10 Songs That Make You Rethink Everything
Perhaps the most Zen rocker ever, Adam MCA Yauch, may his funk never rest, was the spiritual soul of the Beastie Boys. If you only know the Boys from “License to Ill,” when they were activists for partying mostly, then there’s much for you to learn (as there is for us all). Their follow-up “Paul’s Boutique,” is, for my listening pleasure, the greatest album of all time, and it made me rethink everything, musically speaking. But the next album, “Check Your Head,” made me rethink everything on a philosophical level. Sure, the Boys are all over the place with rap references that go from the mundane to the sublime, but this was also the first album they played their own instruments on, which meant they had to simplify their lyrical content for those numbers. And that’s where you really start to feel Yauch’s Eastern-leaning philosophy, particularly on “Gratitude,” “Lighten Up” and “Namaste.” Check it out, then check your head, and soon your mind and body will follow — hey, it’s cheaper than a yoga class.
“Turtles All The Way Down”
In the last five years, if there’s one artist who has consistently caused me to re-examine the way I think, it’s this guy. And I’m over 40, when influencing the way someone thinks is tough business. You wanna know how outlaw Sturgill Simpson is? This rebel didn’t even wear cowboy boots to the Grand Ole Opry. Although he’ll tell you the most outlaw thing he ever did was “give a good girl a ring.” That was the line that initially hooked me, but it’s the philosophy he drops in the song above that really made me rethink things, particularly what the f**k I was doing in Seattle if the devil was there. The title of this song is in reference to a philosophical paradox that basically equates the world with a giant turtle standing on top of another giant turtle on top of another giant turtle, and so on, all the way down — which honestly, I can’t even begin to grasp, but it seemed like reason enough to move back to L.A.
“No Church In The Wild”
I’m still trying to figure out the answers to the questions posed in this song, namely, “What’s a mob to a king? What’s a king to a god?” and “What’s a god to a non-believer? Who don’t believe in anything?” I’m guessing it has something to do with cocaine and threesomes being next to godliness, but I’m still rethinking it.
“Once In A Lifetime”
“Road To Nowhere” was very close to being my Talking Heads entry here, as it made me rethink how much better I felt about my poor sense of direction. But since I’ve seen David Byrne in concert three times now, and all three times this song blew my mind into seeing how much a part of everything and nothing my little life truly is. And yet somehow that’s empowering, mostly because it comes straight from a man so tapped into the water flowing underground that he makes me want to swim in it too — preferably with my beautiful wife, who I desperately hope is real.
“Tomorrow Never Knows”
The Beatles learned early on that acid would put them in direct communication with the Muses. But back when people still kind of thought they were innocent, the cute boys from Liverpool dropped this trippy song on the world and changed everything. By putting this WTF question mark at the end of “Revolver,” they basically created the sonic point in history when everything became more confusing and girls started burning bras. This song certainly didn’t help clear things up, as George Harrison supposedly claimed that even John Lennon — the guy who took acid and was directly influenced by either “The Tibetan Book of the Dead,” or a book by Timothy Leary and pals comparing that book to LSD — didn’t even understand the concepts within.
“All Things Must Pass”
But George understood it all, consciously and unconsciously, finitely and infinitely. Listen no further than Lennon-and-McCartney’s-whipping-boy-no-more’s first solo album, which laid out the universe on this title track to a mind-body-and-spirit expanding album that also includes higher-living lessons “My Sweet Lord” and “What Is Life.” You can feel it on this track most powerfully, though, the spirit of transcendence he felt after breaking away from such a dysfunctional family, especially since Lennon and McCartney flat-out rejected the song for “Get Back.” In doing so, George moved me to rethink how I feel about my own physical limitations, and to believe that transcending them is truly possible. No one’s actually ever made me feel better about dying, not even Woody Allen.
“Don’t Worry Be Happy”
As the son of a neurotic and overbearing mother, this is a very hard lesson to learn. But Bobby McFerrin’s sweet a cappella grooves found their way into my fretful soul and made me realize the fallacy of my worried ways. If only such a spirit could linger beyond the duration of the song’s time in my head. Fortunately, the song has a way of sticking around a while. But while it may have worked well in my formative years, back when the song and the feeling were everywhere, now that I watch the video above and see Robin Williams all happying about, I realize how fleeting such a bullshit concept as happiness truly is, and I’m rethinking everything yet again.
“No Woman No Cry”
You could easily go with Marley’s “Three Little Birds” here, but since you can learn the same “don’t worry about a thing” life lesson from the song above, I’m going with “No Woman No Cry”. Plus, though perhaps not as Bob intended, it has been a helpful reminder to me that you really don’t need a woman in your life to be happy. Of course, it was easy for Bob to say such things, as he seems to have been good enough with the ladies so as to populate half of Jamaica. Actually, come to think of it, “everything is gonna be alright” has the same ring to it as the two “don’t worry” tunes, but it’s a lot tougher to remember when you’re not getting laid.
“Hearts And Bones”
You want world-changing stuff? Try getting Princess Leia to fall in love with you and then realizing that’s not exactly as ideal as you think. And that’s still a beautiful thing. That’s what Paul Simon wrote this song about, of course that was before the whole divorce happened. Still, the second I learned that love has cracks and doesn’t look like a Disney movie is the second I stopped paying escorts to dress up like Princess Jasmine.
For a while there, Eminem’s version of Rocky’s theme song was enough to get me out of bed every day and write for no one. I was seizing my moment, I owned it. Alas, I stopped waking up to this song, I let it go, and now I write for you folks.