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Hometown: A Collaborative Playlist

We asked you to share songs that remind you of home and inspire you to be involved in your communities. From India to Indiana, you delivered. Listen below and add your own song here.

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Round 2

Thanks to those of you, like Andrea, who submitted songs of your own.

Andrea G.

 

That’s the Way of the World by Earth, Wind & Fire

Submission by Common, rapper, actor, poet
This song reminds me of Hope and Promise. The song starts off “We come together on a special day,” which automatically makes me think about uniting people or bringing together a community. It also reminds me of cleaning! LOL! Waking up on a Saturday morning hearing this song blasting through the house instantly meant Mah was in full-on cleaning mode and that she had a list of chores for me to do as soon as I got up.

Move Your Body by Frankie Knuckles

Submission by Michael Strautmanis, Obama Foundation staffer
When I was a teen, searching for identity and community, Chicago’s own house music scene gave me a chance to be with my friends and others from across the city, different backgrounds gave us a chance to experience how art and culture bring people together. And the beat almost made you dance. Gotta have house music all night long!

People Get Ready by The Impressions

Submission by Zeshan B, musician
This song and I go WAY back. My pops used to groove to this one when I was a kid! And even though this tune came out way before my time, it’s an evergreen tune—an anthem that will always have meaning and relevance for centuries to come. There is no other song out there that can do the two things that this song does for my soul: soothe and galvanize. Those shimmering strings and bells coupled with the otherworldly limpid, smooth vocals of Curtis Mayfield—they soothe me when I’m troubled. And in that same stroke, those prophetic words of Curtis—enjoining me to “get on board” this virtuous train of freedom—they galvanize me in my resolve to do good by this world. Their message inspires me to be decent. To be honorable. To be just. And to have faith.

In other words, this song says to me, “Calm yourself, child…but get up, because there’s work to be done.” And Lord have mercy, I know that’s true! You see, this tune was released in 1965 at the height of the Civil Rights movement. But now—52 years later—we still have a long way to go. And I’m convinced that if we all act on this song, we might just get there.

Being just another kid from Chicago, I can’t even put in words just how much my heart swells with pride in knowing that Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions are Chicago’s very own. They have left a profound legacy—both musically and socially—to which ALL Chicago musicians such as myself ought to pay homage and carry on. But let me tell you—those are some very big shoes to fill!

Round 1

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart by JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound

Submission by Cameron Esposito, comedian
I moved back home to Chicago in 2006, and the city was bursting with energy for then-Senator Obama, the new Millennium Park, and the White Sox. Wilco’s beautiful, dirge-like I Am Trying to Break Your Heart was a favorite of mine and when I heard JC Brooks’ version in 2011, after Barack Obama became President, there was so much joy it in. Felt like a street festival, like a summer bike ride. It really echoed the excitement and love I felt for my city during the end of the ’00s, and that I still feel every time I’m able to return home.

Family Business by Kanye West

Submission by Chance the Rapper, musician
Family Business by KW is the perfect song to come home to. It reminds me how important it is to be home. This is the last song on the first album I ever bought. For all the great people in Chicago, the best ones are your family.

Freedom Highway by The Staple Singers

Submission by Peter Giangreco, political strategist
Chicago’s own Staple Singers produced much of the soundtrack of the civil rights movement, including the iconic Freedom Highway. Saw Mavis Staples open for Bob Dylan at Ravinia last summer, and she killed it. Inspirational and rocking gospel-inspired anthem is as fresh now as it was 50 years ago. March each and every day…

Sweet Home Chicago by Robert Johnson

Submission by Tina Tchen, Former Assistant to President Obama, Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama and Executive Director of the White House Council of Women and Girls & Valerie Jarrett, Former Senior Advisor to President Obama and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls

Folk might remember President Obama singing Sweet Home Chicago, but that’s not the only reason why it’s one of our favorite Chicago songs. Instead, it was a rendition by another leader, Mayor Harold Washington, that always makes us smile. He broke out in song on stage during his re-election victory speech in 1987 with such joy and warmth that washed away the ugly divisive campaign (the hard years of his first term). Sadly, we lost him just seven months later. Who knew that 25 years later we would be singing it in the White House!

Submission by Cecilia Munoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, 2012-2017
The very day that I decided that I was moving to Chicago to start my life post-grad-school, I got in my car, turned on the radio, and Sweet Home Chicago came on. I knew it was a sign that I had chosen well. I started my career in the neighborhoods of Pilsen and Little Village, organizing community groups in the Catholic parishes there. I ended up running a legal services program for immigrants, which ultimately took me to D.C., the civil rights movement and, to my astonishment, President Obama’s senior White House team. I will always feel lucky that my sense of home and neighborhood was shaped by the immigrant neighborhoods of Chicago. My first-born is starting her career there now too… Sweet home, indeed!

Chicago performed by Frank Sinatra

Submission by John Prine, musician
This song says something to me about the traditional values of Midwest America. As far as I’m concerned that Second City “jazz” is out the window. I consider New York to be a world city, like Paris or London. Chicago is the #1 American city – second to none!

They Say by Common

Submission by Bobbi Brown, founder, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
I met Common in the elevator at the Met Ball. I asked him if I could interview his mom for a Yahoo Beauty story I was doing for Mother’s Day. He put his number in my phone, and totally followed through. To me, Common is what being a Chicagoan is about. He’s a real, regular guy in a rockstar body.

Stratford-on-Guy by Liz Phair

Submission by Jonabel Russette, Obama Foundation staffer
I think of this song every time I fly into Chicago!

Keep On Pushing by Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions

Submission by Mavis Staples, musician
Reminds me that there is still work to be done. Think of tomorrow, don’t give up, and feel your strength. And it reminds me of Curtis. He’s here with us when I hear it.

Moon Shoes by Ravyn Lenae

Submission by Fatima Asghar, writer, performer, educator
I used to work at Young Chicago Authors, and I’d see Ravyn come in and perform this song. It was also on a lot of our pre-Wordplay (our open mic on Tuesday evenings) playlists. The song has so many layers and emotions in it, a lot of self-consciousness, which I feel like is so relatable and often missing from music. When I’m missing Chicago, I put this song on: It reminds me of summer Tuesday evenings crowded in YCA’s space. Wordplay is an incredible event — everyone is so supportive and clinging on to your every word. It’s actually radical, to have people listening as closely to you as they do at YCA. It’s magical. And when I think of being active in my community, when I think of people who I love, a lot of that centers around spaces like YCA that I have been a part of. And it centers around a radical listening, taking the time to encourage each other, to listen to each other even when people are different than you. And this song is so magical, and very much in that spirit.

Blessings by Chance the Rapper

Submission by Bill Burton, National Press Secretary, Obama for America 2008, Deputy Press Secretary, The White House
This song is my alarm in the morning and on one of the greatest rap albums of all time. And since Chance’s dad, Ken Bennett, is one of the great alums of the first campaign, it makes me think about those early Obama campaign days every time it’s on.

And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going performed by Jennifer Hudson

Submission by Tyler Hagenbuch and Jamie Citron, former Obama for America staffers

Finding love on the campaign trail isn’t easy. But that is exactly what happened to us in 2008, and to so many other “Obama couples” to come out of the last ten years. Amidst the long hours and dedication to a historic campaign, our shared passion for Chicago and a shared belief in the power of Democracy grew into something more. When we listen now to Chicago’s own Jennifer Hudson singing “and I am telling you” we hear the drive, perseverance, and resolve that are the hallmarks, not only of our own campaign and personal experience, but also the qualities of our entire amazing city and every last one of its inhabitants who are dedicated to staying and devoted to making it ever better.

I Believe by Mali Music

Submission by Jennifer Hudson, musician
The song says it all: “Sometimes I can’t see, but I still believe.” I rose above the environment I was in despite the circumstances.

Get Behind The Mule & Come On Up To The House
by Tom Waits

Submission by Nick Offerman, actor
My #1 Chicago band will always be Wilco, but this playlist makes me think of my years with the Defiant Theatre in the ’90s, when our work was deeply inspired by Tom Waits. His album Mule Variations includes these two songs, which make me think of the familial pride we took in our ambitious theater work.

Born In Chicago by Nick Gravenites

Submission by Dan Aykroyd, actor
The obvious choice of a Chicago song from a Blues Brother should logically be Robert Johnson’s loving anthem “Sweet Home Chicago.” However, my pick overrides that well-covered tribute to the city. My favorite Chicago song is Nick Gravenites’ cry of urban despair — “Born in Chicago” — popularized by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band with Paul, Al Cooper, Mike Bloomfield and Sam Lay on their massively influential ‘East-West’ album:

“I was born in Chicago in 1941.
The first words my papa told me:
Son you’d better get a gun.”

That music and its message was perspectively present at the time it was written and in hindsight today, prescient. There’s no more anguished statement about personal firearms violence and the insanity of social equality which foments it than the last verse:

“The rules are alright if there’s someone left to play the game. My friends keep on dying and everything just remains the same. ”

It’s how we all NOT MAKE IT THE SAME is what will determine the future of our youth in Chicago.

My Kind of Town by Frank Sinatra

Submission by Rick Renteria, manager, Chicago White Sox
We play it on flights every now and then. Probably more than once. It means a lot of all of us because it brings to mind all of the things that Chicago is about: it’s about family, it’s about people, about enjoying everything the city has to offer. It’s a great city to be a part of – it’s my kind of town.

Go, Cubs, Go! by Steve Goodman 

Submission by Stephanie Izard, chef
I’m a big Chicago Cubs fan, so much that we named our son Ernie after Ernie Banks! Go, Cubs, Go reminds me of sunny and fun Chicago days and people coming together!

Homecoming by Kanye West

Submission by Luvvie Ajayi, author
This song captures my love for Chicago so well. Even though I wasn’t born here, this is where I consider home, and no matter where I travel to, I’m always excited to come back home. Kanye nails that Windy City love.

Thanks for your submissions!

Kaitlin H, Jourdan S, Jeff P. B, Camille K, Lois B, Christopher T, Donna Mackey M, Jill P, Jacob M, Snow H, Ann G, Barbara B, Nda-jiya S, Ousmane-noel S, Jarod B, Carrie L, Maxine H, Thelma B, Deborah M, Adena W, Eileen O, Youn C, Leroy F. B, Kel W, Dolores T, Andrea G, Lauren M, R Lewis C, Jen G, Lisa S, Mike S, Fiona E, Lazar F, Victor M, Natalie M, Kathleen M. W, Jacob L. H, Chucho H, Rich W, Rose Anne E, Philbert O, Mary F, Heidi L, Nancy H, Naomi B, Will C, Tendai R, Jackie B, Sandy H, Marty M, Jenny M, Dayna C, Merle B, Segis Z, Katie O, Ruby W, Kashti K, Wanda G, Katasha S, Bartele B, Mike R, Jaylin M, Tina T, Shivangi P, Michelle B, Amy L, Christopher D. E, Lionel K, Bruce L, Marques D, Paula Jost J, Jenny H, Marsha B, Richard E, Adrienne M, Marie B, Chris P, Angela R P, Veronica R, Jackie B, Stacy R, Dan C, Cindy B, Yutaka S, Dorean M, Corky Karen G, Jessica M, Ryan V, Andrea S, Randi D, Ali D, Margo M, Johannes M, Marie W, Chinedu G, Jackie S, Ioana B, George E, Claudia L, Leslie H, Susie K, Jeffer L, Mehrunisa Q, Jonathan W, Sabriya E, Angela M, Rochelle S, Jen H, Lisa D, Jean H, Katherine L, Naomi B, Mary B, Ryan B, Ruth A, Kay M, Gina L, Aidan L, Nicole B, Mary W, Blanca G, Elaine J, Heather T, Barbara J, Patrick D, Katie R, and Wajdi W.

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