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Soundtrack for a Book: Girls Can't Be In The Mafia playlist by Danielle West

(photo: Malte Wingen/Unsplash)
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A roller girl, a dominatrix, a runaway, a homeless person, an MMA fighter, a marketing solutions executive ... all these terms may have been used to describe Danielle West over the course of her life, but they don't tell the whole story. 
Luckily, Danielle herself did – with her memoir, Girls Can't Be in the Mafia. The tell-all traces her life from her time as a child in the US before she runs away to Canada, to her time as an MMA fighter in the UK before finally landing on the shores of Singapore, where she has made her home. 
Now, Danielle offers a playlist she has curated to accompany your read. It is, literally, the music of her life.
Listen to the playlist 
and enjoy. 


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As someone who spent their teens recording mix tapes to send friends and crushes I was delighted to be asked to create a mix for my memoir, Girls Can't Be in the Mafia.
And just as with the old cassette tapes, I had to limit my selection. This meant I had to really consider which songs to include which was even more challenging than determining which stories to include in the book. It also helped that I had a fantastic editor to help with the book whereas I was completely on my own selecting tracks for this playlist. I still went over (rebel for life, it would seem).
All the tracks that made the cut actually relate to moments in the book and were on heavy rotation when I wrote it. I used music to trigger memories or feelings of certain moments of time and it was really effective. Most of the music is quite upbeat although some lyrics are rather dark, which I also hope is something I managed to accomplish in my writing. I've added a few lines about each track:

Move On Up by Curtis Mayfield: This track always finds its way into my gym playlists and was on heavy rotation in countless fight camps. I love the positive message of staying focused on your dreams and to keep going. My father also had Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly album which I happily took when he got rid of his vinyl and would listen to it all the time.

Bad, Bad Leroy Brown by Jim Croce: This track was on the cassette tape that belonged to my mother's father which was given to me after he passed away. I loved the colourful story and always associate Jim Croce's music with my grandfather. I was really upset when that cassette went missing in one of the psychiatric hospitals I was in. Who the hell steals a Jim Croce cassette tape? Oh, probably a kleptomaniac...

Institutionalised by Suicidal Tendencies: My friend Mica actually gave me a Suicidal Tendencies T-shirt when I was in the run. I was not allowed to wear it in the psychiatric hospital because the staff were concerned it would give other patients ideas, or they were worried I was advertising my own feelings when I just really loved the band. This song was also a bit of an anthem among myself and friends that were with me that evening in the roller disco, the friends in the woods and of course, in the hospitals.

Waiting Room by Fugazi: This always makes me think of the days I went to the hardcore shows, slam-danced in the pit, sofa surfed and sold records to eat. Adolescence often feels like a big waiting room before you get to adulthood only to realise adulthood is really more of the same. You can either spend your whole life waiting for what’s next or enjoy what’s around you… it could be great conversations with strangers, though sometimes it will allay just be dog-eared magazines.

This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) by Talking Heads: This song reminds me of how I felt holding my daughter the moment she was born. It was bewildering, enchanting and overwhelming all at once where all the hope, anticipation and the struggle to get there was distilled into this intense feeling of love. I felt at home in the universe with the sole purpose of looking after this tiny being. I realised home really always within you and the company you keep.

Whip It by DEVO: I actually did have this on some playlists when I worked as a dominatrix but I also love this song because the message is really about putting the past behind you and looking forward. You don’t have to take my word for it, Google that s***.

Beyond The Son by Koop: This song always makes me think of writing letters to my friends and former caseworker “Abe” when I lived in London. I still write letters and postcards today, but I was prolific in London and many of the letters sounded a bit like this. The vocals are by Earl Zinger, who sounds a lot like my friend Dim so I often hear this and feel as if someone I know is writing me back which always makes me smile.

I Want To Break Free by Queen: This was selected for two reasons. My daughter loved the music video for this song with Freddie Mercury and the band in drag doing housework. Little did she know, when I worked as a dominatrix I had a guy in drag doing housework for me which always set a knowing grin on my face as we watched the video. And as someone who started running away from home as young as age 6, for me, this song captured the longing I felt to break free from my parents' house.

Rehab by Amy Winehouse: Besides being one of my go-to karaoke songs, the whole Back To Black album was on constant rotation after I got raped and was drinking more wine than was probably – okay, definitely – considered healthy to cope. I never went to rehab, either, Amy.

Grounds For Divorce by Elbow: This was playing a lot as I wrote the memoir because it recalled the entire period leading up to and following my divorce. I was (still) drinking more than I should, plus the line about the cigarette case echoed the sentiment when I left nearly everything in the house and walked away from my marriage.

What I Got by Sublime: This song was always a bit of a timeless anthem for me but it also particularly resonated with me when I first reached Singapore. I was really trying to figure out where I went wrong with so many areas, fix things with my daughter and my life felt completely messy. Despite all that I was still able to really enjoy the simple things such as a clear night sky, cockatoo cuddles and I was surrounded by amazing friends who have always looked after me and loved me for who I am. Thank you all, I love you, too.❤️

Rise Above by Black Flag: I walked into this song for my Invicta match with Julia Budd. I was a last minute replacement and this song was one that stayed with me as a teenager because of the whole Haters Gonna Hate message and the brilliant opening chords. Although if I’m honest, T.V. Party is probably my favourite Black Flag track with Henry Rollins on vocals. Henry, you rock!

Crazy by Gnarls Barkley: The vocals, melody and rhythm of this song always boost my spirits. It feels like the ultimate self-acceptance anthem whenever I hear it.

Grown Up by Danny Brown: This song always made me remember that I have certainly come a long way and was my favourite tune to sing at the Rap Battle Karaoke nights I used to put on at Refuge in Singapore (Thank you, Sophie!).

Get Girls Can't Be in the Mafia here. 


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