Life-Affirming Songs for the New Year

Sometimes a good optimistic song is the only thing that will pull you out of a deep funk. As we head into the New Year (always a delightful combination of hope and dread), I thought I’d share the ones that do the trick for me.

  1. “A Beautiful Morning” – Rascals. The 60s were one part pissed-offness and one part innocent idealism. This happy tune captures the second part better than anything else I can think of. (Although “Daydream” by the Lovin’ Spoonful and “Lazy Day” by Spanky and Our Gang” are close contenders.) Want to make a million bucks? Invent an alarm clock that starts every day with this track. Much better than, say, “I Got You Babe.”

  1. “Love is the Answer” – Todd Rungren. Sure, we’ve heard it a million time It’s the ultimate cliché. Love conquers all. All you need is love. Love stinks. (Well, maybe not that last one.) But Todd has a way of making it sound fresh without getting all gloppy. In his hands, it’s an anthem.

“Who knows why, someday we all must die We’re all homeless boys and girls

And we are never heard.

It’s such a lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely world People turn their heads and walk on by

Tell me, is it worth just another try?

Light of the world, shine on me Love is the answer.”

Who can’t relate to that?

  1. “You Get What You Give” – New Radicals. Another cliché? Hey, there’s nothing new under the sun. Sometimes it’s all about the implementation. This song has texture upon texture, with a hard edge to give it real substance. All I have to do is crank it to 11 and let the music wash over me. My only complaint is I’m still waiting for these guys to release a follow-up album.

  1. “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” – Cat Stevens. I’ve loved this song ever since I first heard it on the “Harold and Maude” soundtrack. Since then, I think it’s developed a somewhat undeserved reputation as a children’s ditty, but that doesn’t do it justice. Sometimes we all need to be reminded of the unlimited possibilities the world has to offer. I’m also happy to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame finally honor Mr. Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam) as part of its 2014 class (along with Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, Nirvana, KISS and Linda Rondstadt.)

  1. “Your Life is Now” – John Mellencamp. Who knew, back when he called himself John Cougar, that Mellencamp would develop into a legitimate artist? I did. Hones “Ain’t Even Done with the Night” from “Nothin’ Matters and What if it Did” (still one of the great album titles) was my first clue. Now I have no trouble mentioning him in the same breath as the Boss. I know that’s sacrilege to some but, in the words of Jim Rome, “Deal with it.” At any rate, this song is a nice kick in the pants and a good reminder to seize the day (before it seizes you).

  1. “Anything Can Happen” – Was (Not Was) – The ultimate little guy’s mantra for love and life.

“If the underdog is hungry, the favorite might fall.” True dat. If I were a boxer, I’d want this song blaring as I entered the ring. And then again as they carried me out on a stretcher.

  1. “I Love L.A.” – Randy Newman. Those of us who grew up in the City of Angels have a love/hate relationship with the town.

Although this song drips with irony, it’s weighted on the “love” side. I used to live a stone’s throw from Victory Blvd. and never thought I’d hear it mentioned in a Top 10 hit. Made loud to be played loud. And the video is a classic, too. Go Dodgers!

  1. “Baby’s Coming Back” – Jellyfish. What’s better than baby comin’ back? ‘Nuff said.