Alan Eisenstock’s Playlist: Hopeful Inaugural Songs

(Editor’s note: When Palisadian Alan Eisenstock is not researching and writing one of his nonfiction books (18 thus far!), he pursues what he calls “a crazy labor of love side project” that he started in mid-March: sending a weekly Covid-themed playlist of songs to his family and friends. These playlists (which can be downloaded on Spotify span rock ‘n’ roll and pop music from the 1950s to 2020, and Eisenstock adds one or two lines of commentary about each song that is clever, amusing and informative.)

Hi, Everyone,

What an eventful four years. I’m talking about last week which felt like four years. On January 20, a new president will be sworn in and finally take on the ravages of Covid, just for a start. What to do? Idea! Here are 21 hopeful “inaugural” songs. Listen up! CLICK HERE.

The crowd at Richie Havens’ Woodstock-opening set on Aug. 15, 1969.

  1. “Hope the High Road” Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit. Former Alabaman and longtime member of the Drive-By Truckers, Jason sings and writes this hopeful song. “I hope the high road leads you home again to a world you want to live in.” Amen.
  2. “Here Comes the Sun” Richie Havens. R&B, soul, folk, I LOVE Richie, born in Brooklyn. He was the opening act at Woodstock. This version of the Beatles’ song is killer. I saw him live at UMASS back in 1932.
  3. “This Land Is Your Land” Woody Guthrie. Woodrow Wilson Guthrie wrote this classic folk-protest song in 1940 as an answer to far-right Kate Smith’s incessant singing of “God Bless America.” Woody had a million children, Arlo being the most famous.
  4. “America” Simon & Garfunkel. From 1968 and their album Bookends.A great Paul Simon song that he wrote about two lovers hitchhiking across the country. Saw S&G live, too! One of them is related to a friend of someone’s cousin I once knew.
  5. “Blue Skies” Willie Nelson. Talk about a classic. Irving Berlin wrote this in 1926. “Nothin’ but blue skies do I see…” Mournful interpretation but I’m feeling strangely optimistic. Is it those edibles?
  6. “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” Yusuf/Cat Stevens. Cat wrote this for the 1971 cult classic film, Harold and Maude.I owned every Cat Stevens album on vinyl. What happened to my vinyl collection? A sad topic for another time.
  7. “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?” Nick Lowe. Nick wrote this in 1974 for Elvis Costello who recorded it in an upbeat, new-wavy style. I LOVE and prefer Nick and his acoustic guitar version. Nick’s middle name is Drain.
  8. “Stay Alive” Mustafa. This is an incredible 2020 song from Toronto-born poet/activist quiet-voiced Mustafa Ahmed. The song is his plea to “stay alive” in his world of gun violence. A stirring song that I wanted to share. Given what’s going on in D.C., staying alive is a good, minimum goal for all of us.
  9. “If Not for You” Bob Dylan. 1970 ditty Dylan wrote for his wife, off his New Morning album. Well, it is a new morning and if not for you, Joe and Kamala–if you hadn’t won–where would we be?
  10. “Long May You Run” The Stills-Young Band. After CSNY broke up, Stephen and Neil got together for this 1976 studio album. This is the title song, written by Neil Young. “Long may you run although these changes have come.”
  11. “What A Difference A Day Makes” Dinah Washington. From Chicago, R&B, jazz stylist, self-proclaimed “Queen of the Blues,” one of the world’s greatest singers. Dinah won a Grammy for this record in 1959. She was married six times, the last time to famous footballer Dick “Night Train” Lane. He was briefly Redd Foxx’s bodyguard. Redd fired him for being too soft.
  12. “Reason to Believe” Tim Hardin. LOVE this guy and this song. He wrote this in 1965 and later wrote “If I Were A Carpenter.” Tim struggled with addiction and died of a heroin overdose when he was 39. We all need a reason to believe.
  13. “If I Ever Needed Someone” Van Morrison, Mavis Staples. Killer duet by these two musical giants recorded in 1970 on my birthday. Mavis is the one with the deeper voice.
  14. “Feel A Whole Lot Better” Tom Petty. Tom rocks out on this 1965 Byrds’ song, which he recorded in 1989. The lyrics “Feel a whole lot better when you’re gone…” apply as much to Biden arriving as the treasonous orange-haired sewer clown leaving.
  15. “I Think It’s Going to Work Out Fine” Ry Cooder. Composer, producer, great slide guitar player from Santa Monica, Ry absolutely slays this song made famous by Ike and Tina Turner. LOVE this. Ry has a glass eye.
  16. “Last Man Standing” Bruce Springsteen. What, you think I wouldn’t have the Boss in the Inauguration playlist? Great song from his latest album Letter To You. I am liking this playlist.
  17. “Many Rivers to Cross” Jimmy Cliff. James Chambers, Jamaican superstar writer, singer wrote this often-covered song in 1969 when he was 21. Yes, things may change next week and we will have many, many rivers to cross. Count on that.
  18. “People Get Ready” The Chambers Brothers. Psychedelic soul band from Mississippi perform this famous song by the Impressions. The song comes off their album The Time Has Come.I prefer this achingly slow version from 1965 to the Impressions’ original.
  19. “Everything Must Change” Nina Simone. R&B, soul, jazz, blues singer, classical pianist–she went to Julliard–and civil rights activist. Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, Nina performs this Bernard Ighner 1974 composition with passion and urgency. Known for her unpredictable temper, she once pulled a gun on a record company executive. I can relate. Redd Foxx once pulled a gun on me.
  20. “American Tune” Simon and Garfunkel. Live in Central Park.  A gorgeous version of the 1973 song Paul wrote “inspired” by Richard Nixon. At least Nixon resigned and his staff didn’t steal stuff on their way out the door.
  21. “America The Beautiful” Ray Charles. Brother Ray ends the playlist with this stirring rendition of the patriotic classic.

So, onward we go, hopefully–killing Covid, dealing with the economy, another impeachment trial, and pitchers and catchers reporting in a few weeks! Just a year like any other.

Some advice: Don’t Forget to Disinfect and… PLAY IT LOUD!

The link again:CLICK HERE.


Fact Check

I did see Richie Havens. It was probably later than 1932.

Nick Lowe’s middle name is Drain.

Redd did fire Night Train Lane for being too soft. He hired a guy named Barry who was the size of an SUV.

Ry Cooder does have one glass eye.

Redd did pull a gun during a table read. I dove under the table and found all the other writers hiding there.

White House staffers are apparently grabbing items as they leave, including a bust of Abraham Lincoln and a stuffed bird.


Best “Georgia” band: Allman Brothers or Gladys Knight and the Pips? Pip Pip Hooray for Gladys and the Pips!


Favorite “America” song from this playlist: “America” or “American Tune” from S&G or Ray’s “America the Beautiful?” What do you got?

Let’s hope and pray for a peaceful transition… to next week.

Thanks again,


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