Uplifting music, please!

by Ingrid Robeyns on April 9, 2020

Social media are a mixed blessing, but in these times of physical distancing they help us to get a bit of a sense of how others are doing (at least, those with whom we are connected). And increasingly, people are voicing that they find the physical isolation with all its consequences tough, sometimes very tough.

Today, I had a particularly bad day in that respect. And suddenly it occurred to me that we should seek out uplifting music. There are a couple of albums that are in its entirety uplifting, such as Buena Vista Social Club, but instead I spent a bit of time compiling my own selection of music that I find uplifting and/or energizing. If you’re on Spotify, you can find my Against Corona Blues selection there. Anyone else made a compilation of music to get us through these difficult times? Share it with us!



Frank Wilhoit 04.09.20 at 7:38 pm

Composer; works here.


AnthonyB 04.10.20 at 1:20 am

Schubert songs


Dave Maier 04.10.20 at 2:34 am

Not at all the same thing, but the latest of my intermittent ambient/space music podcasts is somewhat less dark and irony than usual: https://www.mixcloud.com/duckrabbit/stars-end-annex-320a-sequencers-this-time/


Dave Maier 04.10.20 at 2:37 am

Also, omg AnthonyB, my aunt Betty was the world’s #1 Elisabeth Schwarzkopf fan (I inherited her vinyl). She would go backstage and say hello every time. Thanks for the link.


Dave Maier 04.10.20 at 3:52 am

Sorry, that s/b “dark and drony” (damn autocorrect).


Chris Bertram 04.10.20 at 6:34 am

You can’t beat Aretha for uplifting


Ingrid Robeyns 04.10.20 at 7:03 am

You’re right, Chris, I’ve added Franklin to my spotify list!


bad Jim 04.10.20 at 7:32 am

Well I’m on my way
I don’t know where I’m going
I’m on my way
I’m taking my time but I don’t know where
Goodbye Rosie, the queen of Corona
Seein’ me and Julio down by the schoolyard.

(What went down is unknown, but a lack of social distancing is implied.)

I favor Beethoven’s Opus 132 quartet, the middle movement titled “Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, in der Lydischen Tonart”, dark descending unfamiliar tones, eventually lightened by a hopeful theme notated “Feeling new strength”. There’s a similar effect in “Open Country Joy” by John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, where a disturbing, clashing, energetic middle movement is followed by a congenial collaboration and ends with an elegiac fiddle affirmation.


nastywoman 04.10.20 at 9:15 am

– and as we miss John very much:

”In spite of ourselves”!


nastywoman 04.10.20 at 9:17 am


notGoodenough 04.10.20 at 11:50 am

I second bad Jim’s appreciation for Simon and Garfunkle, but perhaps a more appropriate selection for these times would be “I am a rock” :-)

Aretha Franklin is also very solid choice – though I hope I won’t be scorned too much if I admit the first time I encountered her work was as young’n watching Blues Brothers.

Billie Holiday, despite perhaps being best known for Strange Fruit, did a pretty great version of “All of Me”. Oh, and Elizabeth Cotten’s Shake Sugaree – despite the topic – I’ve always found pretty uplifting (but then I am pretty odd like that). I also don’t see how anyone could be depressed if they listen to Winifred Atwell’s rendition of 12th street rag.

I am often prone to having cheesy pop music on while working (tip o’ the hat to Petula Clark, Jefferson Starship, etc.), though recently I’ve gotten back into northumbrian pipe music (Kathryn Tickell being an outstanding example). Weird, especially considering I dislike bagpipes, but somehow it always seems both mournful and melodious.

When wanting something upbeat to actually listen to (rather than have in the background), I can always go to Skiffle, or even the much missed Bonzo Dog Band. Maybe some John Denver (I still get chills listening to Annie’s song), or – if in a classical mood – I find Mozart, Boccherini, and the Red Priest are normally solid choices.


Peter T 04.10.20 at 12:26 pm

bad jim

Thanks for the Beethoven reference. Indeed lovely.

I find my own uplift in Vivaldi, the most humane of composers, teaching his orphans to play and sing. Concerto 532, with the grave still happiness of the middle movement, or his gloria.


Donald A. Coffin 04.10.20 at 3:03 pm

An oldie but a goodie:
The Cannonball Adderly Quintet, Mercy. Mercy, Mercy
“Fun” (Nat Adderley) – 8:26
“Games” (N. Adderley) – 7:19
“Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (Joe Zawinul) – 5:10
“Sticks” (Cannonball Adderley) – 3:54
“Hippodelphia”[9] (Zawinul) – 5:49
“Sack O’ Woe” (C. Adderley) – 10:29


Peter Dorman 04.10.20 at 4:36 pm

A few random suggestions:

Dip in anywhere in the complete songs of Robert Burns (Linn) — great singing and arrangements.

Brazil. Maybe Carlinhos Brown. Virginia Rodrigues (Nos). Fabiano Nascimento, Dança dos Tempos. Anything by Hermeto Pascoal.

Hamza el Din: A Wish.

Paul Butterfield Blues Band: East-West (showing my age)

Want to go deep? The Quartet for the End of Time by Messiaen, also written under confinement in worse conditions than most of us face. It is actually quite uplifting.

On the early music front, Janequin is cheerful, especially his Song of the Birds.

Nielsen, his fourth and fifth symphonies.

There’s another category, transporting, that we might want to explore.


ischa 04.10.20 at 4:50 pm

Do you want to add “remember the name” from rooler and sefa? :D


mrearl 04.10.20 at 6:32 pm

You could get an uplifting playlist going with Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now,” The Bellamy Brothers’ “Let Your Love Flow,” The Allman Brothers’ “Jessica,” and Side Two of Abbey Road.


novakant 04.10.20 at 9:01 pm

This is certainly fitting in these grim times – I want be a hippie…

Let the Sun Shine – Hair


Alan White 04.10.20 at 10:29 pm

Depeche Mode’s “People Are People” seems a curiously uplifting tune that also has a realistic message for social distancing! Lots of great songs: “Policy of Truth”, “Strangelove”, “Personal Jesus”. . .

But lately, before I go to bed, I almost always listen to an hour of classical guitar, which really seems to soothe my mood for sleep. John Williams, Julian Bream, Anders Miolin, Sharon Isbin, Maya Beiser–Amazon’s gotten a lot of my recent song purchases. But I recommend Calm Radio’s many stations too–for free if you can tolerate ads about every 15 minutes or so.


Bill Benzon 04.11.20 at 12:27 am

Here’s some astounding guitar playing. I’m still picking my jaw up off the floor.



bad Jim 04.11.20 at 8:45 am

I love the hell out of Knee Play 5, from Einstein on the Beach. I keep looking for new performances. Here’s another. Philip Glass drives some to distraction, and the looks on the kids in the chorus as they intone “1234 234 12345678” is nearly worth watching by itself, but somehow I never get tired of “Two lovers sat on a park bench, their bodies touching, holding hands in the moonlight.”


alfredlordbleep 04.11.20 at 10:53 pm

Just gorgeous!


DavidtheK 04.12.20 at 12:33 pm

Mavis Staples – Turn Me Around
Neil Young – Comin’ Apart at Every Nail
I’m With Her – Ring Them Bells (Bob Dylan cover)
Soul Majestic – Better World
Commodores – Night Shift
Trooper – Raise A Little Hell
Michael Jackson & Diana Ross – Ease On Down The Road (Wiz movie soundtrack)
Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band – Roll Me Away
McFadden & Whitehead – Ain’t No Stopping Us Now
James Brown – The Old Landmark (Blues Brothers movie soundtrack)
James Ingram w/ Michael McDonald – Yah Mo Be There


LFC 04.12.20 at 4:56 pm

@Donald Coffin

Thanks for the Cannonball Adderley recommendation. Excellent.


b9n10nt 04.12.20 at 10:57 pm

@14 transporting: “Music for 18 Musicians” by Steve Reich (2015 recording by Ensemble Signal available on Spotify)

When quarantine began I put together a coronavirus soundtrack:


Eclectic, contemporary, it’s a playlist meant to be cathartic, not uplifting.

But “Home” by Caribou (“She’s better off than she has ever been/ Now she’s made her peace without you there/ Yeah, she’s going home”) is uplifting, and “Raggamuffin” by Koffee is pure dance-pop fun.


David J. Littleboy 04.13.20 at 1:59 am

> Paul Butterfield Blues Band: East-West (showing my age)
No, no. Born in Chicago! (Both are great, just competing in the showing-the-age bit.)

Anything and everything by Yoshiaki Okayasu, either as leader or with Tokyo Meikyokudo.

Solo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlK-wbORElI
TMD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMKR7qYgDYw

For energy, I’ll recommend Sonny Stitt. The stuff on Verve is great and the two-fer CD with the Blowing the Blues and The Hard Swing albums is on my permanent rotation list. Also the album with Oscar Peterson.

Then there’s the “Six Views of the Blues” album. Insanely tasty bop from start to end.


Chris Marcil 04.13.20 at 3:00 am

@13 That’s the version of “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” where Cannonball Adderly gives a mini-sermon, a sermonette, on “We’re not always prepared for adversity,” right? Love it. I also like this version of it, with Maceo Parker and the Rebirth Brass Band, for that New Orleans thing: [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYyqcTZ-F0U&w=560&h=315%5D

Also, when I run these days on the deserted streets, I listen to the Whyte Horses cover of “Ça plane pour moi,” and I feel like Secretariat at the Belmont, speaking of horses.


JPL 04.13.20 at 9:10 am

I always think music can get me through tough times. Well, I’m not saying these are the top 10 most uplifting songs of all time, but they should provide some positive chillin’ these days. A couple of weeks ago I was exploring the music of Henry Mancini and I thought of these as anthologizable, since they all share a quality of intriguing melody. They seem to evoke for me a certain early sixties late night lounge vibe; or you could (if you don’t mind anchronisms: to play these particular songs (especially now) the lounge could only be a denizen of my fantasy world) imagine a film noir with a cool bookish detective modernist and a sassy femme fatale client conducting the post mortem of the case, but with the dialogue turning to some actual original insights on the human condition, while this music plays in the background, and at some identifiable musical point their attention turns to the music and they have to listen and between tracks make observations about the music, and the scene goes on longer than it really should, and the lounge closes and they go their separate ways in taxis and we follow them with the music still playing as they each look out their respective windows in “My dinner with Andre” style, while the camera shots display the lights of winding traffic in the manner of the closing credits of Hockey night in Canada, which had a great theme I always thought was Killer Joe or Dolphin Dance, but was neither. I suggest listening in the order I give it below very late at night. (I will try to provide the links (they are all on Youtube) if the CT moderation will allow it.) So here they are, and I hope you like them.

1. Meet Ben Bailey, Johnny Lytle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qnsrvrsn9Gg

2. Route 66, Uros Peric and the Pearlettes. I don’t know who these guys are, but they’re cooking on the occasion. Uros is obviously channeling Ray Charles. The first singer is from South Africa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTqdqwWPjLU&list=RDPTqdqwWPjLU&start_radio=1

3. Dreamsville, George Shearing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHyr9GS1lzo

4. Mr Lucky, Quincy Jones. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyBNXf3znkI

5. Nightside, Henry Mancini. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJ4qzIc370g

6. Sally’s tomato, Oscar Peterson. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Odu_rCNvuDM

7. Slow hot wind, Pat Metheny. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yl_MUqp8E98

8. The sound of silence. Pat Metheny. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yl_MUqp8E98

9. Peggy’s blue skylight. Eliane Elias. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNjyA2-oFpU


JPL 04.13.20 at 9:36 am

You indeed asked if we had made a compilation, and indeed I had, and here is the continuation of the playlist. (I include the links, because it’s important to get the right video of those with the same title.)

10. The bad and the beautiful, Milt Jackson. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXeTc8XHPZY

11. A profound gass, Henry Mancini. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvJjbzhy6qs

12. I cover the waterfront, Mel Torme. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Si338vK-VaU

13. Laura, Clifford Brown. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OfBBasokv0

14. A cool shade of blue, Henry Mancini. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyBgA0_T7IU

15. Brisa do mar, Lisa Ono. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C68v_Ro4VX8

16. A correnteza, Miucha. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFh9mi7boc0

17. Lembra de mim, Amanda Brecker and Ivan Lins. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9Fb6mq3afU

18. Love is what stays, Mark Murphy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wnt1FQZohKw

19. Fotografia, Mark Murphy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2mlC6cbqGY

20. Soul eyes, Art Farmer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Boz_kIrgywc

21. Cinema Paradiso, Regina Carter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2WZLiV68b0


Cola Vaughan 04.13.20 at 6:53 pm

What a great idea and thanks to all for sharing. You mentioned “The Buena Vista Social Club” above and I’m reminded there is an entire You-Tube channel devoted to Ry Cooder:
They are all joyful! For something really different try “Talking Timbuktu” Ali Farke Toure has passed but his music was/is amazing.


JPL 04.14.20 at 9:48 am

Cola Vaughan @29:

Thank you for mentioning Ali Farka Toure. If you all like Ali Farka Toure and Buena Vista Social Club, I bet you’ll like Orchestre Baobab. Try 1. Gnawoe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NU6lV0Z3qNw; 2. Fayinkounko ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-etjSMHf1s and 3. Aline ,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzHaOQFAw24 for three different African styles. They’re basically a Senegalese band, but they have some Cuban musicians as well, and the lead guitarist (Attiso) is from Benin. Also, may I recommend the album In the heart of the moon, by Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShmmBWlbbXA

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