I’m going to take my list in a completely different direction than Matt. When I started thinking about back-to-school time, I focused on what it takes to succeed in school. I was able to come up with a couple of the essential traits I’d like to see my kids take with them into the school year. I then paired those traits with a song that supported them in some way or another. So we can call this list, “School Supplies”.
5. “Until We Can’t (Let’s Go)” by Passion Pit. Woody Allen once said that 60% of success is showing up. Kids have to be in school for it to have any affect on them. They need to be motivated to get up and get there. At it’s heart, this song is about getting up out bed and doing something, anything (yeah, it could also be saying you need to get up and leave your current life, but kids are stupid and shouldn’t catch that). It does that through upbeat rhythms and an infectious melody. If something like this doesn’t get them going, then I don’t know what will.
4. “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield. There was a lot going on when this song came out in 1967. It’s probably an understatement to say our country was in turmoil. It was a time when people needed to pay attention to what was happening around them. You can’t make it through school without a certain degree of alertness, and I’m not just talking about the lectures. I want my kids to know there are needs all around them. There is turmoil, albeit on a scale much smaller than that of America in the ’60s. Our job as humans is to be slow to speak and quick to learn, and this song demonstrates that quite well.
3. “Ball And Biscuit” by The White Stripes. There is a fine line between confidence and swagger. Jack White’s blues anthem is full of the latter. For a kid that is lacking in confidence, it might just take this much braggadocio to lift her from crippling self-doubt to a place where she can stand up straight and face the challenges of the education system. Sure, it can go wrong. She could be come a cocky punk. But would you rather have a kid who is afraid to ever raise her hand, or one who raises her hand and answers questions that haven’t even been asked?
2. “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Nina Simone. School is all about fitting in. The desire starts in late elementary school, and increases exponentially until you’re dead. Nobody ever really feels part of the group. We just feel a tad less the outsider. We get to the point where we realize we’re not the only one that feels left out. We realize that, like us, everyone else just wants to be understood. There is no better way to drive that home to your kids than to have the divine Nina Simone sing it to them. If she doesn’t want to be misunderstood, then we can’t feel so bad if we don’t either.
1. “Atomic Bomb” by William Onyeabor. Unfortunately, it’s most likely all for naught. The chances of human kind destroy itself seem very high. The primary reason is that we become so puffed up with knowledge without compassion, the only option is for us to explode, like an atomic bomb. Knowledge is great, but that’s not why you go to school. You go to school to learn how to learn, to learn how to understand the world around you. You go to gain discernment. I’ve said before that science gave us the atomic bomb while religion gave us hospitals. The problem is not science; it’s that it’s been divorced from any moral viewpoint. I doubt your kids would get all that from just listening to the song. You’d probably have to explicitly teach them that, but the song is a funky way to reinforce you point.
1. In case you have never heard of William Onyeabor (most people haven’t), he’s a Nigeria musician who made electronic, afro-funk music back in the late 70s to early 80s. I first heard of him a couple of months back, and was immediately hooked. Supposedly he became some type of Baptist missionary and has disavowed all the music he made back then, which is a shame because the music is awesome. You really should check his stuff out.