The Bird that Sang in Color is filled with music! This post includes a few of the albums from the novel.
The story opens in 1970 with Donna and Vincent listening to Let it Be by the Beatles. While Vincent is sad that this is the band’s last album, Donna is just grateful for having a brother who can teach her about music. “It was because of him that I knew so much about rock and roll, which made me pretty sure that I was the coolest eighth-grade girl in the whole town and possibly in the whole state of New Jersey.”
Later, in the same chapter, Donna, Vincent, and their brother, Carmen listen to one of my personal favorites–Benefit by Jethro Tull. Donna calls it a perfect album and says that it takes her out of herself and lets her forget where she is and even who she is with “one song seamlessly slipping into the next.”
In the following chapter, Vincent is visiting from college and insists that Donna hear an album by a band he recently discovered: The Incredible String Band. They were a British, psychedelic, folk band and truly in a class of their own. Donna looks at the album cover to see a bunch of people standing beneath a tree, dressed in Renaissance-era clothing.
In Chapter Seven, while Donna is visiting Vincent in Atlantic City, he plays a Donovan album called Troubadour, a collection of old songs by the legendary songwriter. For Donna, the album brings back childhood memories of listening to Donovan in Vincent’s old room.
In Chapter Nine, Vincent plays another one of my favorite albums for Donna: Liege and Lief by the folk rock band, Fairport Convention. Enjoy the following excerpt from Donna’s last visit with Vincent.
As soon as the first song started, I knew I loved it. As I listened, joy rose up inside of me like a geyser, and I couldn’t believe I had never heard this album before. I had something else by the same group called Heyday, and when I told this to Vincent, he said very seriously, “Stay away from Heyday,” like he was warning me against taking a drug with fatal consequences.
“They could only make music like this in the sixties,” he said through a smile.
“Like what?” I said.
“Like this. Like if they had rock and roll back in the Renaissance times, it would sound like this.”
“Yeah.” I tried to think of a more recent band that achieved this same kind of sound, and nothing came to mind, but that could have also been because I wasn’t up on anything new. Still, I felt sure he was right in saying that there was nothing recent like this out there. The first song finished and transitioned invisibly into the second one like a sunset changing the sky from bright orange to pale pink. I looked at Vincent listening and thought of all the great music I heard because of him. Hours of staring at album covers, while music, deep and light, fast and slow, sad and uplifting, moved me in a way beyond this world.
This post is part of my latest blog series on the artwork that inspired the family saga, The Bird that Sang in Color. The art featured in these posts comes from a sketchbook that belonged to my brother, Vincent, which I discovered shortly after his death. It had pictures he’d drawn of himself throughout various phases of his life. This pictorial autobiography caused me to wonder what pictures I’d have of myself by the end of my life, which motivated me to live more fully. In writing this novel, I was able to share this powerful realization with the world. This novel is the third book in the Greco Family books. Each one of these novels is told from a different family member’s point of view. This one is told from the perspective of the Greco family matriarch, Donna.
Grace Mattioli is the author of Olive Branches Don’t Grow on Trees, Discovery of an Eagle, and The Bird that Sang in Color. These books are available from all major online book sellers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books.