One of the few consolation prizes of the coronavirus crisis has been the nonstop barrage of opportunities to discover new music under the strange circumstances of quarantine. (There has also been plenty of time to revisit some favorite old sweethearts in the record collection, too.)
So when the GQ social team asked if I wanted to make a playlist, I was stoked to have an opportunity to gather everything I’ve been listening to in one place and share it with you.
Each of the songs on this mix has surprised me, or comforted me, or stabbed me in the gut in recent days and weeks. The songs on it come from a zillion different places.
For instance: The Verzuz battle between RZA and DJ Premier (a highlight of QuarCore culture so far) reminded me about Jeru the Damaja's classic "Come Clean," built on one of my all-time-favorite Preemo beats. (I also noticed that Virgil Abloh played it during a DJ set on IG Live that same Saturday.)
I discovered June Tabor's jaw-dropping "Where Are You Tonight?" just a few days ago, after Will Oldham posted an equally jaw-dropping cover of it on Instagram (@wignifier). The typically shy Oldham and his acoustic guitar have been gloriously active on his feed since the crisis unfurled. Oldham has been a conduit for so much of my musical discovery over the years...I just never thought IGTV would play a part in the process. How strange. How unforeseen. I’ll take it, God knows.
Like Oldham, Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell have been a constant presence in my quarantine thanks to their daily performances on Amanda's YouTube channel, recorded live from their Tennessee barn. Each songwriter has a spankin’ new chune on this mix—which is tiding me over until Jason releases his ridiculously great album Reunions next month.
I've also bolstered the mix with some of my favorite songs of all time, or songs that other songs simply reminded me of... I don't know, that’s just how it works when you make a mix! You pull on some interesting threads and see what comes tumbling down.
You'll also find a few standout songs from the legendary catalogs of Bill Withers and John Prine, both of whom passed over the last few weeks. There are countless brutal aspects of this crisis; one of the most painful is how difficult it is to mourn the dead. Normally, Bill Withers and John Prine would've been fawningly celebrated and mourned for a full month each, if not a whole year. Under these circumstances, however, the news cycle churned past them in a matter of a short day or two. But here comes the good part: Both are immortal. Fully. They each conquered death many years ago, in fact, through the indomitable power of pouring your soul out in song. Even though they’ve passed on, all we have to do to conjure them up is press play.
I hope this mix brings you comfort, joy, surprise, discovery. I made it from the heart, which is the only thing I know how to do right now.
Will Welch is the editor-in-chief of GQ.
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Originally Appeared on GQ