A lot of mornings I wake up with some song swirling around in my head.
On a recent one, it was Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory." On another, it was "Stuck in the Middle with You."
Music figures prominently in our lives, kind of like our own personal soundtracks. We listen in the morning while getting ready for work or school. In the car on the way. Throughout the day, it pops up everywhere.
At the Capitol, a list of songs play before and after the NET broadcast of the day's debate.
It's an interesting mix of classical and other genres that is selected randomly from a list, with names like "Meandering River," "The Long Room," "Days Gone," "Lost," "Task Ahead."
We all have a list of our all-time favorite songs. I spend a lot of time with senators, and I wondered what music they listened to on those frequent and sometimes long drives to and from the Capitol.
"What's in your iPods?" I asked.
I talked seven of them into handing over their Top 10 playlists.
And I learned a couple of things -- not only about their taste in music but also, as it turned out, how they make decisions.
It wasn't an easy exercise. I tried it. With all the great music out there, with the thousands of songs we collect over time for hundreds of reasons, how do you narrow it to 10?
I was pretty deliberate. My original list numbered 68 songs. Over a couple of weeks I got it down to 25. Then I played those 25 every morning over a few days to see which ones I never felt like skipping over.
I told one of the senators, who was having trouble getting the list to me, not to overthink it.
I overthought my own.
The senators picked music from their college days, from their loves, their work and from what inspires them or calms them.
A couple -- Mike Flood and Deb Fischer -- had no trouble coming up with their top 10. No angst. Just "OK, here it is." Decisive.
Two senators turned me down, one saying people would make fun of his list, the other saying he only listened to the radio.
Heath Mello was the first to turn in his list -- enthusiastically. Like he is about, well, everything.
So here they are. Seven of your Nebraska state senators, and me. Don't judge us. And feel free to add your own in the comments to this story at JournalStar.com.
Omaha Sen. Heath Mello
1. "Everything in the Right Place" by Radiohead: "Mesmerizing poetry."
2. "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise" by The Avett Brothers: "Dreaming big and challenging cynicism -- not just in public service but in life."
3. "Mysterious Ways" by U2: "Bono's storytelling and metaphors always make me contemplate why we do what we do."
4. "When My Time Comes" by Dawes: "A new anthem for my generation."
5. "Pink Houses" by John Mellencamp: "Reminds me that the American Dream is still out of reach for so many."
6. "My City of Ruins" by Eddie Vedder: "Every time I hear this, I find myself thinking about Whiteclay and the Pine Ridge reservation."
7. "Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney: "A lyrical photograph of why (wife) Catherine is so special and means so much to me."
8. "Lost in My Mind" by The Head and The Heart: "No matter how fast life moves, reconnecting with people and memories slows it all down."
9. "Gideon" by My Morning Jacket: "While we're finally leaving Iraq, this is a stark reminder of the intersection between religion and war."
10. "Red Mosquito" by Pearl Jam: "Why we should learn from our mistakes (literally and historically)."
Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh
1. "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" by Traffic: "A lengthy jazzy/progressive rock song."
2. "Couldn't Stand the Weather" by Stevie Ray Vaughan. "My favorite song from one of my favorite artists. I saw him at the Music Hall in the early '90s. It was an unforgettable, electrifying, joyous performance. He died not long after that."
3. "Epic" by Faith No More: "A rap metal song meant to be played loud."
4. "Sugar Magnolia" by Grateful Dead.
5. "I Cover the Waterfront" by John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison: "Two unbelievable voices. Perfect ‘cigar on the deck' music."
6. "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin. "What can I say?"
7. "Since You Been Gone" by Rainbow (not Kelly Clarkson): "A straightforward classic rock song."
8. "The Weight" by The Band & the Staple Singers (from "The Last Waltz"): "A great, soulful rendition of a classic song from the greatest concert film ever."
9. "Feelin' Alright" by Joe Cocker: "Joe Cocker does the best versions of everybody else's songs."
10. "Lawyers, Guns and Money" by Warren Zevon.
Speaker Mike Flood of Norfolk (and radio station owner)
1. "Amarillo by Morning" by George Strait: "Strait is a non-flashy, stand-and-deliver singer."
2. "Dixieland Delight" by Alabama: "I just like Alabama. And I've seen Randy Owen, lead singer, in person and he supports St. Jude Children's Hospital, which the radio station supports, and really believes in what it does."
3. "Stranger in my House" by Ronnie Milsap: "Phil Vasser did this song in concert at the Madison County Fair. Excellent."
4. "Dust on the Bottle" by David Lee Murphy: "Top request when I did drive time at 5 p.m. in 2000."
5. "Only Daddy That Will Walk the Line" by Waylon Jennings: "I listen to this in the station vehicle."
6. "Unanswered Prayers" by Garth Brooks: "It's a good song about small-town life."
7. "Angels Among Us" by Alabama: "Makes me think of the fundraising the station has done for St. Jude Children's Hospital."
8. "Nebraska" by the Marcy Brothers: "The Marcy Brothers are from Hay Springs. Listeners like this song. Me, too."
9. "I'm Not Going to Do Anything Without You" by Mark Wills: "Wedding song."
10. "One More Day With You" by Diamond Rio: "A little girl in Norfolk and her mother requested this."
Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine
1. "Hotel California" by The Eagles: "One of the best songs of all time."
2. "Symphony No. 4" by Schumann: "My favorite classical piece."
3. "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor: "Reminds me of my college days when I saw him in Lincoln."
4. "Something That We Do" by Clint Black: "Always makes me think of my husband, Bruce."
5. "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele: "Just a really good song."
6. "Glory Days" by Bruce Springsteen.
7. "Living on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi.
8. "Small Town" by John Mellencamp.
9. "Symphony No. 1" by Brahms.
10. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from "The Wizard of Oz."
Sen. Tyson Larson of O'Neill
1. "Lose Yourself" (non-explicit version) by Eminem: "Song that has been my ultimate motivator since I was a sophomore in high school. One shot. One opportunity. Capture it. Don't let it slip. (Plus it won an Academy Award)."
2. "Her Eyes" by Pat Monahan: "Reminds me of my wife."
3. "Be Yourself" by Audioslave: "Be yourself is all you can be."
4. "Against the Grain" by Garth Brooks: "This song always encouraged me to stand up for whatever I believed in -- even if it wasn't what everyone else was doing."
5. "Friends in Low Places" by Garth Brooks: "Trust your best friends always. Those select few are the only ones who will truly always be there for you."
6. "Jack and Diane" by John Mellencamp: "The song I associate most closely with my high school days. I took pride in where and how I was raised."
7. "Wonderwall" by Oasis: "Reminds me of my seven months in Europe (which were some of the best times I've had). This song became somewhat of a theme song for my friends and me."
8. "1, 2, 3, 4" by Plain White T's: 'Happy times ..."
9. "Walk the Line" by Johnny Cash: "Always walk the line. Don't stray."
Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill
1. "Something" by the Beatles: "My favorite ballad of all time."
2. "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson: "Quintessential Michael and best of the '80s, the decade in which I was born."
3. "We Shall Be Free" by Garth Brooks: "A great song that sums up what motivates me to take such an active advocacy role in my community."
4. "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" from "Cinderella": "I love Disney, and while it's a bit cheesy, I find inspiration in this classic."
5. "Hey Jude" by the Beatles: "I've seen Paul McCartney play this in concert several times and get chills while the audience sings along."
6. "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper: "This is the first 'favorite' song I had as a child, and it is still one of my favorites today."
7. "My Way" by Frank Sinatra: "A song about how important it is to be true to yourself."
8. "I Will" by the Beatles: "Beautiful and simple, just as love should be."
9. "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" by Meat Loaf: "A heartbreaking song and my favorite ballad to hear Rod Fowler sing."
10. "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga: "My favorite of her hit songs. I enjoy belting it out in karaoke!"
Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala (Red Dirt music is the proper name for most of these songs.)
1. "Relentless" by Jason Aldean: "A fun song that kept me going on the campaign trail."
2. "17" by Cross Canadian Ragweed: "Illustrates how hard it is to get respect in your hometown."
3. "Rebel Soul" by Scott Copeland: "Bluesy. In your face."
4. "Stockyards" by Casey Donahew Band: "Kind of an anthem to the Fort Worth stockyards and sort of a theme song that my friends gave me because of my feed yard background."
5. "Draw" by Dirty River Boys: "One of the most exciting live bands. If you haven't heard or watched them, you should check them out."
6. "Broken Window Serenade" by Whiskey Myers: "Another up-and-coming band. Song is about watching someone tear herself down with addiction."
7. "Carny Man" by Cross Canadian Ragweed: "A tongue-in-cheek analogy to my time in the Legislature."
8. "Out On The Wind" by Austin Allsup: "Young artist from Texas with all sorts of talent."
1. "Time Works on All the Wild Young Men" by Ben Taylor: "It's only 44 seconds long, written by Carly Simon as a bridge in her album, 'Letters Never Sent.' Too short."
Time works on all the wild young men.
The ones who went for soldiers,
The ones who reached for fame,
The ones who swore they'd die for love
No matter what the shame.
Time circles 'round them snuffs their spark.
And there they are
Dancing in the dark.
2. "Space Oddity" by David Bowie: "I'm partial to songs that change melodies or pace. I never get tired of this one."
3. "Alejandro" by Lady Gaga: "Abba with controversy."
4. "Louisiana 1927" by Aaron Neville: "Makes me think of New Orleans after Katrina. One of the most interesting states in the country."
5. "The Pretender" by Jackson Browne: "The struggle for the legal tender. And when the morning light comes streaming in, I'll get up and do it again. Amen."
6. "Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War" by Paul Simon: "Simon is a masterful poet. Could have been any number of his songs."
7. "Ticket Taker" by The Low Anthem: "Newer group that's just different."
8. "Fast Car" by Wyclef Jean: "Paul Simon and Wyclef Jean are pretty interesting together."
9. "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman: "I'm detecting a theme here."
10. "The Needle and the Damage Done" by Neil Young: "I'm a fan of his from way back."
Bonus: 11. "Crash This Train" by Joshua James: "This is from my war tunes playlist. Some of my favorite songs are on that list."