INSP Vendor Playlist: Chicago’s StreetWise vendors discuss their song choices in depth

Chicago’s StreetWise vendors discussed amongst themselves the songs they’d give as presents this Christmas.

Tony Landers, 56, picked Otis Redding’s ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay’. “I sat on that same bench where Redding came up with this song,” says Tony. “I mean, I liked it before I got there, but that song just, I don’t know. I do a lot of traveling, too, but when I heard it I just liked it. When I finally went to San Francisco it really grew on me. Once, I wrote a letter to my girlfriend, put it in a bottle, and threw it in the San Francisco bay. I called to see if she got it. She said, ‘No, you fool.’”

StreetWise vendor Tony Landers

George Donner, 52, believes Noel Mahinay’s ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’ is a fitting choice.

StreetWise vendor George Donner

JoAnne Breivogel aptly selected Bing Crosby’s version of ‘Jingle Bells’. “It just popped into my mind,” she says, before looking ahead to next year. “It makes me think about what is going to happen -who else is going to pop up and be mayor or president or run for office. It makes you think about where you’re going to go from now, or what you’re going to do the next day, or if you’ll still be at StreetWise, or if you’ll have a full time job or go to school, stuff like that.

StreetWise vendor JoAnne Breivogel

Keith Harding, 56, like a fellow vendor at Canadian street paper Megaphone, likes Nat King Cole’s ‘The Christmas Song’. “Nat King Cole is the bomb,” he says enthusiastically. “I love him; his voice is so soothing. That would be a nice gift to give. I like everything about this song. Every word that’s being said, you can take it to heart. Like the part where he says that the kids lie awake at night to see if Santa really has a sleigh or if reindeer really fly. Those things like that, they’re something for a kid to imagine with his mind. It has a lot of reminiscing and appropriation with that record. That song says a lot about the Christmas spirit and how people are feeling.

StreetWise vendor Keith Harding

“When I was a kid, growing up, listening to it, they used to have these food carts out downtown where they had pretzels and chestnuts. I correlated the song with what I was seeing at that time. I was a little boy, about five or six years old, and it’s a festive song that makes you just take a sigh of relief. And ice skating. I can’t roller skate, but I can ice skate. I haven’t figured that one out. I’ve been trying to think about that one for years. I can get around on two blades better than I can on eight wheels. That’s something else I relate it with. Me and my mom would listen to it on 55th street where they have an outdoor skating rink, out there by the university. I’d go ice skating; my mom would sit down, or sit in the car, and watch me for hours. I’d be out there just having a ball once a week. Then, also, when I was a kid, I used to go to the stadium and ice skate. My brothers taught me, but they didn’t teach me how to roller skate.”

Vendor Jazeric, 31, described Beyoncé’s ‘I Was Here’ as “a statement piece”.

StreetWise vendor Jazeric

John Williams, 57, remembers Prince doing a version of ‘Jingle Bells’. Whether he did or not, it reminds him of writing to Santa Claus as a kid.

StreetWise vendor John Williams

Finally, 60-year-old DN gets in on the seemingly festive Chicago spirit by choosing Donny Hathaway’s ‘This Christmas’. “Every Christmas, especially for black people, when you hear it, you know it’s that time for the season,” she says. “My Christmases have never really been great, but they’re good. I’m looking forward for it to being an even better one this Christmas.”

Check out the full playlist here.

Editing by Tony Inglis