Anthony Bourdain's favourite songs
Credit: James Cann

From The Clash to Marvin Gaye: Anthony Bourdain’s 20 favourite songs of the 1970s

As we’re all in a strange moment in time, the need for new music and undiscovered playlists is at an all-time high as we all dream of escaping our reality if only for a short while. That’s why we’re excited to be able to bring you the favourite songs of the 1970s from the late, great chef, writer and punk rock hero, Anthony Bourdain.

It is almost impossible to remove Anthony Bourdain from music. Whether it’s the guests he featured on his legendary show Parts Unknown, the music which can see a restaurant sink or swim in the mind’s eye of the legendary chef, or indeed the shared nightlife living he often professed the two vocations shared. Music is as much a part of the late Bourdain as food is. Like many of us, Bourdain’s preferred music comes from a special formative moment in his life, in this case, he is returning to the seventies to pick out his favourite songs from the decade.

After battling for many years with his mental health, Anthony Bourdain tragically took his own life in 2018. The shock was felt across the world and put the cook at more than just a chef or a TV host but as a figure of freedom that we could all get behind. Bourdain was only ever truly comfortable when experiencing new things and reliving the triumphs of the past. Whether it was the juiciest rib the smoker ever produced or the smokiest lick Curtis Mayfield ever served through the amplified window of his funk food truck. Bourdain was at home when living entirely in the moment.

For the most part, Bourdain’s first ‘moments’ were had in New York and during the seventies and, as we all know, this is where most of the formations of musical tastes are made. At the time, NYC was not only brimming with drugs, rat shit, and crime—it was also a hotbed of musical creativity and artistic pursuit.

The chef shared the darkened streets with some of rock and roll’s greatest in his grimier days and always had a place in his heart for the decade which in many ways was the formation of Anthony Bourdain as we knew him. Like punk and new wave, Bourdain crawled out of the Big Apple’s rotten core to become the proverbial butterfly. Never sitting still on any one thing and always underpinned by the beauty of humanity.

So when CNN asked the TV chef to pull together a list of his 20 favourite songs of the seventies we imagine his eyes lit up, mouth filled with saliva, and the construction of a musical 20-course meal had quickly begun in his imagination. The list is a bonafide smorgasbord of musical genre, emotional sentiment, physical and mental abuse, but mostly, of vital touchpoints of Bourdain’s past. It just so happens to intertwine with everything that was good about music in the decade.

Whether it’s Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Pusher Man’, of which Bourdain remarked: “Ahhh…cocaine. I wanted it. And even though the Superfly soundtrack (unlike the film) is decidedly anti-drug and cautionary, it sure made coke sound desirable to me. The lush arrangements are timeless, whatever your position. This is still in heavy rotation on my iPod long after I gave up the powders.” Or Ramones ‘Beat The Brat’, or The Stooges’ ‘Penetration’—there’s the feeling that each of these songs represents a night or day that holds importance to Bourdain and he wants to share them all with you.

He, of course, selects his beloved New York Dolls and their track, ‘Jet Boy’. New York Dolls were not only a band laying the foundations of punk before anybody knew what it was but that Bourdain says were “An answered prayer. The antidote to all the lousy music of the era. Loud, unapologetically sloppy. Johnny Thunders guitar made life worth living again and gave permission to everything good that followed, like New York punk. Joyously nihilistic.” There are also some more obscure inclusions such as Plastic Bertrand and The Brothers Johnson.

The range of genres that Bourdain brings together in one playlist is the perfect metaphor for Bourdain himself. A mongrel of music, literature, travel, food and culture, Bourdain’s selection is its own recipe for success. Every selection is stripped to its bare bones, he then reduces them down to a broth, multiplying flavour and leaving a thick and rich soup, brimming with taste across the palette and suitable for every occasion.

Anthony Bourdain’s 20 favourite songs of the 1970s:

  • ‘Pusher Man’ – Curtis Mayfield
  • ‘Baby’s On Fire’ – Brian Eno
  • ‘Bad Luck’ – Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
  • ‘Penetration’ – The Stooges
  • ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ – Lou Reed
  • ‘What’s Going On’ – Marvin Gaye
  • ‘Jet Boy’ – New York Dolls
  • ‘Ca plane pour moi’ – Plastic Bertrand
  • ‘Love Comes In Spurts’ – Richard Hell
  • ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ – Sly & The Family Stone
  • ‘Strawberry Letter 23’ – The Brothers Johnson
  • ‘I’m So Bored With the U.S.A’ – The Clash
  • ‘Human Fly’ – The Cramps
  • ‘Ooh La La’ – Arms
  • ‘Chinese Rocks’ – The Heartbreakers
  • ‘Beat on the Brat’ – Ramones
  • ‘Bodies’ – Sex Pistols
  • ‘Do The Dog’ – The Specials
  • ‘I Saw The Light’ – Todd Rundgren

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