Karen Mikki Brown

I've known Mikki for several years now, but since most of the time we've spent together has been at work I've never really gotten to geek out to music with her in a deep way. Listening to her playlist, I see that that has clearly been to my detriment. A truly heartfelt and down-to-earth lady with a ready laugh, a healthy sense of the ridiculous, and a tremendous ability to relate to the young people she works with. Enjoy!

The 32-Year Journey Mix

One, this was hard. I just really love music, so whittling down this list was harder than changing a tire without a jack or tire iron. I’m one of those weird people who forms emotional connections to music and can’t live without it.

The Beatles Recovered Band – Michelle A tragic thing happened last year - I accidentally deleted ALL of the songs on my iPod. Lost every Beatles song I ever owned. Moment of silence . . . The Beatles, of course, have no music online, so this was the closest I could get. This is one of my mom’s favorite songs; she loved it so much my middle name is Michelle. Not a bad rendition of this song.

Fleetwood Mac – Dreams Yes, I was watching Glee and they sang this song and I felt horrible about forgetting about how much I loved it as a child. It came on the radio a little more frequently in the 80s, but since it didn’t have a video I had no idea who made it. Sorry, Stevie Nicks, for my temporary ignorance.

Tom Tom Club – Genius Of Love I was blessed to share a bedroom with a sister that was ten years older than me. That translates into someone blaring 70s and 80s music as loud as they could while you attempted to sleep. In the 80s we had a record player and a boom box in our bedroom and I was fortunate to hear this song on repeat. A lot. I love this song because it’s really eclectic. I mean, there’s a lot going on in it, but it turned out awesome. It’s like a Jackson Pollock, you just keeping throwing stuff up there and at some point it will be dope.

Commodores – Zoom This song reminds me of spending evenings in the living room with my dad as he made mix tapes from his extensive record collection. He grew up in Newport, Rhode Island and there weren’t many black children in his neighborhood. TVs were still relatively new and his family didn’t have one, leaving his only connection to black culture through music and records. I love this song because whenever I’m stressed and I just want to get away I can just escape through Lionel Ritchie’s silky vocals.

Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band – Sunshower This is another song courtesy of the big sister. It was just one of those songs that always put me in a good mood. Something about adding youthful voices to a track automatically brightens up the day.

Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 – Batucada (The Beat) The music in my home growing up was very diverse. One day I would come home and my mom would be dancing to The Stones, and the next day it would be Fifth Dimension. One of her favorite groups was Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66. I was always impressed with how the two women always sounded like one person. My mom used to tell me that Sergio wanted them to match in pitch and tone to provide a richer sound on the record.

The Dramatics – Ocean Of Thoughts And Dreams This is my parents’ official song. When I was kid I would watch the 45 spin around in the record player, mesmerized by the purple Buddha on the label. My parents would slow dance and then I would get repulsed by the mushiness. It has grown to be one of all-time favorite songs because it reminds me of a time when people would shut off the boob tube, listen to music, and truly enjoy each other’s company.

Womack & Womack – Baby I'm Scared Of You There is not one black party in the city of Chicago that doesn’t play this song. I’m going to even say I think it’s been in heavy rotation since it first debuted in the 70s. Talk about longevity. It is definitely a staple at Chicago House Music parties, with everyone chanting along during the dialogue in the middle of the song. It’s a party starter!

RUN-DMC – My Adidas In high school I was really into the hip hop. My room had posters of Wu-Tang Clan and The Roots on the wall. I wore the oversized baggy clothes, didn’t go anywhere without my book bag and Walkman, and always had at least one pair of Adidas. Whenever I was asked what kind of car I drove my reply was “My Adidas,” or if I wanted to make a very important point I would say “On my Adidas, I promise you I saw the Loch Ness monster in Lake Michigan.” Yep, this was my theme song.

Genius/GZA – Liquid Swords I was such a HUGE Wu-Tang Clan fan in high school. I even drew a W flipped it upside down (making it an M for Mikki) and taped it to my book bag. This was one of the first rap songs I fully memorized, probably because I listened to it in my headphones all day. No really, all day! In the 90s it was common for people to wear the ear muffs that looked like headbands in class. I had a pair of 180s (before they became popular) and they had built in headphones. So I would sit in class and listen to music without anyone knowing what was going on. I was on the honor roll, so in my eyes it was ok.

311 – Love Song I really love this rendition of Love Song. I think its somber mood really conveys how he truly longs for his lost love. I like the original by The Cure, but for some reason this is my favorite version.

Santana – Primavera When this CD came out I played this song every day. I’m a sucker for a song that allows for the instrumentation to be the center of the show. Not only is the electric guitar amazing, but the percussion in the background gives it such a cool bossa nova feel. Plus, I learned some Spanish!

Al Hirt – Green Hornet One of my favorite movies is Kill Bill, and I remember hearing this during the movie and being AMAZED. I’ve played the flute since I was 11 and I still can’t get my fingers to move fast enough to play Flight of the Bumblebee.  I mean come on, trumpets only have three keys, THREE! Bananas! I know his jaws are aching after tightening his aperture to hit those upper register notes. I’m sure there are some triple-tonguing techniques involved to hit all of those staccato notes. Ok, I just became a band geek.

Maxwell – Bad Habits - uncut When Maxwell resurfaced after a nine year hiatus with this song, I blared this on my way to work every morning. The production and composition is amazing. This song has so many amazing levels filled with crescendos and swells that increase with each new verse. Still to this day, I will crank the volume around the 3:00 mark so I can hear the amazing horns and try to hum along to their harmony. The horns are the true stars of this song.

Daft Punk – Giorgio by Moroder This is my current "on repeat" record. I love that it has an interview of music producer Giogio Moroder infused into the music. It’s just so ingenious, although you wouldn’t expect anything less from Daft Punk.