Meaningful mix tapes

Giving music to another person is such a personal expression.

Compiling and recording a custom-made CD (or in my day, a mix tape) of songs for another person means that you care enough about your task (and the recipient) that you’ve put a lot of thought into the process.

I’ve made a few tapes to give to friends. But I’ve been the recipient of more tapes and CDs from friends as well. Some of the more notable ones that I can remember are mix tapes that were made for me by OffBeat’s very first art director, Kevin Combs, who introduced me to a lot of music I hadn’t really considered before. Of course, that’s the goal of making a compilation for someone: you want them to get inside your musical mind, to share something meaningful to you, that you think is a great listen. And then it could be a means to create a friendship, express feeling without words, and even for seduction.

Another tape I remember really well—and I wish I could find it because I probably listened to it a million times—is one made for me by pianist/writer/artist/composer Tom McDermott. It wasn’t long after I’d met him. We were dining with a group of friends, and I mentioned that I was interested in learning more about Brazilian music. (I had seen jazz singer Flora Purim and her husband Airto Moreira perform at Tipitina’s and was hooked on the music and rhythm). Tom made me this fantastic tape of music from all over Brazil that represented many of the types of music from that country…everything from Gilberto Gil to Jobim to Caetano Veloso to Milton Nascimento and a lot more. I loved it, and think about that tape all the time because it introduced me to a world of music that I knew I had to explore.

Then there was the CD compilation made for Joseph and me by Christopher Blagg, one of OffBeat’s young writers who’s moved on to a writing career (Chris now is married, a father and has written for numerous papers and magazines in addition to OffBeat). Chris made a compilation of Beatle covers that was wonderful, and introduced me to Rufus Wainwright, among others, who made one of the most most gorgeous versions of “Across The Universe” ever. It was a great Christmas gift from him to us.

And then there was the first tape that Joseph made for me.

Anytime you receive a compilation CD or tape from someone, you know that you are the recipient of a window into the giver’s soul. I must say, Joseph’s first tape was pretty eclectic—as is the man. He included compositions from Philip Glass; something from Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, an astounding composition by Gavin Bryars that included vocals by Tom Waits; and he introduced me to Moondog.

That’s what I love about music: it’s an ever-expanding universe of discovery, feeling, intellectual pursuit, healing, rhythm, movement, lust, beauty, every human emotion and the breadth of the human condition. I’m so glad that I have a job that gives me the luxury of being immersed in music. We should all be so lucky.


  • kevin combs

    HAHA Jan, so nice of you to remember! I think you may be speaking of the one I called “Ched’s Cocktails”.,,yes,,,Unforgettable…and much before the so-called Lounge movement. I’m listening to it right now. Beauty!