High, Holy Days: A Playlist

A lot of you have been asking where my Elul/Rosh HaShana/Aseret Yemei Teshuva/Yom Kippur playlist is. “Is it ready yet?” people ask. “You promised.”

Well, it’s not quite done. I’m still tinkering with it. But it’s as ready as it’s ever going to be. Here it is, on Spotify.

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You want me to what? Explain it? That defeats the whole point of a playlist. It would be reductive to go song by song and explain its presence and purpose. I mean, seriously.

Still, there is what to say.

We open as the month of Elul does, with the arrival of the Infanta heralded by the shofar. The Queen is in the field, Elul is in the sky, and the question is what you’re going to do about it. Mad Men, indeed.

It’s time to start asking the big questions. Turn off your mind, relax — but not too much. You need to rethink things, to pay attention. It is not dying, but it’s not not dying either. Because there are certain things to keep in mind when you hear the shofar. Everybody here is a cloud. Don’t forget. If I’m alive, next year.

Sinnerman, Troubleman, Man, it doesn’t matter what you’re called. It matters what you are.

Here’s the deal about “Who By Fire?”: I don’t like any of the versions on Spotify. This is one of those times when a song has a single correct version, and it’s the version with the saxophone.

The whole thing doesn’t work with that Mediterranean guitar intro/accompaniment nearly as well. I think it’s just a fundamental difference between guitar and sax. Sax is a horn, guitar is a string instrument. Your guitar can do a lot of things (e.g. it can weep) but it’s not powered by breath and it never will be. To put it another way, guitar is your siddur but sax is your shofar.

This is the version that should be on the playlist. If it were a mixtape I’d have ripped it, etc.

After this you get to go down to the river for three songs. This is tashlich, but it can also be the mikveh before Yom Kippur if you want to keep things moving roughly chronologically. (I originally tried to make this thing match the chronology more closely. It was a mess.)

From “Get By”:

This morning, I woke up
Feeling brand new and I jumped up
Feeling my highs, and my lows
In my soul, and my goals
Just to stop smokin’, and stop drinkin’
And I’ve been thinkin’ – I’ve got my reasons
Just to get by

And you get one last wordless prayer. Then, the whole thing ends, and we’re on to a new year. Will there be feasting and dancing in Jerusalem this year?

But pat yourself on the back for a second — you have made it to a new year, this year.

May you be written in the book of life. Ketivah v’chatimah tovah.

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