Basking in the glow of music

March 2022

Picking just five songs to have on a desert island was much harder than it initially sounded. There’s a good chance I’ve overlooked some obvious choices, but decisions had to be made. At the end of the day, I do think I could put these five songs on shuffle and be satisfied - at least for a while.

I don’t recall the first time I heard Life on Mars. It’s one of those songs that seems to exist as more of a core memory than any one specific moment I can put a finger on. There is just something that pulls me to it. It’s almost hypnotic. Partly, it’s David Bowie himself that draws me. He was a transcendent poet who existed outside boxes and defied boundaries - much like this song. Disguised as a ballad, I think you can only call this an orchestral pop song. It is not so much heard as felt.

I just want to bring the entire T-Rex discography. I adore Marc Bolan - he was Bowie before Bowie - so the thought of being stuck on a desert island without his voice is not something I want to consider. If I can only pick one song, I have to go with Jeepster. It never fails to put me in a good mood, and it’s way easier to dance to than Metal Guru or Children of the Revolution. I first heard Jeepster while in Northern Ireland. T-Rex was not really big in North America, but they were absolute legends in the UK. Even though Marc Bolan died the year I was born, their music was still widely played in the late 90s when I was there.

The reason I picked Just Like Heaven by The Cure is really silly, but there are one or two people who might read this and know, so that’s all that matters. It’s very nostalgic. It reminds me of
bad high school garage bands, great mixed tapes, Much Music, Samantha Taylor (if you know, you know), black tights under jean shorts, and Claire Dane’s burgundy hair in My So-Called Life.

I don’t really know what to say about the next song, apart from Kathleen Hanna changed my life. Punk bands tend to kick down the doors to make space for new ideas, and Bikini Kill certainly did that for me. The band was both a revelation and a revolution. I heard Rebel Girl in Hits and Misses record shop in Toronto sometime in the mid-90s and from the first drumbeat, knew it was for me. I was instantly hooked – on the music and the message.

I guess the wildcard in my list is Tania León’s Rítmicas. This piece sounds like what I imagine a desert island would be like – peaceful in some moments, chaotic bordering on overwhelming in others – it’s the musical equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting. Tania León is a true genius. I only recently discovered her when she won the Pulitzer Prize for her piece Stride, which was part of Project 19 (19 female composers were chosen to write music to celebrate the ratification of the 19th Amendment) and was inspired by Susan B Anthony.

Ryleigh Dupuis is the Executive Director and General Manager of the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra. She can be reached at

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