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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Summertime is also packed with weddings. More than a quarter million American couples will tie the knot this June alone. Steven Thompson edits npr.org's song of the day feature and he recently took on one of his most difficult tasks: creating the ultimate wedding CD.

STEVEN THOMPSON: When my niece asked me to put together an hour of love-themed dinner music for her wedding reception, I took it as a sacred responsibility. I was used to being her weird uncle, but now - now I was her tireless music supervisor.

(Soundbite of music)

THOMPSON: From the start, I set strict guidelines: no heartbreak or infidelity, nothing unnerving, angry or lusty, nothing that sucks. It all seems easy enough, given the countless songs that pay tribute to love between two people. My own favorite musicians sing about love all the time, so they must have something to say about the kind that lasts forever.

(Soundbite of music)

THOMPSON: But so many of their songs were still searching for happiness, or dwelling on mistakes made along the way. Even this song, "Question," by the Old 97's - it's about a marriage proposal, but it conjures bittersweet emotions. It hints at the towering importance of that moment when love starts to bear the weight of permanence.

(Soundbite of song, "Question")

Mr. RHETT MILLER (Singer): (Singing) Someday somebody's gonna ask you the question that you should say yes to. Once in your life, baby, tonight I've got a question for you.

THOMPSON: I ended up scrapping dozens of tracks that conveyed moodiness or worry. But still my wedding mix, made to celebrate the happiest day of someone's life, sounded oddly miserable. With all the songs at my disposal, couldn't I find 16 that don't make people want to hang themselves?

Some choices were easy: Neil Young's "Harvest Moon," "Come Away with Me" by Norah Jones. Chet Baker doing "Embraceable You." But even in its finished form, my wedding mix contains more than a slight whiff of agony and hardship, decay and death. Take the song "As Long As the Grass Shall Grow" by June Carter and Johnny Cash. In it the couple reasserts their love after more than 40 years of complication and hard-won comfort. The song is beautiful, but it's not simple. Their love lasted a lifetime, but it took a lot out of them along the way.

(Soundbite of song, "As Long As the Grass Shall Grow")

Mr. JOHNNY CASH (Singer): (Singing) As long.

Ms. JUNE CARTER CASH (Singer): (Singing) As long.

Mr. CASH: (Singing) As the rivers.

Ms. CASH: (Singing) As the rivers...

Mr. CASH: (Singing) Flow.

Ms. CASH: (Singing) As the rivers flow.

Mr. CASH: (Singing) As long.

Ms. CASH: (Singing) As long.

Mr. CASH: (Singing) As the sun.

Ms. CASH: (Singing) As the sun will shine.

Mr. CASH: (Singing) Will shine.

THOMPSON: On my niece's wedding night, my bittersweet mix-tape masterpiece played faintly over the din of forks hitting wine glasses. I handed out copies to the bride and groom's distant cousins and high-school classmates - anyone willing to take it. My hope is that it reached someone - that he or she drove home next to a sleeping passenger, put it on, listened intently, and sobbed audibly under the night sky.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Steven Thompson is an editor for npr.org. You can hear his complete wedding mix and get a complete track listing at npr.org/music.

(Soundbite of song, "Harvest Moon")

Mr. NEIL YOUNG (Singer): (Singing) Because I'm still in love with you, I want to see you dance again, because I'm still in love with you, on this harvest moon.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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