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From Jimi Hendrix to The Beatles: The 8 songs that Bill Gates couldn’t live without

By now, we’ve all seen the unfathomable splendour of Bill Gates’ gracious swan-like dancing. His fist-pumping jitters to The Rolling Stones’ ‘Start Me Up’ is like some new sort of evolution in dancing so befittingly ahead of its time that it’s hard to understand the beauty of it, but as the lyrics to the rock ‘n’ roll classic suggest, it could, indeed, make a grown man cry.

It is self-evident from that 30-second snippet alone that Bill Gates simply adores music, but aside from that one infamous clip, just what sort of thing does a man like that listen to? Naturally, it is a very curious thing to ponder that has kept millions all over the world awake at night, but you need wonder no more. 

The life of one of the richest men in history is beyond comprehension. Can a man with the combined wealth of Luxemburg, Estonia and Bosnia really get down to ‘Desolation Row’? It is said that the average American spending $1 is the same as Bill Gates spending $1.2million; can a man like that relish in the weekend exultation of ‘Get Down Saturday Night’? These are not rhetorical questions; the man is human after all; he simply takes ‘how the other half live’ to the ludicrous extreme. 

As it turns out, the humanitarian with a net worth of $146billion is actually into some pretty standard classics. As part of the iconic Desert Island Discs on the BBC — a cultural institution that has asked celebrities to pick 8 songs, a book, and a luxury item to be cast away with since 1941 — Gates illuminated the human side of his life away from the computer screen. It explained just how much music means to him. 

One of his favourite records that formed the soundtrack to his days toiling away fitting Windows was ‘Under Pressure’ by David Bowie and Queen. “In my 20s and 30s, I worked a lot,” the famous workaholic declared. “But a few Fridays and Saturdays we’d go out and dance, so this kind of reminds me of those disco days,” he said of the classic disco tune ‘Under Pressure’.

Alas, Gates didn’t emerge from the womb as one of the richest people in history, and while he may not have been pulled up by his bootstraps either, another of his more surprising choices harks back to his less affluent days. Willie Nelson is, in many ways, the true blue-collar songsmith of America and his track ‘Blue Skies’ epitomises this. However, not all of his fans can arrange a private booking the way Gates did. “My wife (now sadly ex-wife) Melinda and I love Willie Nelson,” He explained.  

Adding: “So as a surprise gift for her, I had him show up the night before we got married. We were on a beach in Hawaii and he kind of walked down the beach with his guitar and I said, ‘Well here he is, let’s have this guy sing some songs for us.'” This sweet romantic side is one that we don’t often get to see and it’s a charming insight to imagine Willie Nelson casually kicking it in Hawaii, enjoy a post-gig chat about the stability of Bitcoin markets after serenading two of his biggest fans. 

Aside from Ed Sheeran who would remind him of his kids while he castaway and Jimi Hendrix to remind him of his rocking youth with Paul Allen and ‘Two of Us’ by The Beatles to remind him of Steve Jobs who he described as being “really into music”, Gates also revealed a penchant for show tunes. Hamilton was a personal favourite of his because it was “about a young person saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to take a risk’,” but it was an old classic that he reserved special praise for. 

‘How Can Love Survive’, from The Sound of Music proved to be a sentimental tune for him. “Melinda and I both love the Sound of Music,” he said, “and as I met [investor and philanthropist] Warren Buffett, he and his first wife Susie sang a song from The Sound of Music. In fact, this is one we’d never heard because it was in the Broadway musical and not in the movie. It’s kind of a cute song so Melinda and I think of this as one of our favourites.”

Below, you can see the full list of entries as well as catch the full episode of the BBC’s Desert Island Discs.

8 songs that Bill Gates couldn’t live without:

  • David Bowie and Queen – ‘Under Pressure’
  • Willie Nelson – ‘Blue Skies’
  • Ed Sheeran – ‘Sing’
  • Jimi Hendrix – ‘Are You Experienced’
  • U2 – ‘One’
  • The Beatles – ‘Two of Us’
  • ‘How Can Love Survive’, from The Sound of Music
  • ‘My Shot’ from Hamilton