I think we’re all slaves to our emotions. That’s not to say that emotions are bad things. Au contraire mon frère (or mon soeur)! In fact, I think emotions are the sign posts of our lives. Like the yellow arrows painted on the Camino by Mad Monk Don Elías Valiña Sampedro that show pilgrims “The Way”. He wasn’t a monk, I just like calling him that.

The reason the Camino is called “The Way” is, well, literally it shows the way to Santiago de Compostella. It’s known as “the Way of St. James”; St. James being the dead saint buried in Santiago, the one who brought Christianity to Europe. But one might posit that symbolically, another reason the Camino might be referred to as “the way” is because, like any strenuous, physical trial, walking it churns up emotions, and emotions are the catalyst for introspection, self assessment, and change. “The way” back to ourselves, back to that journey we are all taking: trying to get back to that self that is unencumbered by the bullshit we’ve learned along the way, the bullshit that has taught us to hate ourselves. The bullshit that keeps us from being happy.

Which leads me to music. Huh? Well, I’m thinking about the connection between music and emotions. Music has the power to stimulate strong emotions within us, and even affect our actions. Probably because music is such an ancient thing, it’s almost hard-wired. So, with that in mind, I’m giving my dear readers a gift: Mark’s Santiago de Compostela in honor of Don Elías Valiña Sampedro playlist!

These are songs that kept me company on the Camino. Some have a personal resonance, others are included because they just seemed to fit. It is by no means a comprehensive list. I honored Don Elias in the name of the playlist since, like the yellow arrows he painted along the Camino that helped show me the way, the emotions these songs roiled up while walking  helped point me towards the wounds I needed to consider, the scars I needed to heal, and the sins I needed to forgive. And in the end, they helped me to accept myself for who I am, and begin to love myself again. I hope that in some way, one or two of them might do the same for you.

“All We Are” – Matt Nathanson
The verses talk about life, loss, and love. It’s the first song on the list since, theoretically, it would be the first song you hear in the morning as you begin your walk. The chorus reminds you that ”…everyday’s the start of something beautiful”.

“Wherever I Go”- Mark Knopfler (with Ruth Moody)
A beautiful song about a guy away from home, thinking about his loved ones. It reminds me of Hannah, who I seldom see. “There’s a place in my heart, though we’re far apart, may you always know, no matter how long since I saw you, I keep a flame there for you, wherever I go.”

“Song for Zula”- Phosphorescent.
Kept me company for a long time. I still like it, but it doesn’t resonate as it did in what seems like so long ago: “See honey I saw love, yeah it came to me. It put its face up to my face so I could see. Yeah then I saw love disfigure me into something I am not recognizing”.

“Better Days” – Eddie Veddar
From the “Eat, Pray, Love” soundtrack.
Whatever you may think of the book (it may be a bit self-absorbed…maybe like my blog), but anyway, he’s singing to the Universe, looking inside, which is why I walked the Camino, and why many do.

“Now We Are Free” – Lisa Gerard
The theme from “Gladiator”. It’s just one of those soaring, atmospheric, gallic songs, with some cool drums. More or less an instrumental (unless you know gaellic) so it a good thinkin’ song.

“Learning to Fly” – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
‘been sort of my theme song for the last year or two. The live version is the best, where at the end, while the crowd sings the chorus (“I’m learning to fly, but I aint got wings, coming down, is the hardest thing” he sings a counter melody with them- “I’m gonna learn how to fly, fly over my troubles, fly over my worries, fly up high in the blue sky, looking down on the world below, way up over my worries, over my troubles…’

“Miles from Nowhere” – Cat Stevens
It may be old, he may be a Muslim, but if you have any inclination to walk the Camino, you can’t deny the power of his words. He mixes the physical journey with the spiritual: “Miles from Nowhere, guess Ill take my time, oh yeah, to reach there. Look up at the mountain, I have to climb, oh yeah, to reach there. Lord my body has been a good friend, I won’t need it when I reach the end…Miles from nowhere, not a soul in sight, oh yeah, but it’s alright. I have my freedom, I can make my own roads oh yeah, the ones that I choose. Lord my body…

“Waiting for My Real Life to Begin – Colin Hay
Of Men at Work fame, this is a solo acoustic piece. This song was new to me last year and struck a chord: “And I woke today, suddenly nothing happened, but in my dreams I slew the dragon. And down this beaten path, up this cobbled lane, walking in my old footsteps once again. And you say ‘just be here now forget about the past, your mask is wearing thin’. Just let me throw one more dice, I know that i can win. I’m waiting for my real life to begin”.

“Long Time Comin’” – Bruce Springsteen
I could have included any number of Bruce songs, since a lot of his songs are about the journey, and redemption (“…Im pulling outa here to win”). I picked a lesser known, more recent song instead. “…I’m riding hard carrying a catch of roses, a fresh map that I made. Tonight I’m gonna get buck naked, bury my old soul, and dance on it’s grave. It’s been a long time coming…”

“Landslide” – Fleetwood Mac
I’ll admit it. I was embarrassed to put this on here at first. Btw, I also have a soft spot in my heart for Journey’s “Faithfully” and a few heavy metal ballads. But this is a heartfelt song about a breakup, being forced to grow up, love, questioning if you can handle the changes, even codependence. Enough said.

“Spiritus Domini” – Anon
Actually, any Gregorian chant will do. To remind you of the spiritual nature of your walk- that is until you reach the auberge and quaff that first beer (you know what I’m talking ‘bout Penny).

“Everybody is a Star” – Sly and the Family Stone
For everyone who has not learned to love themselves, which includes most of us. This song was ahead of it’s time, especially for a funky black dude singing about, self esteem, equality, loving yourself. Pretty heady stuff for a funkmeister trying to fit into the musical zeitgeist of the 60’s and 70’s. It’s also a little message to Hannah, and her generation.

“All Things Must Pass” -George Harrison
Reminds us of the transient and ephemeral nature of everything in this world, and each of our place in it. Play this one after you get that first blister.

“Canon in D” – Pachabel
You’ve heard it at a wedding before, or maybe on your CD of “Greatest Hits of the Baroque Period”. I remember hearing this while driving across Washington State somewhere near Wanatchee and thinking it sort of encompassed a great swath of the human experience.

“Redemption Song” – Bob Marley
My favorite Bob Marley song. The title says it all. It’s what you are on the Camino for. You’ll do alright by the Johnny Cash/ Joe Strummer version too.

“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – U2
I know I certainly didn’t figure everything out on the Camino, but I’m hoping I got closer to some truths. Remember never to be satisfied. Once you think you have everything, that is the time to really start looking…

“And the Healing Has Begun” – Van Morrison
I quoted this in my first post from last year. Acoustic guitar and piano song (produced while the rest of the world was dancing to disco). He uses images to paint a simple picture while a violin starts out in the background but then comes out front and sort of takes over:

“We’ll walk down the avenue again, we’ll sing all the songs from way back when, and we’ll walk down the avenue again when the healing has begun…I want you to put on your pretty summer dress, wear your easter bonnet and all the rest, and I wanna make love to you yes, yes, yes…when the healing has begun”. He throws in one of his James Brown yelps (“I can’t stand myself!) for good measure. On second thought, maybe he’s just trying to get laid. Isn’t that why most rock songs were written in the first place?

“Don’t be Shy” – Cat Stevens
Another Cat Stevens choice you grumble? Man, his lyrics were just so spot on. This was from “Harold and Maude”, about an 80 year old woman (Ruth Gordon) who teaches a mordant, death obsessed twenty something (Bud Cort) about life, love, redemption, and embracing the moment. Cause, well, you never know. “Don’t be shy, just let your feelings roll on by. Don’t wear fear or nobody will know your there. Just lift your head and let your feelings out instead…you know love is better than a song. Love is where all of us belong. So don’t be shy…

“Find the River”- REM

It’s REM. Who knows what the fuck it’s about. But to me it sounds like it’s about a man, he might be older, advising someone, probably someone he loves. Maybe he’s an old guy handing down advice to a son or grandson, or maybe it’s to a companion or lover. In any event, the narrator seems to be saying that he has chosen to look for meaning in his life outside of the norm, not “…the city/Where people drown and people serve.”  Perhaps Stipe is talking about himself, and his chosen life as an artist.

In “Find the River”, as on the Camino, the journey is the reward. And hopefully, the journey/ river will reveal some transcendent moments, an escape from our mundane lives, the “task of the city”, and give us a little meaning to our place in the cosmos, by the time we reach the end of our lives/our ocean (“…the river is the oceans’ goal…). He’s advising us to look to the journey for our rewards, to be in the moment, and dont be duped by what society tells you you have to be.

“I Shall Be Released”- Bob Dylan, The Band, et al (The Last Waltz)
Best version of the Dylan song I know of. Another song about redemption. This song was the last song The Band played together and was sort of the end of an era. “I see my light come shining, from the west down to the east. Any day now, any day now, I shall be released”.

“Sri Argala Stotram/ Show me Love” – Krishna Das
The song I used for my video, you can watch it here. Krishna Das is a student of the Hindu devotional music known as kirtan. His deep baritone is backed by a violin and organ (or an organ that sounds like a violin) and an intermittent female backup singer, but then the tempo changes up, the instrumentation gets fuller, and a choir starts singing the chorus to Foreigners’ I Want to Know What Love Is”. A friggin awesome mix of the sacred and profane.


“You Shook Me All Night Long” – Mark West
Yup. My version of this fine song, “arranged” (I use the term loosely) and performed by yours truly on Ukulele. Pretty sure you’re going to want to download it and add to your favorites playlist. For all the AC DC fans out there. And for a few others as well…