” “Oblivion,” “Primavera Portena”
Recommended poet pairing: Adrienne Rich and/or Jennifer Kwon Dobbs
10. “Three Little Birds,” Bob Marley (from the album Exodus)
I loved this song when I first heard it in high school, and I still love it today. My daughter loves the Sesame Street version (yes, there is such a version) and we sing it in the car all the time. Most people know of Marley’s love of the earth and its plants, but I love him for his love of country, his passion for the beautiful game of soccer, and his melodious, positive songs that remind me of struggle, beauty, and joy.
Herrick’s other Bob Marley favorites: “Stir It Up,” “Could You Be Loved,” “Get Up, Stand Up”
Recommended poet pairing: Camille Dungy and/or Juan Felipe Herrera
Bonus Track. “Lions,” Mayda (from the album Tusks in Furs)
This young Minneapolis-based force of nature crafts a pop, funk, rock tune that is so catchy I can’t stop singing it. Think Prince but new. Mayda is joined by musicians who have worked with Prince, Justin Timberlake, and Soul Asylum, and she is a multi-talented new voice whose music I enjoy very much (not an all-time favorite, as I just discovered it a month ago, but I know I will be listening to it for years and years!). Full and proud disclosure: she is a Korean adoptee, making waves and great music, and I wish her the very best.
Herrick’s other Mayda favorites: “The Panthers,” “Rubies,” “If You Don’t Say It, I Will”
Recommended poet pairing: Ko Un and/or your favorite energetic poet under 40.