Love is a Mix Tape – Rob Sheffield

love Starred Review. A celebratory eulogy for life in “the decade of Nirvana,” rock critic Sheffield’s captivating memoir uses 22 “mix tapes” to describe his being “tangled up” in the “noisy, juicy, sparkly life” of his wife, Renee, from the time they met in 1989 to her sudden death from a pulmonary embolism in 1997. Each chapter begins with song titles from the couple’s myriad mixes—”Tapes for making out, tapes for dancing, tapes for falling asleep”—and uses them to describe a beautiful love story: “a real cool hell-raising Appalachian punk-rock girl” meeting in graduate school a “hermit wolfboy, scared of life, hiding in my room with my records,” and how they built a tender relationship on the music they loved, from the Meat Puppets to Hank Williams. Their bond as soul mates makes his reaction to her death deeply moving: “I had no voice to talk with because she was my whole language.” But Sheffield’s wonderful, often hilarious and lovingly detailed stories about their early romance and their later domestic life show how they created their own personal “mix tape” of life in the same way a music mix tape “steals moments from all over the musical cosmos and splices them into a whole new groove.”

First I need to fess up and say I only half assed read Love is a Mix Tape.  I started to read it and found it a little boring but I thought it would get more interesting once Renee was introduced into the story (and it did), so I skimmed until Renee came along – which was a little more than 1/3 into the book. 


1.  I liked Renee and her vivacity.

2.  I loved all of the 90’s nostalgia.  I graduated from high school in 1991 – so I was really in a prime position to enjoy the 90’s (and I did).  It was fun and validating to see all the alternative bands we loved growing up (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Love and Rockets, The Pixies, REM, Violent Femmes, Jane’s Addiction, etc..) come to the forefront and start getting real radio play.  It was a cool time when we felt like we might get our own little twisted and more angst filled version of the sixties like we always wanted.  This book helped me to remember what the 90’s felt like – and sounded like.

3.  He talks about Kurt Cobain, his death, his music.  How he felt a kinship with Kurt because they were both married and scared.  He analyzed a little Nirvana music, especially The MTV Unplugged show that they did right before Kurt’s death, in a way I hadn’t heard before.  Alot of the songs Kurt chose for that show dealt with marriage and the issues that go along with that.

4.  After Renee dies, his description of his daily life, his world, his state of mind – was amazingly detailed and touching.  I learned that the little things people do, tip their hat to the funeral procession, sending a sympathy note, or food or flowers are really greatly appreciated by the people who loved the deceased.  I vowed to do a better job of being thoughtful in this respect.

5.  Mixed tapes are cathartic.  I agree.


1.  The writing rambled and I felt myself tempted to skim quite a bit.  There were many parts I thought were boring and perhaps only of interest to the writer alone.  It had a very “Dear diary” type feel.

2.  The mix tapes were truly odd.  Stuff like Luscious Jackson and The Veltone’s mixed in with Tone Loc?  weird. 

Recommend?   *meh*

Anyway – I got inspired to jot down what my mixed tape might sound like for my life thus far –

Childhood to Tweens

Coal Miners Daughter – Loretta Lynn

Hank Williams – Jambalaya

Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash

Centerfold – J. Giels Band

Video killed the Radio Star – ?

Please don’t go – The BeeGees

Shot the Monkey – Peter Gabriel

Your the Inspiration – Chicago

Making love out of nothing at all – Air Supply

Endless Love – Lionel Richie

Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

Beat it – Michael Jackson

Against all Odds – Phil Collins

Borderline – Madonna

Get into the Groove – Madonna

Teenage to Graduation

Standing on a beach – The Cure

Institutionalized – Suicidal Tendencies

Fight like a Brave – The Red Hot Chili Peppers

U2 – War – the whole damned tape

The New Style – Beastie Boys

Paul Revere – Beastie Boys

Stairway to Heaven – Led Zepplin

Cold as Ice – Foreigner

Eternal Flame – Bangles

Venus – Bananarama

The Dance – Garth Brooks

The One I love- REM

Straight Outta Compton – Eazy E

Hippy Chick – Soho

College and my 20’s

Killing in the Name of – Rage against the Machine

My Stony baby – 311

Pass the Pipe – The Pharcyde

Sober – Tool

Trouble Me – 10,000 Maniacs

School – Nirvana

Lithium – NIrvana

Silent all these Years – Tori Amos

Slow Goove – Luscious Jackson

The Mountain Song – Jane’s Addiction

Miles Davis

Mr. Jones – The Counting Crows

Losing My Religion – REM



4 Responses to “Love is a Mix Tape – Rob Sheffield”

  1. You just made me feel all nostalgic for the 90s. I remember us listening to “Sober” and “No Rain” by Blind Melon all the way to and from Lollapalooza one year. Did you forget that song on your list???

    I may check this book out. After having this last baby and her being so sick, I’ve had this feeling of the fleeting nature of life and how quickly you could lose everything you know and love. And I’ve always set my life to music in my head!

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  3. I follow your blog for a long time and should tell you that your articles are always valuable to readers.

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