The Music Behind the Master Thief: An Epic Playlist for “SKYJACK”

When he jumped from the back entry of a Boeing jet, in the darkness of night, in the freezing cold, over the remote mountains of the Pacific Northwest, the mysterious passenger and legendary criminal known only as D.B. Cooper was practically starring in his own rock opera. Since then, the mysterious pirate of the sky has been the subject of numerous ballads, songs, even the name of a band -- the best of which I couldn’t resist compiling into a short playlist. When I started researching the case file in preparation for my book, "SKYJACK: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper," I could sense there were a few different soundtracks to this narrative. There was the soundtrack of 1971, the year the hijacking took place, where the theme song to the movie Shaft made it to the top of the pop charts along. Then there were the timeless songs that captured the bandit spirit in all of us, seeking that perfect getaway, a crime free from guilt. There was another kind of music, too, the soundtrack of the searchers, hunting for the legend and obsessing over the possibility that their closest loved ones were the hijacker himself. For them, even the lyrics to songs could hold the magic clues. These songs did something for me, too: after all of my research and countless hours under the influence of these paeans to a ghost, "If You Don't Know Me By Now" will never be the same. 1.  "Ghost Riders in the Sky," Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash 2.  "They Call me the Breeze", J.J. Cale 3.  "Wayfaring Stranger," Bill Monroe 4.  "Mountain Song," Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra 5.  "Ballad of D.B. Cooper," J.P. Cormier's cover of Chuck Brodsky 6.  "D.B. Cooper," Todd Snider 7.  "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves," Cher 8.  "If You Don´t Know Me By Now," Simply Red GEOFFREY GRAY writes about crime, politics, sports, travel and food. He is a contributing editor at New York Magazine, covered boxing for The New York Times and for programs like This American Life, writes for other newspapers and magazines, and once drove an ice-cream truck. SKYJACK is his first book.