A Shuffle for Holt
This is the way life goes: in the end stages of the 52 Girls project, a landmine of sorrow went off under my feet. My brother Holt Hughes died on March 7, after a nearly five-year fight against cancer. His memorial service was on Saturday.
I went back and forth for days trying to pick one song to post about in his memory, and then I realized -- of course, a shuffle! Holt was himself a shuffle kind of guy, always moving on to the next thing, his enthusiasms too multitudinous to be ticked off in one box. So here's a random sampling from the four-hour playlist I made for his memorial....
1. "You've Got A Friend in Me" / Randy Newman & Lyle Lovett (1995)
My brother was above all one of my best friends. He was always there for me. And, PS, he loved Lyle Lovett too. (The old John Hiatt connection ran deep for both of us....)
2. "The Water Is Wide" / James Taylor (1991)
The old angel-voiced folkie, doing one of those old English folk songs about "crossing over," which I always interpret as death. But there's something so warm about James Taylor's voice, like an old pair of jeans, I collapse right into its comfort.
3. "Strangers" / Norah Jones (2009)
Love the Kinks' original, a Dave Davies beauty; this is my favorite cover of it. (Sorry I couldn't find an MP3 -- it was a bonus track from Norah's album The Fall.) It's about brotherhood, it's about the spiritual journey. "Holy man and holy priest / This love of life makes me weak at my knees" -- my brother was a priest and he loved life. Perfect.
4. "I Don't Wanna Go Home" / Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (1987)
A great rousing farewell anthem -- "I know that it's getting late / But I don't want to go home." My brother was a chronic night owl, and visiting him always meant we'd be up way past midnight, goofing around. He just never wanted to let the day go. "I know we had to try / To reach up and touch the sky, baby" -- yep, that was Holt, too.
5. "Circles" / Ten Years After (1976)
A little hippie-dippie folkie track, full of restless questioning spirit, just like my bro. Dig that third verse: "I have got what I once dreamed of / As a child, so long ago / But my life just goes in circles / 'Cause one answer I don't know / Does it matter what I do / Who will hear me if I cry? / Does it matter what I do / Does it matter if I die?" Holt, I hope you have the answers now that you've preceded us into the light.
6. "Here Comes the Sun" / The Beatles
A great message of hope, transformation, and renewal, especially for those of us -- like my brother -- who believe in reincarnation. And the consoling refrain, "It's all right" -- just what we need to hear.
7. "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" / Simon & Garfunkel (1970)
Another valedictory song, a gentle samba in honor of someone who could "change your point of view." "When I run dry, I stop awhile and think of you" -- yes, that's how I feel.
8. "Just A Song Before I Go" / Crosby Stills & Young (1977)
Okay, really this is a break-up song, but its gentle bittersweetness suits my mood. And those gorgeous CSN harmonies -- I was still stuck in my British rock phase when these guys came along and I generally missed them, but I know my brother listened to this album a lot back in the day.
9. "Daughters" / John Mayer (2003)
Holt loved this song, because he loved his two daughters. "Fathers be good to your daughters" -- and Holt always was.
10. "All Kinds of Time" / Fountains of Wayne (2003)
FoW wistfully captures a moment in time when the golden boy -- in this case, a high school quarterback -- reviews his life as he goes out for the pass. My brother couldn't play football for anything, but his life had this same sort of glorious equipoise. I only wish he had had all kinds of time -- but then again, who does?
Love you forever, Homes.