Readers recommend playlist: songs about persistence

Reader Scott Blair battles through your suggestions for a playlist full of tenacity – featuring Curtis Mayfield, Andy Williams, the Proclaimers and Skepta

Here is this week’s playlist – songs picked by a reader from hundreds of suggestions in the comments on last week’s callout. Read more about how our weekly series works at the end of the piece.

In the interests of transparency, I have to confess that I neglected my RR duties last Saturday and spent several hours traipsing over a couple of biggish hills near Crianlarich. On the way down, weary and footsore, I was roughly two hours from the car when Harry Lauder’s Keep Right On to the End of the Road popped into my head, resolutely staying there for the rest of the walk. It was stereotypically Scottish, topic- and location-appropriate, and intensely annoying. So obviously I’m sharing it with you at the beginning of this playlist.

Listen to the playlist on YouTube.

Persevering with the outdoorsy feel, next up we have the Mountain Goats and This Year. An upbeat yet reflective number, containing a fundamental assertion of persistence: “I am going to make it through this year / If it kills me.”

As promised, a few spots this week were reserved for regularly-yet-unsuccessfully-nominated tunes (or “asafaraes” for those who prefer the scientific term discussed in the Readers recommend glossary). First up in that category is The Mary Ellen Carter by Stan Rogers, which has previously been put forward for the topics of boats, resilience, gases, iron and steel, sticking it to the man and girls’ names. Indefatigable or what?

Returning to the on-theme suggestions, Curtis Mayfield issues a rallying cry for tenacity in Keep On Keeping On ...

We who are young, should now take a stand
Don’t run from the burdens of women and men
Continue to give, continue to live
For what you know is right

... while the Spencer Davis Group keeps on the, er, keeping on bandwagon, with Keep On Running.

A classic hook leads neatly to a classical tune. Reader Pairubu describes Mushi No Onna by Jun Togawa (a song he’s been “plugging for years”) thus: “Jun takes the song ... set to Pachelbel’s Canon and basically whips it into submission in a series of screams, shrieks and cries that ooze desperation”. Oddly enough, that vocal style was the one adopted early in his career by the great Andy Williams. It was only latterly that his approach mellowed sufficiently to afford the contrast now evident in his rendition of The Impossible Dream.

A similar sentiment about stoicism – but with more synthesisers – crops up in Skepta’s Rescue Me (Sigma Remix):

I keep on driving
I’m upset but I keep on smiling
When I get knocked down
I get back on my feet and keep on fighting

All these positives about persistence notwithstanding, it would be negligent to deny that there can be a darker side. In my favourite nomination this week, alexito shared some unsettling thoughts: “A song about being aggressively and persistently stalked by a child who looks like a cross between Ed Sheeran, Meatloaf and Chucky. This is what will be playing when I die and am damned to hell for all eternity.” We’re probably best to draw a veil over Little Jimmy Osmond’s I’m Going to Knock on Your Door, and move on.

Some observers may claim that there is no room in a playlist of this sort for two Caledonian-tinged, perambulation-based numbers. These people would of course be wrong, and accordingly next we have (I’m Gonna Be) 500 miles by the Proclaimers. That one’s more about stamina than stalking, incidentally.

As we draw towards the end of proceedings, we have a pair of nominations exhorting persistence in others. Firstly, lyrics by Woody Guthrie on Jay Farrar and co’s New Multitudes tribute version of the former’s Hoping Machine:

Whatever you do and wherever you go
Don’t lose your grip on life and that means
Don’t let any earthly calamity knock your dreamer and your hoping machine

Compare that long-term vision with the more immediate snuggly benefits of doggedness referenced by Bo Kirkland and Ruth Davis, whereby if one keeps on doin’ what one’s doin’, You’re Gonna Get Next to Me.

I’d normally desist after 12 songs, but reader severin’s asafarae simply had to make the cut. This is, as he puts it, “the most astonishing vocal tour de force”. And what better way to end things than with a genuine showstopper in Katzenjammer’s God’s Great Dust Storm.

Not all songs appear on the Spotify playlist as some are unavailable on the service.

New theme: how to join in

The new theme will be announced at 8pm (BST) on Thursday 7 September. You have until 11pm on Monday 11 September to submit nominations.

Here is a reminder of some of the guidelines for readers recommend:


Scott Blair

The GuardianTramp

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