Readers recommend playlist: songs about brothers and sisters results

RR regular John Hindle (SkippyisaCult) has picked this week’s playlist, which you can read about and listen to below as we continue our slightly tweaked format

Below is this week’s playlist of songs on the theme of brothers and sisters – results picked by a reader from the comments on last week’s blog. Thanks for all your suggestions. You can read more details of the weekly format of Readers Recommend at the end of the piece.

Back in the days of innocence (or 2007, if you prefer) we covered songs about siblings. This time around, though, I have somewhat broadened the rubric, so the songs could be either about or by brothers and sisters.

A couple of observations before we get on with things. Nominee Oldprof said: “I can’t imagine how many sibling-related songs could emerge from the Wainwright/McGarrigle/Roche nexus – I think we’ve only scratched the surface so far.” Boy, Oldprof, you’re not wrong – they could have filled this list on their own.

Songs about sisters dominated in 2007, and this remains true ...

The brothers and sisters YouTube playlist. If you use Spotify, click here.

Let’s begin with a song by sisters about sisters. The RochesWe introduces the sisters to the world. Next up, Kate and Anna McGarrigle and Tell My Sister, in which Kate is asking her sister to tell their mother she’s coming home, with a heart like a wheel and a sob in her voice.

Lightening the mood we have Tanita Tikaram, with Good Tradition, Cannonball Adderley (brother of jazz great Nat Adderley) and Matchmaker, Matchmaker, and Kokomo Arnold’s Sister Jane Cross the Hall. I’d forgotten what a precocious talent Tanita Tikaram was, and – though the video has dated – the song remains a glorious celebration. Cannonball Adderley’s treatment of the song from Fiddler on the Roof is sublime. As for Kokomo, I always find the blues will lighten any mood.

Although Juliana Hatfield Three’s My Sister’s theme of love/hate rivalry between siblings is easy to identify with, Hatfield does not in fact have a sister. Natalie Merchant does, though, and it is with her she sang throughout their childhood, a fact to which 10,000 ManiacsMy Sister Rose bears testimony.

Now it’s time the brothers got a look in.

This week's attempt to get The White Buffalo nudged up from B to A list.

BB Guns and Dirtbikes

It's a sort of autobiographical effort about childhood summer days with his brother, cycling adventures, airguns, er, fighting other kids and (possibly) jumpers for goalposts. It's also quite a jaunty tune by his sometimes dark standards - indeed it even has a "woh-oh-oh" singalong bit - so maybe this is the one!

"We were ridin’ out
With heads in the sky
We were ten and twelve and thirteen
We got BB guns and dirt bikes
And heads full of crowded dreams

We always won
In the hot suburban sun
We were kings of the west side track
These new kids over cross Slater Street
Comin’ on like a heart attack

Mama says: where are ya going?
And when will you be comin’ home?
With my brother and my memory
I’ll bring my history home"

The White Buffalo and BB Guns and Dirt Bikes comes with childhood memories of messing about with a brother (which misterbadexample references above), no doubt fighting innocent wars in which no one ever gets killed. Okkervil River celebrate unconditional brotherhood – and how “no one, no one, is gonna stop me loving my brother (not even my brother)” – with Your Past Life As a Blast.

Not all songs about brotherhood/sisterhood are about the good times. Brother and sisters can be separated or disappear out of each other’s lives (apropos Liz, I hope you’re well wherever you are ... ) and Mark Kozelek and Jimmy Lavalle’s What Happened to My Brother?, which asks all the questions you pose yourself in the quiet of darkness and solitude. And sometimes, you do know what happened, as eulogised by James Taylor in Enough to Be on Your Way:

James Taylor wrote this song about the death, funeral, and cremation of his brother, Alex, who died of alcoholism. He changed Alex's name to Alice in the song, so it's sounds like it's his sister, but it's really his big brother.

James Taylor. Enough To Be On Your Way.

Coming full circle, a song by brothers about brothers. Jesus and Mary Chain’s Stardust Remedy.

New theme

This week’s new theme has been chosen by reader Pairubu. We will post that at 8pm on Thursday 3 March (UK time) and you will have until 11pm on Monday 7 March to get your nominations in.

Next week’s playlist will be curated by Pairubu. Here’s a reminder of some of the guidelines for RR:

• If you have a good theme idea, or if you’d like to volunteer to compile a playlist from readers’ suggestions, please email or add it here via GuardianWitness.
• There’s a wealth of data on RR, including the songs that are “zedded”, at the Marconium. It also tells you the meaning of “zedded”, “donds” and other strange words used by RR regulars.
• Many RR regulars also congregate at the ’Spill blog.


John Hindle

The GuardianTramp

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