‘Rockin’ All Over The World’ With a Diplomat’s Road Trip Music
LIVERPOOL, England — The long and winding road around the world can sometimes feel a little deadbeat without some music — especially for a diplomat who describes himself as an amateur guitarist.
So Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken used the Beatles’ hometown on Friday to launch a road trip playlist — tunes that resonate with pit stops on his official travels.
The first lineup is a 16-song sampling of mostly feel-good music from England, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand — all destinations where Mr. Blinken will visit over the next week to discuss concerns about Russia, China, the coronavirus and other weighty matters of diplomacy.
He is in Liverpool for a meeting of foreign ministers of the Group of 7, close allies and major trading partners that account for about half of the global economy, who will get their fill of music history over dinner on Saturday at the Beatles Story museum.
On his first trip as secretary of state in March, as his Air Force jet was rumbling down the runway and headed to Tokyo, Mr. Blinken welcomed his entourage with a few blasts from “Rockin’ All Over the World” by Status Quo. (“All aboard and we’re hittin’ the road/Here we go,” the lyrics say.)
“The thread that runs throughout my life is probably music,” Mr. Blinken said in an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this year.
The new travel playlist, which will be updated throughout his future trips abroad, provide a glimpse of Mr. Blinken’s personality beyond the business suit. It ranges from the Wombats, an indie rock band from Liverpool, to a sugary groove by the Indonesian pop artist Chrisye, to reflective piano solos by the late Bruce Gaston, an American who lived in Thailand.
There are also a few of Mr. Blinken’s own tracks on Spotify, although not on the road trip selection. Uploaded over the last three years, between gigs at the State Department, where he had served as deputy secretary during the Obama administration, they feature Mr. Blinken not just on the guitar but also on the mic — an unabashedly personal exhibition for someone in a profession that is usually so buttoned up.
In the Rolling Stone interview, Mr. Blinken waxed about his reverence for Eric Clapton, whose music influenced him to get serious about playing the guitar. The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was the first album that Mr. Blinken owned, he said in the interview, and it was expected that he stop in at some of the Fab Four’s old haunts while in Liverpool this weekend.
It is a reminder that, at 59, he is one of the more youthful secretaries of state in recent memory, if not the youngest — Condoleezza Rice held that distinction while leading the State Department for President George W. Bush. Ms. Rice is a trained classical pianist and John Kerry, who was the secretary of state at the end of the Obama administration, played the bass in a garage band during the 1960s.
It is, however, difficult to imagine Warren Christopher, who was President Bill Clinton’s first chief diplomat, rocking out to the post-punk new wave band, Echo and the Bunnymen. (“Bring on the dancing horses/Wherever they may roam” they sang in 1985.) But the group made it onto Mr. Blinken’s list.