Pandemic Blues: a playlist

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Fred McDowellA blues playlist for the Covid-19 pandemic is an idea only slightly less obvious than a metal playlist, though the results are likely to be considerably more popular. There’s no shortage of blues songs about being home alone, or about sickness, hard times and death. I used a very broad definition of blues here, including some jazz, gospel and R&B. And I grouped the songs thematically, so listeners may experience a bit of whiplash as it goes from sad to rollicking or vice versa. The one Sahelian track, “Djam Leelii” by Baaba Maal and Mansour Seck, concerns the plight of refugees, so it’s only tangentially related but it’s such a great song with such deep blues feeling, I couldn’t leave it out. A similar logic dictated my inclusion of Geeshie Wiley’s “Last Kind Word Blues.”


Apocalyptic Anthems and Memento Mori: Metal for a Pandemic

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cover of Black Sabbath - Black SabbathHeavy metal turned 50 years old on February 13, the release date of Black Sabbath’s self-titled first album — just in time for a global pandemic. That’s a grim coincidence, but it does give one indication of why the genre has had such staying power, in all its diverse manifestations (folk metal! Doom Metal! Progressive Metal! Stoner metal! Symphonic Metal! And on and on, for a total of approximately 666 distinct sub-genres): we live in grim and increasingly brutal times, and metal speaks to people like me who believe there’s value to looking horror in the face. Memento mori (“Remember that you must die”) is an ancient and very multicultural wisdom path, and I was fascinated to discover while pulling this playlist together that Lamb of God, one of the most popular and influential metal bands of the past 20 years, have just released a single (and stunning video) with that very title, adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. Randy Blythe, their lead singer and lyricist, gives the background:
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