Interviews with nearly three dozen musicians about the life-altering songs that inspired their musical careers.
Since 2000, Boilen, creator and host of NPR’s All Songs Considered, has featured new and established singers of all genres on his popular online music show and podcasts. In these winning profiles, he teases out the single moment when each artist heard a song he or she will never forget. (His own life “changed forever,” he writes, when he first heard the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”) The song for these artists varies greatly: Motown star Smokey Robinson cites Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops,” Irish-born Hozier recalls falling in love with Tom Waits’ “Cold Cold Ground,” and composer Philip Glass remembers his discovery at age 11 of Spike Jones’ amusing version of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” played on pots and pans. In his fascinating explorations of these artists’ lives and work, Boilen finds pivotal moments happen most often at early ages, especially the teens and 20s. But then Justin Vernon of indie folk band Bon Iver encountered The Staves’ “No Me, No You, No More,” and “felt like I was lifting off the ground,” only recently, at age 33. Colin Meloy of the Decemberists remembers buying Hüsker Dü’s “beautiful, aching, gorgeous acoustic song” “Hardly Gotten Over It” and playing it on a boom box. Trey Anastasio of Phish first heard “Something’s Coming,” from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, among his mother’s Broadway original cast albums. Jazz violinist Regina Carter, on the other hand, rejected her own mother’s advice to join a symphony orchestra and went on to become a solo performer after hearing “Lovin’ is Really My Game” by Brainstorm, a funk band. Other contributors include Cat Stevens, Jackson Browne, Chris Thile, Jeff Tweedy, Carrie Brownstein, David Byrne, Jenny Lewis, and Jimmy Page.
Boilen’s warm, engaging voice pervades this treat for music aficionados.