The Playlist: One Good Year — Looking Back at 2013

In February, we began setting the news to music each week, because as Kinky Friedman (featured below) might say, "Why the hell not?" As 2013 comes to a close, we start our special retrospective edition with Slaid Cleaves' "One Good Year."

The easiest way to enjoy the playlist is to download Spotify, which is a free program. But even without it, you can still follow along. This time, we'll be sharing our favorite pairing of song and story from each playlist we made this year. That's a whopping 46 in total, so let's get to it:

In early February, Gov. Rick Perry was urging Californians to pack up and head to Texas, and the first song selection of our original playlist was Guy Clark's "L.A. Freeway." The state's newest senator, Ted Cruz, headed to Washington, D.C., and quickly ruffled a few feathers on Capitol Hill, which reminded us of "The New Kid" by the Old 97's. Then-state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, became the first of many lawmakers who announced his intention to retire this year, prompting the addition of Sam Cooke's "That's It, I Quit, I'm Moving On."

Moving into March, a lawmaker pushed a bill to boost disclosure requirements for legislators, and his colleagues pushed back hard, essentially arguing the point made in "If You Don't Know Me By Now" by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. The inclusion of Stevie Ray Vaughan's rendition of "Taxman" was triggered by a tax bill filed by state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler. And Lyle Lovett's version of "Whooping Crane" was added because a federal judge found that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was responsible for the deaths of some of those birds.

 

Perry got Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger" on the list by expressing a desire to bring the state’s gold reserves back from a New York vault to Texas. As Texas lawmakers sent strong signals to the University of Texas System regents that they should alter their plans for investigating the University of Texas at Austin, we added Sister Hazel's "Change Your Mind."

In the Texas House, April began with a debate about the budget, so the playlist had The Beastie Boys' "Skills to Pay the Bills."  When a bill that would require drug testing for people applying for unemployment benefits started to gain momentum, we featured "Drug Test" by Yo La Tengo. Following the tragic fertilizer plant explosion in West, we led with Eastmountainsouth's version of "Hard Times." And Joe Ely's "Dallas" marked a major event in that city — the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

In May, there were multiple debates about gun policies, inspiring the seleciton of Ben Harper's "Both Sides of the Gun." With the clock on the regular session winding down, many bills found themselves — in the words of Jimmy Cliff, "Sitting in Limbo." Lawmakers reached agreements on some major pieces of legislation, from the budget bill to a new university in South Texas, so we included "The Compromise" by The Format. In light of Ross Ramsey's report on a $22,000 dinner to which lobbyists treated the House Calendars Committee at an Austin steakhouse, we also had Juvenile's "Drinks on Me."

Almost as soon as the regular session ended, Perry called lawmakers back for a June special session, which had us singing "Stay a Little Longer" by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. We selected David Wax Museum's "Harder Before it Gets Easier" because the redistricting process proved more cumbersome in the special session than initially anticipated. Because the governor put an end to the cooperative tone of the regular session by adding controversial and partisan issues to the special session's call, we added Alice Cooper's "Mr. Nice Guy."

State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, launched an effort to impeach UT System Regent Wallace Hall, which we (absurdly, we'll admit) memorialized with JoJo's "Leave (Get Out)." State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, made a national name for herself with a lengthy filibuster. Her choice of pink sneakers for the occasion received a lot of attention and inspired the inclusion of Paolo Nutini's "New Shoes."

When legislators returned to the Capitol in July for yet another special session, along with some hard feelings and many protestors, "Not Ready to Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks was a natural choice. After Perry announced that he would not seek another term as governor, we selected John Mellencamp's "I'm Not Running Anymore." Attorney General Greg Abbott officially began his campaign for governor, prompting the addition of "Start Me Up" by The Rolling Stones. Lucinda Williams' "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" ended up on the list after Texas Department of Transportation officials announced plans to convert 83 miles of asphalt roads in South and West Texas to “unpaved” roads.

In August, as a third special session was called, and it became increasingly noticable how many lawmakers were absent at the Capitol, we added "She's Not There" by The Zombies. Once legislators went home and attention turned toward campaign season, Davis began a prolonged period of thinking about whether or not to run for governor that we marked with "Maybe" by Alison Krauss.

We had Ernest Tubb singing "Waltz Across Texas" as Cruz embarked on a tour throughout the state. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst made a now-infamous phone call to the Allen Police Department, prompting the addition of "Call the Police" by Thin Lizzy. Meanwhile, potential statewide Democratic candidates awaited word on Davis' campaign plans before making their own, so we included "Waiting for My Chance to Come" by Noah and the Whale.

 

In September, news broke that Julian Castro and Lee Leffingwell, the mayors of San Antonio and Austin, respectively, are in talks with federal officials about developing a high-speed rail project between their two cities, and Willie Nelson's version of "Desperadoes Waiting on a Train" was added to the playlist. The governor officially designated September "Texas Craft Spirits Month," which got "Tequila" by The Champs on the list. The Tribune held its third annual Texas Tribune Festival, so Good Charlotte's "Festival Song" was added. And because Cruz, like Davis before him, delivered a marathon speech that garnered national attention, we closed out the month with "Everybody Talks" by Neon Trees.

The big story in early October was the federal government shutdown, and the song we chose for it was "Shut Down" by The Beach Boys. With Davis' gubernatorial campaign underway, Battleground Texas relocated much of its operation to Fort Worth, inspiring the addition of "Big Ball in Cowtown" by Waylon Jennings. We included Kinky Friedman's "Sold American" following his announcement of his bid for agriculture commissioner as a Democrat. We also repurposed Robin Thicke's"Blurred Lines" to refer to disagreements over the Texas-Oklahoma border as the groundwork for discussions on the topic was laid.

State Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, left the Senate and officially  joined the Texas A&M University System administration in November, so we added "Got a Job" by Smokey Robinson. We selected "Vote" by Madhouse when Texans headed to the polls and approved all nine constitutional amendments on the ballot. State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, began signaling her bid for lieutenant governor, which provided the occasion to include Neko Case's "Set Out Running."

A planned — and quickly canceled — game of "catch an illegal immigrant" at the University of Texas at Austin caused an uproar and the inclusion of Birdy's "Just a Game." Highlighting the contrasting styles of Cruz and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, we had "Different Drum" by the Stone Poneys.

In the final month of 2013, would-be Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Pauken pulled out of the race citing a lack of fundraising, which made us think of "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt. U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, unexpectedly filed to run for U.S. Senate against Cornyn, a twist that led us to "The Big Surprise" by The Felice Brothers. In an interview with the Tribune, Cruz ended his year as unapologetically as he began it, prompting us to add "No Apologies" by Bon Jovi.

And that, as they say, was that. We'd like to dedicate the year's final selection to those of you who have enjoyed this little experiment each week. Quite appropriately, it's Bob Hope and Shirley Ross singing "Thanks For The Memories."

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