I am a huge music fan. Have been ever since I was a child. I remember taking out my mom’s fifties rock and roll records when I was seven or eight and playing them on our old record player over and over until I knew all of the words. To this day I still get a smile on my face whenever I hear Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock or the Big Booper’s Chantilly Lace.
But I think music really started to play a big part in my life when my uncle took me to see Beatlemania on Broadway. I was ten years old and hadn’t really been exposed to anything like that before. Something so powerful and intense. The music swept over me and moved me to tears. I remember it so vividly. Sitting in that theater, the emotions just welling up inside me. I instantly fell in love with the Beatles and when we went back to my uncle’s apartment I stayed up all night listening to every one of the Beatles’ albums.
From then on I just couldn’t get enough. For every birthday I’d ask my uncle to give me records. At that time, in the late seventies and early eighties they were LPs. He introduced me to The Who, Traffic, Eric Clapton, The Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, and on and on. My uncle even gave me my first guitar when I was twelve, although I didn’t start playing it until I was fifteen.
I think there was always a part of me that wanted to be a rock musician. It was definitely a passion of mine. It wasn’t until I was at university studying music, though, that I realized I would never be a professional musician. I was just not as good as the best players in the school. It was a sobering and sad day when the realization hit.
Thankfully, though, my other passion—reading and writing—has turned out much better for me. Still, I don’t feel like my love and study of music was ever a waste. In fact, I think music and literature are very much tied together. On many levels.
For me, personally, I am almost always listening to some kind of music as I write. It helps me block out the world and focus in on the page. For whatever reason, certain music taps into my imagination and allows the words to come to me. Other songs will remind me of certain times in my life and bring back a flood of memories that I can use in my work.
Then, of course, there is the obvious connection between words and music. The lyrics. Which can be read apart from the music as poetry. I’m often surprised at how many people don’t really listen to the words in a song. To me, it’s like you’re only getting half the experience. I used to love to lie on the floor of my bedroom with an album sleeve and read the lyrics right along with the songs. Looking for the rhyming patterns. Trying
to decipher what the more obscure lyrics where trying to say. Unfortunately, an entire generation has missed out on that experience because you rarely get the lyrics with a record anymore.
But beyond the lyrics, I feel like there is a rhythm to writing. Each author has their own voice and style, just as each musician has their own sound. I often encourage beginning writers to read their work out loud to try and get a sense of how the words and sentences feel in the mouth and sound to the ear.
Just like I can tell if Carlos Santana is playing guitar on a certain record, or if Paul McCartney is singing a certain song, by the way the music sounds in my ear, I can just as easily tell a passage from Ernest Hemingway or Stephen King or Richard Ford by the way the words and sentences flow on the page.