Playlist for Life encourages families to create a playlist of personally meaningful music on an iPod for their loved one. Harry and his wife Margaret were struggling to connect with each other. We helped them to identify a playlist that would evoke memories from Harry’s life.  This is what happened.

Being able to respond to music

– the first sense in the foetus and the last to go at death – is the one thing dementia cannot destroy.

Playlist for Life

encourages families and caregivers of a person with dementia to create a playlist of uniquely meaningful music on an iPod and offer it at any time of the day or night. It is effective both at home and in residential care, at an early stage of the condition and later on.

There is mounting evidence that if people with dementia are offered frequent access to the music in which their past experience and memories are embedded, it can improve their present mood, their awareness, their ability to understand and think and their sense of identity and independence. Music that is merely familiar in a general way, although pleasurable, is not likely to be so effective.

Exciting developments

  • Our collaborators at Glasgow Caledonian University have secured funding from the Digital Health Institute to develop a Playlist for Life app.
  • A Playlist for Life pilot training programme in Dunfermline is being funded by the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust. Online training should be ready early next year.
  • More than half the Scottish health boards, a number of English hospital trusts and a growing number of UK care homes are working with us.
  • Opera Holland Park is collaborating with Playlist for Life in care homes across the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

(For more on what we do, see About Us > Our Work.)



Any donation, large or small, will help us to support carers, train volunteers and provide the equipment necessary to provide people with a playlist for life.

Sally Magnusson and Andy Lowndes explain Playlist for Life to Healthcare Improvement Scotland's Person-Centred Learning Session. SECC, Glasgow, May 2014

Celebrity Playlists

Professor Brian Cox
Physicist, Broadcaster and Ex-Musician

  1. David Bowie – Life On Mars?
    Hunky Dory is my favourite album and I could chose anything off it but I’ve always loved this track. It’s about finding beauty in the mundane – magical realism, if you like. But it’s also a song about dreaming of something far, far away – life on Mars.
  2. Bob Dylan – Girl From The North Country
    The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is another favourite album. I like this song because it reminds me of my wife, who is from the North Country of Hibbing Minnesota.
  3. Billy Joel – New York State Of Mind
    This is one of the songs I learnt to play piano by playing along to.
  4. Frank Sinatra – Come Fly With Me
    One of the first albums I heard – my dad owned it. Billy May’s arrangements, Sinatra’s voice, what more do you need?
  5. OMD – Silent Running
    I grew up listening to experimental electronic music. In my view, OMD’s Dazzle Ships album is an under-rated masterpiece . . . any track will do. It’s full of Cold War paranoia and romance in equal measure. And the cover, designed by my friend Peter Saville, is beautiful.

David Moyes

Manager, Real Sociedad.

  1. MacArthur Park – Donna Summer
  2. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – Elton John and Kiki Dee
  3. Let’s Go Round Again – Average White Band
  4. Oh What a Night – Frankie Valli
  5. My Life – Billy Joel

Graham Norton 

Entertainer, presenter of The Graham Norton Show on BBC1

  1. Three Cigarettes In An Ashtray – kd lang
    A fabulous song of complicated love, sung by one of the greatest voices in the world.
  2. Chain Reaction – Diana Ross
    Many years ago I gave myself a black eye dancing to this.
  3. La Vie En Rose – Grace Jones
    Grace Jones sang this a cappella down the phone to a nude house-cleaner on one of my shows.
  4. At Seventeen – Janis Ian
    A song that makes you cry bitter tears at 17, and then you find at 50 the tears are quite sweet.
  5. Islands In The Stream – Dolly Parton
    A life high. I sang this with Dolly herself for a Channel Four film.

Karen Matheson 
Lead Singer, Capercaillie

  1. Barbados – Typically Tropical 
    Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Tobias Wilcox welcoming you aboard Coconut Airways flight 372 to Barbados.This one-hit wonder brings back memories of being 12 in the summer of 1975.
    Traditional music was all around but seemed pretty boring. My brothers used to record TOTP on an old reel-to-reel tape, then we would write down the lyrics and sing away in the bedroom with a hairbrush. Happy, happy.
  2. Soul Of My Saviour
    I remember hearing my late mum’s sweet voice singing this hymn at mass on a Sunday morn, with my two brothers (the only Catholic kids in the village at the time), dreaming of the bacon and eggs Dad would have waiting for us when we got home.
  3. Mo Run Geal Og (My Fair Young Love) – Flora MacNeil
    The first Gaelic recording that blew me away. A recording from the BBC of a very young Flora MacNeil (age 16). Pure, unadulterated Gaelic song at its finest.
  4. Aragon Mill – Planxty 
    An introduction to the exciting sounds of the Irish traditional music scene.
    I vowed never to sing this song as Andy Irvine’s version had such a hold over me, a spell if you like. But I found that singing it myself had the same such effect, and realised that the song itself is often the force and the singer just the vehicle that it moves through.
  5. Simon And Garfunkel
    On moving to Glasgow in the early 80s, my Donald and I bought a little flat in Partick, the heartland of the Gaeltachdt, and no matter what music we played, the guy in the flat below would play this album louder. Good job we loved it.
  6. A Perfect Place – Patsy Reid 
    This track was written by my husband, Donald Shaw (is that allowed?) for the brilliant BBC wildlife series The Hebrides, and is played by the esteemed fiddler Patsy Reid.
    It takes me to a beautiful place in my mind where I feel at peace. The title says it all.

Kirsty Wark 
Presenter of Newsnight

  1. Speedy Gonzales – Pat Boone
    I heard this on a little radio when the family was camping in summer near Arisaig when I was 6.
  2. Let’s Twist Again – Chubby Checker
    I remember a party Mum and Dad had when I was 7 in 1962 and I opened the living room door and saw everyone dancing. I was ushered out straightaway.
  3. Dead End Street – The Kinks
    The first single I ever bought.
  4. I Want You – Bob Dylan
    There used to be a shop called Campbell’s in Kilmarnock with record booths. I used to go in to hear this – and coveted the LP.
  5. Music To Watch Girls By – Andy Williams
    My father liked Andy Williams and this song in particular.

Robbie Shepherd
Radio Scotland Broadcaster

  1. Slow Air: Leaving Lerwick Harbour – Composed And Played By Willie Hunter 
    A truly wondrous opening riff, that makes me want to put my hands in t
    Willie wrote it when seeing off an aunt who had been home on holiday from New Zealand.
    One of my early trips to Shetland with my own concert party included fiddle player the late Mackie Burns. I will never forget leaving Lerwick Harbour. Mackie wouldn’t speak, he just stared out of the window till the last bit of land disappeared.
    Willie was also a great friend of ours and bravely recorded an album just three weeks before he died, knowing death through cancer was nigh.
  2. Keep Right On To The End Of The Road – Harry Lauder
    This song is nearly 100 years old and still a favourite wherever you go.
    Lauder wrote the song in the wake of the death of his only son John, a Captain in the Argyll And Sutherland Highlanders who was killed in action in 1916, during the time Harry was travelling all over, fundraising and entertaining the troops.
  3. The Rowan Tree – Lady Nairne
    Lady Nairne was born in the Auld Hoose o’ Gask on the banks of the Earn in Perthshire. Her mother died when she was a child and the rowan tree in the grounds of the estate was where the bairns played.My mither, oh I see her still, she smiled oor sports tae see
    Wi’ little Jeannie on her lap and Jamie on her knee.
  4. My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose – By Robert Burns Sung By Kenneth McKellar
    What else is there to say, especially sung by Kenneth McKellar? Ae Fond Kiss is glorious too.
  5. The Auldest Aiberdonian – Harry Gordon
    The Laird of Inversnecky was my hero and this catchy chorus would get folk singing.
    Put on any Jimmy Shand record and toes would tap but what of the generations to come? There’s Karine Polwart with Follow The Heron Home and Jim Reid with The Wild Geese to name but two.

Paul Buchanan

  1. She Loves You – The Beatles
    This is the first pop song I remember hearing – and I still remember hearing it.
  2. Nessun Dorma – Puccini, Sung By Jussi Bjorling
    The purity of tone in this performance expresses the humanity of Puccini’s song beautifully.
  3. Girl From The North Country – Bob Dylan
    From a great artist, a beautiful love song.
  4. You’re The First, The Last, My Everything – Barry White
    Because it feels so irresistibly good.
  5. Strawberry Fields Forever – The Beatles
    Out of the many great Beatles songs, somehow this one is just special.

Craig Armstrong

  1. The Long and Winding Road – The Beatles
    I first heard this track as a young kid and I can remember strongly feeling that I had never heard anything like this before, it has always stayed with me.
  2. The Man Machine – Kraftwerk
    As modern sounding today as it was in 1978. Although I’m known for my orchestral music I’ve always kept current and up to date with the latest advances in electronic music and this is a seminal track.
  3. Eternity’s Sunrise – John Tavener 
    This is a beautiful piece, if you haven’t heard it then please do.  John Tavener was a very talented composer and very much missed.
  4. Everything Happens to Me – Chet Baker 
    The best trumpet player ever in my opinion and I love his voice. This is one of my all-time favourites.
  5. A Walk Across the Rooftops – The Blue Nile  
    One of the most perfectly crafted songs and Paul Buchanan’s performance is as always exquisite.

Chris Sherrington
Royal Marine and London 2012 Olympian Judoka (100kg+)

  1. Bless Us All From The Muppet Christmas Carol – The Muppets
    This song brings back memories of good Christmas and New Year’s holidays with family. Always brings a tear to my eye.
  2. Time To Say Goodbye – Andrea Bocelli
    Being a Royal Marine in the Royal Navy, I am away quite a lot, especially while I’m on my sports draft doing judo training and competing. So when I leave my darling wife Zoe to return to work, I always play this song.
  3. Holding Out For A Hero – Bonnie Tyler
    One of the songs I listened to when I was training up to join the Royal Marine Commandos. It got me out of bed and reminded me what a hero is and what he must be. When training for the London 2012 Olympic Games it was on my MP3 playlist. The old ones are the best!
  4. If It Makes You Happy – Sheryl Crow
    I’ve never followed the crowd and when I was younger I didn’t understand why I was different. As I got older I listened to this song and realised it doesn’t matter if I’m different or do things differently – if it makes you happy then that’s all that matters.
  5. Theme From Last Of The Mohicans – Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman
    One of the proudest moments of my life was when I completed the Royal Marine Commando basic training. Eight-and-a-half months of the hardest training in the world and this was the music we practised our passing out parade to. Brings back good memories.

Dougie Vipond
Broadcaster, founding member of Deacon Blue

  1. Furry Sings The Blues – Joni Mitchell
    It was a miserably cold and damp October day and I was in a miserably cold and damp hotel room in Galashiels. I’d just been given a mobile CD player for my birthday so jumped into bed and only started to feel warm by the time this song was finished.
  2. My Funny Valentine – Rickie Lee Jones
    There are so many versions of this song but Rickie Lee does it beautifully and pushes all the right buttons in my humble opinion.
  3. Cum On Feel The Noize – Slade
    Sitting watching Top of the Pops when I was in Primary Two, suddenly Dave Hill’s horrendously frightening outfit and Noddy Holder’s mirrored top hat appeared on screen… then he sang! I remember thinking ‘I want some of that!’ I didn’t know what it was but I wanted to be part of it – never got the top hat though!
  4. The Infernal Dance From The Firebird Suite – Stravinsky
    When I was about 13, I got into the Strathclyde Schools Orchestra. Felt not only the emotional but physical power of orchestral music playing this piece.
  5. Two Cars Collide – King L
    I don’t want to say too much about why I love this song but if you listen to Gary Clark singing it, you’ll understand.

Jamie MacDougall

  1. The Drinking Song From The Student Prince – Mario Lanza
    I used to play this on my grandpa’s record player that could play 78s as well as LPs, with big wall-mounted speakers. It was through them that I could hear and enjoy the voice of Mario Lanza. I was still at primary school and with my boy soprano voice I used to sing along.
  2. Lydia the Tattooed Lady – The Muppets
    It was the Muppets’ version that I first heard of this classic Harold Arlen song. A few years later I heard Groucho Marx sing it in their movie A Night At The Circus. I can see both Kermit and Groucho performing this song when I listen to it.
  3. Born Free – Matt Monro
    It could have been any Matt Monro number. His voice for me is simply the best in the genre. His diction and line is superb and it’s been wonderful to sing both Born Free and From Russia With love, accompanied by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra to the same arrangement that he used.
  4. Piano Concert No 1, Slow Movement – Ravel
    Reminds me of my time at school. I was at Douglas Academy Music School and I would often play this late at night listening on headphones. To this day it has the power to reduce me to tears. It was a sad time. I didn’t like being away from home … which I suppose leads me to my last choice…
  5. The Goons
    Humour was my way of dealing with my time away at school. I’d record the re-runs of the Goon Show on Radio 2 and play them all week in my room. I got a recording of the songs and they were always on. Any of the shows or the songs they recorded will take me back.

Janice Forsyth
Radio Scotland Presenter

  1. Chattanooga Choo Choo
    My late father’s party piece, and I can understand why – it’s such a catchy tune, with lyrics that are a perfect fit to the music, and quite tricky to sing. It always reminds me of my dad. So when I hear it, I’m swaying and singing along, but with a wee tear in the eye.
  2. Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Grows) – Edison Lighthouse
    The first pop song I remember hearing on the radio, and I recall being hooked in immediately by the catchy melody. It reminds me of being a wee girl and discovering there was music that I could claim for myself  - which was different from the music that my parents liked. It was also about a boy and a girl and love – and that was very interesting!
  3. America – Simon And Garfunkel
    When I was still at primary school, I was introduced to S and G’s music by my older brother Roddy. I would listen to his vinyl records on a Dansette record player in my chilly bedroom – no central heating in those days! The melody and harmonies are beautiful but it’s the lyrics that seduced me. I wanted to travel, to go to America, to understand the references I knew off by heart – Mrs Wagner’s Pies, the New Jersey Turnpike, Saginaw. It’s a song that still thrills me.
  4. We Are Family – Sister Sledge
    I love disco music.  This takes me back to Basel in Switzerland, where I was working as a waitress for a summer. A group of us were looking for somewhere that was open late and the only place turned out to be a half-empty strip joint.  When the girls performing onstage clocked off the music changed and this song came on – and the girls joined us in huge circle and we danced to it over and over into the wee, small hours.
  5. Famous Blue Raincoat – Leonard Cohen
    I LOVE that it’s written in the form of a letter. Took me a while to figure out that it is written to the man who is the new partner of Leonard’s former lover. Whenever I’m in New York and walk down Clinton Street, that line about “music all through the evening” always springs to mind.

Jai McDowall
Singer, winner of Britain’s Got Talent 2011

  1. Voulez-Vous – Abba
    The first ever record I could listen to and sing along with, as the record cover had the lyrics on the back.  When I was little, every time I was at my gran and grampa’s I would listen to this.
  2. Part Of Your World From The Little Mermaid – Jodi Benson
    The first song I learned and sang to people as a kid.  My gran used to run a pub and would get me to sing this for the punters. LOL.
  3. I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston
    I won a karaoke competition in Gran Canaria when I was 9 years old – the first time I ever won something for singing. It’s when I realised I wanted to sing when I was older (I guess I liked the applause).
  4. Amazed – Lonestar
    My dad plays in a band and this was one of my favourite songs to sing with them.
  5. Anthem From Chess The Musical  – Tommy Korberg
    I sang this in my first amateur musical production, where I played the lead role in Chess. I then sang this song on my first audition for Britain’s Got Talent.

Paul Young (third from left in photo)

  1. Love Me Do – The Beatles
    I presented a children’s programme, Round Up, while still at school and guess who came on and sang this song? It was only the Beatles’ second TV appearance.
  2. Sweet Vale Of Avoca
    Wonderful acting memory. In The Bevellers by Roddy McMillan we all suddenly had to burst into this song.  Will never forget it.
  3. These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ – Nancy Sinatra
    Reminds me of happy days at sea as a Radio Scotland pirate disc jockey in the Sixties.
  4. He’s Not Dead Yet! From Spamalot
    My actor father John said “I’m not dead yet!” in the famous Monty Python sketch, as John Cleese was about to toss him on to a cart of dead bodies. My dad would have loved the song it was turned into in Spamalot.
  5. Mull Of Kintyre – Wings
    The hair on the back of my neck always twitches when the bagpipes come in. The Beatles often told me how much they liked Scotland and I love Paul’s tribute.

Anne Johnstone
Journalist, The Herald

  1. Concerto For Two Violins, Strings And Continuo In D Minor – JS Bach
    Kept me sane during my finals at Oxford.
  2. The Four Seasons: Spring – Vivaldi
    It was playing on our old portable cassette player in the labour suite at Stobhill Hospital when our first child was born.
  3. Love Is Like A Newborn Child – Randy Crawford
    I played it just after our second child was born and it has made me weep buckets ever since.
  4. Requiem – Faure
    To remind me of the pure joy of singing in a big amateur choir.
  5. Old Friends – Simon And Garfunkel
    To remind me of my husband (or virtually any Paul Simon song because his music is one of our shared passions).

Tony Roper

  1. Theme To Workers’ Playtime
    My earliest memories of listening to radio.
  2. Theme To Hancock’s Half Hour – Wally Stott
    I was guaranteed a laugh with Tony Hancock.
  3. Heartbreak Hotel – Elvis Presley
    I was 15 and this was the first time I heard the sound of Elvis Presley. A stand-out memory of a unique new sound in pop music.
  4. Songs For Swingin’ Lovers EP – Frank Sinatra
    His first sortie with Nelson Riddle arranging.  Again a new way of presenting songs with a theme that put the listener in a certain mood and made me feel sophisticated for the first time in my, at that time, young life.
  5. The Christmas Song – Mel Torme
    It’s a song my wife and I love – the one that makes Christmas the special time it is.

Michael Smiley

  1. If  You Really Love Me – Stevie Wonder
    A truly wondrous opening riff, that makes me want to put my hands in the air. A spiritual experience from the main man!
  2. Ranking Full Stop – The Beat
    The first song I really lost myself to on the dance floor. I was a 16-year-old Rude Boy in 1979.
  3. All’n’ All – Al Green
    Another joyous spiritual tune that makes me want to get up and sing and dance and wave my hands in the air!
  4. Going Back Home – Dr Feelgood
    I’m 19 just arrived in London, a mate played this every day, fantastic band.
  5. The Bare Necessities From The Jungle Book – Phil Harris
    I love this because we all join in.  When I was a kid my mum and dad would sing along, if it came on … Now my wife and I do it with our kids.


Scottish Fiddle Orchestra who helped us raise £950 at their recent concert – 13/09/2014

Opera Holland Park who helped us raise over £6,000 during their summer season – 25/08/2014

ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) who raised £228 on behalf of Playlist for Life after seeing the team in action with Opera Holland Park – 22/08/14

“In memory of my beloved Auntie and Godmother. May you rest in peace.”  - 17/07/2014 – £100 + £25 Gift Aid 

Catherine Heady

“We are making “Preparing Our Own Playlists for Life” and hopeto offer a service to help individuals to load up their iPods. We are also going to advertise collection points for redundant iPods. Best wishes for further success.”  - 08/04/2014 – £550 

Rotary Club of Gryffe Valley

“So often I go into care homes and see the residents asleep in front of a TV with music humming away in the background. What they really want is their own personalised playlist. So, well done!”  - 29/01/2014 – £100

- Anon

“Sally, I lost my father and father-in-law to Alzheimers so it brought back a lot of memories reading about your mum. All best wishes with the campaign.”  - 03/02/2014 – £500

- Anon