The Poetry in Playlists

My fiction writing is inspired by many things…places I’ve visited, people I’ve met, art (especially photography), history and ancestry, and most especially music. I can never imagine not having music playing as I write. It sets the mood…it puts me in the mood. Like a meditation, the songs pull me deeper and deeper into the world I am creating. I actually create playlists for all of my major characters. When a character starts telling me the music he/she likes (or dislikes), the world each inhabits opens up to me in a way I’m not sure it could otherwise.

My iPod contains a strange combination of playlists at this point. I just recently completed the first draft of a novella whose character’s came of age in the 1980’s. The playlist of one particular character—born and raised in Hoboken, New Jersey—was heavy with Springsteen, Little Steven, Nils Lofgren, Southside Johnny and all things Jersey-boy rock, but was surprisingly devoid of Sinatra (and there’s a reason for that.) He was weaned on Louis Prima and Sam Butera, and discovered an early love of classic jazz. Another character preferred The Clash, The Smithereens, Fine Young Cannibals, Violent Femmes, Psychedelic Furs, and all things Elvis Costello. And still a third loved the Rolling Stones. That’s it, nothing but the Stones thank you very much. Future projects have me adding early 20th century banjo music, 1940’s Big Bands, and the works of Claude Debussy to these playlists.

Have you ever wondered what sort of music influenced your favorite artists? The Philadelphia Museum of Art produces these great CD’s that feature music popular at the time various artists created their masterpieces, such as Constantin Brancusi in Paris (think Edith Piaf) and Edward Hopper in New York (think Fats Waller, Al Jolson). They are great inspiration. I have my own ever-growing playlist which is decidedly heavy on singer-songwriter WXPN artists, but mostly contains songs that make me feel good. Bruno Mars if I want to dance, Amos Lee when I want to sing loud and off-key, and Eddie Vedder Ukulele songs for zoning out. Kronos Quartet has their own playlist because, well…I’m not sure how that happened.

Last night my husband asked me to add some new music to his iPod. When I went to update some of his favorite playlists, I found quite a bit of disorder…multiple songs on multiple lists, entire albums showing up in several locations. Not sure how it all happened, but I had no choice but to do some housecleaning and reorganizing. In the process, as I looked at alphabetized lists of songs, I found a bit of poetry in the making. Perhaps influenced by the spinal (book) poetry I’ve seen posted on Facebook of late, I discovered stories…new characters started peeking out from my playlists. Below is a listing of what I found. What poetry lies within your playlists? Take a look and see what you discover lurking there.

 (Note: my rule is that I must keep the song titles in alphabetical order, but I can skip a song in between…in most cases, the titles appear exactly as they do in my playlists.)

  1. After the Storm
  2. Ain’t Misbehavin’
  3. All I Want is You
  4. All the Way Down
  5. All This & Heaven Too
  1. Back to Manhattan
  2. Behind Me Now
  3. Best Love
  4. Best Year
  5. Better Man
  6. Bittersweet Symphony
  1. Clear Blue Eyes
  2. The Clockwise Witness
  3. Close My Eyes
  4. Coming Home
  5. Complicated Shadows
  1. Do Ya
  2. Do You Realize?
  3. Dog Days Are Over
  4. Don’t Carry It All
  5. Down Among the Wines and Spirits
  6. Dream A Little Dream
  1. Fly Me to the Moon
  2. For the Summer
  3. Funny the Way It Is
  4. Funtimes in Babylon
  5. Get Away
  1.  Goodbye
  2. (The) Great Defector
  3. (The) Great Escape
  4. (The) Great Remember
  5. Happy Pills
  6. Hard Sun
  7. Have I Told You Lately
  8. Head Full of Doubt/ Road Full of Promise
  9. Headlights
  10. Heartaches By the Number
  11. Heavy Light
  12. Hello Again
  1. I’m Movin’ On
  2. I Can’t Stand the Rain
  3. I Will Wait
  4. If I Had You
  5. If You Let Me
  6. If You Want Me
  1. Little Lion Man
  2. Livin’ Thing
  3. Locked Out of Heaven
  4. Lonesome
  5. Longing to Belong
  1. Love’s A Mystery
  2. Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting
  3. Love Has Come For You
  4. Love Will Come To You
  5. Lying in the Hands of God
  1. Man of the Hour
  2. (The) Man Who Sold the World
  3. Million Dollar Bill
  4. Moment of Surrender
  5. Money Grabber
  6. Moondance
  1. Sigh No More
  2. Sleep
  3. Sleeping By Myself
  4. Sleepless Nights
  5. Slipping Away
  6. Slow Cruel Hands of Time
  1. Some Kind of Love
  2. Southside of Heaven
  3. The Space Between
  4. Speed of Dreams
  5. Stardust
  6. Stars
  7. Stay With Me
  1. Wake Up Everybody
  2. The Walls Are Coming Down
  3. Warrior Man
  4. Waving Palms
  5. When Darkness Comes
  6. When I Fall in Love
  7. When Your Mind’s Made Up
  8. Where the Streets Have No Name
  9. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  10. Whispers in the Dark
  11. Whistle for the Choir
  12. White Blank Page
  1.  With or Without You
  2. Without You
  3. Would That Not Be Nice
  4. Yet Again
  5. You
  6. You’re True
  7. You Never Need Nobody
  8. You Were Never There
  1. The Fever
  2. For You
  3. Girl


  1. Human Touch
  2. Hungry Heart
  3. I’m A Man
  4. I’m Confessin’
  5. I’m in the Mood for Love
  6. I’ve Got a Feeling
  7. I’ve Got You Under My Skin
  8. I’ve Tried Everything
  9. I Could Write a Book
  1. I Wanna’ Be Like You
  2. I Wanna Be With You
  3. I Who Have Nothing
  4. Inside of Me
  5. It’s Bad You Know
  1. Make No Mistake
  2. Margie
  3. My Funny Valentine
  4. My Love Will Not Let You Down
  1. Should I Stay Or Should I Go
  2. Spirit in the Night
  3. Stompin’ At the Savoy
  4. Streets of Philadelphia
  5. That Old Black Magic
  6. There’s No Tomorrow
  7. Trapped


  1. Accidents Will Happen
  2. Add It Up
  3. Beauty & Sadness
  4. Behind the Wall of Sleep
  5. Blood & Roses
  6. Brilliant Mistake
  1. Couldn’t Care More
  2. Don’t Ask Me to Choose
  3. Drown in My Own Tears
  4. Everyday I Write the Book
  5. Funny How Love Is
  1.  Lost in the Super Market
  2. Man Out of Time
  3. Miles From Nowhere
  4. Once in a Lifetime
  5. Police On My Back
  6. Radio Radio
  1. She
  2. Should God Forget
  3. Sleep Comes Down
  4. So Like Candy
  5. Straight to Hell
  1.  Sulky Girl
  2. Take A Chance on Me
  3. There’s A World Outside
  4. Time Isn’t Kind
  5.  Too Much Passion
  1.  Veronica
  2. Waiting For the Bus
  3. Watching the Detectives
  4. White Riot
  5. Who Needs Love (Like That)

7 thoughts on “The Poetry in Playlists

Add yours

  1. This is great! The credit for the PMA CD’s goes to Leon Klayman at Art in Concert. He really used to research these CD’s, very carefully choosing the music and digging into the culture of the time period and the composers.


  2. So much goodness here — for myself, I’ve never been much of a playlist creator. As much as I love music, I want someone to do the work for me and figure out what I want to hear. (I think this might stem from my not having bought albums/tapes/cds much — I’d listen to whatever my friends turned me on to). Recently I made a “summer” playlist on Spotify, and even though it only has maybe 12 songs on it, now I can click “radio based on playlist” and the Spotify genie figures out what I might want to hear next. Now, though, I’ll have to think about what music might inspire me as I write my dissertation!


    1. PMA has a great New York & Hopper CD that has some great starting points for your time period (ragtime, stomp) …but if you want to channel Willa during her prairie time…you definitely need some banjo & fiddle music…I need to start building my playlist for my Nebraska story…when I do I’ll send you some inspiration


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