Editor’s Note: This playlist, compiled by Hillsdale alumni via a Facebook post by the author, represents a range of songs, mostly older, that defined the campus experience of some in the classes before you. While it doesn’t represent the musical tastes of all Hillsdale or contain the top hits of 2017, we do believe that it offers insight into the atmosphere of the college, as experienced by many and as exhibited in these songs. We hope the selection entertains and informs, and we welcome your feedback. What songs should be on the Hillsdale playlist?
Before I came to Hillsdale in 2009, I had spent a good deal of time studying music. I played music, I taught music, I listened to music, and I wrote about music. It had become my primary tool for understanding and relating to others.
But, when I arrived at Hillsdale, I was completely thrown off by the musical interests of the people I met on campus. The faculty are a prime example of the full spectrum of musical appreciation. For instance, did you know that Associate Professor of English Dutton Kearney is a veritable encyclopedia of up-and-coming alternative artists? Have you heard that Chairman and Professor of Theater and Dance James Brandon’s theme music is a strange conglomeration of Nirvana, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, and Megadeth? And isn’t it nuts that Frank Zappa played at Director of Sociology and Social Thought Peter Blum’s wedding? Well, okay, that last one isn’t true. But he wishes it were.
More shocking still to my quiet freshman self were the outrageous contradictions I found in the music tastes of my fellow students. I was baffled to see the same people I saw dancing to a Kesha song at the Garden Party sitting on porches singing Irish folk songs hours later. How could my new friends sing songs by Johnny Cash and LMFAO with the same raucous desperation and joy?
Nothing about this made sense to me.
But by my senior year, I realized that a Hillsdale song didn’t need to fall into any specific category. Things like genre, era, format, and style didn’t really matter at all. Some songs, like fun.’s “Some Nights” or Kesha’s “Timber,” seemed to require being belted out over the loudspeakers at the President’s Ball until you forgot, for a time, about your paper that was due on Monday. Others, like Noah and the Whale’s “5 Years Time” and Matisyahu’s “Jerusalem,” teamed up with your unhealthy coffee intake to get you through those tough late-night study sessions in the Old Snack Bar. Still other favorites, like “Wagon Wheel” and “The Parting Glass,” were delicately harmonized as you gathered beneath the Donnybrook’s chandelier at the end of the night with friends-turned-family. As long as they brought you all together, arm-in-arm—growing up, certainly, but fighting it all the while— they had a special place.
The following is a playlist of essential Hillsdale songs spanning many different classes before and after my own. Surely, as I am an alumna now four years out of touch with you all, I will have missed some of your favorites. But you will likely still recognize many of these tracks now as you begin your school year ahead. And, years down the road, when you are headed to the office, studying for a higher degree, or tucking your babies into bed, you will listen again.
And the songs will be old, and they will be new, and they will forever be your own.
The top tracks from the Hillsdale Essentials playlist are here printed. For more favorites, check out my Spotify playlist.
Brigitta Burguess ’13 is a writer, graduate student, and mother of two from Royal Oak, Michigan.