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1. Heavens to Betsy – Fireflies 2. American Music Club – Firefly 3. Bishop Allen – Fireflies 4. Mudhoney – Touch Me I’m Sick 5. Screaming Trees – Nearly Lost You 6. the Shins – New Slang 7. The Grateful Dead – Touch of Gray 8. Widespread Panic – Bears Gone Fishin’ 9. Katy Perry – Firework 10. Joan Osborne – Lumina
When she was alive, Meg was obsessed with songs about fireflies and made a themed playlist, so firefly songs are deeply woven into the book’s literal and metaphorical soundtrack – particularly these three:
Fireflies by Heavens to Betsy
It was this single by the 1990s Riot Grrl band – featuring the amazing vocals and lyrics of Sleater Kinney’s Corin Tucker – that inspired Meg to create her songlist, which in turn inspired my firefly motif in the book. I had to get permission to use the lyrics, which led to an email exchange with Corin. #FangirlMoment!
Firefly by American Music Club
This firefly song makes an appearance in my very first YA novel, Sisters in Sanity. It’s romantic to me – my then-boyfriend-now-husband put it on the first mixed tape he made for me – but it’s melancholic too because fireflies are fleeting. Obviously, it would be on Meg’s list.
Fireflies by Bishop Allen
I didn’t actually know this song when I started the book, though I was a fan of Bishop Allen. I came across this song when I was researching firefly songs for the playlist Meg made, and it became the soul of the book, particularly the line It says you can still forgive her. And she will forgive you back. I almost entitled the book Oh So Brief And Bright, which is another lyric from the song.
Though the book takes place in the present day (or present day as it was four years ago), it’s steeped in the Northwest music scene. I lived in Oregon during the height of the Nirvana/K Records/NW grunge explosion so that music was on my mind, particularly as I wrote about Ben and his band.
Touch Me I’m Sick by Mudhoney
Mudhoney was known as one of the godfathers of grunge. (Pacific Northwest? Check. SubPop Records release? Check. Messy, punky, poppy sound? Check.) Touch Me I’m Sick is one of their quintessential tracks but it also seems to sum up Ben, Cody and Meg, all of whom are sick in their own ways, and who need to be touched.
Nearly Lost You by Screaming Trees
This is by another Northwest band (also considered a godfather of grunge). It’s a song I can imagine Ben singing to Meg and to Cody. Did you hear the distant cry. Calling me back to my sin… I nearly, I nearly lost you there. And it’s taken us somewhere. I nearly lost you there.
New Slang by the Shins
Another poppy, rockin’ song by a Pacific Northwest band. Ben’s band is nowhere near as good as the Shins, but they aspire to be.
Jam band songs
Jam bands, like the Grateful Dead and Phish, are really not my jam. But I include the following two tracks because they’re the kind of music Stoner Richard and Tree would be playing at the shared house. I am sorry I can’t tell you more about these songs – I made my husband choose them – but I really cannot stand this music. I feel that Meg would’ve hated these songs too.
Touch of Gray by The Grateful Dead
I can’t really tell you anything about this song because that would mean listening to it, and have I not already mentioned how much I hate this kind of music?
Bears Gone Fishin’ by Widespread Panic
No further description. See above.
I’m always struck by how funerals often don’t reflect the person being memorialised at all. (Remember when Wind Beneath My Wings played at punk-rocker Kerry’s funeral in If I Stay?) It’s like once you die, you can’t speak for yourself, and grief makes us all generic. But one size does not fit all in life. Or in death.
Firework by Katy Perry
This song gets played early on, at one of Meg’s many memorial services, much to Cody’s dismay. She knows this isn’t a song Meg would like – she wonders if someone mixed up the firefly obsession with firework – and it serves to show how a town that never got Meg in life, doesn’t get her in death either. (P.S. I’m a big fan of this song, or at least I was before I heard it 10,000 too many times.)
Lumina by Joan Osborne
This is the final music reference in the book. It’s the song played at Meg’s final memorial service, the one attended by the people who, if they didn’t fully understand her in life, have come to know her better in death. It is Cody’s choice; a slow, hauntingly beautiful melody. While the lyrics aren’t particularly relevant to the story, or Meg, there’s something to Lumina, Come and wrap around me, that brings me comfort and, I hope, Meg and Cody too.