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'My Two Moms' Author Winds Down To The Roots


And now it's time for our regular feature, called In Your Ear. It's where we ask some of our guests to share their personal playlists with us. Zach Wahls made headlines when he stood before Iowa lawmakers urging them not to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Wahl spoke up because his parents are lesbians. He stopped by our studios earlier this year to discusses his book, "My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family." And he also took the time out to share some of the songs he loves to hear.

ZACH WAHLS: Hi, I'm Zach Wahls, and this playing in my ear.


THE ROOTS: (Singing) Come get your kool on. Whoa-oh-oh. Stars are made to shine. Come get your kool on. Whoa-oh-oh. Stars are made to shine.

WAHLS: In the morning, when I'm trying to figure out what the day is going to be like and how I'm going to spend my hours of the day, there are really three songs that I like to really often to kind of get me up and going and thinking good thoughts about the day. The first song is "Kool On" by The Roots. It's kool on with a K.


ROOTS: (Rapping) I'm in the double G, three-piece tux, screaming dressed to kill. Hope somebody call my bluff. It's a full house, sipping on a royal flush. Two queens is on my cuffs. Good times is in the cards. Living on borrowed time. I'm paying the extra charge to feel like something small is worth a hundred large. Swag is on (unintelligible) charm is (unintelligible) wit is on guard, I challenge you to a duel. Who needs a chain when every thought's a jewel. God bless the weirdo when everyone's a fool.

WAHLS: This a great song - you know, some really brilliant wordplay. It's a hip-hop track but it's got this really awesome live beat in the background. The Roots have always had really great instrumentals with their songs and a lot of just great music coming from that band.


ROOTS: (Rapping) Let's toast to better days a beautiful mind and a flow that never age. (Singing) Come get your kool on. Whoa-oh-oh. Stars are made to shine. Come get your kool on. Whoa-oh-oh. Stars are made to shine. Come get your kool on...


THE FLOBOTS: (Singing) I can ride my bike with no handlebars. No handlebars. No handlebars.

WAHLS: The next song is "Handlebars" by The Flobots. This was a really popular song three or four years ago, but it's something that I just kind of hung on to.


FLOBOTS: (Rapping) Look at me, look at me, hands in the air like it's good to be alive and I'm a famous rapper even when the paths are all crookedy. I can show you how to do-si-do. I can show you how to scratch a record. I can take apart the remote control. And I can almost put it back together. I can tie a knot in a cherry stem. I can tell you about Leif Ericson. I know all the words to "De Colores" and "I'm Proud to Be An American."

WAHLS: So "Handlebars" by The Flobots has this really, it's a story kind of about this fall from grace, about this guy who starts off really just talking about how he knows how to, you know, scratch a record, fix a remote control, really just kind of pleasant day-to-day activities, and by the end of the song he's kind of transformed into this megalomaniac who is controlling the country. And the refrain refers to being able to ride your bike with no handlebars. I can ride my bike with no handlebars. And does this really kind of a brilliant job of showcasing the effects that power can have on transforming somebody into something that they don't, and it really did strike a chord. I mean there's also this just brilliant, brilliant bridge between the second and third verses.


FLOBOTS: (Rapping) Look at me. Look at me. Driving and I won't stop. And it feels so good to be. Alive and on top. My reach is global. My tower secure. My cause is noble. My power is pure. I can hand out a million vaccinations or let 'em all die in exasperation. Have 'em all healed from the lacerations. Have 'em all killed by assassination. I can make anybody go to prison just because I don't like 'em and I can do anything.


MARVIN GAYE: (Singing) Listen, baby, ain't no mountain high. Ain't no valley low, ain't no river wide enough, baby.

WAHLS: And the last one is, you know, kind of a classic. It's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye. It's hard to go wrong with Marvin Gaye. It's a great song. It just kind of gets me, you know, up and feeling good and positive about the day and thinking that I'm going to be headed in a great direction.


MARVIN GAYE AND TAMMY TERRELL: (Singing) 'Cause baby there ain't no mountain high enough. Ain't no valley low enough. Ain't no river wide enough to keep me from getting to you, baby.

WAHLS: Beautiful, beautiful voices. Beautiful, beautiful music. It's, you know, obvious story about the power of love, you know, able to overcome a lot. And it really kind of does fit with "Handlebars" and talking about how love really can at the end of the day be one of the most powerful forces for good in the world. And you know, obviously, you know, ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low - you probably don't want to listen to me sing. But it's, you know, it's a beautiful love song and it's so catchy. It's something I wish we had a little bit more of on the radio these days.


TERRELL: (Singing) Oh no darling, no wind, no rain...

HEADLEE: That was Zach Wahls telling us what's playing in his ear, including "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell.


TERRELL: (Singing) If you ever in trouble, I'll be there on the double. Just send for me, oh baby. My love is alive way down in my heart.

HEADLEE: And that's our program for today. I'm Celeste Headlee. You've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We'll talk more tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.