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Music to listen to for inspiration -- Can we still find comfort and
guidance in entertainment? EW answers Yes. By Chris Willman

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, here are our suggestions for songs that might serve to comfort and guide us in these dark days.

"All My Tears"  Emmylou Harris
Covering a Julie Miller tune, Harris -- who's no stranger to laments about passing on, and those left behind -- offers consolation to survivors with a promise that, in heaven, there won't be a wet eye in the house.

Bach's "Cantata BWV 199: Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut"  With Dawn Upshaw
A world-class soprano, Upshaw takes us through that journey from despair to redemption in 24 incredibly solace-filled minutes.

"Full Force Gale"  Van Morrison
This jaunty, horn-propelled gospel likens the Lord to a delightful sudden gust -- the kind needed to begin to live again.

"Give a Man a Home"  The Blind Boys of Alabama
Even gospel singers looking toward the next world need a place to hang their hats in this one. They find it in this prayer for rest and peace.

"How I Got Over"  Aretha Franklin
In this clap-happy track from "Amazing Grace," one of the defining gospel albums, Lady Soul enthuses to a live audience about her own bridge over troubled waters.

"If I Should Fall Behind"  Bruce Springsteen
Bruce meant it figuratively, we figure, but his ballad picks up almost unbearable poignance in the wake of so many tales of ordinary heroes who went back to assist the fallen. There could be no more beautiful promise for firefighters, lovers, and other survivors.

"If It Be Your Will"  Leonard Cohen
Jeff Buckley's cover of Cohen's "Hallelujah" has become an unofficial anthem for the tragedy's aftermath on VH1 and public radio, but this is a more hopeful prayer from the cynical psalmist: "Let your mercy spill on all these burning hearts in hell, if it be your will to make us well."

"I Won't Back Down"  Tom Petty
Or, as Dan Rather said in an even less fearsome time: courage.

"It's a Wonderful Life"  The Williams Brothers
The Williams duo use their verses to catalog a litany of earthly evils, then, in the chorus, abruptly reverse course and conclude: "When I look in your eyes/It's a wonderful life." When we listen to their euphoric harmonies, we just about believe it.

"Little Bird"  Annie Lennox
Walking city streets "dark with rage and fear," Lennox envies a passing bird for its ability to fly away...then realizes it might not have taken flight without a nice, firm push out of the nest. Having been rudely shoved out of our comfort zone, we can relate.

"Love and Mercy"  Brian Wilson
Wilson puts away childish things and despairs over the world's overwhelming violence and lonesomeness on behalf of everyone who just wasn't made for these times.

"Love Is the Answer"  Todd Rundgren
It was some 20 years ago, in this heavenly slice of Philly-soul-gone-gospel, that Rundgren offered the answer. It might not have been until the atrocities of this year that we really understood the question.

"My Love Will Follow You"  Buddy Miller
Is this the tender promise of a late lover to always watch over his beloved? God, haunting fickle humanity like a ghost? Or just a simple vow of faithfulness between separated sweethearts? Any way you look at it, it's the kind of commitment we all long to be pledged, now more than ever.

"Rhapsody in Blue"  New York Philharmonic
Put this Gershwin masterpiece on as a promise of the time when we'll be able to stroll through a Manhattan as idealized as the one witnessed in Woody Allen's famous montage.

"This World Is Not My Home"  The Monroe Brothers
Bill and Charlie Monroe offer perhaps the definitive take on this country-gospel standard in their 1936 recording, finding plenty of reason to celebrate in the idea that the world we know is just a way station.

"These Are Days"  10,000 Maniacs
Natalie Merchant's celebration of carpe diem is as outrageously joyful a pop song as any ever written. Is it premature, in these dark times, to listen to a song that says these are the good old days? Maybe, but her ode to joy strikes just the right triumphal tone.

"Treasure of the Broken Land"  Mark Heard
The late singer-songwriter's dream of those who've gone on before him. Rarely has the tenuous wall between life and death inspired such a rousing rocker.

"Walk On"  U2
"Beautiful Day" is an especially powerful look through rose-colored glasses, but for pure, bittersweet inspiration, "Walk On" is just the balm for weary soles.

"Wonder of Birds"  The Innocence Mission
The Innocence Mission singer Karen Peris, who was ethereal before ethereal was in, makes the best case for flying away this side of, well, "I'll Fly Away." If only we could.

Chris Willman ( Entertainment Weekly, September 21, 2001 )
Copyright © 2001 Entertainment Weekly