Books, Music, social justice

The Goodbye Wifes and Daughters SOUNDTRACK (proposed and dreamed)

When I first started writing Goodbye Wifes and Daughters, I noticed that some of my favorite songs reflected the mood of the book eerily well. I began collecting them in a playlist and listening when I needed to recall the precise emotions that led me to need to tell this story. As I wrote, I continued to add songs.  If the book ever becomes as a movie, this would be its soundtrack.

I’d love to make CDs of these songs and give them out at book signings, but that would be copyright infringement, which my patent attorney of a husband frowns upon. So, I’ll just list the songs here. I hope you’ll BUY and listen to them on your own. Every one is beautiful.
1) Little Road by Cheryl Wheeler – “How can there be trouble in this world, with the color in these hills, the blue October sky and this little road that winds along the river?” Wheeler writes. Just as I imagine Bearcreek before all the trouble started with the November mine inspection. I also love this part: “I know – of course I know – that this is not the only picture…But the road keeps winding through the afternoon and it doesn’t know the sorrow or an inkling of the shadow of the rage across the water, the hatred in the heart, it just wanders through this valley with the river by its side. As the light fades from the sky. The beautiful light fades from the sky.” Which could easily refer to the war that was happening in Europe but hadn’t touched Bearcreek much yet. On Defying Gravity.
2) They Can’t Take That Away From Me by George and Ira Gershwin. “We may never, never meet again, on that bumpy road to love. But I’ll always, always keep the memory of: the way you hold your knife, the way we danced ’til three, the way you changed my life – no, they can’t take that away from me.” I can picture my wives and their husbands dancing to this, at one of their many town-wide soirees, and the wives cherishing the memories of “the way you wear your hat” and “the way your smile just beams” after the disaster. On The Glory of Gershwin, recorded by Lisa Stansfield. 
3) Lullaby by The Dixie Chicks. “How long do you want to be loved? Is forever enough?” For the introduction of Virginia and her baby. On Taking the Long Way.
4) Under Pressure by Queen (and David Bowie). “Watching some good friend scream ‘let me out’…can’t we give ourselves one more chance? This is our last dance. This is ourselves under pressure.” These lyrics are a bit literal, but the song fits with the section of the book during which everyone is desperately trying to save the men. I also like the line, “Turned away from it all like a blind man,” which could describe members of mine management. On Classic Queen.
5) This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush. “Pray God you can cope. I stand outside. This woman’s work. Ooh, it’s hard on the man. Now his part is over. Now starts the cry of the father. I know you have a little life in you yet, I know have a lot of strength left. I should be crying but I just can’t let it show. I should be hoping, but I can’t stop thinking, of all the things I should have said but I never said, all the things we should have done though we never did… Oh darling make it go away… Give me these moments back. Give them back to me. Give me that little kiss. Give me your hand.” What better way to describe the agony of the women waiting, stoically, outside the mine for their men to be rescued. The words fit so perfectly they’re like stage direction. On The Sensual World.
6) You’re Missing by Bruce Springsteen. “Shirts in the closet, shoes in the hall. Mama’s in the kitchen, baby and all. Everything is everything. But you’re missing. Coffee cup’s on the counter, jacket’s on the chair, paper’s on the doorstep, but you’re not there…Your house is waiting for you to walk in, but you’re missing.You’re missing, when I shut out the lights, you’re missing, when I close my eyes, you’re missing, when I see the sun rise. Children are asking if it’s all right. Will you be in our arms tonight?” This song was written after 9/11, but the sentiment applies to the mothers and children of Montana all those years earlier. And the final lines, “Got dust on my shoes. Nothing but teardrops” is so enigmatic, yet so fitting for the Bearcreek story. On The Rising.
7) Keep Me In Your Heart by Warren Zevon. “Shadows are falling and I’m running out of breath. Keep me in your heart for a while. If I leave you, it doesn’t mean I love you any less…Sometimes when you’re doing simple things around the house, maybe you’ll think of me and smile… When the winter comes, keep the fires lit and I will be right next to you.” If the miners could have written these lines on their goodbye notes, I think they would have. On The Wind.
8) God Is In The Roses by Rosanne Cash. “Every drop of rain that falls, falls for those who mourn. God is in the roses and the thorns. The sun is on the cemetery…There never was a place on earth that felt so much like home.” A funeral song that includes this line: “I love you like a brother, a father and a son.”  On Black Cadillac.
9) Without You by Jonathan Larson. “Without you the ground thaws, the rain falls, the grass grows. Without you, the seeds root, the flowers bloom, the children play.The stars gleam, the poets dream, the eagles fly, without you. The earth turns, the sun burns, but I die without you.” This is the montage song. I imagine playing over scenes showing the grief-stricken moving on with their lives as the winter turns the spring. They open windows. They hear kids laugh. They smell tree buds. But their souls aren’t coming back to life quite as easily, yet.  “Life goes on but I’m gone cuz I die without you.”  – On the Rent movie soundtrack.
10) I Won’t Back Down by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down…Well I know what’s right. I got just one life. In a world that keeps on pushing me around. But I stand my ground and I won’t back down.” This one’s for the brave, feisty wives and daughters who refused to let the bad guys get away with it. On Anthology – Through the Years (and other Petty albums.)
11) Back on the Chain Gang by The Pretenders. This has always been one of my favorite songs about loss and the wonderful reprieve that love provides. “I found a picture of you. It hijacked my world that night. To a place in the past we’ve been cast out of. Now we’re back in the fires. We’re back on the train. Back on the chain gang…The powers that be force us to live like we do. Bring me to my knees when I see what they’ve done to you. And I’ll die as I stand here today knowing that deep in my heart, they’ll fall to ruin one day for making us part. I found a picture of you. Those were the happiest days of my life. Like a break in the battle w
as your part. In the wretched life of a lonely heart.” On The Isle of View (live album) and others.
12) The World Unseen by Rosanne Cash. “Now that we must live apart, I have a lock of hair and one half of my heart…There are no gifts that will be found. Wrapped in winter, laid beneath the ground.” The men were wrapped beneath the ground, in winter. This song makes me think of them and their loved ones. On Black Cadillac.
13) Mountain of Sorrow by Nanci Griffith. “You were here. Now you’re gone. That’s the only thing I know. And it’s just one more sorrow to throw upon the heap. Mountain of sorrow, steep.” As if they hadn’t suffered enough. On Hearts in Mind.
14) Who Am I Foolin’? by Cheryl Wheeler. “I can go through the motions and sometimes I swear I’m ok. Sure, I miss you, but I’ve been really moving, really turning away. But just when I thought the heartache was gone, it’s tapping me on the shoulder, saying who are you foolin’? Some things you just don’t get over. I could write you a letter and I always do in my head. Just to tell you I’m better and this lonely didn’t kill me, I guess.” The survivors of the disaster moved on and built new lives. But nobody ever gets over something like what happened February 27, 1943. On Different Stripe.
And for the closing credits: either My City of Ruins by Bruce Springsteen (“Now there’s tears on the pillow, Darling where we slept. You took my heart when you left. Without your sweet kiss my soul is lost my friend. Tell me how do I begin again? My city’s in ruins.”) OR Have Love Will Travel by Tom Petty (“And when all of this is over, should I lose you in the smoke, I want you to know you were the one. And let my love travel with you everywhere. Yeah, may my love travel with you always.”)


  1. Hi Sue,
    Congratulations! This looks like a wonderful book…you’re amazing!
    I have one more song to add to your list: “The L & N Don’t Stop Here Anymore”–Great song — My favorite rendition is by Michelle Shocked. I think the song was created by Jean Ritchie. Anyway, it’s a great coal mining song–you may like it.
    Wishing you and this book all the best!

  2. Hi Sue,
    I’m looking forward to reading this. When I began law school I had to read The Buffalo Creek Disaster and it left such an impression on me for the past 14 years.
    Also, Abby is doing a solo to Kate Bush’s, This Woman’s Work. Powerful at best…
    Lisa Reich

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