Music was always important to Cindy Ruskin and me, before, during and after all the challenges and triumphs of her three kidney transplants (which we share in two podcast episodes of I Couldn't Throw It Out).
At times, it felt as if we were living with a soundtrack. So I put together a playlist -- a very different kind of "organ" music -- including all the songs that were important to us.
I set up the playlist to roughly parallel the progression of our lives together. You can hear it on Apple Music.
You can also click the links below to hear and watch specific songs on Youtube.
Some of the songs entertained us during times when we needed it. A few examples: Cindy etched the chorus of Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round" into a glass plate as an art project. And Chris Isaak's "Blue Hotel" was one of Cindy's favorite songs in her early SF days, before Chris was discovered by the rest of the world.
Other songs more specifically related to what we were feeling. This includes Ben Folds' "The Luckiest."
Another song that literally struck a chord for us was Billy Bragg's "Must I Paint You a Picture?" -- his phrase "a little black cloud in a dress" pops up in one of Cindy's paintings.
Over the years, Cindy and I went to more than a few concerts together. We saw a favorite band The Dead Milkmen at Maxwell's in Hoboken in 1985, even before they were famous for "Punk Rock Girl"-- a song we loved.
We saw a very different sort of musical favorite -- the Belgian afro-pop group Zap Mama -- in San Francisco, when Cindy was in a wheelchair in 1993. At the time, Cindy was not so happy with me. But we both loved the song "Furahi,
" with the chorus "You gotta think positive."
One obscure song called "Cindy" by Desperation Squad
blew our minds. The lyrics include a highly unusual reference to calcium deposits. Just when the song was released, Cindy was suffering from such intense itching under her skin from calcium deposits that she practically ripped her skin off. Crazy!
There were a lot of mix tapes that went back and forth between us. One tape that I sent to Cindy before I traveled back to San Francisco from New York included Sinead O'Connor's cover of the Prince song "Nothing Compares to You,"
with the volume blasting on one particular line...
Both Cindy and I related to a few songs with medical references, both metaphorical and otherwise. One of our all-time favorite performers Rachelle Garniez performs her song Medicine Man,
with a kind of off-kilter edginess that both of us could relate to during various parts of our lives together. Or maybe we just enjoyed what Rachelle was expressing.
A favorite song for both of us is "Wait For Me" from Hadestown
, which we saw in its Off Broadway run two years after Cindy's third kidney transplant. When we watched the flawed Orpheus making his descent to hell to bring back Euridice, it brought back my own highly agitated state of mind when I found myself in the operating room before Cindy's third transplant in 2014. You can watched a great animated version of the song on Youtube.
Something tells me there are many more favorite songs ahead of us. If anyone has suggestions based on listening to our tale, let me know!