The strings, my lord, are false – JULIUS CAESAR, IV iii

I apologize in advance for posting another of these opening night mixes I suspect no one listens to, but I’d have made it for my own entertainment anyway, so the playlist may as well go up here.*

Faint justifications/paltry excuses follow. Have a happy Lena Horne Centennial, and break legs, all!

jc poster

1) The First Cut Is the Deepest – P.P. Arnold: because there’s no classic soul single about the unkindest cut, and anyway, I’m playing Caska – plus, potentially, Caesar would have given them all of his heart, but there was someone who tore it apart;

2) Breakin’ In a New Pair of Shoes – Cleo Brown: for the Cobbler and his manipulation (withal) of all the other unruly mechanicals;

3) Rome (Wasn’t Built In a Day) – Sam Cooke: clearly…also, a shout out to Romeo & Juliet in one of the later verses;

4) Suicide Is Painless – Ahmad Jamal: because Cassius talks about this a distressing amount in a play featuring at least three and a half suicides, and because the theme from M*A*S*H fits nicely into a play with a significant scene of two military buddies arguing in a tent;

5) Stormy – Bobbie Gentry: the weather, it could be said, looms darkly over this play…;

6) Superstition – Stevie Wonder: Calphurnia teaches us the vital lesson that one should not eat Italian food right before bedtime (and the little Bela Lugosi sound bite (pardon) from The Black Cat is something remembered from the Monkees’ Head soundtrack, if it was familiar at all);

7) In the Colosseum – Tom Waits: another one that rather speaks for itself, lyrically;

8) A Case of You – Joni Mitchell:  “I am constant as the northern star,” quoth Mr. Ambition before he’s snuffed out – Joni said it again a couple of thousand years later**;

9) Hipster, Flipsters – Lord Buckley: If you’re familiar with the work of Lord Buckley, “well, there you jolly well are, then, aren’t you,” and if not, he was a…translator…of sorts. This is his version of Mark Antony’s funeral oration;

10) Cry Me a River – Julie London: mostly this is only because it’s the only song I can think of that uses the word “plebeian”;

11) Stand – Harvey Averne: this cover of the Sly & the Family Stone classic is on here purely because I’m backstage at one of my favorite weird moments of the show, in which Brutus tells everyone to get out of the tent while he and Cassius have it out and it reminds me of the servants of Freedonia calling repeatedly for “His Excellency’s Car” in Duck Soup;

12) You Don’t Bring Me Flowers – Barbra Streisand & Neil Diamond: I find it difficult to hear Cassius say that of late “I have not from your eyes, that gentlenesse/ And show of Love, as I was wont to have” without hearing this in my head

13) Death Letter – Casssandra Wilson: correspondence, as always in Shakespeare, bears some weight, but let’s say this one in particular is for Portia;

14) You’re On Fire – They Might Be Giants: this one was also going to be for Portia in a literal sense, but the figurative sense of Cassius, the poor sap, all yokèd with a lamb that carries anger as the flint bears fire.

15) White Ghost Shivers – New Orleans Owls: I like to think the “White” in this instance is in reference to Perry, that keeper-alive of Great Caesar’s ghost, but then I also like to think the Owls in the band sat even at noonday upon the marketplace, hooting and shrieking, but there’s no heed to be taken of me;

16) Starstruck – The Kinks: is this for the victims of various cults of personality in Rome, or for those who believe the fault is in our stars that we are underlings, or to those maskers & revelers addicted to wine & champagne? I don’t know, it just seemed right and I’ll always include something from Ray Davies given half a chance;

17) When In Rome – Blossom Dearie: translated from the Italian – If you tend to conform to a known social norm, that’s a more ***. Or as Blossom herself sings at the end, “Disregard the signs and the omens”;

18) Oh, Happy Day – Edwin Hawkins: know that most of the cast, too, has this post-final-couplet earworm – thanks a heap, Octavius (and Francesco Carotta);

19) Won’t Get Fooled Again – Labelle: I love this version. If history teaches us anything, though, it is that we will, in fact, be fooled again; but keep prayin’, Mr. Townshend.


* And to the couple of people who have asked why I don’t do this on Spotify: they frequently don’t have the versions of songs that I want. And one is not another. Such is life.

** I love the Prince version(s) too, but he always skips that verse, which was the whole point of the song’s appearance here.

*** the proper singular is “mos”, but that’s even less funny.

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