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Have A Listen: Don Gonyea's 2014 Campaign Playlist

National Political Correspondent Don Gonyea covers hot political races all over the country.
Don Gonyea
National Political Correspondent Don Gonyea covers hot political races all over the country.

Join NPR on Election Night, Nov. 4, at elections.npr.org for live reports from reporters across the country, live results and our live blog. We asked NPR's National Political Correspondent Don Gonyea to help kick off our Election Night party by sharing some of the music that's playing in his ear as he covers the 2014 campaign.

My editors gave me an unusual election assignment: Come up with a playlist for the 2014 midterm campaign.

I'm a good one to ask, since I have a deep love of all kinds of music AND because I spend a lot of time in planes flying from one battleground state to the next. Add in the long drives across any given stretch of politically competitive America, and you've got a guy who needs a great selection of music to keep him sane.

So here is my Personal Campaign Playlist for the 2014 Election.

I should note that you'll likely find none of these songs on the official playlists of any campaign anywhere. These are not the songs that blare from the loudspeakers at political rallies. No classic rock hits (U2), no modern country (Brooks & Dunn), no rock anthems (Springsteen, Kid Rock). Instead, I've burrowed pretty deep into the encyclopedia of eclectic music to find some songs that take me (and you) on a journey through the states where I've found myself covering hot political races this year.

14 Songs. 45 minutes. Here we go:

1) The Old Man Of The Mountain / Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

What better place to start than a song about a giant rock formation in the northern part of the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire? There's a pretty good U.S. Senate race this year as well. Not to mention all the early stops by potential 2016 presidential candidates. This is a new version of a classic Cab Calloway tune. How can you not love this?

2) County Fair / Phil Alvin

Cover politics for NPR and you spend a lot of time at the fairgrounds. This song makes me think of lots of places, from Iowa to Ohio to Michigan to Kansas. Phil Alvin is a founding member of that great American roots band, The Blasters. This is a solo performance I've loved for years.

3) Wa Da Da / Bix Beiderbecke

For this one, we go to the other state that kicks off the presidential season, Iowa. Perhaps the hottest U.S. Senate race is taking place there this year.

As for the great Bix Beiderbecke, he's one of the finest trumpeters in the history of jazz — and he just happens to be the hometown pride and joy of Davenport, Iowa.

4) Blue Moon Of Kentucky / Brian Setzer

The most expensive race in the country this year is the Kentucky Senate race. So in this selection we present this take on the legendary Bill Monroe's Blue Moon of Kentucky.

5) Somewhere In Kentucky Tonight / Tom T. Hall

Staying in Kentucky for one more. I'm a sucker for classic country music, and this is from one of the genre's finest storyteller/songwriters.

6) Wichita Lineman / The Meters

I never thought I'd be spending time in Kansas this year. A year ago, it didn't seem like there would be much in the way of drama in the state's politics. But suddenly the incumbent governor and U.S. senator, both Republicans, are fighting to survive. I found myself in Wichita as harvest season rolled around. And I kept looking at those telephone poles along the highway. Hence this Jimmy Webb classic, but likely a version you haven't heard before — a beautiful ballad by the New Orleans funk band The Meters.

7) Arkansas PT.2 / Bill Frisell

Arkansas. Home of William Jefferson Clinton. Another big U.S. Senate race there this year (not to mention a pretty good governor's race). So I bring you this musical interlude from guitarist Bill Frisell. A variation on The Arkansas Traveler.

8) On A Night Like This / Buckwheat Zydeco

Let's go to Louisiana. Another battle for a U.S. Senate seat. And a great opportunity for some Zydeco. Here's a Bob Dylan song that gets the accordion and washboard arrangement. Plus the title just feels right for election night too.

9) Snowin' On Raton / Emmylou Harris

Colorado features some of the most interesting politics in the country these days. A battleground U.S. Senate race. Closely watched in presidential years. And now, legalized marijuana. Here, Emmylou Harris brings her gorgeous voice to a song by the late Townes Van Zandt.

10) Georgia On My Mind / Ray Charles

Another very interesting U.S. Senate race in the Peach State. Hey, are you gonna build a list that includes Georgia without including RAY CHARLES??!!??

11) Carolina In My Mind / James Taylor

North Carolina. One of the newest and biggest members of the battleground state club. So why not give its native troubadour his due here? It's always great to hear James Taylor.

12) Just A Little Bit South Of North Carolina / Gene Krupa & His Orchestra with Anita O'Day

Staying in North Carolina for a moment ... sort of. Technically, this one is about South Carolina. But close enough for election year playlist rules.

Plus it's got Gene Krupa on drums. A wonderful piece to settle you down after deadline.

13) Louisiana Man / Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams, daughter of former U.S. Poet Laureate Miller Williams, singing about her home state. Music to watch the election returns by. Or to eat crawfish etouffee. Or both. I'm in.

14) Election Day / Lyle Lovett

This one's title is self-explanatory. Written by an Austin legend, a street musician and denizen of the local clubs named Blaze Foley. Lyle gives it a nice ride.

Happy Election Day folks. Hope you enjoyed the trip.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
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