The Return of the Funky White Boy Playlist

When all of the big things in life are undefined–job, relationships, home, finances, family–all one can do is surrender and wait.

One Christmas many years ago, Emmanuel’s father, Raliegh, gave me an iPod. This was before the smartphone era so it was the big white clunky MP3 player we all went crazy for in the early 2000’s. Not being an Apple person myself, it took me a bit to warm up to it. Raliegh helped me set up iTunes on my monstrosity of a desktop computer and I set to the task of uploading my CDs one at a time into the software.

I was content having my existing music selection portable until I learned about the playlist. Not just the playlists we could create with our own music, but the endless catalog of tunes that we could download on demand. It was like making a mix tape without all the hassle of shuffling through a bunch of cassettes and timing the record and stop buttons just right. I was in Heaven.

With all of the music I could imagine at my fingertips and some serious 80’s nostalgia, I was inspired to create the Funky White Boy playlist. While you scratch your head, let me explain. The Funky White Boy playlist is made up of songs by all those white guys you would hear on the radio who had that certain soulful sound that could not be denied. I’m talking Daryl Hall, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald–dudes who could get right into the pocket and stir up a little something inside you.

The playlist opened with Yah Mo Be There, the classic duet between Michael McDonald and James Ingram (I know, he’s Black–he gets a pass on this one). I threw in some Hall and Oates–Daryl Hall riffs like no one else, in my opinion. Journey, Peter Gabriel and Christopher Cross made the cut as well. Ride Like the Wind, people? Toto and Rick Springfield got a couple of slots and Kenny Loggins rounded things out.

This playlist got heavy rotation in my household and it evolved a bit. When Raliegh’s band starting touring with Jon Mayer, I got hip to songs like Gravity and I Don’t Trust Myself with Loving You. Four-year old Emmanuel’s favorite was Say, although he insisted Mayer was singing “Sandwich you need to say” which soon became the running joke at my office whenever we went for lunch.

No matter what life issues were swirling around me, the Funky White Boy playlist was my lift. You know the feeling. I even bought one of those car adapters that you would plug into the cigarette lighter and then tune to a radio station to play on the car speakers. It was that deep. I had other playlists but I always came back to this one. It brought me back to another time like when my mother would wake us up for school singing This Is It as it played on the radio. Memories of middle school dances, MTV videos and sleepovers were often called to mind.

Then, an unfortunate thing happened. During our family trip to Europe in 2013, my iPod was lost. It was either left in an apartment in Rome or on our flight back to the States. My attachment to the iPod had waned a bit over the years so I often let Emmanuel listen to it when he was bored. I was impressed with his choices. He was a big fan of Sade, Michael Jackson and Adele. But, I wasn’t paying close enough attention and it was somehow overlooked. While the world had transitioned to the iPhone, I became a Galaxy girl. My iTunes library was on my dinosaur Dell desktop in a box in the back of a closet. I was not dragging that thing out.

The Funky White Boy playlist was lost.

Kenny and crew disappeared into the shadows where they had resided long before iTunes was even a whisper in Steve Jobs’ mind.

Now, I’m sure there’s some techie out there who could have figured out how to get it back. At the time, I didn’t have the bandwidth to geek out over it. I was raising a nine-year old, running a school and a month later, my father died. Kenny and crew disappeared back into the shadows where they had resided long before iTunes was even a whisper in Steve Jobs’ mind.


When I started my “mom”bbatical, I had this vision of how things were supposed to play out. I was going to move to Paris and land a cool job with a global organization in the social sector. I had my eye on UNESCO at the time. Then, I was going to find a professional cooking high school for Emmanuel so he could pursue his culinary dream once he joined me here. There was even the prospect of a budding romance. Everything was going to fall right into place.

Yeah, none of that happened. None.Of.It.

I was happy to be in Paris and relishing the time to rest, recover and connect with friends. I also spent many months wrestling with God about my life. Nothing was clear and I was forced to live each day one moment at a time. When all of the big things in life are undefined–job, relationships, home, finances, family–all one can do is surrender and wait.

In the waiting, I remembered the Funky White Boy playlist. It just came to mind one day and I realized that I could recreate it on Spotify. It was so simple. Why I didn’t think of it before, I’ll never know. I guess I didn’t need it until that moment when I had to rely on the simplest of things to be a source of joy as the bigger things were still working themselves out. Things like an adorably fat cat, the perfect baguette and a glorious full moon in the sky.

I got to work. It was so much fun recreating that playlist. I started by listing the artists and then their songs. The best part was trying to recall the exact order they had been in on my iPod. I would sing a song in my head and then hear which song would come next. It was like putting together a puzzle. Then, I brought in more current additions. Justin Timberlake is all over this thing now and *NSYNC–don’t judge, they have some jams.

I recall a Bible verse from the book of James 1:2-4 that states, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking of anything.” Not lacking of anything. Wow.

It’s so easy to be dissatisfied with life. Life is really hard sometimes. We suffer losses and uncertainty. Our expectations are often not met. I think we have to find a way to always choose joy, though. The Funky White Boy playlist is pure joy for me and it reminds me that at this very moment, I am not lacking of anything. A year later, things are still working themselves out, however, Daryl Hall riffing on Method of Modern Love is really all I need.

Author: myyearonmombbatical

Tara has been a lifelong advocate for children in the field of education for the past 25 years. She's hopped from coast to coast, always following the urges of spirit to the next step in the journey. The international scene is calling her name. . .#havepassportwilltravel

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