Soundtrack

Beth Ditto DJs a Potluck Party Worthy of Great Gravy

The singer-songwriter creates the perfect playlist of songs by Cat Power, Nina Simone and more to go with grits and perfect potatoes.

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Beth Ditto made a name for herself as the lead singer of indie-rock group Gossip, and her standout voice has been compared to Janis Joplin and Etta James. Her debut solo album “Fake Sugar” was released this month. Here she is with some tunes to play at your next potluck.

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Beth Ditto: Hello, everybody, I’m Beth Ditto.  And the dinner party we’re gonna be having tonight is just your regular, run-of-the-mill potluck.  There are gonna be some vegetarians and vegans, so if you could be sensitive to that, it would be incredible, thank you.

This is my dinner party soundtrack — my “D.P.S.”  And the first song we’re gonna be listening to today I think is the perfect setting for relaxation.  It is called “I’ve Been Thinking,” by Handsome Boy Modeling School, featuring Cat Power.

Handsome Boy Modeling School Feat. Cat Power – “I’ve Been Thinking”

Beth Ditto:  People usually would associate Cat Power with singer-songwriter indierock. You don’t usually hear her in electronic music and hip-hop.  And it kind of goes to show that she’s so versatile. She’s very timeless. I feel like her records could be made yesterday.

D’ya know what’s happening at this dinner party right now?  I’m a little bit mad.  Because two people brought mashed potatoes, but I’m not kidding you: nobody brought gravy.  Get outta here with that! It’s like, “I brought grits, but no salt or cheese or sugar!”  I’m like, “Oh good, so we just have some white paste.  Great.”

But that’s okay, ’cause I’ve got some Wyler’s bouillion cubes, and I’m just about to mix that up with some flour and some butter, and we’re gonna make a little bit of a roux, and we’re just gonna do some impromptu gravy.  And that’s gonna be fine.  I’m not mad at anybody… I just think that was a little bit irresponsible and inconsiderate.

Nina Simone – “Suzanne”

Beth Ditto:  The next song that we have is a delicious little tune.  This is Nina Simone covering “Suzanne.”  Written by Leonard Cohen, of course.

Nina Simone is very special to me.  The first time I heard her, I think it was “Four Women.”  And actually it was my wife, now, who I was listening to it with.  It just blew my mind.

There is no bad cover of this song, and I don’t think Nina Simone has ever done a bad cover. She could cover anything and make it sound so sophisticated and so rich. On the surface it’s deceptively simple, and then when you listen to it, it’s moving and complicated. She’s on a level, I think, that other musicians just… they weren’t.

Let’s see here.  While I’m finally getting this a-cookin’ and a-goin’… which is ridiculous, ’cause now that I look at it, the dinner party’s almost over while I’m finally making this gravy (thanks for nothin’ to the two mashed-potato folks)… I’m gonna put this song on for you now.  It’s called “After Hours,” by the Velvet Underground.

The Velvet Underground – “After Hours”

The drinks are being served.  So just take a listen, and be entranced by Mo Tucker’s sweet little voice.

It’s a Velvet Underground song that Mo Tucker sang, which is cute, ’cause she’s the drummer.  It’s very charming, but also Mo Tucker was such a cool badass.  I think there’s something she said that was roughly like: “I hated all that peace and love shit.” She was talking about the hippie movement. You would never know that she actually thinks that way with how sweet and innocent this song sounds.

This song is really important to me.  I was never that hip in high school, so I discovered a lot of things in my ’20s, touring around with different bands, and sometimes we’d swap mix CDs.   So I remember this song being on somebody’s mix, and I was like, “This is the original twee!”

It makes me think, “You know what? Twee has a place.” For so long, I railed against it, but when I heard this song, I was like, “Twee in its truest, purest form is actually incredible.” And to me, this is the godfather of twee.

Beth Ditto – “Fake Sugar”

Now it’s dessert time.  And since it’s dessert — don’t worry about it, guilt-free, amiright ladies?! — this is a song by yours truly called “Fake Sugar.”  It’s from the record that I just made.

It’s a song that is heavily inspired by Paul Simon, and by really pretty jangly guitars. I hope you enjoy it… and I also hope that if you brought a dish, you take it with you.  Because I’m going to take it to Goodwill in one week.  ‘Cause that’s on you. That’s on you.

  • Janaki Kuruppu

    I’m so delighted to be introduced to Beth Ditto – she was hilarious! I loved her riff on mashed potatoes, and making gravy!! And, I loved her selections, and her song. Great pick!!