Scott Hollifield: A few songs in the key of lifesaving

If it’s got a good beat and easy to dance to, it might save a life.

According to an article in The Washington Post, the source I turn to for stories about cardiac arrest and popular music, a new playlist, “which was developed by New York-Presbyterian Hospital, collects songs that have a tempo between 100 and 120 beats per minute — the perfect pace for lifesaving chest compressions in case you have to perform CPR.”

I knew the Bee Gees’ hit “Stayin’ Alive” was ironically well suited for chest compression timing, but it turns out plenty of other songs are as well. That’s good for those who have such an aversion to the Bee Gees they would let someone die in the street rather than proclaim “I’m a woman’s man, no time to talk.”

As the interim senior cardiopulmonary/pop music correspondent for this award-winning publication, I put together the following Q&A to help explain the hands-only CPR initiative and explore the life-saving song list.

Q. Hey, Scott, I like your columns about monkeys a lot more, but since we are doing another one of these Q&A ones, I wanted to know about any developments in the CPR process. A few years ago, I went over to my Uncle Jasper’s house and he was lying right in the middle of the floor and didn’t appear to be breathing so I put my mouth on his and began a-huffing and puffing and beating on his chest. Turns out he’s just a shallow sleeper and was napping on the floor because it helped his back and, well, we can’t hardly look at each other at family reunions anymore and the smell of Old Spice makes me nauseated. Anything new I ought to know?

A. Yes, indeed. Hands-only CPR – without mouth-to-mouth -- has been shown to be as effective as conventional CPR in most settings, according to the American Heart Association. There are only two steps – call 911 then press hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of a familiar song that has 100-120 beats per minute.

Q. What if I can’t find a radio or nobody has Spotify on their phone to play one of those peppy, upbeat songs that will keep someone from getting a harp at the Pearly Gates?

A. No, the song doesn’t have to be playing at the time. You sing it or hum it to yourself while giving chest compressions to the beat.

Q. I’m not much of a singer. What if I clog dance on his chest to the tune of Flatt & Scruggs “Foggy Mountain Breakdown?”

A. No, clogging on someone’s chest during a cardiac episode is not recommended. Just get a favorite song in mind and keep the beat as you press down on the chest.

Q. Can I do “Amazing Grace?” That way if it doesn’t work I can give the fellow an appropriate send off.

A. That’s too slow. Some of the tunes recommended on the Spotify “Songs to do CPR to” playlist include “Rock This Town” by the Stray Cats, “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd and “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira and Wyclef Jean.

Q. What if I do “Hot for the Teacher” from Van Halen and just go nuts on that drum solo, just whacking his chest like I was doing an encore at Madison Square Garden circa 1984?

A. No. Some of the other songs suggested include “Cecelia” by Simon & Garfunkel, “Hard to Handle” by the Black Crowes and “Dancing Queen” by ABBA.

Q. I don’t suppose AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” is on there, is it?

A. No, it’s not on the list, but rhythmically it seems to work.

Q. I’ll keep that in mind if I ever see Uncle Jasper on the floor again.

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at

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