diana nyad

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Not all of us dream of swimming 110 miles though shark-infested seawater, but we all have faced a time when we've gotten so discouraged that we've considered giving up on what we most want to achieve. Sixty-four-year-old Diana Nyad had to make five attempts before successfully crossing the ocean between Florida and Cuba this September. Here are the songs that got her through the darkest nights and meanest jellyfish—music that can help you soar past any obstacle and get back on track with your chosen goal, whatever it might be.
billy joel

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"She's Always a Woman" by Billy Joel
Why it keeps Nyad going: "I just kind of love the complexity of the lyrics, and that I can remember them all easily, stroke by stroke."

Lyric to sing to yourself: "Oh, she takes care of herself/ She can wait if she wants/ She's ahead of her time."
elton john

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"Daniel" by Elton John
Why it keeps Nyad going: "It's one that gets me through the night. So melodic. I wait until the 3 a.m. hour, when the sunrise isn't near enough."

Lyric to sing to yourself: "God, it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes."
michael buble

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"Feeling Good" by Michael Bublé
Why it keeps Nyad going: "I just sing the chorus over and over, literally dozens of times in a row."

Lyrics to sing to yourself: "It's a new dawn/ It's a new day/ It's a new life/ For me."
Neil Young

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Why it keeps Nyad going: "The song least likely to inspire out there would be about heroin addiction in NYC. But it's not the lyrics to this one that move me. It's that eerie, falsetto voice, with the almost quivering vibrato. It mesmerizes me. I'm swept up in that captivating voice."

Lyric to sing to yourself: "I hear you knocking at my cellar door/ I love you baby/ Can I have some more?"
bob dylan

Photo: Hulton Archive

Why it keeps Nyad going: "Possibly the best breakup song of all time."

Lyrics to sing to yourself: "When your rooster crows at the break of dawn/ Look out your window and I'll be gone/ You're the reason I'm trav'lin' on/ Don't think twice, it's all right."

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"Over the Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
Why it keeps Nyad going: "I hear his lovely melody, his high octaves...and the words do carry me up, up, up. I can hear his ukulele start soft. Then it's more bold and powerful by the last stanza."

Lyric to sing to yourself: "Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly/ And the dreams that you dare to, oh why, oh why can't I?"
bob dylan

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"It Ain't Me Babe" by Bob Dylan
Why it keeps Nyad going: "I love the buildup of the song. All that energy."

Lyric to sing to yourself: "You say you're lookin' for someone/ Never weak but always strong/ To protect you an' defend you/ Whether you are right or wrong/ Someone to open each and every door/ But it ain't me, babe/ No, no, no, it ain't me babe."
janis joplin

Photo: Hulton Archive

"Me and Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin
Why it keeps Nyad going: "The rasp and breaks in Joplin's voice. The strength in that defect."

Lyric to sing to yourself: "Feeling good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues/ You know, feeling good was good enough for me."

Next: The calm-down playlist: Songs to help you mellow out