From the Vault: Bryan Cranston’s Essential Soundtrack

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN BLACKBOOK’S SPRING,  2010 ISSUE.

As Walter White on AMC’s Breaking Bad, actor Bryan Cranston transformed from the hapless dad in Malcolm in the Middle to a desperate man who cooks up an elaborate plan—along with plenty of meth—to provide for his family. Here, the two-time Emmy winner boils his life and loves down to an essential soundtrack.

This list is much more than just the songs I like. It is the soundtrack of my life. It pretty accurately expresses how music has influenced and shaped me over the past 54 years. What follows is chronological, not in terms of when the music was produced, but when it mattered to me. So, here it is: my life in 15 songs.

Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.” I was popular in grade school, but that didn’t translate to being bold when it came to girls. Carolyn was a beautiful, fun girl who set my heart afire. I needed to ask her out. A graduation party at a friend’s house was my last chance. Paul and Art were harmonizing this song as I watched a new boy in school accomplish in two seconds what I couldn’t in two years. He went right up and asked her out. She said yes, and before the party was over they were making out on the living room couch. I was staggered, hurt and embarrassed. This song takes me back to that vulnerable time.

The Doors’ “Light My Fire.” My parents ended their marriage in the late ’60s. This song gave me an escape. I’d listen to it over and over again and it took me to another place: “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher. Come on baby, light my fire.” I was still a virgin then and wondered, Can a girl really light you on fire during sex?

Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl.” When I was 16, I followed my brother Kyle’s lead and joined the Los Angeles Police Department’s Explorer program. Every Saturday for eight weeks, I had to get up at 5 a.m. to make it to the Academy for training. The radio alarm was set to jolt me awake, and I liked not knowing what song it would be: Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May,” Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” or maybe this one, “Brown Eyed Girl.”

Eagles’ “Take It Easy.” In 1972, my Explorer troop traveled to Europe for a month. The official agenda was to learn from other police departments. The unofficial agenda was liquor and women—nirvana for a 16-year- old boy. After a few beers, a couple of the guys would break out guitars and play this song on a street corner. I’d accompany them (poorly) on my harmonica. To our surprise, passersby would drop coins in the hat, ensuring beer money for the next few days. This was also the trip where I lost my virginity to a very professional woman in Austria. I vowed to return one day to find it.

Elvis Presley’s “The Wonder of You.” In the mid-’70s, realizing I was never going to be a policeman, I took off with my brother from California on motorcycles. We traveled for two years with stops to avoid bad weather and to make money. Our destination of choice was Daytona Beach, Florida, where our cousins lived. One of them, Freddie, was accustomed to using his musical talents to pick up girls. We joined in. I honed my impression of Elvis Presley and even won a talent contest or two gyrating to his songs. It was a seminal moment when I realized that timidity wouldn’t win over girls. I changed overnight.

Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” Billy’s music reminds me of my years living in the Big Apple. Good times.

Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major.” How can anyone possibly listen to this classic and not be moved? Were my musical tastes maturing or was I still just trying to impress the ladies?

Nat King Cole’s “Our Love Is Here to Stay.” This was “our song” at my wedding to Robin in 1989. Sappy? Perhaps. But you bet it was sweet.

Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” On a thunderous, stormy night in Venice, on our honeymoon, we ducked into a church near St. Mark’s Square. We listened in awe as the musicians made this orchestration come alive.

George Strait’s “I Just Want to Dance with You.” I love this song’s simplicity. It compelled me to lift my new baby girl in my arms and dance her across the room every time it came on.

Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” I was fortunate to have a recurring role on Seinfeld as Tim Whatley, the gang’s dentist. I appeared in some iconic episodes, such as “The Yada Yada.” This song played at the farewell wrap party while clips and outtakes of the nine-year run were shown.

They Might Be Giants’ “Boss of Me.” This was Malcolm in the Middle’s theme song. That show changed America’s view of the modern family, and the experience changed my life forever.

Jack Johnson’s “Taylor.” My daughter’s name is Taylor, so this one is a must for obvious reasons.

Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours.” What I love about this song is not just that it affects me, but that it makes my girls sing and dance. There is joy in the world.

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I first heard this evocative cover at a graduation ceremony when my sister, Amy, received her master’s degree, a huge achievement considering our childhood. In a quiet moment, close your eyes and listen to this transcendent song. You’ll have the feeling you’re no longer in Kansas.

Photo by Randall Slavin. Styling by Vanessa Geldbach.

Linkage: Uggie To Bark A Memoir, E! Gives Scripted TV A Try

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Is there nothing this dog can’t do? Uggie, the adorable and talented dog from The Artist, has been tapped to "bark" a memoir for Gallery Books. Human author Wendy Holden will be on paw to translate. [ArtsBeat]

For their first forays into scripted television, E! Entertainment is working on a Wizard of Oz inspired series (Dorthy), a modern-day re-staging of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s story in modern day (Anne of Hollywood), and of course the required legal thriller (Juror #9) and detective procedural (Amy Devlin Mysteries). As if their real-life stars aren’t drama enough… [Deadline]

Busy busy, Miss Rooney Mara is circling yet another project, this one a story about outlaws featuring Ben Foster and Casey Affleck called Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. [PlayList]

Is your online presence more "completely nuts" Rihanna or "cool" and "poised" Beyoncé? [BitsBlog]

This summer, John Darinielle is reissuing early Mountain Goats’ cassettes Hound Chronicles and Hot Garden Stomp as a digital or a cd compilation. "No one anticipated their coming into the world, and very few noticed or cared," writes Darinelle of the tapes original release. "The obscurity in which these songs were incubated and born and brought into their faint light is a state of being which has passed into history." [Pitchfork]

Vice turns a camera back at the paparazzi to give them a taste of their own medicine. [Vice]

Linkage: Greta Gerwig Still Has Roommates, M.I.A. Shares New Song

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“I recognize that maybe I should be at a point where I stop having roommates, but I’m not," says Greta Gerwig, who, with all of her successes, still shares a space with two others. "I like living with people." [NYM]

Meet the fictional one percent — Forrest Gump, Carlisle Cullen and C. Montgomery Burns among them — and the fictional 99 percent. Chins up, Oliver Twist, Katniss Everdeen and Ron Weasley: the people — fictional or otherwise — united, will never be defeated. [Forbes/Flavorwire]

Last night on twitter, M.I.A. shared a snippet of  "Come Walk With Me," a new song presumably off her upcoming album Matangi. It bangs. [MIAuniverse/Twitter]

Warner Bros. is hoping to one-up Disney with a "darker version" of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, written and directed by Harry Potter‘s Steve Kloves, and starring a real life Mowgli and maybe some CGI-assisted lions and tigers and bears. [IndieWire]

President Obama gets down to the Snowman, it seems. "In my first term I sang Al Green. IN my second term, I’m going with Young Jeezy," he joked at Saturday’s Correspondents’ Dinner. "Michelle said, ‘Yeaaah.’ I sing that to her sometimes." [RapRadar]

Kanye and Kim wore coordinating leather pants on a recent date; Kanye, however, seemed to have issues keeping his up. [YBF]

Over the weekend, Patrick "McDreamy" Dempsy pried a teenage driver from his crushed Mustang after it flipped right outside Dempsey’s home. Ryan Gosling, we hear, was busy that day. [TMZ]

Linkage: Lindsay Lohan Heads to the White House, Lady Gaga & Justin Bieber Join ‘MIB 3’

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The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is tomorrow, and Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren has invited Lindsay Lohan to be her guest. Van Susteren says of her unlikely choice, "I love comebacks, and I’d like her to succeed." Louis CK though, she’s sure he would have been trouble. [NYDN]

Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga—who "probably knows more about aliens than I do," says the director —have been given bit roles as aliens in this summer’s Men In Black 3. [E!]

In motherhood, Beyoncé has ceded to comfortable shoes. "I never thought there would be a day when I wouldn’t wear heels, but now that I have a child and I walk around holding her all day, I’m buying loafers and oxfords. I love them because they’re comfortable." she explains in People‘s "Most Beautiful Woman" issue. And Jay’s not mad, he thinks they are "really sexy"! [CutBlog]

"Can I be the little spoon now?" and other imagined sweet nothings from the pride of Eau Claire. [BonIverErotica]

The current season of ABC Family’s gymnastics drama Make It or Break It will be the show’s last. And before the 2012 Olympics — the event around which the show orbited—even happen? Poor Payson. [EW]

A first trailer for Snooki and JWoww confirms that: 1. the spinoff is actually happening, and 2. that, yes, so is Snooki’s baby. [Huff Post]

Linkage: Lars von Trier Plotting Return To Cannes, Philip Glass’s New Project

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Lars von Trier’s Charlotte Gainsbourg led Nymphomaniac will be presented in two parts, according to producer Peter Aalbæk Jensen. And what’s more, they hope to have both films shot, edited and finished in time for a return to Cannes — where von Trier was excused as a persona non grata last year — in 2013. [IndieWire]

"I drink the blood of Kristen Stewart," quipped the now grown Molly Ringwald during a Reddit AMA last night when she was asked how she keeps young. [Reddit]

The secret ingredient in that chef’s special? It may be the music. According to one New York City chef, when the music’s up, things "groove better." "And I think," she says, "it translates into the food." [NYT]

The German state of Bavaria is set to publish the first German run of Hilter’s Mein Kampf since World War II. “We want to make clear what nonsense is in there," explained the Bavarian state finance minister, who also assured that they plan to make future German editions as "commercially unattractive" as possible. [Time]

The English National Opera has announced its next year’s offerings, and among them is a new Philip Glass opera about the last days of Walt Disney called The Perfect American. The story will follow Wilhelm Dantine, a cartoonist who worked for Disney in the 1950s, whose life is, according to Glass, "unimaginable, alarming and truly frightening." [Independent]

Russell Brand invoked Tupac Shakur while testifying before a parliamentary committee reviewing U.K. drug policy. When asked if he, having been open about his struggles with addiction in the past, fancies himself a role model, Brand answered: "As the great Tupac Shakur said, ‘Role is something people play, model is something that people make, both of those things are fake.’" [Huff Post]

Linkage: Beyoncé Named ‘Most Beautiful,’ TLC To Take Holographic Left Eye on Tour

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This photo of Beyoncé’s feet — swollen from pregnancy but still corn-free! — proves without a shadow of a doubt that Bey deserves that "World’s Most Beautiful Woman" crown. [People]

Black Hippy’s Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q throw one down for the internet with "SOPA," off of Ab-Soul’s forthcoming album Control System. [Fader]

According to TMZ, T-Boz and Chili are planning a "massive" TLC reunion tour for later this year, and they want to take the late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes with them — as a hologram. This is, it would seem, all happening. [TMZ]

Spike Lee’s "return to form" film Red Hook Summer is set for a late-summer start, with an official release scheduled for August 10th via Variance Films. [IndieWire]

An original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sketch, drawn in 1983 by one of the series’ co-creators for just a "laugh," has hit the auction block for a very reasonable $6,000. [BestWeekEver]

Miley Cyrus has a closet full of kimonos that she needs help organizing — do we have any volunteers? [MileyCyrus/Twitter]

Linkage: Obama Slow Jams With Jimmy Fallon, Oprah Gets Generous

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Last night on Late Night, the very good-natured "Prezzie of the United Steezie" Barack Obama slow-jammed the news with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots. [D+T]

After a four year investigation, feds have busted the CEO of and numerous rappers from Mac Dre’s Thizz Entertainment for distributing Ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, marijuana and codeine cough syrup across the East Bay and the country. [MercuryNews]

According to the New York Times, YouTube’s 100 or so "original" television channels are sort of like real television, but more boring. [NYT]

"I wish I could greenlight everything," said Oprah, before sating her generosity by buying a homelessman soup at Scarpetta in Beverly Hills. [PageSix]

Das Racist’s West Coast representative, Victor Vazquez aka Kool A.D., has dropped a new tape, 51, that is complete with Bay-centric guest features from Young L and Main Attrakionz, as well as Mike Finito and of course Himanshu Suri. [TheFader]

Courtney Love has already scared one off, and now it looks like her new lawyers too have had enough. According to a declaration submitted to Los Angeles Superior Court by her attorney at Pryor Cashman, Love has been (typically!) late on payments and unresponsive when it comes to showing up to meetings and answering phone calls. "We can not effectively represent her," they say. [THR]

According to the producer of Liz and Dick, Lindsay Lohan is the "most insured actress that ever walked on a soundstage" and that, although she has a history of high-risk behavior, she is a "great risk to run." Assuming he gets his movie, he’s probably right. [E!]

Linkage: Justin Bieber Wrote A Song About Mariah Yeater

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Justin Bieber is not just taunting his non-baby mama Mariah Yeater, he is also writing songs about her. As he explained last night at a London listening session, "there are songs about things I’m going through" on Believer, including one about his mother and another about "that girl." This is hopefully where Taylor Swift — sure master of the revenge song — comes in. [PageSix]

One intrepid music writer went to see Nickelback and Creed on the same night and not only lived to tell the tale, but also "had a totally rad time." [GQ]

New York City Parks Foundation has officially announced the 2012 season of SummerStage, and it for some reason includes a "more relatable take" on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, as plotted in the Lower East Side and set to Pearl Jam’s Ten. [Gothamist]

Even science wants a say: Like the blue monkeys of Kenya and wild horses of New Zealand before them, there is reason to believe that the girls on HBO’s Girls demonstrate the benefits of "affiliative, long lasting and mutually beneficial relationships between females."  [NYT]

In an effort to "update the language of everyday fashion" and to help "streamline" language, the New Yorker has banned the word "slacks" from NewYorker.com for the next week. What this week of omission will mean for "everday fashion" remains to be seen. [NYer]

"We work for NBC, so we’ll see," says Tina Fey of 30 Rock‘s perhaps imminent end. "The one thing I’ve always wanted from the beginning, that hopefully will come true, is that whenever we do end, I would like to know in advance. So we can write the end. Because it’s such a writers’ show." [ArtsBeat]

Socialist François Hollande appears to have won the first round of voting for the French presidency with the unlikely help of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s "Niggas in Paris," which figures prominently in his campaign videos. [D+T]

Linkage: Charlie Kaufman Tapped For New YA Series, Goodie Mob Reunites

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Charlie Kaufman has signed on with Lionsgate — the home of The Hunger Games and Twilight series — to adapt yet another young adult series called Chaos Walking, about a dystopian future where thoughts are audible and privacy long gone. An inspired move! [Deadline

Victoria Beckham designed a special edition of Range Rover’s off-road vehicle, the Evoque, which has rose-gold plated accents and vintage leather inspired seats. "I think it’s very cool," she says of the car. "I did a lot of research and not just with cars, old and new, but boats, planes, movie stars, different locations." [Reuters]

Goodie Mobb reunited last night on Cee-Lo’s The Voice, where they debuted their new single, "Fight To Win," off their upcoming Age Against The Machine. [RapRadar

Last night through a series of tweets, electro-pop duo Purity Ring released the first full track, "Obedear," off their highly-anticipated debut Shrines, out this summer on 4D. [GvB]

"They’re afraid to talk to me," says Michael Moore of his now knowing interview subjects. "I have to send in my production assistants to do interviews.” [WSJ/Speakeasy]

With her old e-mail address, Kim Kardashian has dumped her "Kim Kardashian" Google alert. "I just feel I have peace of mind now," she says. "I hardly look on the Internet like I used to." She is, however, still "addicted" to Huff Post’s Real Estate section. [Paper]