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Romance And Hope: Willie Nelson’s Stardust

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So I can only pick one album to listen to for eternity while stranded on a desert island?

How hard could it be to choose?

I only really love a handful of albums, so I just have look over what my options are and spend twelve weeks thinking about it. Debating. Changing my mind.  But now it’s done. I’ve made my pick.

I think.

Yes, okay, done. But no reveal quite yet.

Did I have also-rans and second thoughts? Sure, of course. How could I avoid it? I toyed with something by Joni Mitchell, the go-to soundtrack of my teens and early twenties. I could wake up to a Chelsea Morning, or go round and round and round in the Circle Game.  But wouldn’t I be a traitor to my generation if I didn’t pick something by Dylan? Surely old Bob needed to be on the short list at least, for sentimental reasons.  (See, I met this really cute guy when I was fifteen and we both knew the words to “Mr. Tambourine Man,” or at least he did, and I faked it pretty well, otherwise we never would’ve hooked up on that Jewish youth group field trip we were on. This was a major coup, getting that guy. He was way out of my weight class in terms of coolness, but “Mr. Tambourine Man” tipped the scales in my favor.) Okay, but would I choose to live with Bob and Modern Times until the end of time, day in and day out, if I was stranded on Redemption Island with only one record? Maybe not. Probably not. And I’m a bigger traitor for not bringing along the Beatles, as much as I would love to.

Again, reaching back to earlier times, Simon and Garfunkel made some beautiful music that looms large in my life. Or it did. I wish they’d stayed together longer. I saw them perform at a reunion show a few years ago, and I must say, I don’t blame Artie for going out on his own. Even though I sometimes still feel crazy after all these years, I couldn’t go with old friends S & G over the long haul. Too much history.

You know what’s a great CD? Deuces Wild with B.B King. Is it cheating to choose a recording that has duets? Not according to my rules. This is such a great collection of tunes, with B.B. collaborating with Van Morrison, Tracy Chapman, Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. John, the Stones, Joe Cocker, and Willie Nelson. It’s one of my all time favorites. I do love the blues.

I figure if I am all alone on this island, I’ll welcome the sound of a male voice, and having a live album might make me feel a little less lonely under the palm trees. So, Lyle Lovett’s Live in Texas might be a terrific choice. It’s got “If I Had a Boat” and “Church” on it, and “Nobody Knows Me,” which gets me every single time. But I might get tired of hearing him ask for a cheeseburger over and over again while I’m scrounging around for coconuts on my island.

This is hard. I get it.

So I want a comforting male voice singing a range of tunes to fit the inevitable mood swings that come with being stranded on an island. With only one album to take my mind off my loneliness, I would want to listen to someone singing songs that have a strong personal connection with me.

Which is why I choose to spend the rest of my days with the red-headed stranger: Willie Nelson’s Stardust.

Here’s the rundown on my choice:

“Stardust”: The melody haunts my memory. That harmonica is like a train whistle in the night. But there wouldn’t be a train, just stardust memories…the memory of love’s refrain. This tune sways like the coconut palms on my island. And I imagine I would spend many lonely nights looking up at a lot of stars.

Another slow one, “Georgia on My Mind.” Slow is good. What’s there to rush around and do on my island? I’m going to listen to an old sweet song with a wailing harmonica. Might as well conserve my strength.

When I was in elementary school, I took tap dancing lessons. We danced to some hokey old tunes, including the extremely peppy “On the Sunny Side of the Street” which is on this CD. Perhaps my muscle memory would kick in and I could do a soft shoe on the sand to this song. Gold dust at my feet. No kidding.

I think I danced to “Blue Skies” also, so I could have a two-dance repertoire with which to entertain the flora and fauna on my island. And “All of Me”—another perky song— was the tune I danced to with my son at his wedding.  He said, “Don’t look at me. I didn’t choose the song for this dance.” But still, it’s a nice memory and Willie does a good job with it. This song always gets my toes tapping, so maybe I would grab a big stick of driftwood and two-step across the beach, imagining myself at a fancy wedding in a long, sexy dress while an appreciative crowd watches me and my son sweep across the dance floor like Fred and Ginger.

I’d probably just scare the lizards away.

I can’t even talk about “Unchained Melody.” The open arms of the sea, wait for me, wait for me. Why torture myself? Because that’s the way it is. Time goes by slowly on the island. Might as well face up to it.  Some days are good days to wallow in loneliness and self-pity. Willie has it covered in this song. But if this one doesn’t do the trick, “September Song” will get the waterworks underway for sure. Oh the days dwindle down to a precious few…I’ll be keeping track by slashing the trunk of a tree with a broken piece of shell. And these precious days I’ll spend with Willie, and I am fine with that.

I can’t get enough of the harmonica on this CD. It’s lonely and comforting at the same time. “Moonlight in Vermont” paints a picture of beautiful things I won’t see on my island, but that’s okay too. Good to be reminded of the rest of the world, that, presumably, I will never see again.

“Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” pretty much sums up the whole desert island experience, and maybe I would get a chuckle out of hearing it over and over again. Or maybe the joke would get stale. It’s hard to say. But it’s another get-up- and-dance tune, so there’s that. Why stir up memories?

“Someone to Watch Over Me” is a guaranteed tearjerker, but there’s nothing wrong with having a good, sandy cry. I absolutely love this song: I’m a little lamb who’s lost in the wood…. It’s so fitting. If there was someone to watch over me, I wouldn’t feel so alone out there, just me and Willie’s voice. Put on some speed, follow my lead…oh I will need someone to watch over me. It’s Willie!

Stardust covers all the bases: romance, longing, optimism, devotion, lust, regret, melancholy, wistfulness, fun, sentimentality, and hope. There is a sweetness to the man and his voice that I think I could listen to forever.

Lucky thing.

But I’m sneaking in Deuces Wild, too. Don’t tell anybody.