Arts, iEdit

iEdit: Exploring Conor Richards’ Pensive Yet Uncomplicated “Philosophy of Life”

When The Heights’ General Manager Conor Richards sent me a playlist titled “Ten Song Philosophy of Life” to review, I began preparing for an existential and intense listening experience. 

Conor studies philosophy and, despite being only 21 years old, maintains a level of wisdom you’d normally only find in an elderly figure. 

I wasn’t surprised to find that Conor didn’t include a single song from the current decade in his playlist. Known for being behind on modern slang terms like “rizz” and “situationship”—both words that I’ve had to teach Conor the meaning of—Conor is what we’d call an “old soul.” And his playlist certainly reflects that. 

Once I finally pressed play, I quickly discovered Conor’s “Philosophy of Life” is all but complicated. 

His preliminary song choice, “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, reminded me of the levelheaded clarity Conor brings to any situation. The lyrics offer some straightforward guidance.

“Oh, take your time, don’t live too fast,” Skynyrd sings. “Be a simple kind of man.”

Similar to how Skynyrd recites his mother’s advice in “Simple Man,” John Mellencamp quotes his father in “Minutes to Memories,” the next song on Conor’s list. 

The homey, familial feel of these first two tracks tells me Conor’s outlook on life is rooted in the places and people that raised him. 

The next two tracks, Dave Matthews Band’s “Mercy” and Billy Joel’s “Summer, Highland Falls” offer more overarching mantras. Matthews’ raspy and airy voice narrates an encouraging tune while Joel’s song carries a heavier feel as he presents an honest view of life’s ups and downs.

Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” only intensifies the rawness of Joel’s track. But, despite their seemingly somber lyrics, I don’t think Conor values these tracks in a fatalistic way. Cash’s and Joel’s honesty evokes a comforting sense of clarity within the listener. 

The next track, “Willow Springs” by Michael McDermott, was the first song on the playlist I was completely unfamiliar with. I then discovered that McDermott is a singer-songwriter from Chicago, Ill., and that the song’s namesake is a village near Conor’s hometown of Hinsdale, Ill.. 

After listening to this song for the first time, I immediately played it over again. McDermott employs powerful alliteration and allegories to build some deeply compelling lyrics. 

“The diner is dark, the dreams undone,” McDermott sings. 

The next time someone asks me to recommend a slept-on song, I’ll be endorsing this one. 

As I moved further into the latter half of Conor’s tracklist, the energy started to build up. “Change” by Tracy Chapman is a religious outcry of sorts. 

“If you saw the face of God and love, would you change?” Chapman asks. 

This groovy and pensive tune and the subsequent “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows were the refreshing tunes I needed to hear after getting through the intense first half of Conor’s playlist. 

Conor’s penultimate pick, a live version of “Christmas Song” by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, recounts Jesus’ life and the first Christmas. The moral of the biblical story, Matthews says, is love. This song had me pondering how Conor’s devotion to his faith inspires the care he shows for those around him. 

My listening experience ended quite literally with “The End – Remastered 2009” by The Beatles. This Abbey Road classic concludes the playlist on an energetic high note.

This May, accompanied by our fellow Heights editors, Conor and I will be taking our third and final trip up to Maine together. Last year, as we drove up together, we found ourselves listening to an endless loop of the same classic tunes—as much as I love Don McLean’s “American Pie” and “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners, the tracks go stale when you’re hearing them for the eighth time in a 24-hour time span. 

Now, I’ve got 10 new tried-and-true tracks I can add to our Maine playlist. As we venture on our last Maine trip together, these songs will serve as a reminder of the uncomplicated wisdom that Conor brings to our newsroom.

April 12, 2024