The Musical World of Neil Gaiman

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It’s endearing to hear expressions of ardent fandom from someone who inspires fervent adulation himself. Such is the case with Neil Gaiman: Though he is the creator of landmark comic The Sandman and a modern-day master of fantasy fiction and weird storytelling of all kinds, he gets unabashedly fanboyish when the subject turns to heroes like Lou Reed (“His songs were the soundtrack of my life,” he said when Reed died in 2013) and David Bowie. Indeed, Gaiman claims that one of his great sorrows in life was learning that his father had tickets for the final Ziggy Stardust show but didn’t take him because it was a school night. And don’t get him started on Tori Amos, whose devotion to The Sandman led to a close friendship, or The Magnetic Fields, a.k.a. “My favorite live band.” Gaiman even bought 69 Love Songs in bulk so he could give it away to friends.

The latter was one of the albums he listened to a lot while writing American Gods, a mind-bending saga about an epic battle between gods old and new that is this season’s coolest TV event. As in so much of Gaiman’s work, music plays a major role throughout his storytelling, so you can expect the same on the small screen. In anticipation of its April 30 debut on Starz, we present a wide-ranging selection of music that Gaiman knows and loves, much of which has seeped into his writing in very direct ways. As you might expect from such a deft writer, he has a fondness for masters of wordplay like Stephin Merritt and Elvis Costello, though he has an equally strong allegiance to underappreciated songwriters like Greg Brown and Thea Gilmore.

There’s also a wealth of songs that his stories have inspired, as heard on the enjoyably daffy tribute album Where’s Neil When You Need Him? and Jarvis Cocker’s contributions to Neil Gaiman’s Likely Stories, another recent TV adaptation. And though the man’s own musical endeavors are limited, he was an eager foil for his wife Amanda Palmer—better known as one-half of avant-cabaret act Dresden Dolls—during their touring show of songs and stories in the fall of 2011. Of course, the contents do get awfully strange at times, but that’s exactly how Gaiman’s devotees prefer them.