Terrance Hayes’s Soundtracks for Most Any Occasion



Photograph by Jem Stone, via Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

When we asked Terrance Hayes to make a playlist for you, our readers, he wrote us a poem. Of course he did. As Hayes told Hilton Als in his Art of Poetry interview in our new Fall issue, formal constraints offer him “a way to get free.” Many of Hayes’s poems derive their titles from song names and lyrics; others are influenced by the mood of a particular album or track. Music, he tells Als, “changes the air in the room.” This particular playlist-poem has a track for almost any kind of air—or room—you might find yourself in this week. Read and listen to “Occasional Soundtracks” below.

Soundtrack for almost any morning: “I’ve Got My Mind Set on You” by James Ray

Soundtrack for twelve minutes in the bathroom: “Mind Power” by James Brown

Soundtrack for grooming: “Look” by Leikeli47

Soundtrack for any occasion: “Your Sweet Love” by Lee Hazlewood

Soundtrack for a Friday night: “If It Wasn’t True” By Shamir

Soundtrack for a carefree, slightly bittersweet day: “Free” by Deniece Williams

Soundtrack for internet surfing: “Expensive Shit” by Fela Kuti

Soundtrack for freestyle song and dance in the hall: “A Million Days” by Paul Kalkbrenner

Soundtrack for a loose modern dance in the living room: “Blue Pepper (Far East of the Blues)” by Duke Ellington

Soundtrack for a range of low-key excursions: “Excursions” by A Tribe Called Quest

Soundtrack for dancing while cooking: “Don’t Look Any Further” by Dennis Edwards and Siedah Garrett

Soundtrack for most any occasion: “Islands in the Stream” by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers

Soundtrack for Detroit-tough joy: “Joy” by Bettye LaVette

Song for walking for coffee: “I’ll Take Care Of You,” live at Western Recorders Studio, by Bobby “Blue” Bland and B.B. King

Soundtrack for a future Paris sunrise: “Paris Sunrise #7” by Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals

Soundtrack for a moderately spiritual occasion: “How Far Am I From Canaan?” by Sam Cooke and the Soul Sisters

Soundtrack for an eighteen-minute siesta: “Dís” by Jóhann Jóhannsson

Soundtrack for idle walks: “The Homeless Wanderer” by Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou

Soundtrack for moderate walks: “Good Days” by SZA

Soundtrack for Saturday at the flea market or home depot: “Satisfied ‘N’ Tickled Too” by Taj Mahal

Soundtrack for standing in line for groceries: “A Man Is Like A Tree” by Albert Ayler

Soundtrack for awe at Joan: “The Ride” by Joan As Police Woman

Soundtrack for awe at Joan: “Valid Jagger” by Joan As Police Woman

Soundtrack for Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” inside a song: “The Creator Has a Master Plan” by Leon Thomas

Soundtrack for a disco-in-church kind of feeling, a.k.a. a song that encourages ass-shaking, singing, and clapping: “Over and Over” by Sylvester

Soundtrack for middle-aged people who still go to clubs that have bouncers at the door: “Wristband” by Paul Simon

Soundtrack for walking through the park: “State of Shock” by the Jacksons and Mick Jagger

Soundtrack for a Joan-and-Tony groove: “Enter the Dragon” and “The Geometry of You” by Joan As Police Woman, Tony Allen, and Dave Okumu

Soundtrack for public transit: “You Don’t Know What Love Is” by Rachelle Ferrell

Soundtrack for driving a Cadillac: “Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac” by Dizzy Gillespie

Soundtrack for big orchestral self-reflective occasion: “four ethers” by serpentwithfeet

Soundtrack for dinnertime background: “Cosmic Slop” by Funkadelic

Soundtrack for twenty-four-minute activities such as writing, bath soaks, and occasions you feel like the protagonist in an independent movie: “In Another Life” by Sandro Perri

Soundtrack for Saturday at the flea market or home depot: “Satisfied ‘N’ Tickled Too” by Taj Mahal

Soundtrack for quiet storms: “Seconds of Pleasure (Acoustic / Live)” by Van Hunt

Soundtrack for musing on your mortality: “It’ll All Be Over” by the Supreme Jubilees

Soundtrack for most any occasion: “Les Fleur” by Minnie Riperton

Soundtrack for most any occasion: “Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)” by Bobby Womack.


Terrance Hayes’s recent books are American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin and To Float in the Space Between.