Your Book Changed My Life: #haikureview of Bob Boilen’s Your Song Changed My Life

I like to read while cycling. Helps me process.

Approximately one minute ago I finished reading a book. I had no idea what to expect, as I’m not really a “music buff,” but I learned more about a history of American music culture and the artist’s path in contemporary western society than I could have expected. I even found out the writer of my favorite contemporary epic poem, “Brand New Ancients,” is actually a famous female rapper. Who knew? Suffice it to say that I am better now than I was when I started reading.

Bob conducted thoughtful interviews with 35 musicians to collect the stories of the songs and moments that encouraged them to take their difficult journeys, and I’ve written a haiku for each one. Some of them might make sense based on what you already know about the artist, but most are inspired directly by the stories from the book, so pick it up.

Jimmy Page

these rock island lines
lead us at a full gallop
into rock ‘n roll

Carrie Brownstein

flung from our batcaves
sonar searching ancestors
we ourselves invent

Smokey Robinson

every night your song
sends an arrow to the moon
shining bright as new

David Byrne

as earth spins a maniac
his sweat is cold light

St. Vincent

deep cuts and sea crowds
neither abstract nor ego
make a secret saint

Jeff Tweedy

turning the record
ethereal and earnest —

James Blake

worthy it will be
when we hear your willhelm scream
through a beetle’s wings

Colin Meloy

WHAM for smart people
unspooling from cassette tapes
husks of momentous

Trey Anastasio

a bunch of hooey
or new depths and higher plains —
melody meets math

Jenny Lewis

dutchie or kouchie
cosmic pant suits made of words
dress the real poet

Dave Grohl

i’m gonna do this —
with aunt sherry’s blessing make
something, from no-thing

Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam

kinda vital mood
twisting shouting spinning till
empty into white

Sturgill Simpson

meta modern sounds
in between the hovering clouds
so high and lonesome

Justin Vernon

april in eau claire
only sisters can conjure
as how it should be

Cat Power

a distant churchbell
a kinship for whomever —
hope for the wretches

Jackson Browne

our own reflections
tell a topical story
of what’s needed most

Michael Stipe

a very very
very extraordinary
clear dervish moment

Philip Glass

counterpoint pepper —
not an overture cliche
a maverick glory


cello or rainbow?
the most remarkable view
a flight falsetto


an agile talent
makes his structures rebellion
language past lyric


work, church, land, woman —
an old music always finds
a young audience

Regina Carter

woven in bow hairs
electric swan symphonies
stretch into solos

Asaf Avidan

no casual lament —
honest vulnerability
is a reckoning

Valerie June

organic moonshine
imagining us into
somebody to love

Conor Oberst

the strange deep impact
slice of american pie —
show it, don’t tell it

Courtney Barnett

your handshake drugs make
her an avant gardener
sitting (and thinking)

Pokey LaFarge

all that he consumes
fresh corn or yearning trumpet
ra-aw-aw rooted

Kate Tempest

digging up their graves
chant, “more empathy, less greed — “
bring them back to life

Ian MacKaye

the anthemic punk
fuck the façade, hit the heart
straight edge vibration

Lucinda Williams

when the spirit meets
its own highway 61
there’s always a sign

Josh Ritter

time in a long time
simple, in a complex rhyme
beasts with diamond tracks

Chris Thile

if ya haven’t felt
the you haven’t heard a thing —
counterpoint hits soul

Leon Bridges

sweet mellifluous
just a song? or maybe more —
timeless genuine

Sharon Van Etten

embrace the tough side
it’s so much more cathartic
when you are the roar

Fantastic Negrito

having faith in time
even at its trickiest —
now that’s fantastic