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SAVED BY A SONG by Mary Gauthier Kirkus Star


The Art and Healing Power of Songwriting

by Mary Gauthier

Pub Date: July 6th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-250-20211-6
Publisher: St. Martin's Essentials

An acclaimed singer/songwriter digs soulfully into her craft.

A great song can capture time and place, conjure elaborate fictions, and convey deep, emotional truths. This collection unveils how a master managed many of her most memorable pieces, like a magician revealing all of her tricks. It’s no surprise that Gauthier (b. 1962), best known for the moving folk songs of Mercy Now and her concept album about her adoption, The Foundling, is an authoritative writer. Though the details of her life that inform her stunningly straightforward song “I Drink” are interesting to read, knowing them doesn’t really magnify the song’s impact once you’ve heard it. However, when the author shows her editing process for the song, making the symbolism stronger and switching points of view, it’s a lesson that’s hard to forget. Gauthier brings that sharp honesty to a variety of songs and the topics that inspired them, whether it was her decision to leave the restaurant business to become a songwriter, her knack of picking the wrong women for relationships, or losing friends to the AIDS crisis. She also brings it to the artistic process. “Storytellers have power; they are not voiceless victims,” writes the author. “In a song we are given the authority to be the writer of the story instead of the paper it is written on.” She explains how she uses that authority to help military veterans take control of their experiences and turn them into something useful by helping them express themselves as songwriters. “There is something sacred in the electricity that surges between song and songwriter,” writes Gauthier. “Lightning rod in hand, I follow flashes of ideas and inspiration. My work is to be a receiver.” She does that work well as a songwriter and now as an author.

A powerful memoir that says as much about Gauthier and her eventful, trailblazing life as it does about her music.