As I was writing my essay “Feels Like Home”, my thoughts turned to the subject of Home in music and how musical artists have explored various notions of “Home” through their work. At first I was going to incorporate these referentces into my essay, but there were so many of them that it didn’t leave enough room for me to talk about myself, which is the most important thing in my essays. So, I decided to make a playlist with some commentary and choice lyrics to round out this issue’s exploration of Home.
The list journeys first through songs about rambling and roaming, towards various concepts of Home (such as Home being “wherever I’m with you” and Home as a secure, familiar place), ending with songs about Home as the place we come back to, both emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
This is not an exhaustive playlist of songs touching on the Home theme; they’re just some of the ones I could think of that I don’t cringe listening to (sorry, One Direction fans). Naturally, my own personal taste in music is reflected, and by happenstance, much of this music is “classic” or at any rate, older than a decade or two. But that this playlist should be something rather personal and vintage is apropos for a playlist about Home.
Music is about tradition, identity, and culture. Music is a refuge that comforts us from the harshness of the world, offering a space where we can escape our troubles and reconnect with ourselves. Music is a familiar love and a faithful friend, one who connects us with those who have gone before us and unites us with those whom we hold dear. Music lights up our hearts and makes us feel both grounded and uplifted at the same time. Music is about expressing our selves, our loves and insecurities, our roots and origins, our pasts and re-creations thereof, our quest for peace, and our yearning for some cosmic reassurance that everything will be alright.
Just like Home.
“I Ain’t Got No Home in This World Anymore” – Woody Guthrie
A song about a sharecropper who is evicted from his land and ends up a vagrant, roaming from town to town, feeling displaced and disenfranchised. The song also hints at a moral and spiritual homelessness in a world that privileges money and status over concern for the common man.
“Now as I look around, it’s mighty plain to see / This world is such a great and a funny place to be / oh, the gambling man is rich and the working man is poor / and I ain’t got no home in this world anymore”
“Truckin” – The Grateful Dead
The quintessential song about “truckin” through life and the seemingly eternal struggle between competing urges of wanderlust and settling down.
“You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel / Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down / I guess they can’t revoke your soul for tryin’ / Get out of the door and light out and look all around”
“Take It to the Limit” – The Eagles
For us dreamers who can’t seem to settle down, weary but unable to resist the siren call of the untethered life.
“You know, I’ve always been a dreamer / Spent my life running round / And it’s so hard to change / Can’t seem to settle down”
“Can’t Find My Way Home” – Blind Faith
Sometimes I think this song is about someone on their death bed pondering Jesus and the body of Christ holding the key to salvation, and repenting that he’s sinned so much that he won’t be able to find his spiritual Home in Heaven. Other times I think it’s about a guy who’s so drunk he closed out the bar and couldn’t find his way home, so he’s knocking on a lover’s door begging her to let him in. Take your pick.
“Well I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time/ And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home”
“Ramble On” – Led Zeppelin
A song about a rambling man who’s “Got no time for spreadin’ roots” and is bidding goodbye to his lover so he can continue traveling the world searching for The One. Classic song showcasing a classic double standard: men who choose to roam the world sleeping with different women are super cool and painfully sexy (or is that just the chlamydia?), whereas women are expected to stay put and not sleep with too many rambling men.
“Homeward Bound” – Simon and Garfunkel
A musician on tour who, finding touring life to be empty and depressing, longs to return Home to his sweetheart. A song about being out in the world, doing what you thought you wanted to be doing, only to keep thinking about Home and the one you left behind, wishing you were there.
“Homeward bound / I wish I was / Homeward bound / Home, where my thought’s escaping/ Home, where my music’s playing / Home, where my love lies waiting silently for me”
“Born in the USA” – Bruce Springsteen
An American “born down in a dead man’s town”, made to fight in Vietnam, only to come home to find there’s nothing there for him (“I’m ten years burning down the road / Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go”). A song about, among other things, how where we are born shapes our lives, and how our nationalities contribute to our identities. A song about feeling displaced in your own country and finding out the hard way that your ideal of your home(land) isn’t all it’s made out to be.
“Sloop John B” – The Beach Boys
When that party cruise starts to feel like an epically bad idea and you just want to go Home.
“Home, let me go home /I want to go home, yeah yeah / Well, I feel so broke up / I want to go home.”
“Waterfall” – The Stone Roses
A song about a girl who runs away from an oppressive “hole” of a hometown for bigger and better things, with an uplifting vibe that makes you feel like you’ve just hit the open road.
“Chimes sing Sunday morn/Today’s the day she’s sworn/To steal what she never could own/And race from this hole she calls home/Now you’re at the wheel/Tell me how, how does it feel/So good to have equalized/To lift up the lids of your eyes”
“Cities” – Talking Heads
A song that perfectly conjures the excited, panicky feeling of untethered adulting, of living in a modern age where adults can live almost anywhere and do whatever they feel like (“People sleep, sleep in the daytime / If they want to! If they want to!)…and feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all.
“I’m checking ‘em out / I’m checking ‘em out / I got it figured out /I’ve got it figured out / There’s some good points / Some bad points / Yeah, but it all works out / I’m just a little freaked out / Find a city / Find myself a city to live in”
“I Want a House” – Twin Sister
Simple and full of dreamy longing for a nest complete with loved one.
“I want a house / Built of old wood / You could paint it any color you like / Just so long as I can live with you.”
“Settle Down” – Kimbra
A lady in the throes of the nesting instinct, begging her man to settle down with her instead of running off with the next flashy thing that crosses his path, fantasizing intensely about their future together (complete with a daughter Nebraska who has his nose), and wishing on a star he’ll agree and stay with her.
“Out of Reach” – The Get Up Kids
An expat roaming through Europe feels the thrill of testing out new countries and cultures but feels disconnected from his mates at home who don’t share in the adventure, and for whom the new sense of self gained through travel doesn’t quite translate, leaving both a physical and emotional gap between them.
“Long way from home / lost by an echo I’d never have known / I’ve got pictures to prove I was there / But you don’t care / Here’s me overseas / Cross the pond, by the Dover Peaks / I’ve smuggled myself into new nationalities / Think you’d be proud of me /There’s room to believe / Out of sight, out of mind, out of reach”
“Never Going Back to New Jersey” – Less Than Jake
OK, I’m a Jersey girl, so this song has extra resonance for me. But more generally, it’s about growing out of your hometown, about returning home to find everything’s changed, and vowing you’ll never go back again.
“Yeah, well, there was a time when I could say it right to you that I would never want to leave this place / But now it’s I was wrong, don’t wanna f**king talk about it cause it feels like things have changed”
“Golden Slumbers / Carry that Weight / The End” – The Beatles
Golden Slumbers speaks to the longing for a Home in our past that, particularly as adults, as our innocence and naiveté falls away from us, we can’t quite get back to. Makes you want to cry, doesn’t it? But it’s OK because Paul’s going to sing us a lullaby to make us feel better.
“Once there was a way to get back homeward / Once there was a way to get back home / Sleep pretty darling, do not cry / And I will sing a lullaby”
I’ll be honest here – initially I just wanted to include Golden Slumbers, but I couldn’t find a video that didn’t have the rest of the medley on there. But I’m glad it worked out this way. Because in “The End”, with its “the love you make is equal to the love you take” lyric, there’s a bit of the “Home as Love” stuff. It’s as though Paul is telling us that even though we can’t go home again, we can find Home in Love.
“Home on the Range” – Gene Autry
Home as that supportive, safe, and peaceful place yonder pass them there mountains, “Where seldom is heard / A discouraging word / And the skies are not cloudy all day”. Best listened to whilst thoughtfully chewing a piece of hay between sips of moonshine.
“Waterloo Sunset” – the Kinks
As long as you have your own familiar little piece of turf where you feel safe and sound, all is right with the world. And because sometimes, we all just want to stay home and watch the world pass us by.
“I am so lazy / I don’t want to wander, I stay at home at night / But I don’t feel afraid/ As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset, I am in paradise”
“This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)” – the Talking Heads
Love as Home, complete with the heart-fluttering joy of finding someone you want to make a life with and thinking, “This is it!…I think.” Bright and fun song, but as the title suggests, there’s also a hint of a darker undercurrent of naiveté that comes with thinking that it’s possible to find the type of safety and love we long for in Home in someone else.
“Home is where I want to be / But I guess I’m already there / I come home, she lifted up her wings / Guess that this must be the place”
“Home” – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
Love as Home, à la Americana. The song is a duet of partners regaling each other with memories, and assuring each other, “Home is wherever I’m with you.”
“Our House” – Crosby Stills Nash & Young
Home as a Homestead, a physical place where you create a sense of security and comfort, a place to make memories with your loved one, where everything bad fades away and all is right with the world.
Complete with two cats, because as any good cat lady will tell you, a house is not a home without a cat (or twelve).
“33” – Smashing Pumpkins
A song with a poignant, nostalgic vibe that speaks to me in a language I can hear. A song about being out and losing yourself in the crazy world, but returning Home to find the love of familiar friends and places, and wanting to make that love burn bright enough to last you through the next leg of life’s journey.
“And for a moment I lose myself /Wrapped up in the pleasures of the world/I’ve journeyed here and there and back again /But in the same old haunts I still find my friends/Mysteries not ready to reveal / Sympathies I’m ready to return/I’ll make the effort, love can last forever”
“Hometown Glory” – Adele
The restorative nature of the Hometown, and how our worlds are shaped by the places we call Home and the people who live there.
“Round my hometown / Memories are fresh / Round my hometown / Ooh the people I’ve met / Are the wonders of my world”
“Feels Like Home” – Linda Rondstadt
Another song about Love as Home, but also about Home as something from our pasts, something we try to recreate and rediscover as we get older but that perhaps we never can quite get back to again, save for some quality “feels” here and there.
“Feels like home to me / Feels like home to me / Feels like a long way back, where I belong”
“Time” – Pink Floyd
Another classic laden with meaning. One message is that Home is a place we cling to for familiarity and security, but if we cling too close we may miss out on what life has to offer.
“Digging around on a piece of ground in your hometown / Waiting for someone or something to show you the way /Tired of lying in the sunshine / Staying home to watch the rain / You are young and life is long/ And there is time to kill today / And then one day you’ll find / Ten years have got behind you / No one told you when to run/You’ve missed the starting gun”
As the years pass us by unrelentingly, whether we barely leave the safety of our nest or are dizzy from having sought experiences far and wide, Home is our comfort zone, a refuge we can return to, in which we can feel safe and secure. At Home, the sights, sounds, and feels of the familiar grant us temporary respite from our existential plight. But the song as a whole and its placement just before “The Great Gig in the Sky” suggests (I’m referring to the track list order of the album, Dark Side of the Moon), Home cannot protect us from the inevitable passing of time, and with it, the inevitability of death.
“Home, home again/ I like to be here when I can / When I come home, cold and tired / It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire/Far away, across the field/The tolling of the iron bell /Calls the faithful to their knees/To hear the softly spoken magic spell”
“The Green, Green Grass of Home” – Tom Jones
A man blissfully returns Home again, greeting his mama, papa, and his beloved Mary, walking through the house and the green yard, feeling loved and at peace.
Then he wakes up and remembers he is in prison, on death row. Soon in death he will be truly “home”, reunited with his loved ones and the green, green grass of Home.