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These Writer Types Are a Scream: Songs about Writing

In the mood to listen to music about writing? In a matter of seconds, the wondrous Internet will pull up a list of 95 songs about writing, books, or authors. There’s David Bowie’s “1984,” Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” the 10,000 Maniacs’ “Hey Jack Kerouac,” and perhaps the most ubiquitous writing song of all: the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer.”

When I think about literary-themed music, a few other songs come to mind that aren’t purely writing-centric, like Billy’s Joel’s “Piano Man” (“Now Paul is a real estate novelist / who never had time for a wife”) or Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” (“And you won’t read that book again / because the ending’s just too hard to take”). And a fellow writer recently brought to my attention Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s “Night Noises,” which was dedicated to the memory of Maurice Sendak (“He taught me to make big thoughts small”).

But in terms of the songs that immediately come to mind when I think of writing-related music, here are my top five choices:

“My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors,” Moxy Früvous
Spilled some dressing on Doris Lessing / These writer types are a scream!

Not long after my husband and I started dating, he told me this song made him think of me because I was always reading. (I took it as a compliment and assumed he didn’t identify with lines like “She says, ‘Hon, drop dead, I’d rather go to bed with Gabriel García Márquez.’”) Also, I’d pay good money to attend the author party featured in this song, food fight and all.

“Virginia Woolf,” Indigo Girls
When your whole life is on the tip of your tongue / Empty pages for the no longer young

In a 1992 interview, Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls said of Woolf, “I feel as though I have a living friendship with her.” I had no choice but to automatically love this song.

“Bukowski,” Modest Mouse
And yeah, I know he’s a pretty good read. / But God who’d wanna be? / God who’d wanna be such an asshole?

The lyrics say it all, don’t they?

“Open Book,” Cake
She’s writing, she’s weaving, conceiving a plot

This song takes me right back to 1996, and I’m okay with that. (Bonus: If you Google “open book cake,” you’ll get lots of photos of cakes shaped like books. Win-win.)

“Lodestar,” Sarah Harmer
Your hand won’t write, not tonight, but your mind may wander

Last but not least is Sarah Harmer’s “Lodestar,” a song that, as a whole, might not be specifically about writing, but the line above has stuck with me for at least a decade. As writers, we’ve all undoubtedly had nights like this.