I used to make stone soup every Thanksgiving. For those unfamiliar with the delicacy, it is a meal made by sharing; every dinner attendee brings an ingredient to contribute to a warm dish made with love. I think I got the idea from the Montclair Cooperative School. However, it has been years since I studied at the Montclair Cooperative School. Similarly, it has been years since I last made stone soup.
This year, I decided to make auditory stone soup, served in a playlist. I talked to each of my Thanksgiving guests about a song they are thankful for and compiled their answers. It was wonderful to get to know my family better by learning about how music lives with them. You can take the same journey and read their explanations below, or listen to their selections, sequenced, right here in this playlist:
Box of Rain by The Grateful Dead, chosen by Annette DeMichele
I don't even remember when I first heard it. I feel like I’ve always known it. But I absolutely remember listening to it on my Walkman when I was twenty one, going to my first set of finals in law school. I had a very long walk to get from my apartment up the hill to campus, and I would stop at Stan’s Donuts on my way. I remember listening to it especially then because I was anxious about performing. I was across the country from my family where I never would have thought I would have gone. I vividly remember Pop Pop talking to me before I moved, saying it was okay, even though I know they probably didn't want me to go. He said that they would always be there for me. And there I was, doing this thing by myself. Was it what I wanted? Was I going to succeed or fail?
The song was very inspirational, and there’s one line in it, “It’s all a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago.” It’s not that I dreamed specifically of that, but nonetheless that line conjured up the idea of a future I was stepping into, and on some, even if just implicit level, this was all some dream somewhere in me at one point. And there I was, doing it. It made me feel like however I did, it didn’t matter, because here I was. I was distinctly alone. I loved it there and it still feels like the first place I ever made home. I’m still aiming to go back, because it still feels like home. The song has always been with me, and whenever I hear it, it brings that back. It’s a good and inspirational reminder of what can be possible and what you can do on your own.
Lay Lady Lay by Bob Dylan, chosen by anonymous
When I first started to date Gene, we listened to that song a lot. It brings back memories of my early relationship with him. Laying on the brass bed. I like the mood of the song and I love Dylan. Gene had a lot of Dylan records and I didn’t have any. That song is meaningful to me because it reminds me of him.
Mercedes Benz by Janis Joplin, Bob Neuwirth and Michael McClure, chosen by Elizabeth Feigelson
The song was written during an impromptu poetry jam in 1970, and it was recorded for the album Pearl just a few days before she died. It inspired me in multiple ways. Although I love the lyrics, and the playful twanging and meanings, the essential gratitude is because there's something about the song that has enabled me to sing it in public. I don't know if it's the register, the feel of the somewhat chant-like beat, or how it pairs with my voice. On many occasions, I've sung it either solo or with a friend, sometimes crafting our own verses (kind of a pre-poetry song slam tradition).
I think I was selectively mute as a young child. I was extremely shy and had severe performance anxiety. Discovering music—listening, playing, singing and dancing—helped me find my voice. For me, music continues to be the highest form of expression and way of articulating how it feels to be alive. I am forever grateful to Mrs. Kulbach, my first grade recorder teacher who encouraged me to play and somehow made it safe to make sounds in public.
Janis Joplin's Mercedes Benz opened the door to relaxing and having fun with a song. To this day I continue to riff off it; it's my first and often ultimate step in finding a song to match the moment when I'm singing, whether it’s improvising a song in celebration of a person, an event… or just being.
Let It Be Me by Indigo Girls, chosen by Stacey DeMichele
It's so inspiring to me because it's taking a stand for being a beacon of light in darkness. Any time I hear it, it just pumps me up. I've thought about lip syncing it at my school when we have lip syncs. It talks about how politicians shadow box and never get anything done, but regardless to stand and be a beacon of light in darkness, in a really positive way.
Can You Feel the Love Tonight by Elton John, chosen by Robert DeMichele
It was my wedding song, so it feels like the start of my life; then having two kids, it kind of defines who I am. We listen to the song and they always tease about me being a lion, because it’s from The Lion King. I just love the song and love the feeling of it and being married and having a family.
Dancing On My Own (Tiësto Remix) by Calum Scott, chosen by Allie DeMichele
I like the song in general, but now that the Phillies use it, every time it comes on, anywhere in Philly, everyone sings it. It was their song of the season last year, and this year when they tried a different song, they were losing, so they brought it back for a game and did so well that they just kept it. I think that’s so cool.
Revival by Zach Bryan, chosen by Mikayla DeMichele
I love that song. I got more into country music over the summer; it’s just a summer vibe and my friends at school listen to it a lot, and I hadn’t, so I wanted to know what they like. That song talks about what prayer can do, and when I hear it, it’s a reminder that I want to be praying more often. I also just love what it sounds like.
Bark at the Moon by Ozzy Osbourne, chosen by Matthew Solnick
It’s a song that really was a gateway into music. It’s the first song that made me really wanna rock. AND roll. Both. It was the hardest song on Guitar Hero 1. The game in general introduced me to a lot of songs, but the song that really took me to a new place was “Bark at the Moon.” There’s an incredible guitar solo in it, and there’s something about playing this song and listening to it in guitar hero that made me feel like I was already an amazing guitar player. That inspired me to then become a mediocre guitar player. But really, as a nine year old, that song was the epitome of skill and energy and it gave me so much excitement for music.
90210 by Travis Scott, chosen by Nicholas Feigelson
It was the first song I ever listened to that hooked me in the way that it did. I just really like it.
Funky D by Victor Wooten, chosen by Ben Romano
It’s really funky. He’s a bass player and he goes crazy on the bass solo. I love a good bass solo.
8 (circle) by Bon Iver, chosen by Jonathan Feigelson
I'm thankful for it for a few reasons. One, it's an absolutely beautiful and mysterious song that I love to listen to. But mostly, I'm thankful for it because it has the line, “And I carry his guitar,” which you used in your birthday present to me, which gave it tremendous meaning. It means you carry part of me with you on your journey.
Soon There Will Be Fire by Hypnotic Brass Ensemble & Moses Sumney, chosen by David Feigelson (me!)
Of all the songs I could choose, this one is a more recent addition to my life. I found it when I really needed it, and it beautifully articulates something hard to put into words. It’s about change approaching, life moving, and the beauty in all of it. It’s gorgeous and haunting, cathartic and comforting. I was lucky to share a moment listening to the song with many members of my a cappella group last spring. Experiencing a profound articulation of a collective yearning was one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.
These excerpts emerged from broader conversations about the music that fills our lives. It’s hard to put its importance into words, but I think my Aunt Elizabeth came close when she told me, “I’m just grateful for music. There’s a lot of things I could conceive of my life being without. I’d miss them, and I’d be sad, but I can’t imagine a life without music. It would be a totally different life.” Amen.