Literary Mixtape: Don Quixote


If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: Cervantes’ lovable adventurer, Don Quixote.

Don Quixote de la Mancha is a complex figure. He is at once a rational thinker and a raving madman, a deep romantic trying to create a better world and a sympathy-evoking innocent. He sets off on an imagined quest to win glory for his imagined paramour, and spends the novel trying to distinguish between his hallucinations and his reality in an only slightly exaggerated description of the way we all live our lives. His intentions are forever honorable, though they never seem to come to any good, as he is too often waylaid by his own foolishness. There’s some contention that Quixote knows more than he lets on – that his insanity is an act of sorts, but we interpret him in the middle ground: not totally bonkers, but not self-aware enough to be sly about it either. Here’s what we think he would fight windmills, make declarations, and uphold the code of the knight-errant to.

“Desaparecido” — Manu Chao

The sun-drenched tones of Manu Chao would definitely be Don Quixote’s go-to soundtrack for wandering around with Sancho Panza in the Spanish sun.

“I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” — The Beach Boys

A perfect song about trying to find your place in a world that doesn’t make sense to you, sung by a classically optimistic band that would appeal to our hero’s innocent enthusiasm. Plus, maybe he could have a moment of self-realization when he hits the lines “They say I got brains/ But they ain’t doing me no good/ I wish they could…”

“Where Do My Bluebird Fly” — The Tallest Man on Earth

We think Don Quixote would appreciate the almost painful beauty of this song, sorrowful fever dream music for his lonely adventuring.

“(Have You Ever Been To) Electric Ladyland” — Jimi Hendrix

We just want to know what Don Quixote would hallucinate Electric Ladyland to be. We think he’d have fun with this song – after all, every lovable lunatic we know is a Hendrix fan.

“This Year” — The Mountain Goats

Any gentleman who has gone mad with chivalry from reading too many books about knights would also have to be into the hyper-literary Mountain Goats. There’s just no other way.

“I Want to Know What Love Is” — Foreigner

Our hero is a hopeless romantic, for sure, and he’d totally be into cheesy 80s rock songs. But his belief in the rigidity of right and wrong and the purity of love is what keeps him going through beatings and giants, through enchantments and humiliations, so there are worse things.

“Blowin’ In The Wind” — Bob Dylan

While Dylan isn’t necessarily the picture of the chivalrous knight in real life, this classic track would definitely appeal to a wandering adventurer trying to instill some good in the world.

“Such Great Heights” — The Postal Service

All idealistic, semi-dorky lovers dig the Postal Service. Also, this is a song about overcoming obstacles in the face of naysayers, something that we think Quixote would probably identify with.

“Love Vigilantes” (New Order Cover) — Iron & Wine

This song manages to be both chivalrous and super wholesome, but not obnoxious, which is something of a feat. We imagine Don Quixote listening to this track and wishing he had a wife and family of his own.

“Hands of Time” — Ron Sexsmith

In a certain sense, Don Quixote is just an aging man looking for an adventure to help him in the fight against his mortality. Like so much else in Quixote’s story, it’s a losing battle.