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 LINK 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. When asked if he was going to release lists over the holidays, he replied that he would continue because “Covid doesn’t take a break.”)
As Covid cases continue to spike, a spokesperson for the C.D.C. (Center for Doubt and Confusion) gave this stern warning: “Winter will be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation unless more people follow precautions.” Well, winter is here and here we are. What to do? Idea! Here are 27 “winter” songs, a long cozy playlist. Listen up!
- “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” Bing Crosby. Singer, actor, international star, co-owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bing crooned this Sammy Cahn-Jule Styne classic in July 1945. Supposedly, they wrote this during a heatwave while craving snowy days back east.
- “I Am A Rock” Simon & Garfunkel. From 1965, Paul Simon’s famous song about emotional detachment. “A winter’s day in a deep and dark December…” Like today?
- “Cold as Ice” Foreigner. British-American band formed in New York led by Brit guitarist Mick Jones and American lead singer Lou Gramm. This was one of their biggest hits, released in 1977. The opening of this song has been stuck in my head for 43 years.
- “Windy” The Association. Pop band from California had a string of hits in the sixties, this from 1965. I remember they harmonized beautifully and wore suits.
- “Stormy” Classics IV. Southern rock/pop group from Jacksonville known for songs with one-word titles, “Stormy” “Traces” and “Spooky,” which were also the names of the lead singer’s children.
- “The Wind” Yusuf/ Cat Stevens. From the many “wind” songs to choose from, I went with this 1971 Cat Stevens song from his album Teaser and the Firecat. I used to love this British folk singer born Steven Demetre Georgiou. I once went to a barber named Georgiou. Didn’t go well.
- “Catch the Wind” Donovan. Scottish born folksinger. LOVE Donovan. This song from 1965 was his first single and first big hit. Donovan has a million kids, among them actor Ione Skye.
- “Stormy Weather” Etta James. Soul, jazz, R&B, gospel… you name it, Etta sings it. Here she sings this 1933 torch song written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler first sung at the Cotton Club by Ethel Waters. Apropos of nothing, I had an Aunt Ethel.
- “Snow (Hey Oh)” Red Hot Chili Peppers. L.A. funk rockers led by Anthony Kiedis and Flea perform this 2006 number one hit from their Stadium Arcadium double album. Kiedis said this song is about starting over, beginning with a “canvas of snow.” I like that.
- “Storms” Fleetwood Mac. The British-American band performs this beautiful song from Tusk, their 1979 album, which critics called a “flawed masterpiece.” Supposedly, the album cost $1 million to produce, at the time, the most expensive ever.
- “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” Bruce Springsteen. The Boss and the E-Street Band sing the definitive version of this 1934 J. Fred Coots/Haven Gillespie Christmas classic. Live from Brooklyn in 1975. Nobody beats this version.
- “Winter Song” The Head and The Heart. Seattle-based indie folk band led by Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell. Another beautiful ballad about a relationship falling apart. I’m picking up a theme. You get to winter, things come to an end. Usually in a slow song.
- “She’s So Cold” The Rolling Stones. The Stones rip it up. “I’m so hot for her, I’m so hot for her, I’m so hot for her and she’s so cold.” Or as I call it, high school.
- “Tracks in The Snow” The Civil Wars. Folk duo Joy Williams and John Paul White had a short, intense run of gorgeous albums, won four Grammys, and released this great song in 2011. They broke up in 2014. They stopped speaking to each other, which was a big surprise because they weren’t even married.
- “Riders on The Storm” The Doors. 1971 jazz and psychedelic rock mix, a mid-list intermission long enough for you to grab a snack, hit the head, or shovel your driveway. Incredibly touching lyrics, such as “Like a dog without a bone, an actor out alone… there’s a killer on the road.”
- “Winter” Tori Amos. North Carolinian born Myra Ellen Amos. She wrote this haunting 1992 song about her relationship with her father, a minister. Tori won eight Grammys and has a stunning, operatic singing voice.
- “Cold Shot” Stevie Ray Vaughn. Texan, legendary blues guitarist, lead singer of the band Double Trouble, this sizzling song is from his Couldn’t Stand The Weatheralbum. Stevie and four others were tragically killed in a helicopter crash in 1990 when the pilot apparently attempted a barrel roll.
- “Winter Prayers” Iron and Wine. This “band” better known as Sam Beam has been making achingly gorgeous music since 2002. Love this song and love Sam. Saw him in person when I saw people–actual live humans–in person.
- “Cold Cold Ground” Tom Waits. Tom and his wife Kathleen Brennan collaborated on several songs from hisFranks Wild Yearsalbum, resulting in a play that was performed in Chicago in 1987. This is a tremendous song that was used in the TV show “Homicide: Life on the Street.” Hear the accordion? Never should have given that up.
- “Frosty the Snowman” The Ronettes. Famous sixties girl group from Spanish Harlem, led by Veronica Bennett, later known as Ronnie Spector. I am sparing you the Gene Autry and Jimmy Durante covers of this song.
- “Winter Winds” Mumford & Sons. London band led by singer-songwriter-player of many instruments Marcus Mumford, this from 2009 and their album Sigh No More. “The winter winds litter London with lonely hearts.”
- “In the Cold, Cold Night” The White Stripes. From Detroit, Jack White and his wife Meg White formed this unique two-person band with a huge sound. Meg, the drummer, wrote this song, from their 2003 album Elephant. Jack and Meg divorced but Jack, who likes obfuscation, didn’t admit they were married. He said they were brother and sister. Okay.
- “Winter Bird/When Winter Comes” Paul McCartney. Brand new from Sir Lord Paul or whatever his title is. The song grows on you. Give it a few dozen listens.
- “White Winter Hymnal” Fleet Foxes. Another great Seattle band. This was their first single from the self-titled 2008 album. You know what? I LOVE this playlist. Sorry.
- “Baby It’s Cold Outside” James Taylor, Natalie Cole. Everyone and his or her uncle has covered this Frank Loesser 1944 song, which he wrote to sing with his wife. I love this version best, plus JT lives in the Berkshires and Natalie went to UMASS.
- “Cold” Chris Stapleton. Born in Lexington, KY, played football in high school and was the class salutatorian. This is a great song from his just-released album Starting Over.
- “Shelter from The Storm” Bob Dylan. We end this playlist with a simply brilliant 1975 Dylan song from perhaps his best album, Blood on the Tracks. “Come in, she said, I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”
So, a long playlist to deal with this most unique, challenging, and cold winter.
Stay safe, everyone. Stay inside. In the meantime…
Don’t Forget to Disinfect and… PLAY IT REALLY LOUD!
The link again: LINK
“Stormy,” “Traces,” and “Spooky” are not the names of the Classics IV lead singer. I don’t know his kids’ names. I don’t even know if he has kids.
I did go to a barber named Georgiou. Once.
I did have an Aunt Ethel.
I played the accordion for eight years. I stunk. During a recital, I got my tie stuck in the bellows and almost choked to death.
LAST WEEK’S POLL QUESTION: Which city would you go to, all expenses paid? It was a three-way tie with Nashville, New Orleans, and New York. I know New York wasn’t on the list, but, whatever. Honorable Mention: Cleveland, Chicago, Baltimore, Boston, Tupelo, Memphis, Tulsa, and Toledo. Yep. Toledo.
THIS WEEK’S POLL QUESTION: Traditional winter song cover– “Frosty the Snowman” by the Ronettes or “Baby It’s Cold Outside” by JT and Natalie. Who you got?
I didn’t include the Boss’s version of “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” because we know he already won.
Happy Christmas, Happy Winter, Happy New Year…see you on New Year’s Day.