Music is transformative. Inspirational. Hell, just look at the word. Music. Looks an awful lot like muse. Sounds like it too. No, I haven’t done an
entomological etymological (NOTE: Thanks to the fabulous Lori L Lake who once again proves why the world needs good editors. Entomological involves bugs. Etymological involves the origin of words.) study of the word, so if you are super smart and know the correlation, jump in the comments and tell us all about it. For me, though, it’s more about how music connects with my soul and how that connection translates into creative energy for writing. With that in mind, here are some songs that have literally changed my life. And informed my writing.
“When God-Fearin’ Women Get the Blues” by Martina McBride
This song is tongue in cheek, for sure. The lyrics are sharp, funny, and oh so cutting. If you listen to the full version that includes Marina doing a press-conference style summary of the events leading up to the video, there is one line in particular that really grabbed my attention. “…twenty-five years of love and devotion, down the drain…”
What follows is a high-speed farce about a woman who reacts to the news that her husband has been having an affair. And that made me think. Sure, he had an affair. But what if she did too? And what if the person she had an affair with was a much younger woman, on par with her husband’s side girl?
After several years and many tens of thousands of words and my novel Love and Devotion becomes the inevitable result.
“The Highwoman” by The Highwomen
This song of course contains some amazing lyrics that deserves all manner of reflection and praise, but that’s not what gets my attention here. It’s the women singing and the amazing harmonies they weave together.
The Highwomen is a female collaboration in the spirit of The Highway Men. The group consists of Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires, and Natalie Hemby, and they joined together specifically to push women to the forefront of country music and to demand air time on the radio for female artists. I’m not sure exactly what that looks like or how that’s accomplished, but so far they are on fire.
I defy anyone to give them a listen and not be inspired. It’s impossible. Seriously.
“Formation” by Beyoncé
I was tempted to list “Who Run the World” rather than “Formation.” That’s mostly because it’s all about girl power. Ultimately, though, “Formation” grabs me in a fundamental, deep-in-my-soul kind of way that I can’t properly explain.
This song is full of anger, but it’s laser focused, a rally call. Beyoncé takes generations of frustration and gives it purpose. She’s pissed off. She’s in charge. And she’s a general calling an army.
Plus, she flips the world the bird. Double fisted. There is nothing subtle in that.
“God Bless the Child” by Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday definitely wasn’t the best vocalist in history. Her voice resonated, sure, but it was a little…off. And yet, it’s impossible not to listen. Everything in her makes its way into the very world whenever she loosed her voice. She filled a room, a world. A heart.
“God Bless the Child” is a bittersweet examination of the distribution of power and wealth and how it skews every single aspect of our lives.
“Fancy” by Reba McEntire
“Fancy” is all about a woman who claims control and power in her life by selling her biggest asset: herself. This song challenges us to think about sex workers, their place in our lives, and if the shame associated with the industry comes from within or if it’s imposed upon us.
Please note that the version I’m showing here is a cover by Kelly Clarkson that was performed as a tribute to Reba. It’s a symbolic torch passing of sorts. Kelly takes an iconic song about female power, makes it her own, and in the process honors the message, the song writer, and singer. It’s a powerful song with a powerful message sang by generations of powerful women.
That rounds off my list of five. What about y’all? What inspires you? Which songs spark that need to write?