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From Tom Waits to Nick Cave: A playlist of Jim Jarmusch's 20 favourite 1980s songs


“To me filmmaking is like making a record, as opposed to the theatre, which is like playing live, probably, I’m not a theatre guy, but you only have that moment, you’re following your timeline in real-time.” — Jim Jarmusch

Jim Jarmusch has been connected to music for as long as he has been attached to cinema as a whole. The acclaimed director has found himself as easily working with the likes of Tom Waits and Iggy Pop as he has any Hollywood actor. An affinity for rock and roll that few in the industry can match makes Jarmusch the first choice for any aux-cord-holding debates at the numerous after-parties.

It’s safe to say that few of those said parties would ask their patrons to lead the DJing portion of the party, but then again, if they ever needed one, it seems like Jarmusch is the man to turn to. “Music, to me, is the most beautiful form,” he once said, “And I love film because film is very related to music. It moves by you in its own rhythm. It’s not like reading a book or looking at a painting. It gives you its own time frame, like music, so they are very connected for me. But music to me is the biggest inspiration.”

Not only have his films featured some classic songs, often using them as critical narrative points along the way, but, according to Indiewire, he also has a penchant for making some seriously good playlists too. This one features his favourite songs of the 1980s.

During 2018’s Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight section, Jim Jarmusch shared the fantastic playlist of his 20 favourite 1980s songs with the directors in attendance. A long time proponent of the festival’s output, having won the Palme d’Or in 1993 with the aforementioned Waits and Iggy production Coffee and Cigarettes and also premiering his Stooges documentary Gimme Danger at the event in 2006, Jarmusch provided a pretty brilliant array of tunes.

Across 20 different tracks, we get an accurate picture of Jarmusch, the creator and agitator. His selections aren’t exactly what you’d call classic ’80s fodder, with only Public Enemy’s ‘Don’t Believe The Hype’ and Grace Jones’ 1981 classic ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’ likely to be noted within that category. Otherwise, Jarmusch provides ragged cuts like Tom Waits’ ’16 Shells from a 30.6′ and Nick Cave’s magnetic ‘From Her to Eternity’.

Despite being thought of as a rock and roller at heart, Jarmusch shows his love for hip-hop too. As well as Flava Flav and Chuck D’s smash-hit, he also picks out ‘White Lines’ by Grandmaster Flash and picks out two songs from pioneers Eric B and Rakim. All in all, it makes for a seriously impressive run of songs that showcases the intricate and intriguing mind of director Jim Jarmusch.

Jim Jarmusch picks 20 favourite 1980s songs:

  • ‘I.T.T.’ – Fela Kuti
  • ‘Shumba Dzenhabvu’ – Thomas Mapfumo
  • ‘Cowboys in Africa’ – Bush Tetras
  • ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’ – Grace Jones
  • ‘A Devil in the Woods’ – The Gun Club
  • ‘Fratres’ – Arvo Part
  • ‘Night Nurse’ – Gregory Isaacs
  • ‘Moody’ – ESG
  • ‘Optimo’ – Liquid Liquid
  • ‘White Lines’ – Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
  • ‘From Her to Eternity’ – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
  • ‘Symphony NO. 3’ – Henryk Gorecki
  • ‘Sightsee M.C!’ – Big Audio Dynamite
  • ‘April Skies’ – The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • ‘De Devil Dead’ – Lee Scratch Perry
  • ‘Have A Nice Day’ – Roxanne Shante
  • ‘Eric B is on the Cut’ – Eric B and Rakim
  • ’16 Shells from a 30.6′ – Tom Waits
  • ‘Don’t Believe the Hype’ – Public Enemy
  • ‘Microphone Friend’ – Eric B and Rakim