“A bit of madness is key to give us new colors to see. Who knows where it will lead us? And, that’s why they need us. So bring on the rebels, the ripples from pebbles, the painters and poets and plays. And, here’s to the fools who dream — crazy as they may seem. Here’s to the hearts that break. Here’s to the mess we make.” — “Audition,” La La Land

My love of music was cultivated long before I can even remember. Perhaps it was from my dad’s banjo playing or my sisters’ eclectic cassette tape collections I would binge on as a child. But, it wasn’t until I learned that Elvis and B.B. were born in Mississippi that music really began to make sense to me.

Knowing that Mississippi musicians made a lasting impression on America’s music opened up my world. Anything seemed possible. Mississippi’s contribution to music and art is quite impressive, if you think about it. I mean, come on. What other state can claim the likes of Elvis, B.B. King, Bobbie Gentry and Jimmy Buffett as well as visual artists, such as Walter Anderson and Joe Overstreet? It’s pretty sweet to know this land birthed some of America’s greatest artists and songs of all time.

I recently worked with Mississippi Today to help compile The Ultimate Mississippi Playlist, a collection of 25 songs about Mississippi or by Mississippians. I was tasked with researching and posting songs selected by a panel of expert judges, all wise in the way of Mississippi music. Readers decided every couple of weeks which song was worthy of moving to the playlist. I would delve deep into each nominated song, often learning new music and realizing compelling facts about our state’s rich musical heritage.

Even though the year-long project, created to celebrate the state’s bicentennial, resulted in a powerful playlist of Mississippi-centric sounds, the list truly goes on and on. It’s impossible to cap it at 25. Plus, our state continues to produce top-notch talent.

This issue, featuring the complete playlist, is a nod to the musical and artistic talent on which Mississippi prides itself. Mary Wilson of The Supremes. Malaco Records. GRAMMY Museum© Mississippi. Hip hop. These diverse contributions will make a Mississippi music lover out of just about anyone. We have also included visual and performance artists to round out this special celebration of music and art.

I’ve always believed life requires a soundtrack, and, I must admit, mine is now wrought with songs by Mississippi artists. It’s the way it should be, I guess. This is my place and, as crazy as it may seem, Mississippi music represents and empowers us all.

Listen to MPB’s Next Stop Mississippi radio show dedicated to The Ultimate Mississippi Playlist.

The Ultimate Mississippi Playlist

Listen to the complete playlist on Spotify: