In Your Ear: 'I'm Down' Author Mishna Wolff

In her book, I'm Down: A Memoir, author Mishna Wolff tells the story of how her father moved their white family into a black neighborhood to be closer to African-American culture. Today, we hear what music she's down with.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

Before we take a break, we'd like to bring you a segment we call In Your Ear. That's where we ask some of our guests about the music that's topping their personal playlists. Today we feature Mishna Wolff, author of "I'm Down," in which she recounts being raised by her Caucasian father who was so ingrained in the family's urban Seattle neighborhood, that he identified as a black man. She came by our studios to talk about her book that chronicles her upbringing. But she also shared with us some of her favorite music.

(Soundbite of song, "Heartbreaker")

Ms. MISHNA WOLFF (Author, "I'm Down"): My name is Mishna Wolff and the songs I'm listening to are "Heartbreaker" by Dionne Warwick.

(Soundbite of song, "Heartbreaker")

Ms. DIONNE WARWICK (Musician): (Singing) I got to say it and it's hard for me. You got me cryin' like I thought I would never be. Love is believin' but you let me down. How can I love you when you ain't around?

Ms. WOLFF: You know, I love Dionne Warwick. I watched her on "Solid Gold" when I was growing up. It was like the big show on television. And love the Burt Bacharach stuff now that I'm more mature, but at the time, "Heartbreaker" was like the Dionne Warwick song. And it basically teaches you how to be a codependent if you listen to the lyrics. Besides that, it's just a great song and Dionne Warwick is just one of my favorite singers of all time.

(Soundbite of song, "Heartbreaker")

Ms. WARWICK: (Singing) Why do you have to be a heartbreaker when I was being what you want me to be? Suddenly everything I ever wanted has passed me by. Why do you have to be a...

Ms. WOLFF: The second song I'm listening to is "I Like to Boogie" by T. Rex.

(Soundbite of song, "I Love to Boogie")

Mr. MARC BOLAN (Singer, T.Rex): (Singing) We love to boogie. We love to boogie. Jitterbug boogie. Bolan pretty boogie. We love to boogie on a Saturday night.

Ms. WOLFF: And this song is actually a favorite of my four-month-old. She thinks it's a baby song. And I just play her this song and she gets so happy, she kicks her legs and moves her little arms. And actually, if you listen to T. Rex songs, they all sound like baby songs. So I actually don't have to listen to baby music like a lot of other parents. And I couldn't listen to the Wiggles. It was just when it came time to do it, it just didn't work for me. So I found T. Rex is a good substitute.

(Soundbite of song, "I Love to Boogie")

(Soundbite of song, "Brown Eyed Handsome Man")

Ms. WOLFF: I'm also listening to "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" by Chuck Berry.

(Soundbite of song, "Brown Eyed Handsome Man")

Mr. CHUCK BERRY (Musician/Songwriter/Singer): (Singing) Arrested on charges of unemployment. He was sittin' in the witness stand. The judge's wife called up the district attorney. She said, free that brown eyed man. If you want your job you better free that brown eyed man.

Ms. WOLFF: He's just hilarious. I get so much enjoyment out of him. He's like the ultimate musical comedian. He really knew how to, you know, just write a lyric and sock it to people, and it's a great song and at the time it must've been scandalous.

(Soundbite of song, "Brown Eyed Handsome Man")

Mr. BERRY: (Singing) Two - three, the count, with nobody on. He hit a high fly into the stands.

MARTIN: Once again, that's Mishna Wolff, author of "I'm Down." We spoke with her about her account of growing up with a father who taught her to embrace the culture of her urban Seattle neighborhood. To hear our original conversation with Mishna Wolff, you can go to NPR.org and then the TELL ME MORE page at the Programs tab.

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