WHAT IS TUESDAY TUNES?
Tuesday Tunes is Kaylie Jones Books’ latest series and explores the connection between music and writing. Each month, we’ll invite one person from the Kaylie Jones Books collective to share their playlist, and their writing process, with us. This week, it’s Laurie Loewenstein.
WHO IS LAURIE LOEWENSTEIN?
LAURIE LOEWENSTEIN’s Unmentionables was selected as the flagship publication of Kaylie Jones Books. The novel, published in 2014, received a starred review from the Library Journal and praise from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Publishers Weekly and the New York Journal of Books. She is currently writing a mystery novel set in the 1930s Dustbowl.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PLAYLIST?
LL: It’s a Mulligan Stew—a jumble of tunes plucked from the songbook of the Great Depression as well as some personal favorites from the 1960s and 70s. Mulligan Stew was the haphazard collection of meat, vegetables and scraps that hobos of the Dirty Thirties tossed into their communal cookpots.
DOES MUSIC PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR CURRENT WRITING PROJECT?
LL: In the 1930s, the most popular, and cheapest, entertainments were listening to the radio and playing music in the family living room. Traditional and popular songs were everywhere. Death of a Rainmaker mentions two specifically – “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and “The Ballad of Jesse James” – one of which includes a clue to the mystery.
HOW DOES MUSIC FACTOR INTO YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
LL: While I can’t write with music playing, I make it a point to include popular songs of the day in my historical fiction. That involves research. Nothing is more fun than taking a break from writing to noodle around on YouTube, searching out the tune my characters are listening to. Dance music from my own era is a great motivator when I need a break from the keyboard.
HOW DID YOU COME ACROSS THESE SONGS?
I was familiar with all except “The Cannonball” by the Carter Family. I knew I wanted to include something by them since the Carters had such a profound effect on the music of both the 1930s and the 1960s. Most folks are familiar with “Can the Circle Be Unbroken,” so I wanted something less familiar that featured A.P. Carter’s remarkable voice.
WHICH OF THESE IS YOUR FAVORITE SONGS AND WHY?
“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye moves me in so many ways — its lyrics, which speak to the activism of the era when I was in high school; Gaye’s sublime tenor that springs straight from his heart and the song’s rhythm that doesn’t allow for passive listening but demands you stand up and get your groove on.
1. “Dust Bowl Blues” – Woodie Guthrie (1940)
Guthrie pours life in the Dust Bowl right into your ears.
2. “The Cannonball” – The Carter Family (1927)
A gem from the first family of American Folk Music.
3. “The Big Rock Candy Mountains – Harry McClintock (1928)
A hobo’s paradise is described.
4. “Queen Bee” ¬– Taj Mahal (1977)
Taj is a national treasure.
5. “What’s Going On,” ¬– Marvin Gaye (1971)
My go-to for inspirational groove. My favorite singer of all time.
6. “Love Me Like a Man,” ¬– Bonnie Raitt (1972)
Nothing better than a woman singing the blues.
7. “Poor Old Dirt Farmer,” ¬¬– Levon Helm (2007)
His voice, the thump of his drumsticks speak to Hard Times.
8. “To Kill a Mockingbird Suite” ¬¬– Elmer Bernstein (1962)
Alternatingly delicate and gloriously surging, this stops my heart every time.
9. “Rock Steady,” ¬¬– Aretha Franklin (1971)
The Queen of Soul can sing anything and move me. This lesser-known tune is an invitation to dance.
10. “Crazy Love,” ¬¬– Van Morrison (1970)
The most romantic song ever written.