A Healthcare Worker Shares His Mood Lifting Playlist

A day in the life of a healthcare provider fighting COVID-19, through song.

Photo Illustration: Alex Kidd

Greg Kennedy is a health worker fighting the spread of COVID-19 at one of Toronto’s top hospitals. In a time when fear and anxiety can take over, music has the power to ground and heal. We asked Kennedy to share a snapshot of his day by way of song. All opinions and views are his own.

How do you conquer an enemy that surrounds you, that you can’t see? One that leverages our love for one another in order to spread? In health care, our job is to help solve these types of problems. And Rona is a heckuva problem.

At the hospital, days got longer, and weekends disappeared. Scientists and healers work to weaponize ingenuity, intellect, and empathy. Confronting an invisible danger is unsettling so anxiety runs high, yet every day a symphony of selflessness melts fear with resilience. These are the songs that get me through.

4:45 am: Rise

Bon Iver – PDLIF

The early bird beats the germ. Long morning showers offer time to breathe and corral angst into a sense of control. Greta would be disappointed. Justin Vernon forgives.

5:40 am: Neo

Two Feet – BBY

The hairiest part of the day is going Matrix-mode to dodge exposures on the TTC. Once off the streetcar, it is a truly peaceful Toronto. 360o videos of Nathan Phillips Square are desolate. Air is shockingly fresh. Birds sing unrestrained.

6:15 am: Huddle

Sunday Service Choir – Lift Up Your Voices

When there is little margin for error, hospital teams must work in lockstep. Before each shift, allies of diverse faith and origin huddle to strategize, problem-solve, and dispel fear. Sunday-to-Sunday, it’s the Essential Service Choir.

9:00 am: Create

Bon Iver – iMi

iMi opens with the sound of a band member turning a radio up and down repeatedly while another scratches cardboard. To protect you and your family, hospitals unleash creativity to bring a pandemic apparatus to life. Each in our own way, we invent for art or necessity.

12:00 pm: TY

Lane 8 – Brightest Lights (ft. POLIÇA)

In a time when so many are suffering, the generosity of our community is an inspiration. Every day donations roll in—masks, scrubs, sanitizer, lunches, rides, chocolate—and every evening at 7:30 pm, pots and pans bang across the city. We hear you. You lift us up. Thank you.

3:30 pm: Falter

Maggie Rogers – Retrograde

By late afternoon, something hard has happened. A tough decision. A sad outcome. Never have I seen so many moments of vulnerability punctuated by tears or frustration. Like Maggie Rogers and Stevie Nicks before her, we boil over and then come out of the darkness.

7:00 pm: Reach

The 1975 – Frail State of Mind

This week COVID-19 darkened the doorways of Ontario’s nursing homes, so we think of our elders and their families. Other days it has been the homeless and the vulnerable. If you can, reach out.

8:00 pm: The Return

The Weeknd – After Hours

Each night I walk 5km home. Sometimes I walk right down the middle of the road and the only sign of life is traffic lights changing for a stream of phantom cars. Lungs open, body moving, this is therapy for strange times.

12:00 am: Forward

Hurray for the Riff Raff – Pa’lante

In Spanish, pa’lante means forward. This was a rallying cry for a Puerto Rican activist group that agitated for change in the 70s. Like our present isolation, the song plods on until a boundless crescendo unleashes chills and hope for a better tomorrow.

When COVID smashed into our world it created a lot of collateral damage, but Canada is faring well. Hopefully the virus held up a mirror to your life, helping to shed some of the things you do not need, and pull closer what you do. As we make a slow, precarious dance back to normal, let the music guide you.

Stream all these songs on our Spotify playlist.

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