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If music be the food of love, playlist on.

Playlists tell stories. And stories are the foundation of our identity. Be it a wedding reception, barbecue or birthday celebration, there is invariably an accompanying soundtrack that its creator hopes will have a profound effect on the audience – making a connection and delivering a ‘moment’ as they say on X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. Even funerals have non-secular songs played now as the curtains are drawn and the dearly departed disappear. A last chance to impress the mourners with your musical taste perhaps. Apparently the song that leaves all others in its wake (so to speak) is Frank Sinatra’s My Way. It has topped the Co-operative Funeralcare’s most requested music chart for many a year apparently (who’d have thought they’d keep a chart of these things).

For some, arranging the music for a shindig is as simple as hiring a DJ or popping Now That’s What I Call Music 96 or Sounds of the ’60s on to the stereo and pressing repeat. For others – myself included – it’s an opportunity to lay our souls bare before an audience of friends and family. To share our passion for music and our desire to find the perfect blend of songs for each occasion (the general rule of thumb being you have to build the tempo slowly). The holy grail of which is firstly, to play a song so rare and so beautiful that people stop talking about Brexit mid-sentence to ask you who the singer is and whether they can get a copy. And second, to play a song that is so universally loved than that even the most curmudgeonly of cohorts feel compelled to ‘bust a move’ to the music.

But playlists are not just for parties and gatherings.  They can be created for Sunday morning lie-ins, long drives or even lurve. You can make them by musical genre (classical, reggae, rock ’n roll or jazz perhaps), by decade or by season (spring, summer etc.). They can take you for an afternoon stroll down memory lane or lead you to new paths of discovery. But beware, once you’ve started to create playlists (I use the wonderful Spotify app to create mine – see p.11), they can become quite addictive and time-consuming. Music after all, is a very subjective artform and you may have to listen to a lot of tracks before you find your perfect blend.   

Set Me Free Why Don’t You Babe
I have a friend who has even created a playlist for the times she argues with her husband. After a set-to, she takes the dog for an invigorating and head-clearing stomp around Highbury Fields to the sounds of You Keep Me Hangin’ On by the Supremes, Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made for Walkin and Engelbert Humperdinck’s Please Release Me. It must do the trick – the couple have recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Such is the healing power of the playlist. 

Come On Over To My Place
Another of my pals came up with the idea of a playlist party where he invites friends to come along for a themed evening. Each guest brings their three favourite tracks from the theme and it makes for great conversation, hearing the personal stories behind each choice. We’ve shared Motown, Northern Soul, Show Tunes and even Comedy Songs (which was a disaster to be honest – after three hours of When I’m Cleaning Windows by George Formby,  Benny Hill’s Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West) and the Funky Gibbon by The Goodies people were visibly twitching and couldn’t wait to head home).

(I Get The) Sweetest Feeling
So, how do I elevate my song choices into playlist paradise? To be honest, I don’t a lot of the time. I often watch as my song choices fall on deaf ears, but ever-so-often it clicks. This Christmas for example, we had the usual Boxing Day gathering at our house. After dinner, four generations of our family spontaneously starting dancing. Whooping, clapping, arms flailing, funky chicken dancing, spinning and laughing. The song that set us off? Jackie Wilson’s (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher. That song is now etched in my memory forever and has taken its place in my latest playlist – The Soundtrack to My Life.

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