Readers recommend playlist: songs with proverbs and idioms

A reader waxes lyrical in taking us through a playlist from your suggestions. BB King, Frank Sinatra and New Radicals all feature

Here is this week’s playlist – songs picked by a reader from your suggestions after last week’s callout. Thanks for taking part. Read more about how our weekly series works at the end of the piece.

Confucius aside, and having lived with them for a few days poring over your nominations for this playlist, I find the proverb typically English: conservative, cautionary, suspicious, sceptical and pragmatic.

With Fools Rush In, which starts our rundown, Frank Sinatra has a case for defiance of these nicely potted, but questionable, morsels of percipience: “Though I see the dangers there, if there’s a chance for me, I don’t care.” His heart will lead his head.

Jacques Dutronc also scorches proverbial wisdom with the intensity of his ardour on Proverbes. Far from finding “out of sight to be out of mind”, he insists: “I’m thirsty for your heat” – his instincts revealed amusingly as a touch more lusty than Frank’s, in an otherwise placidly pretty song.

The YouTube playlist.

William Blake, given the opportunity, may have sided with Frank and Jacques. As the Industrial Revolution began to scar and transform at an unprecedented pace, he fretted at the seeming marginalisation of the emotions (and spirit) with poem The Hours of Folly: “The busy bee has no time for sorrow,” he notes – his counsel to value, through feeling and reflection, the very brief moment of our existence (Benjamin Britten provides the music).

One final carp at proverbs is provided by the Long Ryders who, reasonably enough, suggest that A Stitch in Time is, “fine if you know what you are doing” – with misguided interventions however, more often than not, it will harm rather than heal.

One proverb I associate with is “Home Is Where the Heart Is”. Bobby Womack suggests that our deepest satisfaction comes from the most familiar; the clarion blown again for appreciation and enjoyment of what you have.

Irresistible track of the week comes from Justin Hinds and the Dominoes. In part because I have a minor fetish for bands who are called “somebody and the somethings”, and partly because The Higher the Monkey Climb fills a gap with a biblical proverb, a precursor of “pride comes before a fall” – “he that exalteth himself shall be abased”. But I mainly chose this because it screams of a certain Mr Hubris of Washington DC. The caveat here is less about what we do and more about the way we do it (though both in equal measure apply to the Donald).

A baker’s dozen on the playlist this week, as I found it impossible to choose between two songs in the middle order that dismiss superficiality in attitude and judgment. Bo Diddley is infectiously insistent in making the case for looking beyond the obvious on You Can’t Judge a Book By the Cover: “I look like a bummer but I’m a lover.” While the TemptationsBeauty Is Only Skin Deep sees a sublime David Ruffin showering tenderness on a lady who has a beauty of the soul and who has enabled him to see the world in a fresh and exhilarating way.

And more pairs, this time of horses, who provide a vehicle for advice. The Spin Doctors recognise on If Wishes Were Horses (Beggars Would Ride) that, often as not, life is a disappointment, but it’s the hand providence has dealt, so get on and play it. And loyalty is exulted (however belatedly) by Tower of Power’s Don’t Change Horses (In the Middle of a Stream) – which seems more than fair. Loyalty too from the Velvelettes, who provide a straight-from-the-shoulder homily to womankind on A Bird in the Hand (Is Worth Two in the Bush). If I didn’t know better, I’d think them Yorkshire lasses!

Things can and do fall apart, particularly when there is tension between actions and words. So even to underestimate the gravity of BB King’s censure (Actions Speak Louder Than Words) will be to burn bridges. Lastly, New Radicals sense social fracture and factional bridges being burned, but caution against despair, providing a glimmer of silver in the form of positive behaviour: you do indeed Get What You Give.

New theme: how to join in

The new theme will be announced at 8pm (GMT) on Thursday 30 March. You then have until 11pm on Monday 3 April to submit nominations.

Here’s a reminder of some of the guidelines for Readers recommend:

  • If you have a good theme idea, or if you’d like to volunteer to compile a playlist from readers’ suggestions and write a blog about it, please email
  • There is 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.

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