I must have inherited my love of books from my mother, who – throughout her life – always had a book by her side.
The older I get, the more I enjoy reading. As the world gets faster, I’m able to slow it down a little by “getting into” a good book. It’s like stopping time for me – I can get lost for a while in some other drama, inside some other adventure – stepping back or forward in time – studying, learning, experiencing something other than my own existence – removed from the gravity of my normal daily, fast-paced routine. As Susan Sontag has said, “Books are like spaceships”; they allow us to travel into different worlds and to escape on so many levels. Books do that for me.… and, of course, they have also inspired many, many songs over the course of my career.
When I found the confidence to express the deeper side of my nature in my songs, books became the key to my inspiration. “In The House of Stone and Light” was written after visiting and reading about the Grand Canyon; “The Door” (from the same album) was inspired by a book I read about the Nazi concentration camp in Treblinka; “I Guess I Will” and “Everything You Do” were fuelled by my heavy reading of Buddhist philosophy (both songs were featured in the “In The Temple of The Muse” CD). In fact, the title, “In The Temple of The Muse” was based on an actual book shop that existed in London during the Romantic Poets period. From the same LP, “Mi Morena” appeared to me after extensive reading of the great Chilean love poet, Pablo Neruda, and, over the years, many of my love songs have been informed by the reading of such Romantic poets as Keats and Lord Byron (I’m a sucker for the dark, melancholic sadness and sentiment that these great poets invoke). “I Was Made For You” is a song that also pulls from that era of romance. I love reading all manner of subjects, but history in particular has always had a tight hold on me. I revere good songs that also allude to an actual occurrence in history – as many folk songs do. “Story songs” based on true events (or old, traditional folklore) are not the easiest to compose – especially if you’re trying to keep it reasonably commercial (or contemporary). Back in the 1900’s, Music Hall and Vaudeville did a wonderful job of creating songs that not only told stories of historical events, but were able to do so while still remaining entertaining and catchy – sometimes even with humor. What skill those writers had!
Quite recently, I’ve been able to build a home library – one of the true delights of my life. It has become a resource for many of my new songs – a laboratory I visit daily to stir the brain into creative activity.
So, in short, reading a book does a multitude of things for me: it slows me down, focuses me, takes me away, informs and teaches me, broadens my horizons and turns me on to new song ideas and concepts. And turning the pages of a book – with great anticipation of what the next page will reveal – is like reaching for the next chord on a guitar or piano/keyboard…. you’re never quite sure what magic awaits the eyes and ears.
“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend.
Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read”.
– Groucho Marx
“Books are solitudes in which we meet.”
– Rebecca Solnit