The two quickest ways to learn about a culture are through its music and food. To many of us, food and music are the two most important essentials in life, perhaps only matched by love—and it is love that applies to both these things. Many artists love cuisine so much they pay homage to the many tastes available to the human senses.
Though you might expect a health column to focus on, well, healthy foods, this month’s playlist is not that. (Unfortunately, the holistic world often produces relatively bad music. But that’s not always true—this playlist is testament to that.)
Right after the very first song that came to my mind for this list—Black Uhuru’s classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”—we hear Jah9 and Chronixx showing the beneficial side of ital life, with great reggae tributes to avocados and spirulina. We bookend the reggae set with another classic Jamaican dish by one of the island’s most famous artists, Lee “Scratch” Perry’s “Roast Fish and Corn Bread.”
Things change when we get to hip-hop. Tequila and gin abound with essentials by Cypress Hill and Snoop Dogg. (Whiskey comes later thanks to Marian Hill.) Heavy D likes his coffee black, while J Cole and Kendrick Lamar team up to croon about “Forbidden Fruit.” While some foods are easier to source than others, the Beastie Boys classic “Egg Man” fits the bill on the dairy tip.
Rather than a continual play-by-play of all 35 songs, let’s touch on this month’s playlist highlights:
- Led Zeppelin and Prince probably have the most food songs ever, at least in my research. In the context of the playlist, Zep’s “The Lemon Song” fit best. “Raspberry Beret” was the first choice, but “Cream” felt much smoother, even if that song isn’t exactly about food. As mentioned, various tastes appeal to many senses.
- Not content to feature only one song with cornbread in the title, I had to include my favorite Anthony Hamilton track “Cornbread, Fish & Collard Greens.”
- Though Marvin Gaye recorded “The Onion Song,” I had to go with “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” mostly so I could segue to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s larger-than-life cover of the same song.
- Apples make the list, with “Appletree” from Erykah Badu and “Apple Blossom” by The White Stripes. Honey, too, from Herb Alpert (“A Taste of Honey”) and Fiona Apple (“Slow Like Honey”).
- Lana Del Rey’s “Honeymoon” might seem an odd choice, until you realize the term “honeymoon” comes from a ritual in which newlyweds drank mead (honey wine) every night for a lunar cycle after their ceremony.
- Jack Johnson got his hand stuck in the “Cookie Jar.”
- I could make an entire playlist just of coffee tracks, but just one more tribute to “Black Coffee” by Sarah Vaughan suffices.
- Oysters? Tamales? Candy? We got you covered.
- “Strange Fruit” closes the set. Billie Holiday’s heartbreaking track is about much more than food, but what a stunning song. The very last contribution (for some reason listed in Japanese) is Jose James’ cover of that same holiday classic: All the emotion and soul remain.
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