Playlist for the Apocalypse

The hour approaches when a "made for tv" demagogue who courts white supremacists and nationalists assumes the role of President of the United States. I am heartened by the rising spirit of resistance both to Trumpism and to the right-wing agenda his election has unleashed. Today’s counter-inaugural events and Saturday’s Women’s Marches give me a sense of hope that our movements will go forward, grow stronger, and ultimately, prevail. Still, I cannot shake off a certain sense of impending doom. Instead of repressing the sensation, I am feeding it with my Playlist for the Apocalypse. Here are my 20 favorites:

1) That’s right, it starts with REM’s It’s the End of the World As We Know It. A must for every apocalyptic soundtrack.

2) Because so much of the incoming president’s campaign rhetoric reminded me of the worst of the 1950s, my playlist also includes this gem from REM: Exhuming McCarthy.

3 and 4) As the soon-to-be-president shows no understanding of or curiosity about urban-based political struggles (and indeed, seems to revel in tossing around the worst white supremacist memes about inner city life), I am reminded of  Marvin Gaye’s introspective songs about poverty, addiction, neighborhood dislocation, environmental racism, and official neglect: What’s Going On

and Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)


5) These times also remind me of the Rolling Stone’s Gimme Shelter, which was recorded during a somewhat similar time of mass protests, in 1969. As Jagger said in an interview at the time:  "(It’s) a kind of end-of-the-world song, really.”

6) This classic from Johnny Cash offers a graphic vision of the biblical end-of-days, but in such a smooth and calming voice: When the Man Comes Around. It fits well with my mood today.

7) Tom Waits has an appropriately apocalyptic voice, which is anything but soothing, in this chilling number:

The Earth Died Screaming

8) In Every Day Is Like Sunday, Morrissey sings of nuclear Armageddon in a sea-side town. “How I dearly wish I was not here.”

9) Here Comes the Flood, by Peter Gabriel, is achingly beautiful. It feels especially poignant for the moment when denial of climate change becomes official policy.

10) A friend suggested Tina Turner’s We Don’t Need Another Hero. With its images of a barren landscape, along with its spirit of collective resistance and renewal, this song captures the current vibe.

11) For over 50 years, we have parsed the meanings in Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. It reaches across the decades to speak to our anxieties today.

12) For an atmospheric sense of dread, a friend recommended this classic, O Fortuna, from Carl Orf’s Carmina Burana. This particular stanza strikes me as an appropriate cautionary note for those who are about to assume power: “another is raised up/ far too high up/ a king sits at the summit/ o let him fear ruin!” (Thank you, Mark, for suggesting this one).

This is an especially good version:


13) Another classic anti-war song that we can repurpose for a new age of confusion and war-without-end is Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Wooden Ships. “We are leaving. You don’t need us.”


14) The catchy, somewhat bouncy, feel of The Calamity Song from the Decemberists masks some pretty dark imagery. “It's well-advised to follow your own path in the year of the chewable Ambien tab.”


15) For something a bit more hardcore, I recommend this collaboration between Afrika Bambaataa and John Lydon (of the Sex Pistols): Time Zone --- World Destruction. The opening video clip of President Reagan talking about Armageddon gives me nightmares.


16) This U2 song, Until the End of the World, reminds me that I am a killjoy for creating this playlist. “We ate the food, we drank the wine. Everybody having a good time. Except you. You were talking about the end of the world.”


17) CCR’s classic Bad Moon Rising makes the end of the world sound almost playful.


18) Because the end of the world should be zany and fun, let’s join the Party At Ground Zero with Fishbone.


19) Every list needs some Talking Heads. (Nothing But) Flowers imagines an all-natural post-apocalyptic landscape without fast food, highways and parking lots. “And as things fell apart, nobody paid much attention.”


20) I’ll wrap up this list with The End from the Doors. Appropriately trippy. We are in for a long strange trip these next four years.