Music Man? I’d Like One Very Much, Thanks!

Music Man? I’d Like One Very Much, Thanks!

At one point…Mr. Trump’s handlers designated an unnamed White House official known as the “Music Man” to play him his favorite show tunes, including “Memory” from “Cats,” to pull him from the brink of rage.

—from a Sept. 28

New York Times

account of former press secretary

Stephanie Grisham’s

new book about her time in the Trump White House.

OK, let’s be honest here: The above anecdote has provoked a lot of giggling about a recent White House.

But I do not come to bury the “Music Man.” I want a “Music Man.” Like, now. Gimme.

Who wouldn’t? A “Music Man” sounds like a perfect modern-day consigliere. My days, like everyone else’s in 2021, can quickly swing from perfectly copacetic calm to something on the edge of calamity. Just picking up my phone and reading social media for 30 seconds can push me straight to the brink.

What if, right then, an individual could be summoned who could level my heart rate with a selection of my favorite songs?

Imagine someone’s tantrum at an airline counter, and a Music Person leaps out and starts singing Bill Withers. Or Carole King.

I don’t know if I’d put “Memory” from “Cats” on my own personal list. “Memory” might send me right over the edge. But what if, instead of watching me emotionally crumble, an associate could immediately play a song that’s restorative and calming? Say, “Bridge over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel.

When you’re weary

Feeling small

When tears are in your eyes

I’ll dry them all.

Or what about “Moonshadow” by Cat Stevens?

Yes, I’m being followed by a Moonshadow.

Moonshadow, Moonshadow.

See, you’re feeling better already, and I’m not even playing music. You can already tell this works.

I would prefer if my “Music Man” played his own instruments—acoustic guitar feels like a prerequisite—but I guess I would be OK if he simply brought in a small speaker and played the original versions.

Jason, settle down, here’s

Otis Redding’s

“My Lover’s Prayer.”


Willie Nelson’s

cover of “Stardust.”


Aretha Franklin’s

“Rock Steady.”

Here’s “As” by

Stevie Wonder.

Basically, here’s everything Stevie Wonder ever did.

I’m not snobby about this stuff. Pick any music you like. If your beastly side soothes to

Celine Dion,

soothe your beastly side to Celine Dion. If you prefer Nine Inch Nails, crank Nine Inch Nails.

If you want to be a “Music Man” literalist and ask for a hologram of the late

Robert Preston

to sing you “Ya Got Trouble,” then ask for it! These are confrontational times. Why not try a little tenderness?

I bet “Music Men” would someday be widened to “Music People”—musically talented men and women deployed strategically at places where human beings routinely have meltdowns.

Imagine this: Someone’s having a tantrum at an airport ticket counter—What do you mean the 7:30 p.m. to Albuquerque was canceled?—when a Music Person leaps from behind the counter and starts singing

Bill Withers.


Carole King.

Airports, airplanes, departments of motor vehicles, drive-through lines, hospital waiting rooms, family holidays, cable news channels—they could all stand to benefit from a hidden army of Music People, at the ready when a freakout occurs.

There are limits to what music can do, of course. Automated customer service lines have been playing allegedly soothing music for years—Your expected wait time is one hour, 37 minutes; here’s some Air Supply—and it only makes a terrible experience worse.

But I don’t think we should ridicule the idea of taking it live. We’re supposed to be more compassionate these days about mental health. More people are leaning on exercise, or meditation, or therapy, or simply going for a long walk out in the woods without their phone.

Why can’t a “Music Man” serve the same function?

While you mull it over, here’s some Stevie Wonder.


What song or songs would your like your “Music Man” to play? Join the conversation below.

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