Could soul music inspire your writing?

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a BBC podcast called Soul Music…

I worry that I’m veering ever-so-slightly off topic in today’s blog. The podcast I want to recommend to you — Soul Music — has nothing to do with writing. But it is so interesting and so exquisitely put together I see it in the “inspirational” category. Listen to this deeply affecting podcast and you will want to be a better person, if not a better writer.

If you have never before heard a podcast, listen to this one. (Podcasts are free and not the least bit frightening. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can hear most of them via your desktop computer.) If, like me, you’re a bit of a podcast fiend, include Soul Music in your roster.

Soul Music identifies what it describes as pieces of music “with a powerful emotional impact.” I love the way the show crosses all genres — classical, pop, musical theatre, jazz, blues, opera. Here are some titles that may resonate with you:

  • Mack the Knife
  • Fairytale of New York
  • Jerusalem
  • Hallelujah
  • Strange Fruit
  • La Boheme

The 30-minute podcast sometimes touches on issues like musical structure. But, more often, it’s a social history of the time in which the song was written or became popular. I found the episode on “Strange Fruit,” the famous song about lynching, performed by Billie Holliday (pictured above) to be especially affecting.

The show is well written and beautifully assembled but what makes it irresistible to me, at least, is the way it uses music. There is something about music that touches the human heart in a way that mere words cannot. It is richer, deeper, more meaningful. I am listening my way through the entire Soul Music catalogue now.

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