Monday, April 20, 2009

They're Playing Our Song

By: Marie Force
I love music. I love the power of music. I love the way a certain song can set just the right mood whether it's in real life, a movie, or a book. Music plays a role in every book I've ever written. In "Line of Scrimmage," Ryan played the guitar and used music to woo his wife, to remind her of what they'd once had and to show her what they could have again. In "Love at First Flight," Michael plays the song "When You Say Nothing At All" to show Juliana what he's feeling at a critical point in the book. In another of my as-yet unpublished books, the hero lip-sings to "The Way You Look Tonight" after he first makes love to the heroine, letting her know in his own way that he'll never forget her or that moment. "Tupelo Honey" by Van Morrison inspired an entire book, which took shape from start to finish in my mind over the course of a single playing of the song.

Because of copyright laws, we can't include actual lyrics in our books without going through a complex (and expensive) permission process. So when using a tune to set the mood, it's critical we use an iconic song that just about everyone is familiar with or one like "When You Say Nothing At All" that conveys the message of the song in the title. That song summed up Michael and Juliana's relationship because with them it's the small things that add up to an amazing, deeply felt love.

One of the early reviewers for "Love at First Flight," tuned into this dynamic between them when she said, "What I really liked about these two characters is the way they take care of each other. There is an art to that, to doing small things for each other without thinking, with pleasure even, because you know the other will appreciate it. Julianna is a nurturing person, with everyone around her, and that's just what Michael needs. For his part, Michael offers Julianna a helping hand when she needs it, and some space to be an adult, even when he would prefer to get closer." (AlphaHeroes)

Other songs I've used in my books include "We've Got Tonight" by Bob Seger, "Big Girls Don't Cry," by Fergie, "Unchained Melody," by the Righteous Brothers, "Now and Forever," by Carole King, and "Georgia on My Mind," by Ray Charles, to name a few.

I also love the transportive power of music. Any time I hear Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" I'm on the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset with two old friends and an ex-boyfriend I haven't seen in twenty-five years. The first notes take me right back to that unforgettable moment, riding in a convertible with the wind in our hair and the world at our feet. Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Southern Cross" sends me to the summer of 1984 and a new love that I was certain would last forever. Frank Sinatra's "Summer Wind" puts me in the arms of my late mother at Ballard's big dance floor on Block Island. Don Ho's "Tiny Bubbles" conjures up endless summer days on the boat with my family. Roxette's "It Must've Been Love" from Pretty Woman is all about the boy who got away. Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately" is all about the boy I married and dancing with him for the first time as my husband. Hootie and the Blowfish's "Let Her Cry" takes me to my first days as a mom when all my baby daughter did was cry. Avril Levine's "Complicated" calls up images of my then four-year-old son singing at the top of his lungs to a song he shouldn't have known every word to. These songs and many others make up the soundtrack of my lifetime.

My favorite song of all time? "100 Years to Live" by Five for Fighting because it reminds me that we've only got so much time and every minute counts. It's the ring tone on my cell phone, and it's the song I listen to whenever I lose my way and forget about what's really important.

What songs have you used in your books? What songs take you back to special times in your life? What's your all-time favorite song and why?


  1. My all time favorite song has nothing to do with love, and everything to do with the pride of accomplishment. I learned to play "Classical Gas" by Mason Williams on the guitar way back when it was a hit, and being able to do that was one of the things I'm most proud of. I can't play it now, but I probably should at least try--if I could just find the sheet music for it....

    The one that gives me that certain feeling is "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins. It reminds me of driving at night with my DH in his brand-new 1984 Honda Prelude. WAY cool!!!!

  2. Oh, the songs I love are too many to name....

    Right now... Girl Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae

    All time favorite: Help Me - Joni Mitchell for best romance metaphor, Dying Love category: "I've seen some hot hot fires burn down to smoke and ash."

    Tied for favorite... Carolina In My Mind - James Taylor - You can listen to his song and take it in on so many levels, and that's the power of storytelling!

  3. Hotel California. Great post, Marie! :) There are others but can't think of them off the top of my head! :)

  4. Some great nominees for best song, ladies! First day back to work after vacation, so I'll be in and out today as I deal with 1,200 emails. Sigh... I wanna go back to Florida!

  5. Funny, one of my loops this morning is talking about using brand names to anchor the reader in a particular reality.

    Music does the same thing, and in addition, sets a mood. "Rainy Night in Georgia," is one of the most evocative songs to me. (Feels like it's rainin' all over the world.)

    Cheryl, I've always loved the driving energy of "Classical Gas." You remind me that I learned to stumble my way through "Maple Leaf Rag" on the piano. I never learned to play it well, and couldn't do it all now, but I love it's purely insouciant tone.

    In SEALed With A Promise, I have the heroine sing "Away In A Manger" and choke up on the last verse "...I ask thee to stay/Close by me forever, and love me, I pray."

    I figured I was free to quote it at will.

  6. Great Post Marie,
    I love so many songs.
    But the first Song that came to mind was "Oh! Donna!! by Ritchie Valee. My first Air Force boy friend recorded that song down in a Night Club in Germany and they that song to me. He sang the last verse. Hard to forget that moment.
    RG and I always liked "Happy Together" and "I'm Just a Carpenter and You're A Lady" will you marry me anyway.
    He proposed to that song.
    And than a song dear to my heart is" Knock Knocken on Heaven's Door.
    That was a favorite song of my late Brother Tom or anything else written by our cousin BOB.
    Boy that was a nice walk down Memory lane.

  7. Wow,Donna, is Bob Dylan REALLY your cousin????

  8. Hi Marie,

    Hmm, since all of my books but one have been historical I can't say I've ever put a song in one of my books--but I do mention two scores that my heorine is playing on the pianoforte in A Marquis To Marry!

    Two of my favorite songs are Tears in Heaven and You look Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton. I am a Beatles' fan from way back and love all the music of the sixties. Ah--were you born then?


  9. Like Amelia I have to stick to references to classical composers and dance music. I have quoted poetry several times, if that counts!

    As for a favorite song, I really have too many to name one. I tend to like certain artists more than one song. Of course, I always go back to my 70-80s years and love all those songs. "Amazing Grace" is one that forever chokes me up.

    Wonderful post Marie! I love thinking about songs I love.

  10. Back to check in...

    MM, older songs, such as Away in a Manger, might've reverted to the public domain by now but in those cases the original author is usually recognized in the acknowledgments. I do copyright stuff for work so I know more about this than I ever wanted to!

    Donna, I love your "Oh Donna" story and we played "Happy Together" as the last song at our wedding.

    Amelia, I love "Wonderful Tonight" but can't listen to Tears in Heaven, knowing it's about his son who died at 4 years old. Too sad for me!

  11. Sharon,
    I love Amazing Grace, too!

  12. Thanx for such a fun post, Marie!

    I'm picturing your son at 4 belting out "Complicated!" LOL!

    TToV was actually inspired by the opera "Jewels of the Madonna" by Hermanno Wolf-Ferrari. I heard the "Incidental Music" on the radio and it captured my attention and imagination and started me down that magical path of "what if..."

    I love classical music and my favorite is Beethoven's 6th symphony, "The Pastoral." It is very soothing (except for the thunderstorm part). But I also have a soft spot in my heart for John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" because in 8th grade, I played the piccolo solo at our commencement exercises. Practicing that part at home was the only time in my 5 year musical career that I ever made the dog howl. :-)


  13. Yes, Cheryl,
    He's really Bob Zimmerman from Hibbing, Mn. Cousin on my Mom's side. He's never been close with his relatives from Mineesota though. It was never cool to be from the Iron Range.

  14. I love Pachabel's Cannon in D myself, Cindy, and Vivaldi's Four Seasons. YES, Jake's "Complicated" phase was hysterical. This little man singing at the top of his lungs "Why you gotta go and make things so complicated?"

    LOL on making the dog howl. I probably did that a few times with my clarinet!

  15. Hi Marie! This is a GREAT post, speaking as a total music junkie. Hmm, I think I'm probably going to be the only one to volunteer that I'm listening to stuff like Nine Inch Nails as inspiration right now, LOL! So many of my memories are associated with songs...from dancing with my mom to Barbra Streisand's "Woman in Love" when I was four to the high school summer I started to drive and Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train" was all over the radio.

    LOL at "Complicated"! Though I think nothing is worse than my aunt and cousin gleefully encouraging my then-four-year-old daughter's love of the song "Milkshake." Oh. My. God.

    I walked down the aisle to a string trio playing Canon in's a favorite. That and Air on a G String, the name of which should not still make me giggle inappropriately (*snerk*).

  16. Fabulous post, Marie~

    I have whole soundtracks for my books, but the few songs that are on all of them is Sway by the Pussycat Dolls, Insatiable by Darren Hayes and Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop by Landon Pigg. I love those songs, they always put me right in the mood for romance.

  17. I walked down the aisle to Canon in D, too, Kendra! LOL on the Milkshake! Too funny!

  18. Robin,
    I knew you'd relate to this post since you make soundtracks for all your books. I've only done that for my first one, but I definitely have a couple of songs in every book.

  19. I am so bad at remembering the names to songs, so this was a fascinating article for me.

  20. Marie,
    This is so much fun.
    We walked down the isle to Pachabel's Cannon in D too.
    Oh I love "Pretty Woman" and "Up Where We Belong" so much to from the Movies.

  21. Looks like Canon in D was popular with several of us at wedding time! Glad you're enjoying the chat, Donna!

  22. Psst, Kendra you're not the only one.
    I still snork at Air on a G String too!

    AC who really should know better