Author Rob Sheffield Picks Karaoke Songs for Famous Authors
In some corner of the universe, there is a literary salon that doubles as a karaoke bar--a place where all the great writers of the ages gather to butcher their favorite songs by Meat Loaf or Neil Diamond. In my dreams, at least. So, here are my karaoke picks for five of my all-time favorite authors. I like to imagine them belting these songs at the cosmic karaoke lounge in the sky.
Gertrude Stein: "I Want It That Way," by The Backstreet Boys
When you think about it, this song really sounds like Gertrude Stein wrote it. Those lyrics could come straight from "Tender Buttons," yet you hear them and they seem to sum up all the secrets of the universe. Damn, I would like to hear her croon this as a duet with Alice B. Toklas.
James Joyce: "Little Red Corvette," by Prince
James Joyce loved to sing in bars--leave him alone at party for a few minutes and he'd scam a drink, play the piano and sing ballads or sea shanties. One of my favorite chapters in "Ulysses," "Sirens," is basically a karaoke scene. "Little Red Corvette" would have been perfect for his tenor--not to mention it's a song that could have been written about Molly Bloom.
Wallace Stevens: "Sunday Morning," by The Velvet Underground
My favorite poet ever--and a passionate music fan. As he wrote, "The self is a cloister full of remembered sounds." I always wonder if Lou Reed had the Stevens poem "Sunday Morning" in mind when he wrote his own beautiful "Sunday Morning." To me, they seem like different moments on the same morning.
Emily Dickinson: "Pony," by Ginuwine
Wild nights! Wild nights! Something tells me the Belle of Amherst could have rocked a few bells to this jam.
Oscar Wilde: "Cemetery Gates," by The Smiths
Nobody in the history of planet would have loved karaoke like Oscar Wilde. Karaoke lets you try on a different disguise with every song--as Wilde put it, "What people call insincerity is merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities." Can you imagine him flouncing through the karaoke bar singing a Smiths song about himself? Of course you can. Sing on, Oscar.
Rob Sheffield has been a music journalist for more than 20 years. He is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone--where he writes about music, TV and pop culture--and regularly appears on MTV and VH1. He is the author of "Love is a MixTape," "Talking to Girls About Duran Duran" and a new memoir, "Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke."