Driving out West this summer I had many hours in the car to listen to music. I found myself thinking about which songs I’d pair up with the people and places on my journey. This is the playlist I came up with. Some choices are pretty obvious; others have an explanatory note.
1. Where’s a Sunset (When You Need One) – Lane Turner
For Jack Bailey
Reading Jack’s c. 1868 trail log at the Library of Congress was one of the catalysts for getting me started on this trek. At the end of the diary there is a poem Jack wrote to his wife, and this song seems fitting. Plus, both Jack and Lane are from Texas, and Texans stick together.
2. Cowboys – Counting Crows
For Dodge City, KS
“Cowboys on the road tonight, crying in their sleep. If I was a hungry man with a gun in my hand there’s some promises to keep…”
3. Truly, Madly, Deeply – Savage Garden
For Clitus Jones and Lily Sutton
Letters exchanged between these two are preserved at Baylor University’s Texas Collection. Sweet, lovely, and romantic.
4. Only Living Boy in New York – Simon and Garfunkel
For Teddy Roosevelt
After his wife Alice died, I can imagine TR walking around Manhattan feeling like this.
5. Lose Yourself – Eminem
For Buck Taylor
The star cowboy of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show might have been able to appreciate Eminem’s sentiments.
6. One – Metallica
For Custer’s 7th Calvary
One YouTube viewer wrote, “If this song was already written in 1944 and iPods were invented, this is what I would listen to while invading Normandy.”
7. Amazing – Kanye West
For George Armstrong Custer
8. Professional Widow – Tori Amos
For Elizabeth Custer
There’s a story that Elizabeth once met Abraham Lincoln and in the course of their conversation, told the president that she supported her husband’s aggressive military campaigns. The president replied, “So you want to be a widow?”
9. Happiness is a Warm Gun – The Beatles
For Wild Bill Hickok
10. Please Don’t Leave Me – Pink
For Calamity Jane
This song about bad behaviors and sour relationships struck a few chords with me as I thought about one of the West’s most notorious women.
11. Time to Pretend – MGMT
For Buffalo Bill
Did anyone package and sell the Western experience more effectively than Buffalo Bill? I think not! There’s even a line about Paris, where the show stopped multiple times.
12. Pokerface – Lady Gaga
For Deadwood, SD
13. Highwayman – The Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson)
For the drive home.