Top 40: Four Buckeyes, four road trip playlists
We asked an alum, two professors and a student which songs they would queue up for a summer drive. The collections offer a sonic journey through generations and genres.
A proper summer really should include the following: catching fireflies, picking sun-ripened tomatoes from the backyard, cannonballing into the cool waters of the deep end and turning up the volume during a road trip.
The romance of the open road is in the fields of tasseled corn whirring by the window and indulging in local fare from roadside diners. And, of course, the soundtrack of a trip can really set (or change) the mood for travelers.
We asked some experts for the top 10 jams they would play on the road with friends and family, and they did not disappoint. Fellow Buckeyes, consider this our mix-tape dedication, going out to those who consider the journey as important as the destination.
Disclaimer: This article contains links to music videos. If you use captions for audio content, you can turn them on in the YouTube video player. Please note: Some videos have machine-generated captions that haven’t been reviewed for accuracy. For users who will read the lyrics in an alternate format, we have provided a link to Genius.com for each song. Genius.com crowdsources lyrics, so they are most likely accurate but not guaranteed to match the artist’s intended lyrics.
Alec Wightman ’75 JD: Sharing storytellers Corporate lawyer, BakerHostetler; music promoter, Zeppelin Productions
Treva Lindsey: Connecting through music Associate professor, Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Jesse Walker: From touring to publishing Assistant Professor, Fisher College of Business; bassist, Flobots
Emily Yu: K-pop adventurer Third-year student, biomedical engineering
Alec Wightman ’75 JD: Sharing storytellers
If you ask Alec Wightman ’75 JD for 10 favorite songs, he offers 12.
Settling on a summer playlist isn’t easy, he explains with a smile, in part because there are more than 7,000 songs in his iTunes library. He has, of course, rated each one.
Wightman’s collection comes from a six-decade love of music, with his passion for listening exceeded only by his desire to share great tunes. “Thousands of times, people tried to leave my living room and I’ve said, ‘Wait, just one more song,’” says Wightman, senior partner in the BakerHostetler law firm.
His career as a respected corporate attorney and his community service — he is a member of The Ohio State University Foundation Board and has been on The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Foundation Board since 1989 — have provided a wide variety of people to share songs with.
But he doesn’t stop there. Since 1995, through his side business, Zeppelin Productions, Wightman has brought dozens of national singer-songwriters whom he admires, many overlooked, to Columbus to perform.
“There’s nothing else I’ve done in my life,” Wightman says, “where I can stand on the sidelines and watch people with smiles on their faces, sometimes maybe tears in their eyes, getting moved by the music on stage, and think, ‘Wow, I had something to do with this. I brought these people that kind of pleasure.’ It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Promoting live music has led Wightman to serve on the board that oversees the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland since 2004. He was board chair from 2013 to ’16.
Although not a musician, Wightman credits music with enriching his life by connecting him to family, friends, other music lovers and the artists who write, sing and play. He shares insights into some of those experiences in his recently published memoir, Music in My Life: Notes from a Longtime Fan.
“So many people have told me that the book has made them think about music in their life,” he says, “and it inspired them to list their favorite concerts, albums or songs.”
So, about that song list … Wightman finally managed to cut two from his initial dozen. Read on to learn his top 10.
Treva Lindsey: Connecting through music
School is out for the summer, and Treva Lindsey has a map unfurled on her lap as she and her parents head southbound on Interstate 95.
The windows are down in the family’s pewter-colored Toyota Corolla because Lindsey likes the feel of the fresh air on her face. Buttermilk pancakes and sausage from Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House are making her a little sleepy, as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Roberta Flack, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Stevie Wonder and other artists’ voices waft through the speakers.
Those past summer road trips to see family in North Carolina and Virginia Beach inspired the playlist of Lindsey, an associate professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Also present are artists who loomed large when she came of driving age and influences her students at Ohio State have shared in her classes about hip hop studies and feminism.
“Music is a way we build empathy and connection to one another. I really wanted a playlist that reflected across genres, transnational, a diversity of people and experiences,” Lindsey says. “Playlists that are shared give you an opportunity to build and think with one another in different ways.”
This 1977 hit reached new audiences last summer when TikTok user Dogg Face posted a clip of himself breezily skateboarding to the song with a bottle of Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry in hand. “It was a song that everyone seemingly knew, and it just provided such connection to people at a time when we felt so disconnected,” Lindsey says. “I remembered hearing it on our road trips when I was younger. My parents love them some Stevie Nicks — as do I.”
Lindsey wanted to pay homage to Simone for a few reasons: They share a connection to North Carolina, and Lindsey’s most recent book, America, Goddam, nods to the title of one of Simone’s most powerful civil rights anthems, “Mississippi, Goddam.”
“Nina is one of the definitive artists of the 20th century, and that song captures so much of why. It’s the feel of it. It’s the orchestration. It’s the words that tell you. It evokes a picture of what you want.”
“That, to me, reminds me of being in a car in the South. The way the beat is laid out makes me think of being in a car and riding along and slow driving to make sure everybody sees you. It’s about a particular vibe … and introduces the world in another way to what the South has to say.”
“This song is just so sweet in such a soulful way. It’s so mellifluous. It always makes me think of my first crushes and first kisses and things like those first moments when you felt that.”
“Burna Boy has brought so much attention to the incredible music that’s happening in Africa and is really helping to change pop music through the fusion of the Afro-pop beat. … I think of it as a good mid-trip song. It’s kind of mellowing.”
Lindsey chose this song because of its aspirational quality and the anticipation you have when starting a road trip and thinking of what awaits at the end. In her case, it was usually a family member’s warm hug or a favorite meal. “It’s a song immediately that I hear and it changes my mood.”
“You feel like you want to dance while you’re driving. Her voice and her cadence and her remake of this classic Latin-pop hit is so beautifully done, so joyously done. It’s an intergenerational song.”
“K-pop is such a global phenomenon as it pertains to the ways pop music can elevate our moods and make it fun. And bringing in an artists like Megan Thee Stallion to make it a little more funky, a little more edgy and reach very different audiences. … I always think of road trips as an opportunity to listen to some new things, integrate other people and stories into the mix.”
“If you’re thinking through things as you’re driving and processing what’s happened before and what may happen in the future, that song gives you space to be reflective and go into self for a moment. The road trip can also be a place where you’re clearing your head.”
“The beat is infectious. It’s one of those songs that everybody in the car can kind of sway to, people can pick out their parts of what they want to rap along or sing along to as they’re going through it. And on long road trips, you need that energy as well.”
Jesse Walker: From touring to publishing
Before he published research about biases in consumer decision-making for academic journals, Fisher College of Business Assistant Professor Jesse Walker spent nine years recording hit songs and touring the world with his Denver-based band, Flobots.
Walker acknowledges that opening for Rage Against the Machine is not on the typical curriculum vitae, but he sees parallels between making music and making discoveries.
“Research requires a lot of creativity. You have to think of an interesting idea and an interesting way to test it,” he says. “That whole process is not unlike the songwriting process — having an idea in your head and recording a demo to see if it plays back as you intended.”
Walker’s playlist includes nostalgia from his music career as well as current favorites that get his family grooving during impromptu dance parties at home in Columbus, Ohio.
“A road trip, almost by definition, is an integration of the past, present and future,” he says. “When I’m driving, I like to have a collection of songs that capture that in a way.”
“It starts with the line: ‘Put your hands on the wheel, let the golden age begin.’”
“Song 2 is one of the best actual recordings of all time. It is so big with the tones and sounds they were able to capture. That song always gets me really fired up.”
“We were on this festival bill headlined by them, and they were so good live. Watching them, I had this deep appreciation for how good their songwriting is. I was so blown away.”
“It’s one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s a beautiful, haunting kind of song.”
“We dance around our house a lot to that song. It’s sort of the present element of this playlist.”
Flobots opened for Rage Against the Machine at a free concert at the Denver Coliseum in 2008 when the Democratic National Convention was in town. “It was easily the best show I’ve ever seen. … I’ve never seen anything like what Rage can do to a crowd — 10,000 people just apoplectic, losing their minds.”
“Musically, it really captures what’s so great about Radiohead. The songwriting and execution of it are flawless. There are no wasted notes in this song, or that entire record (‘In Rainbows’).”
“That song plays during a really cool part of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’ It’s just a movie my wife and I just love. And it’s one of my favorite David Bowie songs.”
“The execution is so incredible. It’s actually very flawed. When the chorus comes in, they’re off. They’re not all together. They’re all over the place! … And yet, if you hear another version of it when they are really tight and come right in on beat, it loses something. It’s not right and loses impact. What I love about that recording is that it captured lightning in a bottle in that moment.”
“I think the Beatles are the best band of all time. … Also, our son’s name is Jude and it’s a great song for everyone to sing along to in the car.”
Emily Yu: K-pop adventurer
Emily Yu was a freshman at Mason High School, near Cincinnati, when she started listening to K-pop. While she doesn’t speak Korean, the music and dance performances she watched online moved her. Art transcends.
This past schoolyear, she was a leader in Ohio State’s J2K, a student organization open to people of all skill levels that dances primarily to Korean, Chinese and Japanese pop music. She helps organize and participates in dance challenges that are uplifting and enriching with J2K.
“K-pop brings people together because a specific choreography accompanies the song, and it’s so catchy that you’ll want to learn it too,” says the third-year student in biomedical engineering. “There’s a sense of community you feel when you dance with others, which is why J2K has brought such a diverse body of people together.”
There are not a lot of road trip songs in K-pop, but plenty offer a sense of excitement and escapism, Yu says. Her list includes many of her personal favorites. “I was thinking about summer in general and this feeling of adventure and getting away from home,” she says.
“It gets you thinking about the memories you’ve made.”
“This is one the oldest songs on the list, but BoA is considered the queen of K-pop and has influenced so many artists. The song itself is youthful.”
“I chose this because Eric shows the diversity that K-pop has to offer. His identity as a Korean-American has allowed him to spread K-pop to new audiences while integrating his experience as an Asian-American into his music.”
“This is the sort of song you chill to when you’re tired after a long day of activities on a trip.”
“It’s a timeless song anyone can listen to.”
6. 9 and Three Quarters (Run Away) (Play on YouTube | Lyrics not available) TOMORROW X TOGETHER
“This one just has this sense of adventure and going somewhere else.”
“This is a great song for those who’ve never listened to K-pop because it mixes Korean and English lyrics, and it reminds me of good times I’ve had.”
“It’s an older song but it made a comeback last summer. They restyled it to be a more summery style.”
“This just reminds me of being on the beach, which might be a trip you’re going on.”
“Out of all of IU’s songs, it’s the best because it has the pop rock style.”