32 Songs To Live & Cook By

Like those of many others, my life’s journey has been lived alongside a soundtrack, as I spent much of my working life in the trenches of the South African music industry as a journalist, and later editor, at a music magazine.


Music, like food, has an incredible ability to shape our journeys. Songs describe the longings, the passions, the small details we otherwise miss.  My longtime friend Iris and I would meet every Thursday for lunch at Fullstop Cafe, our usual spot in Johannesburg and compile and refine - usually over peri-peri calamari and glasses of Chardonnay - our list of thirty-two songs.  We figured that thirty-two songs was what it took to define the soundtrack of your life at any given moment in time.

One of the songs that made both of our lists was Sarah McLachlan’s “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.” In 1993, when the album by the same title was released, we were both entrenched in the music industry—Iris as an A&R manager for Virgin Records and me as editor of Top Forty, music magazine.  Iris said the song made her melancholy and reminded her of home and childhood in Scotland. For me, it symbolized my first break as a music journalist, as McLachlan was the first big-name artist I got to interview. It was during this interview that she told me she was from Halifax, in the province of Nova Scotia. She described to me the influence growing up in Halifax had had on her music, and how it shaped her own sense of place.

My own knowledge of Nova Scotia at that time was scant. I had first seen it from 29,000 feet up, when I went with my then-boyfriend (and now husband) to visit his family in Boston. We flew over the North Atlantic from London, and this sliver of land appeared below. Over the years, we flew this route many times en route to Boston. With each flight, I grew more and more enchanted with that sliver of land. Little did I know that purely by chance or fate, I would end up living here and raising my son to be a maritimer, a blue noser (a moniker long used to describe Nova Scotians), an East Coast boy.

Music has this incredible power to move us, to transport us to another time and place. The original list of 32 songs, are the songs that accompanied my book when I wrote it and have formed the soundtrack to much of my life. 

They have all played a role and told a story in one way or another. All of them will transport me back to a time and place in an instant. The soundtrack doesn't stay static however, as new songs and playlists grow each day and accompany my adventures in the kitchen and on our roadtrips.

The purpose of sharing this, is for you to create your own list of 32 songs to live and cook by or simply hit play on the right and share my journey.

A "Monkey Weddings & Summer Sapphires" Playlist

  • Sarah McLachlan – “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy”

  • Stevie Nicks – “Landslide”

  • Style Council – “Long Hot Summer”

  • Winston Mankunku – “Wajikeleza”

  • Rodriguez – “Sugarman”

  • Bright Blue – “Weeping”

  • Brooke Benton – “Rainy Night in Georgia”

  • U2 – “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”

  • America – “Ventura Highway”

  • Thomas Lang – “Me & Mrs. Jones”

  • Chris Isaak – “Wicked Game”

  • Lloyd Cole – “Jennifer”

  • Cesaria Evora – “Sodade”

  • Frank Sinatra – “Fly Me To The Moon”

  • Via Afrika – “Hey Boy”

  • Sam Roberts Band – “Bridge To Nowhere”

  • Plain White T’s – “Hey There Delilah”

  • Rolling Stones – “Wild Horses”

  • Miriam Makeba – “Pata Pata”

  • The Cure – “Lullaby”

  • Nick Drake – “Northern Sky”

  • Manu Dibango – “Soul Makossa”

  • Marvin Gaye – “Mercy Mercy Me”

  • Everything But the Girl – “Missing”

  • Johnny Clegg – “Scatterlings of Africa”

  • Tracy Chapman – “Fast Car”

  • Deacon Blue – “Loaded”

  • The Waterboys – “The Whole of The Moon”

  • Tears For Fears – “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”

  • Springbok Nude Girls – “Blue Eyes”

  • Shirley Bassey – “Something”

  • Coldplay – “Yellow”

Monkey Weddings & Summer Sapphires

South Africa to Nova Scotia

Copyright © Colleen Thompson, 2020.
All rights reserved.