9 Favorite Songs Not From 2020

4 min readDec 27, 2020


This year felt like the right time to escape the present. And so, I ditched hip hop, neo-soul, and modern R&B and journeyed back to the 60s and 70s. These nine songs are tasters of the music that kept me company in this bizarre year. I hope they lift you up, too.

All the songs mentioned in this post are available in this Spotify playlist.

Tofino, BC, Canada

Another Star” by Stevie Wonder

The song riles me up every time I play it. I might even prefer it over “I Wish” and “A Seed’s A Star/Tree Medley”. I first heard it when I put on Songs in the Key of Life during a game of FIFA with my friend. It came on after halftime when I was losing and my friend said he felt the momentum of the game turn against him. The song is an absolute scorcher, finishing Stevie Wonder’s masterpiece with an echoing bang.

Don’t Let My Teardrops Bother You” by Dionne Warwick

I’ve loved J Dilla’s “Stop” for years and when I finally heard the original song, Dionne Warwick’s “You’re Gonna Need Me”, I realized how much Dilla’s song owed to the original’s production and instrumentation. Curious to hear more, I listened to the rest of Warwick’s album Just Being Myself on a walk around the neighborhood and found her glorious “Don’t Let My Teardrops Bother You”. Wonderfully produced and arranged, the song makes heartbreak sound beautiful and invigorating.

Since I Found My Baby” by Brother Cornelius and Sister Rose

I discovered “Too Late To Turn Back Now” in the BlacKkKlansman soundtrack when I watched the movie with my dad during quarantine. Since then, I’ve been listening to the whole album, The Story of Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose, over and over. It’s hard to pick a single song because the album is so consistent, but “Since I Found My Baby” is one of my favorites. To me, this album proves that you can write great songs using the same form. You know where they’re aiming, but it doesn’t matter because they’re deadly accurate.

Oh Happy Day” by The Edwin Hawkins Singers

This song sounds like hope, love, and joy, and it convinces you that they’re all the same thing. The song owes its surging power to the tremendous choir, which sounds like a whole community singing together. It’ll make you want to meet all your neighbors when the global pandemic is finally under control.

Run, Shaker Life” by Voices of East Harlem

BB King starred in the Thanksgiving Concert at Sing Sing Prison, but it was one of the supporting acts that suddenly came on and jolted the audience onto their feet (at 29:00). Their electrifying performance of “Run, Shaker Life” stunned me. Its similarities with Kendrick Lamar’s album version of “i” from To Pimp A Butterfly is a reminder of the progress seen and the stasis still endured in the 40+ years that have passed.

I’m Waiting For The Man” by The Velvet Underground

This song snuck up on me. It’s so straightforward that I didn’t expect the enthusiasm I’d eventually feel about it. It sparked my newfound love for The Velvet Underground’s noisy, guitar-driven rock ’n’ roll. From here, I went on to discover garage rock like “Psycho” by The Sonics and early psychedelic rock like “I Can’t Seem To Make You Mine” by The Seeds.

Street Fighting Man” by The Rolling Stones

It surprised me to discover that The Rolling Stones were originally bluesmen. I ignorantly conflated them with other rock bands like AC/DC and Aerosmith that I associated with condescending dads. Their early material didn’t do much for me, but then “Street Fighting Man” pushed me to find my place in their discography. It was intimidating to delve into the legendary band’s long discography, but of course I had the time to do it. I soon learned that their 1968–1972 album run is considered one of the most prolific in rock ’n’ roll history. Sure enough, I found new favorites like “Gimme Shelter” and “Moonlight Mile”.

I’m Only Sleeping” by The Beatles

I grew up listening to The Beatles’ #1 Hits CD, but I’d never explored their discography. As a kid, I preferred McCartney, but now I prefer Lennon for songs like “I’m Only Sleeping”. I’m enchanted by the gruff sound of the acoustic guitar, the reversed electric guitar riffs, and the aloof attitude of the lyrics. The verse and the chorus are great and yet somehow the bridge is my favorite part — when Lennon sings “Keeping an eye on the world going by my window”. John Lennon also wrote others of my favorite Beatles’ songs like “Across The Universe” and “You Can’t Do That”.

Tombstone Blues” by Bob Dylan

This song won me over early in the year, in the first few weeks of quarantine. I love the bluesy guitar, the noisiness, the galloping pace, and the blemished vocals, elements that would later draw me to other songs in this list. I still feel the raw, pleasant ache of excitement in my gut that I felt when I first listened to this song and realized that my journey into the past would be fruitful.

Now, You Owe Me 9

If you come across this little post and wish to enrich my life with recommendations, please do reach out to me on Instagram.




I write about software, music, books, psychology, & other topics. Software Engineer at Microsoft in Seattle.