Barack Obama Created a Playlist for “A Promised Land”

He also discussed the musical roots of his approach to speeches

Copies of Barack Obama's new book
Former US President Barack Obama's new book "A Promised Land" is seen in a bookstore in Washington, DC, on November 17, 2020.
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

Even when you don’t factor in his work campaigning for his onetime Vice President, it’s been a busy fall for Barack Obama. The last few months have seen the release of his new memoir A Promised Land along with an appearance from Obama at the Booker Prize ceremony, which was online this year. And he’s assembled his annual lists of movies and books that enjoyed from the year that’s almost over.

As it turns out, the former president has one more surprise in store. Literary Hub reports that Obama recently assembled a soundtrack for A Promised Land. It’s available as a playlist in Spotify.

The playlist, which includes songs from Bruce Springsteen, JAY-Z and Stevie Wonder, emerged out of a question posed by self-described literary enthusiast Lupita Aquino (aka Lupita Reads), who shared her exchange with Obama on Goodreads via Twitter.

In the Q & A, Obama shared one piece of advice that he gave to speechwriter Cody Keenan during his time in office. “He wasn’t big into jazz, but I told him once to read James Baldwin when he’s stuck on a speech and listen to John Coltrane when he’s not,” Obama said.

It’s an insightful look into the art of the political speech — and a fascinating context for the playlist that followed.

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