Author Anne Rice has written over 30 books throughout her career, with her first novel, Interview with a Vampire, remaining one of the bestselling novels of all time. She shares a couple songs that helped her through tough times, a sensual track from Tina Turner, a protest song for women, as well as the artist that has inspired her most well-known character, Vampire Lestat. Her latest novel is Prince Lestat.
1. Sammi Smith - "Help Me Make It Through the Night"
2. Simon & Garfunkel - "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
3. Linda Ronstadt - "When Will I Be Loved?"
4. Tina Turner - "Under Cover of the Blues"
5. Bon Jovi - "It's My Life"
Eric J. Lawrence: Hi, I’m Eric J. Lawrence, and I’m here with author Anne Rice. She’s written over thirty books throughout her career, with her first novel, Interview with a Vampire, remaining one of the bestselling novels of all time. But today we’re here to talk about some songs that have inspired her over the years, as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Anne, thank you so much for joining us.
Anne Rice: Oh, it’s a pleasure, thank you.
EJL: What’s the first song you’ve got for us?
AR: Well, it’s a song called “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” sung by Sammi Smith. And, I really love this particular song; it had a special meaning for me in a very dark time in my life. And, my husband and I used to listen to it together, and we used to take a lot of comfort from this song. It gives me special pleasure because I feel like it’s sort of a rock bottom confession of how when you feel bad, all you want to do is make it through the night, and you want somebody to help you make it through the night.
I don’t think you can get any more honest and stripped down about it all than that. And so that’s why I love this song, it’s pure. It’s very pure.
EJL: Were you a fan of country music at the time?
AR: Yeah, I’ve always been a fan of country music. I come from the South. And, though I lived in California for 30 years, at the time when many of these songs were popular, the songs we’re talking about, I would go back to Texas often. And one of the great treats was driving on country roads with my husband and listening to country-western music. I always loved it. I always appreciated the great voices of country western music, and the poetic lyrics, even though people of course would make fun of them, I kinda loved them.
Song: Sammi Smith – “Help Me Make it Through the Night”
EJL: Well, what’s the next track you got for us?
AR: It’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Simon and Garfunkel, and I think one of their most beautiful songs. And again, it’s very similar to “Help Me Make It Through the Night.”
It’s about comforting people, when people are going through a very dark time, and it’s about how much, just personal, human comfort means.
How one human being helps another human being, becomes a bridge over troubled water. And, I love this song, I love the way it builds, I love what they did with it and, it was because of this song really, that I came to love Simon and Garfunkel and listen to everything that they did for years.
Song: Simon and Garfunkel – “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
EL: Do you feel that fiction can serve in a similar way as music does?
AR: Oh, yeah. Yeah, people often say books help them, “a bridge over” or help them make it through the night, there’s no question about that. I’ve felt that way about certain books or certain authors, they help me make it through the night. And I love it when someone comes up to me at a book signing and says “you got me through prison” or “you got me through adolescence” or “you helped me through high school” or “you helped me through the illness of my father” it’s wonderful to hear that. I’m so grateful for that.
EJL: That was Simon and Garfunkel; the title cut to their 1970 album Bridge Over Troubled Water, selected by our guest, Anne Rice.
What’s the next track you got for us?
AR: Well, the next track is kinda from that same period, roughly. It’s “When Will I Be Loved?” by Linda Ronstadt.
I saw Linda Ronstadt sing this on TV with Cher. And I thought it was one of the most gutsy, wonderful, strong performances that I ever saw. And I was swept off my feet by it. The lyrics alone don’t tell you how revolutionary it was to see and hear Linda Ronstadt sing this.
It was so spunky. She was so strong it was such a demand-WHEN WILL I BE LOVED!? It was just- it was so powerful. And I loved this song, it always fills me with happiness, when I hear it. It’s like a protest song for women. And I just adore it.
Song: Linda Ronstadt – “When Will I Be Loved?”
EJL: You talk about Linda Ronstadt being sort of a pioneer and sort of really standing forth herself and calling attention to herself. I mean, you really made a big impact with your novel Interview With a Vampire, do you sort of have, a sense of that kind of pioneering spirit?
AR: Well, if that’s true, I’m glad! I’m glad to hear that!
I’m glad to hear it because, you know, being a writer does take a lot of courage and it takes a lot of stubbornness. You have to stick to your guns, protect your own voice, stand up for yourself, that’s all part of being a writer, it’s almost… stubbornness is almost as important as any kind of talent, really.
EJL: What’s the next song you got for us?
AR: The next song comes a bit later. It’s “Undercover Agent for the Blues”, Tina Turner.
I first heard this song on a car radio, and I fell absolutely in love with it. I think it’s so sensuous, it’s so noir, it’s so hypnotic and erotic. I was just immediately a fan of Tina Turner, and I love all of her music. I think she’s just incredible. I’ve seen a number of clips of live performances of “Undercover Agent for the Blues” and, every time, I just fall into the spell. I go into an alternative reality and just go with the song.
Again, it’s sensuality. It’s the dark side of sensuality and I just love it.
Song: Tina Turner – “Undercover Agent for the Blues”
EJL: Tina Turner is one of those kinds of stars, and it makes me think of, in your novels with the Vampire Lestat, he’s a rock star in your books. Did you have sort of a model for him in mind, when you were writing that slice of his life?
AR: I did. At the time it was Jim Morrison. And "L.A. Woman" was the song that most inspired me to try to describe Lestat’s sound, and in The Vampire Lestat when he became a rock star, yes.
EJL: Well, here’s a song from another great rock star: It’s Tina Turner, with “Undercover Agent for the Blues.”
What’s the last track you got for us?
AR: The last track is the rock star who makes me think of my hero Lestat today, and that’s Jon Bon Jovi.
I just absolutely love him and “It’s My Life” seems to me to be a song that my vampire would sing.
It’s my life! And I wanna live it while I’m here!
And I love this song.
While I was writing Prince Lestat, my recent vampire novel, every morning I’d get up and put on this song, and play it over and over again while I showered and dressed and got ready for the day.
I had Jon Bon Jovi in my mind and I wrote him into the book. Lestat, my hero, goes to one of his concerts, and Lestat is walking around in Hollywood listening to Jon Bon Jovi, and he really loves these songs.
Jon Bon Jovi is exactly the type of rock star from the 80’s- long hair, etc.- that my hero Lestat was, when he had his brief career.
EJL: Well, here’s a song that has inspired the character Lestat - It’s Bon Jovi with “It’s My Life”!
Song: Bon Jovi – “It’s My Life”
EJL: Thank you so much for joining us here at KCRW.com!
AR: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.