My Humble Plan to Change the Mindset Of Washington (with Help from Friends) – Part 3, My Turn

A while back I had an idea that maybe the argumentative/combative situation in Washington could be cured by having all of our elected representatives listen to the same playlist before they went to the floor, into committee, or held a hearing. The idea is that the right selection of music will foster a mindset that will allow for cooperation and compromise.

In the spirit of cooperation, I asked my co-workers at the Peninsula Pulse to create their own playlists, which I shared in this column in the past two issues. Now it is time to present my playlist, but before I do, I have another bit of business to tend to.

Though these lists have been presented in the spirit of fun and entertainment, this idea will work. For how long into any given session or meeting remains to be seen, but requiring all our elected officials to listen to the same playlist before going into session or into a meeting will – at least at the outset – alter their temperament. You see, for all the mystery and sophistication our brains possess, that grey matter between our ears is remarkably easy to “program.”

As an example, I call your attention to the work done by Dan Ariely. Ariely is a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University, and in his book, Predictably Irrational, he details a very interesting experiment he conducted when he was at MIT. Here’s how it worked:

Ariely and his team had a random group of students come to an upper floor classroom to take a basic math test. Before taking the test, the students were required to read a page of copy. Two separate groups were used in the experiment.

The first group read some generic copy and then took the test. The second group read copy that discussed aging and the infirmities of age and then took the test.

Okay, you are probably thinking that the second group didn’t do as well on the test. But Ariely was more clever than that: instead of grading the tests, Ariely and his team secretly measured the length of time it took each group of students to exit the classroom and walk down the corridor to the elevator. And guess what, folks, the group that were required to read the copy about aging and infirmity took considerably longer to reach the elevator even though both groups were made up of young, healthy college students!

So if just reading some copy can have that kind of dramatic effect on college students, imagine what music can do to our elected representatives.

Thus, without further ado, here’s my suggested playlist to get Washington working again.

• “Take Me To the River” by the Talking Heads

Al Green and “Teenie” Hodges wrote this song in 1974 and Green’s original recording of the song was ranked 117 in Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. I could have chosen Green’s version, but the Talking Heads are my all-time favorite band and, whichever version you listen to, this struck me as a good starting point for my playlist. After all, if anyone ever in need of being dropped into the water and washed down it is our Washington politicians.

• “America the Beautiful” by Kate Smith

I am really dating myself with this one, I know. Written by Irving Berlin, Kate Smith’s rendition of the song became famous, largely because of professional sports. In the early 1970s the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League began to occasionally play Smith’s recording of the song before the start of a game, and curiously, the Flyers usually won the games when the song was played. She surprised the crowd by showing up in person to perform the song in 1973, received a thunderous standing ovation, and the Flyers won 2 – 0. Today, you can see a statue of Smith outside the Flyers’ stadium.

Putting aside the whole business about sports, Smith’s rendition of this song is the rendition of this song – beautiful, powerful, and tastefully patriotic.

• “Home Sweet Home” by Bunny (Livingston) Wailer; affectionately, Jah B

It comes as no surprise that the lists from my co-workers have contained a number of reggae tracks. Amid Marley and Tosh, their running mate in the early years was Bunny Wailer, Jah B, when the three were a trio called the Wailers. But unlike Marley and Tosh, Wailer is still with us. I could have chosen any number of songs, but Wailer’s version of “Home Sweet Home” is, quite simply, too beautiful not to include. With lines like “I’ll be good to you/And you to me” and “Our unity will be forever,” this one should serve as a wake up call for our elected representatives.

• “I’ll Take You There” The Staple Singers

It was hearing this song for the first time in a long time that made me first think that we could change the mindset of Washington with music.

Back in the mid-1970s, when I was in high school, the airwaves were beset by the insidious abomination known as disco. I was saved from this scourge, when my African-American friends of the basketball team introduced to real rhythm & blues, soul, and funk, which the Staple Singers embodied.

With all due respect (pardon the pun) to Aretha Franklin, no one did R&B/soul like Mavis Staples, and this song – in particular – demonstrates her talents.

The ultimate feel good song, the lyrics invite the listener to heaven – literally – as it uses a call and response chorus and just two chords.

Interestingly, the music – including the solos – was recorded by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Chorus, so when you go to YouTube to listen and watch this song performed (as I know all of you have for all the playlists published in this column in the past few issues), Mavis’s father, “Pops,” and sisters Cleotha and Yvonne are not actually playing the music you hear.

Still, as I said above, this is the ultimate “feel good” song and the perfect song to end this playlist before our elected representatives get down to the job of governing.