Rabbi Gelb’s Ramah Last Day Playlist
Traditions spring up for all sorts of reasons at camp. Over the years, the playlist that I created for the last day of camp – which I play during breakfast and while the chanichim (campers) are getting on the buses – has become something that many campers know. Generally, we only play Hebrew music in the Chadar Ochel (Dining Hall), but I made an exception for this moment. It all began when I was overwhelmed by the sadness and sobbing of the last day. There was so much emotion, combined with exhaustion; I felt music might help the community feel the sadness but also appreciate the time we had together. The list has evolved with songs added and subtracted. This year, I am publishing this summer’s official last day list now so that campers can download it onto their devices. My only rule for the playlist is that it had to be ten songs max (clocking in at 40 minutes, which is a little long for the time we have). Some of the songs are timeless classics, some are sung around our medurot (campfires), and some were suggested to me over the years. I will explain why I chose these songs. The biggest shocker: No Bruce Springsteen!
- Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey. This is an all-time classic. It tends to catch the attention of the campers and draw them in. They also can sing along. There was a debate as to whether this should kick off or end the list. Because the meal ends and then chaos ensues, I felt kick-off was better. Also, it has kicked off the playlist for as long as we have done this.
- Take Me Home Country Roads – John Denver. I have to be honest; this is one of my personal favorites. I like listening to this song to begin and end the summer because I, like most Ramahniks, have two homes: Palmer and the place that I live the other ten months of the year. So, when I drive to camp at the beginning of the summer, “take me home country roads” is appropriate. When I leave camp at the end of the summer, “take me home country roads” is still appropriate.
- Chicken Fried – Zac Brown Band. I added this song, originally, to pick up the mood. Often edot (units) will come together to sing this song, which has the lighthearted spirit of camp. I can picture generations of campers singing this one.
- Long Live – Taylor Swift. This is new this year. Suggested to me by my daughter, it stokes my nostalgia. It is a great anthem about coming of age – “I had the time of my life with you.” So fun!
- Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond. This is another great singalong that just captures the carefree joy of camp and of summer. “And spring became the summer, who’d believed you’d come along.” For me, it is about how camp and the relationships we forge here make the good times better and the hard times just a little bit easier. Good times never seemed so good!
- Castle on the Hill – Ed Sheeran. This song probably made the list because it makes my wife happy. However, it is a great nostalgia song that is probably more meaningful to those who have been away. He talks about the sunset over the castle on the hill. For me, it is the sunrise over the mountain across the Agam (lake).
- Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) – Green Day. What screams camp more than, “it’s something unpredictable, But in the end, it’s right, I hope you had the time of your life”? It doesn’t always work out the way you hope or expect, but it always works out great.
- Rivers and Roads – The Head and the Heart. This is a grassroots song sung around our medurot. It evokes the notion that there are camp people – and then there is everyone else. The line, “if you don’t know what to make of this, then we will not relate,” captures this. People leave camp, any single summer never happens again, and we all miss our friends. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it. And then, at that moment, I begin to realize that we need to travel rivers and roads to get back here in ten months. It seems insurmountable, but the ten does lead to the Roo.
- Forever Young – Rod Stewart. As camp is ending, the idea of staying in this moment forever is powerful. Do we really want to stay forever young? I don’t know. But that is a powerful feeling at the end of camp. Certainly, the mindset of camp keeps you forever young.
- Leaving on a Jet Plane – John Denver. Whether you leave by car, bus or plane, this song is a tearjerker. So many kids hold each other close, trying not to let go. It is so sad and beautiful. The lyrics speak for themselves.
Kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go
‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go