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Crafting a Pitch Perfect Playlist Takes Love

By David Goe

- My mom and my grandparents circa 1977 - 

On March 1, my mom retires. After 33 years and 143 days of nursing, she’s trading in her stethoscope and Keds for a life of leisure.

From here out, it’s days filled with quilting projects, barking westies and dirty martinis.

After clocking out for the final time and turning in her security clearance, it’s fiesta time. Retirement deserves a hell of a party. One that is worthy of nearly 70,000 hours of dealing with patient complaints and hospital bureaucracy. One worth 4.2 million minutes of chart filling and afternoon meetings.

It’s time to cut loose.

I’ve been helping my mom with party planning, making sure everything is perfect. The location? Booked. The food? Catered by Carol’s Oriental Food and Gifts. The booze? BYOB. The party playlist? In my capable hands.

You simply can’t throw a memorable party without an epic playlist. The difference between a good party and a once-in-a-lifetime throw down are the jams. Everything hinges on the music. It maintains the vibe.

The song selection, the emotion, the timing — it all must be pitch perfect.

Putting together a playlist is more difficult than you might think. Sure, you could click the Genius button on iTunes or stick on Pandora, but how impersonal is that?

A perfect playlist needs to connect and have meaning for the situation. A random hodgepodge of music is not good enough for my mom. She’s had March 1 circled on the calendar for well over a year.

In order to craft something worthy of the moment, I’ve had my mom journaling her favorite songs — all genres, all decades. As long as it means something to her it’s going into the mix. Dion to Green Day. Michael Jackson to Mark Ronson. It’s all good.

Looking at what she had written, two things became immediately clear. One, I have a cool mom. Two, these songs are more than three-minute sounds to pass the time.

Would your mom select “Heavy Metal Drummer” by Wilco for her retirement mix?

Probably not, but it makes sense to me.

Since taking my parents and my brother to see the band play the Avalon Theatre nearly five years ago, they have become huge fans.

The majority of my mom’s selections are like this, loving moments remembered through music. They come from raising two boys and hanging around my dad and his concert DVD collection too much. They are the result of endlessly loving Sir Paul McCartney and surviving the 1970s disco era. They are a music collage of everything that matters in her life: family, friends and Paul Simon.

Weaving this tapestry together will take time. But that is what a thoughtful DJ does, though.

When I first started volunteering at KAFM 88.1 about 8 years ago, I sat in on one of Tone Lope’s shows. I think it was during “An Hour on Broadway.” I was only there for 30 minutes or so, but in that short time he gave me the best advice I’ve ever received about mixing.

“You could train a monkey to come in here and play music,” he said referring to the general ease of operating the mixing board. “What makes a good DJ is creating flow and emotion. Take your listener on a ride.”

It is impossible to quantify a lifetime of love in a three-hour playlist, but I’ve got to try. This is a celebration, of never having to work again and of someone who means a whole lot to a lot of people.

Just a couple more tweaks and it’s almost time to press play. If you listen close enough, you’ll hear much more than a simple song.


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