Sunday, January 15, 2012


Every year I ask my mom what she wants for her birthday, and every year she says a mix CD. I'm never sure if that's just because she knows how much I like to make them, but she insists, and after all that she's done for me, how can I say no?

  1. Faith No More, "Midnight Cowboy"
  2. Bill Withers, "Lovely Day"
  3. Foo Fighters, "Learn to Fly"
  4. U2, "Even Better than the Real Thing"
  5. Run-D.M.C., "It's Tricky"
  6. The Cure, "Boys Don't Cry"
  7. Sinead O'Connor, "No Man's Woman"
  8. Eddie Vedder & Cat Power, "Tonight You Belong to Me"
  9. Queen, "Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy"
  10. Tom Petty, "Runnin' Down a Dream"
  11. The Smiths, "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want"
  12. Eels, "Going to Your Funeral, Part II"
  13. A Tribe Called Quest, "Award Tour"
  14. Patti Smith, "Because the Night"
  15. Green Day, "Jesus of Suburbia"
  16. AC/DC, "Back in Black"
  17. Metallica, "Nothing Else Matters"
  18. Madonna, "Don't Tell Me"
  19. Stevie Wonder, "Happy Birthday"
  20. Tom Waits, "Young at Heart"
Mom loves movies more than anyone I've ever met in my life. I always try to make her mixes cinematic. First choices would be Faith No More's stirring take on "Midnight Cowboy," and a Cure song that someone named a movie after (although "Just Like Heaven" and "Charlotte Sometimes" would also suffice.) I also picked a selection from last year's fabulous A Tribe Called Quest documentary, plus a couple of tracks to ready her for the in-the-works Patti Smith and Green Day adaptations. The Smiths tune can be heard in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and of course "Tonight You Belong to Me" was revived by The Jerk, performed here by Eddie Vedder and Cat Power.

I recently heard Stevie Wonder's "Happy Birthday" at a six-year-old's birthday party, where the parents sang it after the traditional birthday song. A closer listen shows that Stevie's version is not entirely universal (the verses, written in 1981, campaign for giving Martin Luther King a holiday,) but it is Mom's birthday, and Stevie Wonder is good for just about anything. Mom is also a fan of Queen and Madonna, both of whom are represented by underloved hits, and a more recent convert to the Dave Grohl fan club. Factoring out his Virginia roots, Muppet movie cameo and unimpeachable persona, "Learn to Fly" still holds up.

One thing that mom likes in movies (which I constantly give her a hard time about) is the idea of tough guys who turn out to be sensitive on the inside. With that in mind, I've included Metallica's most tender moment, placed next to one of AC/DC's staples for full effect. Over winter break, she asked me if I preferred AC/DC to Aerosmith, because she's that kind of mom. Here's my answer.

Happy birthday, Mom! For someone who raised me, you turned out OK.

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