The documentary film "Gleason" tells the inspiring story of former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason facing life after a diagnosis of ALS and how that changed his perspective on becoming a father. Music plays an integral role in the "Gleason" family, and, as shown throughout the film, many of the songs used were inspired by experiences Steve has had throughout his life. In a new playlist available through Amazon Music exclusive to Prime Members, Steve explains the music he chose and why each title remains so important to his journey.
1. The Beatles: "Taxman"
My parents didn't listen to a whole lot of music while I was growing up, but I have vivid memories of my dad enthusiastically singing this song when I was very young. We had a giant, 1977 gold Buick that had an AM radio inside. This song has now come full circle in our family. Last month, when my dad was visiting New Orleans, Rivers taught him to use our Amazon Echo. Dad's first request? "Alexa, play Taxman, by The Beatles."
2. Beastie Boys: "Fight for Your Right to Party"
I first heard this song in fourth or fifth grade, with a buddy on my soccer team who was less sheltered than me. It was one of the countless times that music has opened my eyes to the "great, big world" out there.
3. Simon & Garfunkel: "Save the Life of my Child"
In middle school is where I first really began to explore music passionately. Simon and Garfunkel were my first favorite band. I remember staying up way too late listening to an old cassette player, trying to figure out Paul Simon's lyrics and what they meant. Because of Simon and Garfunkel, I started writing poetry and playing music. Because of bad ass, cutting edge technology, I still do both today.
4. Guns N' Roses: "Sweet Child O' Mine"
Some records are ubiquitous in my memory banks. This is one of those albums. I heard it first at an age where I was interested in music, but not passionate quite yet. The grunge movement instantly made the "glam rock" scene irrelevant. Appetite for Destruction remains.
5. Jimi Hendrix: "Voodoo Child"
Jimi Hendrix, and specifically this song, blew my mind in middle school. One of my classmate's parents had a giant cardboard box of vinyls that we would plunder through regularly. Hearing this song twisted me up. Like almost anything worthwhile or outstanding, it was simultaneously frightening and exhilarating. The song came full circle a few years ago, when my friend and Pearl Jam lead guitarist, Mike McCready, tore into his take on this song at our annual Team Gleason music festival in New Orleans - Gleason Gras.
6. Nirvana: "Breed"
This album helped to usher in a new era of music, and I feel fortunate to have been a 14-year-old kid living a few hours from Seattle, the epicenter of evolution. My freshman year, I would get picked up by a classmate and his older brother to go skiing and snowboarding at one of the nearby mountains. They wouldn't have to honk. I would hear this Nirvana record thundering from the tiny car, throw my gear and myself in the car, and we'd tear off toward the mountain, our Nirvana.
7. Soundgarden: "Spoonman"
The term 'grunge' is mostly annoying these days, but as high school teenagers a few hours from Seattle, we knew we were living in a special era. It was less of a movement we witnessed on MTV or in Time magazine, and more something that was ours. One particular moment was when I was roaming the concrete halls of Pike Place Market with a few of my friends. Soundgarden's Superunknown had just been released and it was on steady rotation with us. As we were exploring the shops and booths of the market, we wandered to an out-of-the-way hall and stumbled on a small crowd around Spoonman himself.
8. Foghat: "Slow Ride"
Growing up in Spokane, Washington, classic rock music was very present in my early years of music exploration. Richard Linklater's movie, 'Dazed and Confused', came out when I was in high school. For my friends and I, it felt almost autobiographical, how music became the backdrop for a group of friends. Slow Ride is the song played in the closing scene of the movie, where Wooderson, played by Matthew McConaughey, drove he and his friends to get Aerosmith tickets. My trip to Missoula, to see Pearl Jam for the first time, was almost the same ... almost.
9. Alice in Chains: "Don't Follow"
I think Alice in Chains' sound most appropriately represents the Seattle/grunge era. There's a howling and a grinding that I find wholly unique.
10. The Rolling Stones: "You Can't Always Get What You Want"
I have dozens of playlists on Spotify, but I miss the 'ol "mixtape". Although I listened to a lot of classic rock, I wasn't really into the Rolling Stones. A good friend put this song on a summertime mixtape for me. It's been one of my favorite songs ever since.
11. Rage Against the Machine: "Killing in the Name"
I had a great group of friends in high school, and we're still close today. We were ... mischievous but good kids. We loved a good prank. Our cafeteria had a PA system with a CD player, which was kept padlocked. The seniors could give a CD to the cafeteria supervisor to play during lunch. As graduation was approaching, we had a good rapport with the supervisor, so he let us man the system. As lunch was wrapping up, we slipped the Rage CD in, cranked the volume, put our own padlock on and walked out.
12. Weezer: "El Scorcho"
Weezer was on heavy rotation with my high school friends, especially their first record. I always thought that first album was light and fun, but it didn't really capture me. Pinkerton received far less fanfare than the "Blue Album," but I was captivated. My friend Matt Shaw (who helped curate this list with me) and I wore the CD out in the summer of 1997. We were training for the upcoming football season and there's almost nothing better than summertime in the Northwest. Train during the week. Lake cabins on the weekend. Everywhere we went, Pinkerton followed.
13. Pearl Jam: "Given to Fly"
Given to Fly has been one of my favorite songs, and since my buddy Mike McCready wrote the music, I think there's a special connection to my family and our group of friends. For me and my friends, Given to Fly was always one of those songs where, as the band is mid song, we'd look at each other like, "How amazing is this song, and this story, and this performance." It's one thing to sing about a wave crashing like a fist to the jaw; it's another thing altogether to actually have your physical body crushed by disease. This song, its tune and its lyrics have strengthened me in my times of trouble. Because of this, Given to Fly sits as a fortress in the trailer for our upcoming film "Gleason" and underpins the soundtrack of the movie.
14. Foo Fighters: "In Your Honor"
People often assume that I listened to death metal or even hard rock before football games. I listened to music that inspired me and helped me get to a head space to succeed. In Your Honor is one of those songs.
15. Eagles: "Peaceful Easy Feeling"
During my football offseasons, my brother, Kyle, and I would regularly travel together. These were mostly surf trips. In 2001, we spent a month in Nicaragua. We stayed in hostels and took "chicken busses" to get around. We heard about a remote spot, Popoyo, a "few hours" north. As we were trying to transfer busses on some nowhere dirt road, the bus didn't have any room for us. After some lucrative negotiating, we threw our bags, boards and bodies on the roof of the bus. The bus tore off in a cloud of dust. As we hung on top, dodging telephone wires and tree branches, Kyle busted out singing Peaceful Easy Feeling. I joined in, and we sang to the Nicaraguan coast for the next couple of hours.
16. Counting Crows: "Up All Night"
Through a mutual friend, Michel and I met at Jazz Fest in 2004. She walked up to me, in her red "Everyone Loves an Italian Girl" shirt, looked me in the eyes for a moment and burst out, "You're a lot cuter than I thought you'd be." That pretty much sums up Michel X and kicked off our relationship. After that football season, she joined me for my road trip home to Spokane. I made her a "mix-CD" for the trip. This song stands out in my memory with this line, "'Cause I've been thinking I'd like to see your eyes, open up real wide the minute that you see me."
17. Citizen Cope: "D'artagnan's Theme"
Citizen Cope is an artist that Michel and I were introduced to together at the beginning of our relationship. We were fortunate enough to hang out with him before a show in New Orleans. I'm not sure what his musical influences are, but for me, his music and the sultry, dank, seductive streets of the French Quarter go hand in hand.
18. Ryan Adams: "Dear Chicago"
When I think about the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Michel, her family and the months of transiency that followed, I think of this song. I loved to play guitar, and my guitar was one of the few valuables I brought as I evacuated with the entire Saints organization. Michel and I learned this song during our months on the road, transferring from city to city, bus to plane, hotel to apartment back to hotel. Along the way, my guitar and this song were one of the few constants in our lives.
19. Pearl Jam: "Inside Job"
It's pretty well documented that Mike McCready and I have a strong friendship. I feel that Mike and his family have been a wellspring of strength for me and my family over the past five years. This song would surely be a favorite of mine, no matter what, but the fact that this is the only Pearl Jam song Mike wrote not only the music, but also the lyrics, holds special meaning for me.
I think Mike and I gain inspiration and strength from each other. We've both had our share of adversity, and to me, this song, its tune, the lyrics and the message capture the gift of friendship that Mike has so selflessly given me. Despite outward circumstances, I do believe that life comes from within our heart and desire. Every time I hear this song build up to that line, I'm grateful for Mike.
20. Coldplay: "Lost!"
After we got married in 2008, Michel and I spent six months going around the world. Greece, Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand. For the most part, we slept in tents and campervans. One night in Fremantle, Australia, while preparing to drive across the continent, we laid in the back of the camper van and listened to the Viva la Vida record on repeat.
21. Foo Fighters: "Walk"
This song and this record nearly coincided with my ALS diagnosis. It's a great tune, but it's almost scary how relevant the lyrics are to me. That's all.
22. The Head and the Heart: "Rivers and Roads"
When Michel got pregnant, the name Rivers was at the top of my list. Michel liked the name but wasn't completely sold. We were at Sasquatch festival, at the Gorge Amphitheater, in Washington state (the greatest concert venue in the universe). We happen to watch this little-known band The Head and the Heart. They closed their set with a flourishing version of this song Rivers and Roads. Michel and I looked at each other knowing this pretty much sealed the name decision.
Since that moment, The Head and the Heart have grown in popularity, we've become friends with some of the band and our upcoming movie "Gleason" has a certain song anchoring the score.
23. Old Man Canyon: "Wiser"
Rivers and I listen to a ton of music together. There are so many things I am unable to with him, but I focus on the things we can do together. Music is a big part of our life. Old Man Canyon was kind enough to play at our annual Northwest music festival - Gleason Fest. Their song, Wiser, and the accompanying video is an honest look at the relationship between a parent and a child. This song is also in our film "Gleason" under a great montage showing Rivers grow into a boy.
24. Pearl Jam: "Amongst the Waves"
If I was forced to choose, I would put this song in my top three Pearl Jam songs. It makes me think about our son, Rivers, and the unique relationship we have. Because I have 24/7 care takers, and Rivers is only four, it's not often that we are alone together. A couple of years ago, as spring was breaking in New Orleans, Rivers, myself and one of my care takers were sitting outside enjoying the cool weather. For some reason, my care taker had to go inside for a few minutes. As soon as we were alone, Rivers leaned against my arm and said observantly, "Just me and you, Daddy." It was a purely glorious point in time. A moment to live for.
25. Lord Huron: "Brother"
Another song from a band that was nice enough to allow us to use their music in "Gleason." We were even fortunate enough to have Ben (Schneider -- lead singer) and the guys play an acoustic set in our living room. ALS has altered many of the relationships in my life. It has distanced me from many of the people I love. For me, this song represents the many relationships that have grown and strengthened since diagnosis. Through a lot of hard work, understanding and love, we've faced this fire and conquered the adversity together.
26. Pearl Jam: "State of Love and Trust"
I've got a lot of memories with Pearl Jam, and I believe there are a lot more to come. Most recently, they played at Jazz Fest this spring. When I'm at shows, the band often lets me request a few songs. At Jazz Fest, Michel asked that I include State of Love and Trust in the list I sent. The guys didn't say which songs they would include, but they did ask that I introduce them to kick things off. Michel walked with me to the microphone at center stage, and Rivers was in my lap. As I finished the intro, the band ripped into State of Love and Trust. I don't think there will ever be a greater opening sequence for a concert.