As I write this blog Alicia Keyes is singing Girl is On Fire on my computer, but no, wait, now it’s Hell on Heels by the Pistol Annies. And I happen to know that Katy Perry is about to sing Roar, a fabulous spoof on all those Tarzan movies I grew up with.
Why, you might ask? What do all these songs have in common?
The answer? All, every one of them, might well have been written for When We Were Sisters. And because I found them as I researched the novel and listened to popular music for inspiration, I want to share this special YouTube playlist with you today.
Novels grow much like children do. We envision what they’ll be before they’re born, their perfection, their depth, their beauty. Then the cute little boy we dreamed about is born with ears that stick straight out and a Houdini-like ability to escape from his crib, house and later, from every plan we made for him. He is born his own person.
And so it is with novels.
So what’s the book about anyway? And who?
When I began When We Were Sisters my editor said that Cecilia sounded like the most interesting character, and she hoped I would pump up her story. Of course–like the little boy–I nodded sweetly and ignored her. At least more or less. I liked Cecilia just fine, but I was convinced this was Robin’s book. Then, as the novel took on a life of its own, Cecilia emerged, without my telling her to, as possibly the most important character of all, and I fell in love with her. I have an excellent editor, don’t I?
I also fell in love with popular music.
Before I began Sisters my musical tastes were varied, lots of classical, rhythm and blues, sixties and seventies soft rock, a little country here and there. But the music that’s popular today wouldn’t have been on my personal list. Then I began to listen, because, after all, this is Cecilia’s world.
I was hooked.
Music can tell a story, too.
Now join me for an exploration of the story through music Cecilia would sing, or at least songs that she or the other characters would feel a strong connection to. Every song has a special meaning. Some are even mentioned in the story.
The YouTube Playlist has a description at the top, but let me tell you a little more here.
- Tough and Mother’s Day, by Kellie Pickler are songs that Cecilia would identify with. She had to be tough to survive, but at the same time she yearned for the mother who abandoned her. Cecilia does not sing country, but country lyrics tell stories better than any other, and these are no exception. Both songs are based on Pickler’s own life. BTW, if you’re an American Idol fan, Kellie Pickler finished 6th on Season Five. The top five must have been fabulous, because she certainly is.
- The next four songs are the kind that Cecilia becomes famous for, take-no-prisoner songs about women standing up to men. I had so many to choose from. You’ll hear Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys, Hell on Heels by the Pistol Annies, Roar by Katy Perry (be sure you WATCH that one), and Fighter by Christina Aguilera. I included that last because I could imagine Cecilia singing it but also performing it much the way Aguilera does in this New Orleans live concert.
- I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor is mentioned in the book, and Cecilia says it might as well have been her anthem. I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston is also mentioned when Cecilia warbles the first few lines to Robin. What a voice and what a talent. I’m sad we lost her so young.
- In between those two is Celine Dion’s gorgeous ballad Because You Loved Me. I was looking for a song to express the bond Cecilia and Robin have had since childhood when I heard the line: “You were my voice when I couldn’t speak.” Cecilia was Robin’s voice when the little girl was too frightened to say anything.
- Robin and Kris are separated by miles and by differences of opinion about their marriage. Both Talking to the Moon by Bruno Mars and Missing You by Steve Perry express their yearning for each other perfectly.
- There’s another love story in the novel, and All of Me by John Legend and One and Only by the magnificent Adele express that romance so perfectly, I don’t want to give anything away. I will say that when I heard All of Me for the first time I stopped the car to write down the title and performer. Quite possibly it’s my favorite love song, although the next one is a close second. By the way, One and Only spurred me to create this playlist. I fell in love with Adele and the song and realized there had to be more songs that expressed sentiments in the novel. I went looking.
- Finally Annie Lennox’s Universal Child is a plea directed at the world to remember the plight of children worldwide, those who are abused, hungry, and in danger. They are universal children. They belong to each of us. It’s fitting that she performs it here, in the National Cathedral in Washington DC.
Once again. You’ll find the link to the playlist here, on YouTube. You can load it on your computer, your smart phone or tablet. The whole playlist runs just short of an hour. You can simply listen or watch or do a little of both. You can skip songs, go back and listen again to the ones you love the most, and generally enjoy yourselves.
I really wanted to share this with you because creating it meant so much to me. I think the playlist conveys the real heart of the novel. I hope you’ll think so, too.