The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Playlist of My Life: Henry Horn `26

Owen Barbato
Henry Horn `26 listens to “In My Life” by The Beatles while on his homework grind at Saints Rest coffeehouse.

I remember the CD player I had in my room growing up very well. It was green with these big built-in speakers. It sat on top of the bookshelves that took up the left wall of the bedroom I shared with my older brother — I got the bottom bunk. Almost every night, my mom would put on a CD as I went to sleep. One of them was the “Juno” soundtrack. Track one on that album is “All I Want is You” by Barry Louis Polisar.

When thinking of what to write about for this playlist, I knew I had to choose this song because I remember it so clearly from my childhood. While writing, I played it to reminisce, and I found that I knew all the words still, starting with, “If I was a flower growing wild and free, all I’d want is you to be my sweet honeybee.” This song does not have many lyrics, but I felt that they had stayed with me, as had the beautiful harmonica that comes between the verses. This was my favorite song when I was a toddler, and it holds up.

I can clearly remember hearing the first line of “Ohio” when I was around six or seven, sitting in the parking lot of the Peet’s Coffee in my hometown of Pasadena and asking my mom what the lyric “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming” meant.

As we sat in her Toyota Camry listening to Neil Young’s stunning guitar solo, she explained to me that in 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a student protest on the Kent State campus and four students were killed running away from the troops.

I include this song because I think it was a formative moment in my childhood. It was one piece of my understanding that bad things do happen. My parents have since reminded me that I used to sing this song at the top of my lungs in the backseat of the car, and, in private, I still do. It makes me think of my mom and how music played a role in my upbringing. It’s also not the last Ohio-related song on this playlist.

When I woke up on May 27, 2013, the first thing I saw was my mom sitting on a chair next to me and my brother. We were in sleeping bags on the floor of my uncle’s house in Columbus, Ohio, where we had traveled because there was a new treatment possibility for my grandmother’s lymphoma and leukemia at the Ohio State Hospital. My mom took a deep breath and told us that our grandmother had died earlier that morning. I remember looking down at the ground and trying to come to terms with what I had just heard. I do not know when I eventually processed it, and maybe I still haven’t.

At her funeral back in Pasadena, my cousins Graham and Simon sang this song, accompanying themselves on their acoustic guitars. I remember the sadness in their voices, the harmony that their guitars created and the echo in the church very clearly. This melancholy song became a reminder of loved ones — both gone away and still here — in the following years.

It feels a bit wrong to have two songs by Paul Simon in a row, but they are very different, and more importantly, it’s my playlist. “You Can Call Me Al” is one of those songs that I knew I liked and didn’t care what other people thought. I was a quintessential younger sibling and mostly relied on my brother, who is four years older than me, to discover new music. I did, however, decide to listen to “Graceland” on my own. This song is not really my song, though. I view it as shared.

When I was in seventh grade, my dad tried to get me to floss regularly by doing it alongside me at the Jack and Jill-style sinks that my brother and I shared. During our flossing routine one night, which normally did not involve music, I decided to play “You Can Call Me Al,” and my dad and I sang along to it. This song feels representative of my early adolescence and the closeness that I have with my parents, even though I was and might still be a petulant and annoying teenager.

People who know me best will be shocked to hear this, but I took an illustration class in my freshman year of high school. To give you an impression of my artistic skills, let me just say there is a reason I am a staff writer and not on the visuals team. Although I only took this class because there was a problem with my schedule and illustration was one of the only classes available, I had some meaningful experiences in that room — none of them had to do with actually making art, but they were still valuable.

My freshman year of high school was a tough, exciting and formative experience — new and interesting classes I could take, new people I could get to know and a new campus all caused an intense and emotional year. My illustration class in second semester served as a time to relax and regroup, and I cannot relax and regroup without music. “Rough Soul” was featured in a playlist that my brother had made that I listened to frequently in that class while I was not illustrating, and I was very rarely illustrating. GoldLink’s smooth voice and the lovely melody give me a reminder that there are going to be hard times and bad days, but I’ve gotten through them before and I can get through them again.

Time for something a little less gloomy. This song by British rapper Headie One serves as a reminder that high school — and life in general — is not always tough. I remember this song being important to me in late 2019 and early 2020. That was my sophomore year of high school and one of the first times I felt like I was starting to get it. A lot of the stress of the newness of freshman year had worn off, and I started to feel like I could truly be myself. That confidence and happiness was a nice shift. This is not to say that I had completely mastered socialization and had no issues with academics — those things were and still are there, but that period felt a little better, and this song was along for the ride.

March 2020 was probably the time when that period of optimism ended, and I think we all know why. Emotionally shutting down became the only way I could cope with isolation and, as a result, I do not remember 2020 and early 2021 fondly. In fact, I hardly remember those years at all. I can remember when this song came into my life, though. In my room — the same room I used to share with my brother, albeit with one fewer bed and one fewer occupant as my brother was away at school by the time the pandemic hit — I had a desk where I spent most of my time, trying to do work but only sometimes succeeding.

One night, I was doing some math homework while overwhelmed and anxious about my grades, which were not amazing. I needed something to distract myself from my thoughts, and in the back of my head was “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody).” It was sung a cappella at my parents’ wedding ceremony — yeah, they were cool. I played it on repeat as I finished my homework, the math now smudged by many tears. The stress of the pandemic, the sadness of struggling with classes and the thought of my parents combined to open the floodgates of my eyes.

The song has stayed in my life ever since as a good homework song, a homesick song and even a crying song, because we all need at least one of those. Most importantly, it reminds me of my parents. Because of the emotional weight of the pandemic and also just growing up, early 2021 was the beginning of a period of my life where I was really thinking about love and what love means to me, and my parents are a big part of that. The drum kick, the keyboard and David Byrne almost screaming, “And you’ll love me til my heart stops,” all send me into that memory of love.

Last year, I was on my way to the Bear, walking down the hall on Rathje Hall 2nd floor. I was playing this song, “In My Life,” that someone I love very much had sent me. I think I cried the first time I heard it, and I definitely have cried other times I have listened. You can’t publish tears, but I assure you they’re happening as I write this. I don’t have much to say apart from what the song already says — “In my life, I’ve loved them all.” I consider the meaning of life to be love, and I have been so lucky to have been surrounded by so much love all my life. To my parents, grandparents, my childhood nanny and practically third parent Janet, who has known me since I was born, my brother Charles, my friends, especially Thomas, my cousins, uncles and aunts and the person who sent me the song — in my life, I’ve loved you all. I always will, and thank you for loving me.

View Comments (2)
More to Discover
About the Contributors
Henry Horn
Henry Horn, Staff Writer
Henry Horn is a second-year history major from Pasadena, California. He likes riding his bike, listening to songs that don't belong together, and watching soccer. He can easily be bribed with Hot Tamales or a bloody mary sandwich with no tomato but with jalapeños from Jay's Deli.
Owen Barbato
Owen Barbato, Staff Photographer
Owen is a third-year psychology and political science major from South Pasadena, California. When he's not photographing for the paper, Owen enjoys taking nighttime and landscape photos. In his free time, Owen can be found trying to learn guitar and overanalyzing music.
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (2)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • O

    Oscar BortzNov 24, 2023 at 4:36 pm

    Beautifully written and very touching, Henry!

  • T

    Thomas NserekoOct 9, 2023 at 12:58 pm

    Damn man.