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Steve Jobs’ 10 Favorite Records (And What They Say About Him)

Oct 5, 2011

For a brief moment during his keynote address on September 1st, Steve Jobs offered a glimpse at his favorite albums through his now-disabled Ping profile.

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UPDATE: As a tribute to the late Steve Jobs, we’re re-publishing this piece from last year in which we noticed a peek into Jobs’ favorite records as captured in the short-lived iTunes function Ping in a screen grab from his presentation. Jobs’ impact on the world was as much as an artist as an engineer—and he was pure rock and roll. We hope you’ll join us in paying tribute to one of America’s greatest innovators. He’ll be missed.

Sure, the death of the album is hurting the creation of new bands and music, but is the death of the album hurting the creation of CEOs? Who’d have thunk it? Just look at Zuckerburg, who, like most 26 year olds, probably grew up downloading singles illegally, and compare him to the aura of mystery and brilliance that surrounds Steve Jobs, an album-oriented CEO.

How does Steve Jobs, the most popular CEO in the world and head of Wall Street‘s most valuable technology company, describe himself? Like so:

“I grew up in the apricot orchards that later became known as Silicon Valley, and was lucky enough to have my young spirit infused with the social and artistic revolution of the day called rock and roll. It has never left me.”

Ah, the carefree days spent frolicking through the old apricot orchards listening to the revolutionary sounds of Peter, Paul and Mary. Where does the time go?

Judging from his taste in music, and barring any statements made by former Apple employees, it’s safe to say that Jobs favors the mellow to the raucous. Steve Jobs likes to chill. Steve Jobs is a bro. His taste in music is pretty fantastic, and it says a lot of about him.

Here are the ten records (from top left to bottom right) Jobs listed in his now-defunct Ping profile:

Bob Dylan | “Highway 61 Revisited”

“Like a Rolling Stone,” “Desolation Row” — Jesus, those two songs right there are worth the entire output of the ’60s. Have you ever read or watched an interview with Dylan? A lot of the time they’re as awkward as interviews with, well, Steve Jobs. Jobs and Dylan are both capable of being voluble, but there are plenty of instances of few-word answers followed by steely silence. Jobs’ cool and occasional pretenses are the pillars of his success, and are totally Bob Dylan.

Cat Stevens | “Tea for the Tillerman”

Unlike Jobs, Stevens (now Yusuf Islam, a devout Muslim) was a Luddite. In fact, “Tea for the Tillerman,” a mystical, chamber-pop record, is all about one man’s quest to find spirituality in the modern world, meaning, by today’s standards, how do I escape my iPhone and my laptop? Here’s the thing about Mac products: they’re beautiful on the outside because they are beautiful on the inside. Jobs indoctrination into mystical thinking must have, in part, been born out of these rock records. He just had the insight to combine it with technology, while the guys at IBM were still listening to the Rat Pack.

The Grateful Dead | “American Beauty”

Jobs strikes me as a bad-ass mystical-thinking ninja, say nothing of an incredible capitalist. This move-to-the-hills hippie stuff doesn’t seem to have had much of an impact on him. My God, I hate the Grateful Dead.

Glenn Gould | Bach: The Goldberg Variations

I had no idea what this record was, but I’ll you who did: the biggest nerd in my office.

Jackson Browne | “Late for the Sky”

There is something overwhelmingly girlie about the music of Jackson Browne. It’s like a mix between the Goo Goo Dolls and “Glee.” I’ve always really liked it, though I have to admit I’ve only been a greatest hits/ solo acoustic fan. I am going to purchase “Late for the Sky.” Such is the power of Steve Jobs’ influence.

John Lennon | “Imagine”

At this point in his career, you could view John Lennon in two ways. One, he was a spiritual leader, a guru, a revolutionary and the singularly most talented songwriter to ever live. Two, he was drug-addled shut-in who sat around his apartment daydreaming, watching cartoons and writing the occasional song if he just so happened to leave his guitar next to his pile of hash. There is a term for this: the reality-distortion field. Jobs may have perfected it, but Lennon certainly innovated it, as was his wont.

Miles Davis | “Kind of Blue”

If you didn’t listen to this record drinking huge cups of coffee while digesting pages upon pages of liberal propaganda, then you didn’t really go to college. You weren’t really there, man. Of course, unlike the rest of us schmucks, Steve Jobs dropped out of college after one semester. Now he’s a billionaire. Life is cruel.

Peter, Paul and Mary | “Around the Campfire”

Imagine Jobs and Woz chewing the fat, discussing operating systems, microchips, marketing strategies, why they should value a computer at $666.66 (three sixes is the number of the devil, so one must assume five sixes is the number of the super-devil), and so on. Now imagine them sitting around a fire, listening to the pop folk of Peter, Paul and Mary, roasting s’mores and probably their lungs with pot. The event I just described probably happened.

The Rolling Stones | “Some Girls”

People have sex to this record.

The Who | “Who’s Next”

The click wheel, a new approach the way users interact with mobile devices, could have been inspired by Pete Townshend’s windmill, a new approach to playing the guitar. Think that’s a stretch? As Jobs always says, “good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

Want to change the world? Well, a great place to start your mission is by purchasing these records. On iTunes, of course.

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