I was upset when George W. Bush was elected in 2000, but not as upset as I should have been. I assumed he would be a typical Republican president: against abortion unless someone he knew needed one, otherwise inattentive to human suffering except for the financial anxieties of rich people, whose pain he would assuage with tax cuts. Mostly I expected lots of golf. And I was right—until 9/11. Then, regrettably, Bush left the putting green and started having ideas. If your memory is cruel enough to be sharp, you will recall his long list of calamities.
So, in 2004, I thought, “No sane country will ever re-elect this person.” Alas, the fatal adjective: “sane.” Bush was re-elected, and I fell into what John Bunyan, and hardly anyone else, calls a “slough of despond.” I am normally a buoyant person, yet I trudged to work in twice the time it usually took me. I couldn’t sit up straight at my desk. I had to do something.
As it has in other blue periods of my life, music came to the rescue. I created a playlist of songs that for whatever reason—their message, the performance, or the genius of the work itself—always makes me happy. During the Obama years, I didn’t have to listen to it so much, but in 2016 it came back big. Here are 20 selections from the much longer list I call “Cheer Up.”
Douglas McGrath is a filmmaker and playwright, and a columnist for AIR MAIL