Lambda Literary asked 17 LGBT writers about their pandemic playlists—check out the full article, which includes two favorites of Bywater Books author Ann McMan.

Songs in Isolation: 17 LGBTQ Writers on What They are Listening to Right Now

Author: Marrion Johnson, April 19, 2020

The world is officially on pause and yet many of us still need to find ways to move through this challenging time. But the question is…how? What are we to look to for guidance or inspiration, or to express our rage and despair, in this truly uncanny moment? For a lot of us, the answer lies in music. Music, like literature, gets to the core of that indescribable but palpable thing that makes us all human. It moves us, it speaks to us, it provides a sense of hope, and it holds our anger when we’re not quite sure how we’re going to make it.

Because music is so crucial to many of our writing practices, we at Lambda Literary thought it would be a good idea to check in with some of our favorite LGBTQ writers and see what songs are soundtracking their isolation in these trying times. And the response was overwhelming! We spoke to 17 LGBTQ writers who each shared one or a few songs that have been helping them to confront reality or simply escape. Their responses are delicious, and the music is phenomenal.

So turn up speakers and prepare to shake your body as you dig into Lambda’s LGBTQ Writer’s Playlist!

And, here’s the full soundtrack to Ann McMan’s socially-isolated author’s studio.

(1) “Clair de Lune” performed by Ruth Laredo, from My First Piano Recital

“This is a timeless piece of music for me—almost a leitmotif for my life. It reminds me of the peace and hope that abide on the other side of loss.”

Listen to it here.

(2) “The Four Last Songs” by Richard Strauss, performed by Renée Fleming

“If you want a microcosm of the totality of all human of experience, all wrapped up in one, stirring song cycle, here it is. These four songs take me through every human emotion: love, loss, hope, despair, angst, and tranquility. Every time I listen to them I am reminded of the threads that bind us all together, sometimes loosely, in a great pastiche of everything it means to be human. To me, Renée Fleming’s recording of this iconic work (performed with Christian Thielemann) is a rich interpretation of the much-recorded classic.”

Listen to it here.

(3) “Everybody’s Talkin’ About Miss Thing” performed by Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers

“I am so not kidding about this one! If you don’t know Lavay Smith by now, why not? The only thing better than listening to Lavay Smith when you’ve got the blues is listening to Lavay Smith with a big, steaming plate of biscuits and gravy. You won’t mind your isolation when you can sit down and commiserate with Miss Thing.”

Listen to it here.

(4) “Moonlight In Vermont” performed by Ella Fitzgerald

“My wife and I got married in Vermont eight years ago—on Easter Sunday. (We liked the mixed metaphors.) Ella’s velvet voice never fails to remind me of the best and most hopeful day of my life.”

Listen to it here.

(5) “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” performed by Jessye Norman

“Well. Just go listen to it. Your life will be changed. I promise. It’s a simple gift you can thank me for later . . .”

Listen to it here. 

(6) “Feeling Good” performed by Nina Simone

“Wanna remember what it was like to just feel good—for no reason? That’s why god created Nina Simone. This force of this song is primal—like a heartbeat that will not cease.”

Listen to it here.

(7) “I Let A Song Go Out of My Heart” performed by Catherine Russell

“Don’t give up. Not ever. The lesson is easy. Effortless.”

Listen to it here.

(8) “Jericho” performed by Joni Mitchell

“This song is my personal mantra—for a lot of reasons. In her inimitable way, Dame Joni reminds us of the miracles that can happen when our walls come crumbling down and we allow ourselves to embrace freedom.”

Listen to it here.

Ann McMan is the author of nine novels and two short story collections. She is a Lambda Literary Award recipient, a two-time Independent Publisher (IPPY) medalist, an eight-time winner of Golden Crown Literary Society Awards, and a laureate of the Alice B. Foundation for her outstanding body of work. She lives in North Carolina.

Her newest novel, Galileo, is a 2020 Lambda Literary Award finalist.

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