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Comedian Tig Notaro lovingly – and hilariously -- dedicates her Guest DJ set to songs her mother loved. Tig touches on her Southern upbringing, a disco classic and a track that perfectly encompasses her mother’s attitude toward life – Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”. Tig Notaro’s special “Live” is now available exclusively via comedian Louis CK’s website and will be available on iTunes and everywhere else on October 30.
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1. Andy Gibb - Shadow Dancing
2. Willie Nelson - City of New Orleans
3. Ray Charles - I Can't Stop Loving You
4. Frank Sinatra - My Way
5. Johnny Nash - I Can See Clearly Now
Eric J. Lawrence: Hi, I am Eric J. Lawrence and I am here with stand up comedian Tig Notaro. Her dry, dead-pan delivery and hilarious personal stories have landed her on This American Life, Comedy Central and beyond, but today we're going to talk about some songs that she's selected that have inspired her over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Tig, thank you so much for coming down.
Tig Notaro: Thanks for having me.
EJL: So what's the first song you've got for us?
TN: It's funny cause when I was sitting and when I was going through trying to find five songs that have inspired me, I was realizing that each of the songs that inspired me, were kind of spin-offs of things that my mother loved. My mother was very, very driven by music, and the first one being "Shadow Dancing" by Andy Gibb.
EJL: A classic from 1978, I guess. High disco era.
TN: Very high disco era. It's such a great, great song. And my mother had the 45 and I remember him being on the cover, you know of course, I'm sure he was on every cover with his shirt undone. My mother had this tremendous crush on Andy Gibb and just thought he had such beautiful teeth. "Shadow Dancing" is one of those songs that I specifically…we lived right outside of Houston at the time, and I just remember that was one of the songs that I can so vividly see my mother dancing to. I mean, you know, of course it's "Shadow Dancing". Who's not going to dance?
Song: Andy Gibb -- "Shadow Dancing"
EJL: That was Andy Gibb with the song "Shadow Dancing".
TN: So good!
EJL: A true family affair as well, it was written actually with his brothers, all three of his brothers too, so.
TN: I love that you know everything.
EJL: I do my research.
TN: I know, yeah I can tell. When somebody knows music trivia, you got me.
EJL: Well, thank you. (laughs)
TN: Thank you.
EJL: What's the next track you've got for us?
TN: "City of New Orleans". Willie Nelson - there are so many songs that I could just, my whole childhood was listening to Willie Nelson.
My grandmother was in love with Willie Nelson. But my mother used to give me Willie Nelson records for my birthday and for Christmas, when I wasn't even into Willie Nelson. And I used to open them and I'd be like "thanks, another Willie Nelson record".
My family is from…I was born in Jackson, Mississippi. My mother's from New Orleans. And Willie Nelson was just such a part of my life growing up, like I said, and traveling back and forth from New Orleans and (the song) “City of New Orleans”, it's that song that I just feel it in my bones from being there during that time when that was out.
It was my brothers' favorite song as a kid, and my mother used to call for him to come inside to hear it when it came on the radio or if she was pulling up to the house and it was on the radio.
Song: Willie Nelson – City of New Orleans
EJL: Was the radio sort of an important part of music discovery for both you and your mom?
TN: Oh, yeah, like crazy. And I remember I didn't understand where the music came from when I was in the car, and I thought that there was somebody, in another car, with a microphone singing all of these songs, and I was always looking for the radio car that was driving around town.
And I would sometimes pretend like I was the radio car, when my mother was driving, I would pretend to hold a microphone and look at the car next to us and mouth the words to "City of New Orleans" and think, ‘Oh, man I bet those people are so excited that they're seeing the 'radio car’. You can't make sense of everything. You're just a little kid.
EJL: No. The radio is mysterious.
TN: The radio is mysterious! Shall we listen to "City of New Orleans" on that note?
EJL: On that note, here's Willie Nelson with "City of New Orleans".
EJL: That was Willie Nelson singing from the radio car with the track "City of New Orleans" as selected by our guest, Tig Notaro, for KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Tig, what's your next song choice?
TN: Ray Charles "I Can't Stop Loving You". That's a song I personally love lip-syncing. I feel that song so much, and there are so many little nuances to, I mean his voice has so many little nuances and just such passion and rawness. God, he drives me crazy. His music was in my house like Willie Nelson was in my house and it wasn't until I was probably 19 that it really hit me on my own where I went, "ah, that was amazing", and where I was so thankful for my mother's musical taste and her passion for it.
I hate to think of not ever loving this song -- which makes me say "I can't stop loving you. I can't stop loving you". I can't stop loving that song. It's so good.
Song: Ray Charles -- "I Can't Stop Loving You"
EJL: That was Ray Charles with the song "I Can't Stop Loving You". What's up next?
TN: Another number one hit.
EJL: Well now, this is a little bit of a trick because it was actually number two on the Easy Listening Chart, but it was a number one hit single for Elvis Presley.
TN: Nice. Another good one.
EJL: But you've chosen the Frank Sinatra version of "My Way".
TN: I chose "My Way" just simply because, yes of course my mother loved it, and yes of course it's such a phenomenal song and it should be number two and number one and all the other numbers. It encompasses the whole feel of my mother. My mother used to always tell me to tell everybody to go to hell if anyone had a problem with me.
TN: Teachers too would marvel over this thing about me where, I wouldn't get rattled in certain ways or I wouldn't sway when I would explain ‘Oh, well, go to hell’ or ‘my mother told me to tell you to go to hell’, or I'd go home to my mother ‘uh, this or that happened’, ‘Well, sweetie, did you tell them to go to hell?’.
Her whole thing was, you do things exactly as you want to do them, because to be happy is the most important. And so, my mother was just the epitome of just did things exactly her way, and if you had a problem with it, you can go directly to hell.
And so I always felt lucky that that that's how I was raised.
Song: Frank Sinatra -- "My Way"
EJL: That was Frank Sinatra with the song "My Way". Tig, what's your last song choice?
TN: "I Can See Clearly" Johnny Nash. That song is, if somebody were to ask ‘what song would be your mother's song?’, it would be "I Can See Clearly Now".
My mother passed away a few months ago and when we had a gathering at the house, we played all of her favorite music while we had friends and family and old neighbors over and, ordered her favorite food and, that was the song I was like, ‘we have to have Johnny Nash's “I Can See Clearly Now”’. And it was not only just the epitome of my mother and her favorite song but it just, it was so fitting coming through losing her and being with everybody that night, and just kind of feeling like ‘I'm gonna get through this.’ You know?
Song: Johnny Nash --"I Can See Clearly Now"
EJL: Tig I want to thank you so much for coming down.
TN: Thanks for having me.
EJL: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to kcrw.com/GuestDJProject and subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.